FORCE, SCELZI, JOHNSON AND KOPP EARN REVELL NATIONALS VICTORIES AT TEXAS MOTORPLEX ENNIS, Texas -- John Force led a stampede of record-setting performances in winning the 13th annual Revell Nationals presented by HiLo-O'Reilly Auto Parts...
FORCE, SCELZI, JOHNSON AND KOPP EARN REVELL NATIONALS VICTORIES AT TEXAS MOTORPLEX
ENNIS, Texas -- John Force led a stampede of record-setting performances in winning the 13th annual Revell Nationals presented by HiLo-O'Reilly Auto Parts Oct. 25 at the state-of-the-art Texas Motorplex, the world's only all-concrete dragstrip.
Gary Scelzi, Warren Johnson, Larry Kopp were also professional category winners and record-setters at the $1.7 million race, the 20th of 22 events in the $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.
Force, of Yorba Linda, Calif., capped a powerful weekend with a final round 4.860 at 320.17 in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, outrunning Dean Skuza, who posted a 4.915 at 311.95 in his Matco Tools Dodge Avenger. It was Force's 70th career win.
"It was a nice weekend for us and we made a big move," said Force, who set both ends of the Motorplex Funny Car record. "And if there's a place to do it, it's here at the Motorplex. The track was there for us this weekend and we stepped on it. What we did here this weekend hasn't sunk in yet."
Force's impressive weekend included his No. 1 qualifying effort of 4.787 seconds, the quickest Funny Car pass in NHRA history, as well as his top speed of 322.81 mph. Force used three other four-second runs to defeat Dale Creasy Jr., Al Hofmann and Ron Capps to advance to his ninth final of the season.
He cruised to a 4.848 second single over Hofmann, who couldn't get his GM Performance Parts Pontiac Firebird started for their second round match. In a show of respect for his arch-rival, the lane-choice holding Hofmann offered his side of the track to Force when his car wouldn't start. Force, however, couldn't move over to take advantage of the offer.
"We really wanted a chance to be able to go after the record on that run when Al couldn't get his car started in the other lane," said Force, who failed to back up his 4.787 second pass within one percent as required by NHRA rules to become a national record. "But that was really nice of Al to offer me his lane. That just shows you the kind of competitor he is. He told me to go ahead and take the good lane so I could set the record. He wanted to see it. We just didn't have time to make the lane switch.
"I talked with Al after the run and asked him if he liked me now. He still said no. But we're good buddies anyway. That's just 25 years of beatin' the roads on this tour together. We know each other pretty good."
With the $50,000 victory, Force increased his Winston points lead to 90 over Capps.
Fresno, Calif.'s Scelzi earned $104,000 for his fifth Top Fuel victory of the season. In addition to the $50,000 winner's share, he earned a $50,000 bonus from MBNA for setting the Top Fuel elapsed time record at 4.525 seconds. He earned an additional $4,000 for being the category's top qualifier.
"We took every Winston point we could possibly get this weekend," said Scelzi, who received a 20 point bonus for setting the elapsed time mark. "You go to every race trying to get everything you can. In my 22 years of drag racing, I've never had a weekend like this."
For the fourth time this season Scelzi defeated Mike Dunn in the final.
Scelzi ran 4.653 at 300.00 in the Team Winston dragster, while Dunn's Team Mopar dragster lost traction and ran 8.582 at 84.53.
While his final round win was crucial, Scelzi says the key to his day was his first round win over upset-minded Randy Parks. Parks took the holeshot start, but lost traction. Scelzi's engine sputtered near mid-track during the run but his 5.202 was good enough for the victory.
"As hard as these races are to win, when you do, you have to have a lucky round," said Scelzi, who also defeated Eddie Hill and Joe Amato in his march to the final round. "For us today, it was the win over Parks. That opened the door for us and allowed us to gain some ground later in the day."
The victory put Scelzi back in the driver's seat in the intense battle for the Winston championship. With two races remaining, Scelzi leads Cory McClenathan by 73 points. Joe Amato is also in contention, 137 points back in third.
"This year the battle for the Winston championship is ripping my heart out," Scelzi said. "There's no room for error. These guys are too good."
Johnson, from Duluth, Ga., claimed his ninth Pro Stock victory of the season, outrunning rival Jim Yates in the final. The victory was worth $30,000.
Johnson's GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird covered the distance in 6.950 at 199.82, while Yates' Pontiac slowed near mid-track and ran 7.961 at 128.36.
"It doesn't get any better than this," said Johnson of a season where he has already clinched his fourth Winston championship. "But we're not going to rest with another victory. We've got a great research and development program and we feel like if we can keep our nose to the grindstone, then we can continue the success we've experienced this year." Johnson's 72nd win was the icing on a near-perfect weekend, that also included a top qualifying run that set both ends of the Pro Stock national record (6.867 seconds at 201.34 mph).
Said defending Winston champion Yates of his fifth final round appearance of the season: "You have to give Warren credit. He's on his game. He's running like we were last year. All we can do is strive to catch up with him."
Kopp, from Baltimore, ran 7.654 seconds at 174.85 mph taking the win over Jerry Haas in a battle of Chevrolet S-10s. Haas ran a slower 7.729 at 173.24 for the runner-up finish, his third of the season.
"We came here with the same attitude we've had all year, to be fast and get the win," Kopp said. "That was a good final. When I got into fourth gear I knew I was ahead of him. I really needed the win, especially for my crew -- they've worked really hard all year."
It was Kopp's fifth victory of the season and increased his Winston points lead to 116 over second place driver John Lingenfelter heading into the Winston Finals.
Kopp, who advanced to the final with round wins over Don Nicholson, Grant Lewis and Brad Jeter, earned a 20 point bonus for setting the Pro Stock Truck elapsed time record at 7.594 seconds, also good enough for his sixth No. 1 qualifying effort of the season.
"The conditions were perfect for a run like that," said Kopp of the quickest truck run in NHRA history. "The track was decent, the air was decent and low and behold, we did it."
With their victories, Sclezi, Force and Johnson earn starting positions in the inaugural Winston Showdown, NHRA's all-star event, to be held July 8-10 at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway.
The four-day estimated attendance was 137,200.
The next NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series event will be the second annual Matco Tools Supernationals, Oct. 29-Nov. 1 at Houston Raceway Park.