Gainesville, Fla. - - Last season Jeff Gracia, 34, from Ontario, Calif., and his teammate Bob Panella, Jr., 29, from Stockton, Calif., ran chassis built by two different builders. But during the off season things began to change for the pair when...
Gainesville, Fla. - - Last season Jeff Gracia, 34, from Ontario, Calif., and his teammate Bob Panella, Jr., 29, from Stockton, Calif., ran chassis built by two different builders. But during the off season things began to change for the pair when Bob Panella Motorsports purchased a second Jerry Haas built chassis. Now entering this weekend's Mac Tools Gatornationals, the second race on the NHRA Winston Pro Stock Truck schedule, Gracia's GMC Sonoma is a mirror image to Panella's Chevy S-10.
"Last year it was difficult to share much data between Bob (Panella) and myself," said Gracia, a former Stock and Super Stock driver who moved to Pro Stock Truck at the Finals in 1999. "Both Panella's Chevy S-10 and my GMC were built by Jerry Haas and use the same basic chassis. We saw positive results from having similar chassis at the season-opening event in Pomona (Calif.). If something works on one truck, we can take it to the other truck and expect nearly the same results."
Panella added, "Jeff's Sonoma ran exceptionally well at Pomona for having only a few runs on it. Now we've had the time to make it more like my truck. Some of the things that weren't like my truck are now like my truck. If the weather will give us a break, we'll go do some testing and try and refine the little things. We definitely want both trucks as close to the same as is physically possible when they get to Gainesville."
"The rains limited our testing but we were able to do some," said Gracia. "We did find that both trucks run closer to each other than we previously thought. This is as good as it will cut our testing of any set up in half. We did get to test the new hood and have picked up about a mile to a mile and a half (mph). We hope that will translate to some additional ET (elapsed time) when we get to Gainesville."
"From my standpoint as a driver, the long time between races hurt me. I had a good race at Pomona going to the semi-finals and wanted to get right back to competition. But from a preparation standpoint, it gave us more time to prepare for Gainesville. Our trucks are ready. We both should be in the top half of the field and being in the top four is not out of the question," concluded Gracia.
Last season was Gracia's first time to race a Pro Stock Truck on the quarter-mile track at Gainesville Raceway. He made a good showing advancing to the semi-finals before losing to Randy Daniels. Daniels holds the official track record for Pro Stock Trucks at Gainesville Raceway for both elapsed time and speed. He recorded a 7.494 seconds pass and a speed of 179.78 mph at last year's event.
Thus far this season, trucks have run only one of 14 events on the 2001 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Truck schedule. Entering the Mac Tools Gatornationals, Gracia is fourth in the NHRA Winston Pro Stock Truck point standings with 74 points, 44 points behind leader Daniels. In the final point standings of 2000, Gracia finished seventh.
Qualifying begins Friday for all professional classes with two sessions and concludes on Saturday with two additional sessions. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. (ET) on Sunday.