Dallas Top Fuel notebook

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 LONE STAR NATIONALS TOP FUEL NOTEBOOK *Long gone: It's almost impossible for one person to competently tune an NHRA Top Fuel dragster because the 5,500-horsepower cars...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761

LONE STAR NATIONALS TOP FUEL NOTEBOOK *Long gone: It's almost impossible for one person to competently tune an NHRA Top Fuel dragster because the 5,500-horsepower cars have become so complex, Eddie Hill said. Hill should know. He made all of the major tuning decisions for his team until naming Dan Olson as crew chief in April, and the Pennzoil team struggled since winning the NHRA Winston championship in 1993. Olson now calls most of the shots after close consultation with Hill. "There are more people doing what we're doing, putting two heads together to solve the cerebral part of the sport," Hill said. "I can't do it alone anymore. You can't wear three hats anymore as driver, tuner and owner and do it right. "I'd like to follow the example of (Kenny) Bernstein and (John) Force and spend a little more time getting more of what the race car runs on, cubic dollars." *Kalitta team shuffles personnel: Top Fuel driver Connie Kalitta and crew chief Dick LaHaie both have taken immediate leaves of absence from the American International Airways team. Kalitta's son, Scott, will move into his father's car. Scott Kalitta's Top Fuel dragster will be parked until Connie Kalitta returns later this season. Connie Kalitta left the team because he needed to devote more time to his worldwide air cargo business. Ed "The Ace" McCulloch, Connie's crew chief, will tune for Scott Kalitta. LaHaie has served as Scott Kalitta's crew chief since 1993 and tuned Kalitta to NHRA Winston championships in 1994 and 1995. *Home cookin': Eddie Hill is no different than many drivers when asked whether it's easier or harder to race at their home track. It's both, he said. Hill considers Texas Motorplex to be his home track for more reasons than its proximity to his home in Wichita Falls, Texas. He also loves the state-of-the-art facility because of his success there, including the first four-second run in drag racing history, and a victory and three runner-up finishes at the Dallas Nationals. But racing near home also has its pitfalls. "It's a mixed bag," Hill said. "I feel our home track is the best track in the world. There have been so many neat things that have happened to us there. There are more people who help us there and remember us from the old cattle mills and Waco drag-boat days. "But you can't spend as much time with the folks because you're so busy, and that bothers me to have to short people's time. There's not anybody who you don't want to talk to, but you have to get your work done. That's what I have the hardest time with, hurting somebody's feelings." *Meet the new boss: Team Scandia, a property of the International Motorsports Group, Inc., recently purchased the Royal Purple Motor Oil Top Fuel dragster team, featuring 18-year-old driver Cristen Powell. Team Scandia bought the team from Jim Epler, the first Funny Car driver to record a 300-mph speed in NHRA history. Epler started the team during the offseason. IMSG also operates the Professional SportsCar Racing sanctioning body and Sebring International Raceway in Florida. The company also plans to enter five cars in the Indianapolis 500 this May. "I'm pumped to be racing for Team Scandia," Powell said. "They won Ferrari its first championship in North America, and they sat on the front row at the Indy 500 last year. It doesn't get any better than that." Powell, from Portland, Ore., is tied for 13th in the NHRA Winston point standings. *Star wars: Top Fuel driver Mike Dunn has been one of the millions of people who have gazed at the Hale-Bopp comet the last few months, and he admits that he thought about drag racing while looking at the big streak in the sky. "I keep looking up in the sky at the Hale-Bopp, looking for that UFO, hoping that they're going to take (John) Force and (Joe) Amato with them so maybe somebody else has a chance to win the championship," Dunn said with a laugh. *Performance prediction: Eddie Hill thinks a Top Fuel dragster will cover the quarter-mile at Texas Motorplex in less than 4.60 seconds at speeds of at least 315 mph during the Lone Star Nationals if the weather stays cool. "I think somebody is going to do it," Hill said. "I hope it's us. It's not that hard on the equipment when everything is all right. It's not easy, but it can be done with the right setup and the right parts and pieces." *Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 3 p.m. May 2 and continues at 7 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. May 3. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. May 4. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 10 a.m. May 1. *Tickets: Tickets are available for the Lone Star Nationals. Call Texas Motorplex at (800) 668-6775. Tickets also are available at Ticketmaster outlets. Call Ticketmaster Dallas at (214) 373-8000. *On TV: The Nashville Network (TNN) will televise 90 minutes of live, final-round competition from the Lone Star Nationals at 4:30 p.m. (CDT) May 4. TNN also will show one hour of live, first-round racing during its "NHRA Today" show at 11 a.m. (CDT) May 4. *On the Web: The NHRA home page on the World Wide Web at http://www.goracing.com/nhra/ offers more information about NHRA Winston Drag Racing, including qualifying and eliminations results, news, point standings, statistics and driver biographies. -30-

Jack Durbin indy500@freenet.tlh.fl.us Motorsport News International jackd@motorsport.com (Moderators for "rec.autos.sport.info") Homepage http://www.freenet.tlh.fl.us/users/indy500/index.html

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Dunn , Jim Epler , Scott Kalitta , Dick LaHaie , Connie Kalitta , Cristen Powell