Englishtown Final Review

FORCE CONTINUES TO DOMINATE FUNNY CAR, AMATO, STEVENS, SEELING, COUGHLIN ALSO WIN ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- John Force continued to dominate the Funny Car category on Tuesday at the rain delayed 30th annual Mopar Parts Nationals at Old Bridge...


ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- John Force continued to dominate the Funny Car category on Tuesday at the rain delayed 30th annual Mopar Parts Nationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. Joe Amato, Richie Stevens, Angelle Seeling and Mike Coughlin also were winners in their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the eighth of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Force, from Yorba Linda, Calif., used a rare holeshot to defeat Cruz Pedregon for his sixth victory of the season. The eight-time NHRA Winston champion covered the quarter-mile in 4.878 seconds at 309.34 mph compared to Pedregon's pass of 4.873 at 300.73. "That was a good old run," Force said. "We kind of knew what (Cruz) could do and in the first session they put us in the bad (left) lane and Tony (Pedregon) had the good (right) lane and he struck the tires, then we thought that lane choice was critical for a Funny Car. When we had lane choice we chose the right lane again and we knew (Pedregon's crew chief, Wes) Cerny was going to step on it and try to run with us. So (Austin) Coil, Bernie (Federly) and (John) Medlen decided to step on it and try and run a 4.80 because we really thought they could, and that's what they did." C. Pedregon is the only other NHRA Winston Funny Car champion this decade. He denied Force a clean sweep through the early part of the '90s by winning the coveted championship in 1992. "When I shut off down there Cruz flew by me right in the lights and his car smoked sideways and I went after him because I thought he was in trouble," Force said. "He spun out but he was OK and he walked over to me. Cruz Pedregon is the only guy so far in the '90s that could beat me. I told Cruz that if he ever leaves his team, I'm going to fight to get a third car and put him in it. I'd love to have all three of the brothers (Cruz, Tony and Frank) when I retire. The bottom line is the kid has shown what he can do to me. I have a lot of respect for him. I watch him in the car and he always is very focused while I'm running around making jokes. He gave the fans a helluva race and he does a great job. He was the one guy in 1992 to beat me and nobody can forget that. I have a lot of respect for that kid. He is going to get me sooner or later, maybe this year." The rain delay did not seem to sidetrack Force in any way. Either Force or his teammate Tony has been in every final round this season. "It's one of them days," Force said. "I'm really glad the weather is over and done so we can regroup and get organized. It's really exciting for me to get a win here." Force now has 76 career victories and is well on his way towards his ninth NHRA Winston championship. Amato, from Exeter, Pa., was the only Top Fuel Dragster to make it down the track successfully on Tuesday. He ran his dragster to a 4.614 at 313.58 to defeat Doug Herbert, who lost traction and ran an 11.958 at 89.51. The rain actually proved to be helpful for Amato. "We got a good break Sunday," Amato said. "When we went to warm our car after we won the second round, the motor was bad. So if we would've had to run (Kenny) Bernstein the other day we would have been hard pressed to get it back together. We had to change the motor for the second time. The rain helped me. It was like a blessing in disguise. We've been hanging out here for two days. That wasn't my idea of fun, but when it can be a winner, we'll stick around as long as it takes to put our dragster in the winner's circle." Despite the victory, Amato's team will be extremely busy in preparing for the next event. "We have a lot of work to do," said Amato. "We hurt a lot of motors here this weekend. That's the nature of the beast though. These cars, when they run fast they tear themselves up pretty good. But that's racing right. This win kind of put us back in points contention too. We are only six or seven rounds out of first place. We just need to get a little momentum going and keep it throughout the rest of the season." Stevens, 20, from New Orleans, earned his first Pro Stock victory of the season with a 6.959 pass at 198.00 to defeat hometown favorite Tom Martino, whose identical run of 6.959 at 198.23 was not enough to overcome Stevens' quicker reaction time at the starting line. "It was a perfect pass," said Stevens. "We had lane choice which I didn't think really mattered too much and I knew I had a good light. The car has been running good all weekend. We got the win light and it was great. It made the two-day wait worth it." Stevens was making his third straight appearance in the final round. "It came at a good time for us," said Stevens. "We had two runner-ups the last two races and everyone kept saying that the third time is a charm. That was the truth. I hate to beat Tommy on his home track but we'll take a win anytime we can get it." Seeling, also from New Orleans, equaled last season's victory total with her third Pro Stock Motorcycle win of the year. Following her impressive qualifying runs, Seeling used a 7.290 run at 186.51 to defeat upstart Greg Underdahl in the final who slowed to a 7.970 at 126.74. "We had some pretty bad wind out there," Seeling said. "I asked Greg and because of the wind he had to shut it off. It was right about the 1000-foot mark before it hit me. While we were going down the track it shifted a little bit and started pushing us. That is why lane choice is so important when there is a cross-wind. The reaction times were awesome, I had a .414 and Greg had a .422, so if he could have kept the bike going regardless of the wind it would have been a great race." Despite a 15-1 record this season, Seeling isn't assuring herself of an NHRA Winston championship just yet. " No, no, it's too early. I overheard some good advice...from Warren Johnson. He said that points don't matter until the last round of the season. He never adds up points in the beginning of the year. That's just the way I'm going to look at it. Anything can happen and I don't want to expect anything other than trying to win. And that comes one round at a time. We all want to win and all want to dominate, but we know how hard it is and how much competition is out there." Mike Coughlin, from Columbus, Ohio, drove his Pro Stock Truck to his first-ever victory. Coughlin used a quicker reaction time in his pass of 7.637 at 174.50 to hold off Tim Freeman's run of 7.614 at 175.43. Mike's brother Jeg took home an additional $50,000 earlier in the week for winning the Holley Pro Stock Dominator Duel, a special event bonus program. M. Coughlin had a better reaction at the starting line, which enabled him to visit the winner's circle for the first time. "That was my first and the brother's last," said Coughlin. Each of the other three brothers, Jeg, Troy and John have all won in the past. "It figured out on paper at less than a thousandth of a second at the end of the race track. I had a little bit better light, but the truck did its job." "It's pretty neat," M. Coughlin said. "I have always wanted it, and this is my fourteenth year in NHRA racing and I've been trying for a win at least that long. This is something I've always dreamed of. Now I got (a victory) and now we hopefully can get some more. I've been working real hard on focusing on driving and trying to cut good reaction times because that what it takes. There is a lot of factors involved and that is one of them and that is something that I can control." The estimated attendance of the rain-delayed event was 101,000. The next race in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series is the Fram Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill. k

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , John Force , Joe Amato , Mike Coughlin , Cruz Pedregon , Greg Underdahl , Tim Freeman