Houston: Pontiac-GMC dominates

BAYTOWN, Tex., March 25, 2001 - Pontiac racing excitement was the dominant theme today at the 14th annual O'Reilly Nationals with Del Worsham, Warren Johnson and Mike Dunn sharing the winner's podium at Houston Raceway Park. In Funny Car, Del...

BAYTOWN, Tex., March 25, 2001 - Pontiac racing excitement was the dominant theme today at the 14th annual O'Reilly Nationals with Del Worsham, Warren Johnson and Mike Dunn sharing the winner's podium at Houston Raceway Park.

In Funny Car, Del Worsham drove a Firebird to victory after entering eliminations qualified in the No. 1 position with a career-best elapsed time of 4.810. The Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac advanced to the winner's circle the hard way defeating Tony Bartone in round one, Dean Skuza in round two and Gary Densham in round three before facing John Force in the finals.

Worsham's Ram Air Trans Am left the starting line first and never relinquished an inch to Force's Castrol machine, charging to the finish stripe in 4.967 seconds at 311.63 mph. Force crossed the line in 4.859 seconds at 303.09 mph.

"The final round was a really close race," Worsham said. "The Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac ran great all day. The second round was another nice 4.85, and in the third round we had a couple of small mechanical glitches. We tuned it back up knowing we had to get down that right lane and that Firebird stuck. What a great car!

"We were confident in the finals that we could get off the starting line, unlike last night when we smoked the tires. Downtrack was a question mark, whether we could safely get through the middle, but it ended up not being a problem at all - it stuck! I don't think any body within 15,000 miles is having a better day than me right now. Everyone just did a great job."

It was Worsham's first win since the 1999 Northwest Nationals in Seattle, and the fourth career victory for the 31-year-old California native. He now moves into third place in the Winston Funny Car standings behind Force and Bruce Sarver.

"In the past our wins came far and few in between, and when you win something like this it becomes something really special."

If he were a fighter pilot Warren Johnson would have achieved "Ace" status years ago. Today the GM Goodwrench Service Plus driver made another notch in his gun belt, picking up career victory number 83 by defeating Mark Pawuk in an all Grand Am Pro Stock final. The "Professor" defeated Greg Anderson in round one, Jim Yates in round two and Bruce Allen in round three before squaring off with Pawuk. In the title stanza, Johnson's Pontiac ran the quarter-mile in 6.844 seconds at 200.98 mph with Pawuk following closely in 6.886 seconds at 200.02 mph.

"Bruce (Allen) was racing in his home state, and he was psychologically prepared," Johnson said. "I knew that was going to be one of the tougher rounds - not that any of the rounds are easy. Mark's (Pawuk) also been running extremely well. When you get to the semifinals, there is no room for error." The five-time Winston Pro Stock champion scored his second consecutive victory at Houston Raceway Park and his second win of the season coming off last month's victory at Phoenix. Since Johnson's win here last October, he and son Kurt have monopolized the Pro Stock winner's circle scoring six straight victories. Warren is in first place in the Winston Pro Stock standings.

"Racetracks that can handle a lot of power and are smooth tend to work in our favor," explained Johnson. "We all have to get acclimated to the characteristics of these new race cars. They're different tools so we have to learn how to work with them."

During Friday qualifying, Mike Dunn rocketed to the fastest top speed in NHRA history at 331.61 mph. That momentum carried over into final eliminations today with the GMC/Gwynn-Steinbrenner Yankee dragster pilot taking top honors by defeating Larry Dixon in the final round.

The No. 1 qualifier heading into today's race, Dunn defeated Chris Karamesines in round one, Darrell Russell in round two and Doug Kalitta in round three before meeting Dixon. In the championship race, Dunn's dragster left first with a .483 reaction time allowing his 4.603 elapsed time to hold off Dixon's 4.579-second run. It was Dunn's first victory of the year and his 21st career win. He is in first place in the Top Fuel points standings.

"We actually felt like we were going to have to step it up because I figured Dixon would leave on me a little bit," said Dunn. "My reaction times have been off a little bit and Ken (Veney) tuned the car up a little for the lights because he felt that it wasn't all me, that it was a little in the car too. The car reacted a little better, and luckily it ran good enough to get the win.

"I thought coming into today that, sure we had low e.t. and top speed, but Dixon and Scelzi had the upper hand on us because they had been running better and more consistent. Obviously our car runs good too when it goes downs the track, but we have to get it more consistent - and we've been working on that. At least we know we can run the big numbers." In the Sportsman categories Pontiac winners included Arnie Martel of Tewksbury, Mass., in Competition Eliminator, and Frank Kohutek of Mesquite, Tex., in Super Gas.

The next stop on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing tour is the second annual SummitRacing.com Nationals on April 5 - 8 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

<pre> Pro Stock Race Winner: Warren Johnson (Pontiac Grand Am) -6.844ET/200.98MPH Pro Stock Runner-Up: Mark Pawuk (Pontiac Grand Am) - 6.886ET/200.02MPH Pontiac Pro Stock semifinalists: Warren Johnson, Mark Pawuk, Bruce Allen Pro Stock Top Qualifier: Mike Edwards (Chevrolet Cavalier) - 6.843ET/200.68MPH Pro Stock Top 10: 1. Warren Johnson (Grand Am) 2. Kurt Johnson (Cavalier) 3. Mark Pawuk (Grand Am) 4. Darrell Alderman (Dodge) 5. Bruce Allen (Grand Am) 6. Jim Yates (Grand Am) 7. Brad Jeter (Grand Am) 8. Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Cutlass) 9. Mike Edwards (Cavalier) 10. Richie Stevens (Firebird)

Pro Stock Truck Winner: Randy Daniels (Chevy S-10) - 7.439ET/180.94MPH Pro Stock Truck Runner Up: Bob Panella (Chevy S-10) - 7.414ET/181.67MPH GMC Pro Stock Truck semifinalists: Jeff Gracia Pro Stock Truck Top Qualifier: Bob Panella (Chevy S-10) - 7.420ET/182.11MPH Pro Stock Truck Top 10: 1. Randy Daniels (Chevy S-10) 2. Greg Stanfield (Chevy S-10) 3. Bob Panella (Chevy S-10) 4. Jeff Gracia (GMC Sonoma) 5. Scott Perin (Chevy S-10) 6. Mike Corvo (GMC Sonoma) 7. Todd Patterson (Dodge Dakota) 8. Brian Self (Chevy S-10) 9. Mike Coughlin (Chevy S-10) 10. Don Smith (Chevy S-10)

Funny Car Winner: Del Worsham (Pontiac Firebird) - 4.852ET/311.63MPH Funny Car Runner-Up: John Force (Ford Mustang) - 4.859ET/303.09MPH Pontiac Funny Car semifinalists: Del Worsham, Whit Bazemore Funny Car Top Qualifier: Del Worsham (Pontiac Firebird) - 4.8105ET/313.22MPH Funny Car Top 10: 1.John Force (Mustang) 2. Bruce Sarver (Pontiac Firebird) 3. Del Worsham (Pontiac Firebird) 4. Whit Bazemore (Pontiac Firebird) 5. Ron Capps (Chevy Camaro) 6. Gary Densham (Mustang) 7. Tommy Johnson Jr. (Chevy Camaro) 8. Tony Pedregon (Mustang) 9. Chuck Etchells (Chevy Camaro) 10. Frank Pedregon (Pontiac Firebird)

Top Fuel Winner: Mike Dunn - 4.603ET/324.98MPH Top Fuel Runner-Up: Larry Dixon - 4.579ET/319.45MPH Top Fuel Top Qualifier: Mike Dunn (GMC/Yankee Dragster) - 4.534ET/331.61MPH Top Fuel Top 10: 1. Mike Dunn 2. Darrell Russell 3. Doug Kalitta 4. Larry Dixon 5. Gary Scelzi 6. Kenny Bernstein 7. Doug Herbert 8. Tony Schumacher 9. David Grubnic 10. Bobby Baldwin -GM Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Bruce Sarver , Jeg Coughlin , Bob Panella , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Darrell Alderman , Kenny Bernstein , Brad Jeter , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Tony Bartone , Dean Skuza , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Todd Patterson , Jeff Gracia , Randy Daniels , Mike Coughlin , Chuck Etchells , David Grubnic , Gary Densham , Greg Stanfield , Bruce Allen , Brian Self , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr.