Houston: Dunn leads Top Fuel qualifying

BAYTOWN, Texas - Mike Dunn made a grand slam debut in the New York Yankees dragster by leading Top Fuel qualifying Friday at the Matco Tools SuperNationals presented by Racing Champions. Jim Epler, Ron Krisher and Matt Hines also were qualifying...

BAYTOWN, Texas - Mike Dunn made a grand slam debut in the New York Yankees dragster by leading Top Fuel qualifying Friday at the Matco Tools SuperNationals presented by Racing Champions. Jim Epler, Ron Krisher and Matt Hines also were qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the 21st of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Dunn posted the quickest run of the season to lead the 16-car order, covering the Houston Raceway Park quarter-mile with a performance of 4.530 seconds, at 322.34 mph. "That's a great way to start," said Dunn, who made his first competitive runs in the Top Fuel entry fielded by NHRA legend Darrell Gwynn and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and his son Hank. "That run was a little bit of a surprise because we're still in spring training mode," Dunn added. "We've tested a lot and we've got a lot more work to do, but that's what we were looking for." Dunn, who finished fourth in the Winston top-10 in 1999 with four victories, sat out most of the 2000 season while his team searched for sponsorship dollars. The team announced the three-year Yankees partnership in late August and is using the final three events this season to prepare for a Winston title run in 2001. "I feel really comfortable in the car and we're just trying to develop our baseline tune-up," said Dunn, a 20-time NHRA winner. "If it keeps running 4.50's I think we'll be in good shape." Tony Schumacher made one qualifying attempt in the U.S. Army dragster, but turned the driving duties over to Bill Walsh after not feeling physically up to the challenge. "I felt great mentally, but just couldn't get the job done physically," said Schumacher, who continues to recover from injuries suffered during a high-speed crash at Memphis Motorsports Park on Oct. 7. "I was excited to get back in the car and hit the throttle and go down the track, but I felt weak trying to pull the brake. I just didn't feel like I could do a good job in the car. I owe it to my team, sponsor and competitors to be 100-percent in the car before I attempt to race." Epler led Funny Car qualifying, recording a 4.917 at 264.86 in his WWF Racing Chevy Camaro. It was an aborted career-best run for Epler, who was forced to shut his car off well before the finish line after it experienced engine troubles. "It was posting career-best numbers all the way down the track just before the 1,000-foot mark," said Epler, who noted the car's supercharger let out a loud bang near the finish, ending the record-run. "The car started moving around at the top end and it definitely got exciting." Krisher was quickest in Pro Stock, driving his Eagle One Pontiac Firebird to a 6.905 at 198.73. Hines paced Pro Stock Motorcycle, clocking a 7.288 at 188.75 on his Eagle One Suzuki. Qualifying continues Saturday at 11:15 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines , Mike Dunn , Jim Epler , Tony Schumacher , Ron Krisher , Darrell Gwynn