Dallas: Qualifying washed out

ENNIS, TEXAS - Persistent rain forced NHRA officials to cancel Friday's qualifying sessions for the rain delayed 15th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec at the Texas Motorplex. The $1.8 million NHRA Winston Drag ...

ENNIS, TEXAS - Persistent rain forced NHRA officials to cancel Friday's qualifying sessions for the rain delayed 15th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec at the Texas Motorplex. The $1.8 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series event was originally postponed on October 21 due to consistent rain showers. Elimination pairings for each pro category have been set according to the current NHRA Winston Drag Racing championship points. Top qualifiers include Gary Scelzi (Top Fuel); John Force (Funny Car); Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Bob Panella (Pro Stock Truck). This will mark the first time in the NHRA's 49-year history that a national event elimination field was established using the current NHRA Winston championship points standings. "Given the bad weather forecast for the next few days, I didn't want to run the gamble of shifting everything and having Saturday qualifying and race on Sunday," said Graham Light, NHRA Senior Vice President of Racing Operations. "If we end up with a nice day tomorrow and we run qualifying and then it rains for four days, you have a qualified show but no chance to run eliminations." Faced with a menacing weather forecast for northern Texas, Light along with Texas Motorplex General Manager Elon Werner agreed to cancel qualifying at 4 p.m. "Those racers that support the series for the most part are in the show using this format," said Light. "Obviously the guys 17th or 18th are not happy, but under the circumstances I don't think we have much choice." One of those racers that applauded the move was Top Fuel driver Gary Scelzi. Scelzi, currently the NHRA Winston points leader with 1,698 points, will start Saturday's eliminations at the number one spot and will receive a first round bye in his Team Winston Dragster. "We're going to go out and try to win this race," said Scelzi. "We're not just going roll over and say we're the champs and worry about next year. We're going to try to make a statement." Only 15 Top Fuel cars returned to the Texas Motorplex for the rain delayed event. In order to wrap up the 2000 NHRA Winston Top Fuel championship, Scelzi will have to complete his bye run to clinch his third NHRA Winston Top Fuel championship. In the event the eliminations get rained out and the O'Reilly Fall Nationals are canceled, Scelzi will leave Dallas with a 151 point lead. With one event remaining in Pomona, Calif., Tony Schumacher or Larry Dixon would not be able to mathematically catch Scelzi. "It means a lot to come from the behind," said Scelzi. "We got the lead back and to finally get this thing done and in the bank and to do it before we get to Pomona is sweet." Funny Car driver John Force clinched his tenth NHRA Winston championship in Houston last weekend and will start at the top of the order for Saturday's eliminations. Force has participated in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series since the 1970's and this is the first time he has started eliminations from the top spot without completing a qualifying pass. "This is the first time I've made money all year," said Force, the all time winningest driver in NHRA history. "The NHRA is getting into the same realm as NASCAR when you have this many races and then you have weather, someone has to make the call." Although Force has already clinched his tenth NHRA Winston championship, he will enter Saturday's eliminations in search of his 91st win. "I am trying to get after my 100th win," said Force. "We have been in test mode and we've run the five disc clutch in Houston. We're going to try to win but we're going to try to get an education at the same time." Final eliminations will begin at 8 a.m. for sportsman categories with professional eliminations starting at 11 a.m. Saturday.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Bob Panella , Larry Dixon , John Force , Gary Scelzi