Houston: Bob Panella nails first pole of the season

<pre> Qualifying Session 1: 7.470 seconds @ 181.42 mph Qualifying Session 2: 7.420 seconds @ 182.11 mph Qualifying Session 3: 7.475 seconds @ 181.28 mph Qualifying Session 4: 7.445 seconds @ 181.98 mph </pre> Baytown, Texas - - Bob...

<pre> Qualifying Session 1: 7.470 seconds @ 181.42 mph Qualifying Session 2: 7.420 seconds @ 182.11 mph Qualifying Session 3: 7.475 seconds @ 181.28 mph Qualifying Session 4: 7.445 seconds @ 181.98 mph

</pre> Baytown, Texas - - Bob Panella, Jr., from Stockton, Calif., the reigning NHRA Winston Pro Stock Truck champion, nailed down his first number one qualifying position of the 2001 season and the 16th of his career at the O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park. He recorded a pass of 7.420 seconds at 182.11 mph in yesterday's second session. Both the elapsed time (7.420 seconds) and the speed (182.11 mph) are NHRA national records.

Panella will square off against Charlie Greco, from St. Davids, Penn., in the opening round of eliminations which begin at 12 noon (ET) tomorrow.

Since turning professional in 1998, Panella has won 90 rounds of eliminations, losing 32. In 17 final rounds, the twenty-nine-year-old driver has won nine titles and finished runner up 8 times.

On his first number one qualifying position of the 2001 season, Panella had this to say, "It feels good to get that first number one of the season. In my mind we've been struggling and there's more potential here. The good thing is that we finally got both trucks (Panella's Chevy S-10 and teammate Jeff Gracia's, from Ontario, Calif., GMC Sonoma) running today. We both made some good runs today in two different types of weather conditions. Hopefully tomorrow, we'll be able to even improve a little more.

"If the rains come tonight as predicted, it will only help the track for tomorrow. It will clean it off and tighten it up even more. Any one of the qualified trucks are capable of winning. We'll see what happens in the morning. Right now we are going to put this Chevy S-10 back the way it was and just go from there. We're going to just go up to the line and do our own thing. We're looking forward to tomorrow," concluded Panella.

Gracia second quickest in final session, ends qualifying in the third spot <pre> Qualifying Session 1: 7.480 seconds @ 180.52 mph Qualifying Session 2: 9.261 seconds @ 103.87 mph Qualifying Session 3: 7.488 seconds @ 180.43 mph Qualifying Session 4: 7.435 seconds @ 181.45 mph

</pre> Baytown, Texas - - Jeff Gracia, in the second Panella Motorsports truck, saved the best for last. The thirty-four-year-old driver from Ontario, Calif., recorded the second quickest time in the final qualifying session and the third best elapsed time overall during qualifying for the O'Reilly Nationals presented by Pennzoil.

Gracia's GMC Sonoma blazed down the Houston Raceway Park quarter-mile in 7.435 seconds at a speed of 181.45 mph. His speed is a career best.

The opening round of eliminations, which begins at 12 noon (ET) tomorrow, finds Gracia matched against Brian Self, from Spring, Texas. Self qualified in the 14th spot with a run of 7.504 seconds at 179.35 mph.

"In that last pass we ran the same set up as Bobby (Panella) used last night," said Gracia. "It paid off tremendously! Third isn't bad. It's the highest I've ever qualified. Hopefully, tomorrow we can repeat what we did today."

-Bob Panella Motorsports

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Panella , Jeff Gracia , Brian Self