Both drivers red-lighted in the final round of the Pro Stock Truck class at the O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park, round four for the category in the 2000 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. But it was Bob Panella Jr. who did it first in...
Both drivers red-lighted in the final round of the Pro Stock Truck class at the O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park, round four for the category in the 2000 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. But it was Bob Panella Jr. who did it first in his Chevy S-10, handing the win over to Randy Daniels, also in an S-10. Each driver now has two season victories and they are the only two to have won this season. They are also 1-2 in the Winston championship point standings. Panella qualified No. 1, Daniels No. 2.
The 2000 Pro Stock Truck season has become a Panella/Daniels battle, with Panella holding the national elapsed time record, which he established at the Pomona Finals in 1999, and Daniels smashing the top speed record here with his 180.02-mph pass in qualifying. The competition between the two was clear in the final round when Panella red-lighted with a .383 reaction time. Daniels was just as eager for the win, as he took off with a .394 reaction time. Daniels grabbed the victory with a 7.538-second pass at 179.59 mph, a hair slower than Panella's potentially-winning 7.499 seconds at 179.49 mph. NHRA disqualifies only the first driver who fouls out.
"I was after him, I knew it would take a good light to beat him today," said Daniels, of Grantsboro, N.C. "I was kind of surprised, we didn't think we had the truck to win today. We were fast, but not quite fast enough to win the race. I can't say I reacted to Bob's S-10 leaving. I think I wanted to win just as bad as he did. I saw the win light come on the board as soon as I let the clutch out. I killed him on the tree in Las Vegas (where the two also met in the final round and Panella won), but it still wasn't enough. He was probably thinking about Vegas and knew he had to be on time."
"I don't know what to say," commented Panella, of Stockton, Calif., "other than I just wanted that win pretty bad. Obviously he did too. When I staged I didn't want to give anything up. I kind of struggled this weekend in my reaction times and I tried real hard and I cut it a little short. I knew it was close. When I let the clutch out I didn't see the tree, but then I looked out the side window and saw it was red, and I wasn't happy."
Daniels knows he his work cut out for him for the rest of the year, despite his comeback after not qualifying at the season opener in Pomona. "In the first two rounds here this weekend we were leading the pack, we felt good about what we were doing. Then Saturday morning he (Panella) picks up 15 horsepower out of nowhere. We're going to go home and assess what we have and what we have done this weekend and make everything fresh for Virginia, and do some testing if we have the time. We know we've got good power, but we're not running the back half of the track quicker than Panella is. We'll have to think about that and see if we can fix that."
Daniels trails Panella in the point standings by 48 points (390-342). "We're not counting points, we're just trying to win. If you win races the points will take care of themselves," added Daniels.
The pair will continue their rivalry at the Moto1.net NHRA Nationals presented by Chevrolet at Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, Va., April 28-30.