Indianapolis: Pro Stock preview

CLERMONT, Ind. - Kurt Johnson is riding a wave of newfound horsepower to the top of the Winston Pro Stock point standings in his AC Delco Chevrolet Camaro. The Lawrenceville, Ga. driver recently moved into second place in the...

CLERMONT, Ind. - Kurt Johnson is riding a wave of newfound horsepower to the top of the Winston Pro Stock point standings in his AC Delco Chevrolet Camaro. The Lawrenceville, Ga. driver recently moved into second place in the point standings, using his third victory of the season recently in Brainerd, Minn. to leapfrog Ron Krisher.

It'll take a much bigger jump, however, to get over the massive points lead that Jeg Coughlin Jr. has constructed with a dominating season in his Jeg's Mail Order Oldsmobile Cutlass. Coughlin has recorded six victories in eight final rounds this season. Despite the huge margin, Johnson remains focused on the task at hand.

His objective is to keep the momentum going and see if he can continue to chip away at Coughlin's 280 point lead. He'll try to post his fourth victory of the season and third in as many races with a solid performance at the 46th annual U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Johnson is a two-time winner of the prestigious $2.6 million race, the 17th of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Johnson maintains that the team has made several key changes to the car, but pinpointing the one that has made the biggest difference in their oveall performance would be tough. "If I knew why we were running so well all of a sudden, that would be great," said Johnson, who has also claimed recent victories at Denver and Sonoma, Calif. "I really don't know why, but I still like it. The car is very picky. We've been qualifying better and that's helped us out on race day." In the final at Brainerd, he went head-to-head with Coughlin in the final, and pulled out the victory. He said there was never a doubt. He just wanted to be ready for the start, because he says that's where Coughlin is extra-tough, holding a reaction time advantage. "I knew we could run with Coughlin," said Johnson, who earned Indy titles in 1996 and '97. "We were outrunning him in the last eighth-of-a-mile, which is strictly horsepower." As far as the Winston points chase goes, Johnson is optimistic. He has to be. His record is pretty solid in events that are remaining on the schedule. One thing is for sure - he isn't going to give up without a fight. "We've still got a lot of work to do if we want to catch Jeg," Johnson said. "That's a tough team over there and we've still got a lot of ground to make up. Still, you never know what might happen until you try."

SEELING ALSO SEEKS HISTORY: Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Angelle Seeling would like to become the second female ever to win the U.S. Nationals when she competes at IRP over Labor Day weekend on her Team Winston Suzuki. Top Fuel veteran Shirley Muldowney is the only female to claim a professional category victory at the prestigious event, winning here in 1982. Muldowney is making a return to NHRA competition at this event. While Seeling works on that goal, she is also determined to match Muldowney in another section of drag racing's record book by becoming the second female to claim a Winston championship in a pro category. Muldowney earned unprecedented Winston crowns in 1977, '80 and '82. In order to get that first championship ring, Seeling knows that she must contain the quick Eagle One Suzuki of Matt Hines. She holds a 99-point lead over Hines entering the event as both riders lost in the second round at the most recent event in Brainerd, Minn.

"The team and I feel as if we're headed in a completely different direction than last year," said Seeling, who lost the Winston championship to Hines by eight points in '99. "Last year I was worried about how long I could hold Matt off and what could go wrong. This year, I'm confident and my team is confident."

TRUCKS RETURN TO ACTION: Pro Stock Truck competition resumes at the U.S. Nationals after more than a month break. Winston points leader Bob Panella is looking for his first win at the prestigious event in hopes of keeping tough challenger Randy Daniels at bay in the hunt for the 2000 championship. Daniels, who drives the Bailey Trucking Chevy S-10, leads the category in victories with five, but trails defending series champ Panella, who has scored three victories this year in his S-10, by 53 in the point standings. Mike Coughlin drove his Jeg's Mail Order S-10 to the victory here last season, defeating upstart Scott Perin in the all-Chevy finale. Larry Kopp, the '98 winner here, also is entered in the event in his Speedco S-10.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Bob Panella , Kurt Johnson , Ron Krisher , Larry Kopp , Randy Daniels , Mike Coughlin