Indianapolis: Slavinski ready for challenge

CLERMONT, Ind. -- For Rob Slavinski, the 2000 Winston Drag Racing season begins this week (Sept. 1-4) with the 46th running of the NHRA U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Forget that nine Pro Stock Truck races already are on...

CLERMONT, Ind. -- For Rob Slavinski, the 2000 Winston Drag Racing season begins this week (Sept. 1-4) with the 46th running of the NHRA U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Forget that nine Pro Stock Truck races already are on the books. From Slavinski's standpoint, they were just a bad dream. The important thing is that now that he has survived his own worst nightmare, he's hoping to become one for the competition.

    Coming off a three-day open test last week at IRP during which his  
Kessinger Motorsports-prepared Castrol Super Cleanâ„¢ Chevy S-10 was    
the fifth quickest of the trucks participating, the 39-year-old Pro     
Stock Truck rookie admitted that he once again is excited about going   
to the racetrack.                                                       

"I'm definitely pumped up for Indy," he said. "Testing went awesome. We were fifth fastest of the guys testing but, in actuality, we were third fastest because two of the guys who got around me ran at like 9:30 at night. We ran in the heat in real racing conditions."

Slavinski wasn't always as excited about climbing behind the wheel during his initiation into what has become the most competitive of NHRA's professional classes.

After making the 16-truck show at the season's first four races, the Wallingford, Conn., pro went through a stretch during which he failed to qualify for four straight races. For a driver who was a contender at every level in the Sportsman division, it was a situation with which he was totally unfamiliar.

Frustrated, Slavinski made a Crew Chief change and last June at Madison, Ill., things began to turn around. He qualified his Super Clean Chevy No. 15 at Madison and two weeks later was ninth quickest in qualifying for the Winston Showdown bonus race at Bristol, Tenn.

    Unfortunately, the trucks haven't run since Bristol -- an agonizing 
two-month respite which ends with a single pro qualifying session at 6  
p.m.  Friday.                                                           

Slavinski, who won races in seven different states as Sportsman racer, believes he's ready to rejoin the battle -- albeit with more realistic expectations.

    "My goal is to qualify for every (remaining) event and it would be  
nice to win a round," he said.  "When we qualified for the first four   
races, I said 'man, we're on our way.'  All of a sudden, everything   
got turned upside down but I think we're back on track now."            

The veteran is most encouraged by his test times versus those of Winston Championship contender Randy Daniels, a five-time winner already this year. Daniels was quickest in the open test at 7.614 seconds, 175.81 miles per hour. Slavinski was fifth at 7.649, 175.33 mph.

"I went back and looked at my run records," Slavinski said, "and from the beginning of the year through Bristol, we were anywhere from eighth hundredths of a second to a tenth-and-a-half behind Randy (in quarter mile performance). Now, we're only four hundredths off. You can race with a four-hundredths deficit. You can make that up on the tree. A tenth-and-a-half? Probably not."

Slavinski, who won NHRA national events in the Super Gas, Super Comp and Competition divisions, is trying to follow the lead of Castrol Super Clean teammate Steve Johns, a former Competition World Champion who successfully made the transition to Pro Stock truck by winning the 1999 season finale at Pomona, Calif.


Rich Purdy, Crew Chief on Slavinski's Castrol Super Clean pickup, four times was named Craftsman Crew Chief of the Race while with two-time Winston Pro Stock Champion Jim Yates....Steve Johns won the 1992 World Championship in the Competition class after sharing the honor three years earlier as Crew Chief to owner/driver Bob Kaiser....Johns is Shop Foreman for Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins, who builds motors powering almost one quarter of the Pro Stock Trucks.....Johns is one of three drivers (along with Mark Osborne and Tim Freeman) to have won Pro Stock Truck races in Kessinger Motorsports vehicles Competition in Malvern, Pa.,

<pre> SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying at 6 pm (ET) Friday, Sept. 1; 10:30 am and 4 pm (ET), Saturday, Sept. 2; 10:45 am and 4 pm (ET), Sunday, Sept. 3; Big Bud Shootout at 12 noon (ET), Sunday, Sept. 3; U.S. Nationals eliminations, 11 am (ET), Monday, Sept. 4.

TELEVISION: Coverage of the Big Bud Shootout bonus race, 4-6 pm (ET), Sunday, Sept. 3; Coverage of U.S. Nationals finals, 11 am-1 pm (ET) and 4-6 pm (ET), Monday, Sept. 4, all on TNN.

TRUCK POINTS: 1. Bob Panella Jr. 899, 2. Randy Daniels 846, 3. Greg Stanfield 545, 4. John Coughlin 538, 5. Brian Self 473, 6. Steve Johns, Castrol Super Clean Chevy, 461, 7. Rick Jones, 434, 8. John Lingenfelter 376, 9. Jeff Gracia 370, 10. Mike Coughlin 353.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Panella , Jeff Gracia , Randy Daniels , Mike Coughlin , John Lingenfelter , Greg Stanfield , Tim Freeman , Brian Self , Steve J