Joliet II: Pre-race notes

FRANK PEDREGON LOOKING FOR STRONG FINISH TO REMAIN IN TOP 10: Frank Pedregon has experienced his share of highs and lows during the NHRA's 50th Anniversary season. Following a win in Atlanta, his first since the '99 season, and moving to fourth in...

FRANK PEDREGON LOOKING FOR STRONG FINISH TO REMAIN IN TOP 10: Frank Pedregon has experienced his share of highs and lows during the NHRA's 50th Anniversary season. Following a win in Atlanta, his first since the '99 season, and moving to fourth in the Winston Funny Car standings, Pedregon suffered two DNQ's (did not qualify) in both Topeka, Kan., and Brainerd, Minn. However, at the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Pedregon had earned the opportunity to compete in his first-ever Budweiser Shootout. The eight competitors that made up the select field had earned the most points during qualifying in a 24-race span. Not only did Pedregon make an impressive debut in the bonus program, he drove past his younger brother Tony in the final round and collected the lucrative $100,000 bonus money that accompanied the win, and gave a needed boost to the 'Blue' Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird team.

After finishing just out of the top ten in the standings last season, Pedregon wants to keep the momentum rolling with a strong finish in 2001 and remain among the leaders of the competitive category.

"We've been all the way up to as high as fourth this year (in the standings)," said the 38-year-old Pedregon. "The first three guys, (John) Force, Whit (Bazemore) and (teammate) Del (Worsham) are kind of out of reach, but we don't look at it that way. We feel we could end up in the top four with a good strong finish. We're going to be going to good tracks with good surfaces so we're going to let it all hang out. We're tuning up this Firebird every round like we want to win it. These last (five) races are good too because we're setting up for next year, but right now we have 2001 to worry about.

"Our goal is to win races and move up in the points. We missed being in the top 10 last year by one spot, finishing 11th. This time we want to finish strong."

BERNSTEIN RETURNS TO RECORD-SETTING ROUTE 66: Five-time NHRA Winston champ Kenny Bernstein has been in the points chase virtually all season in his Budweiser King dragster. A strong finish against a talented field will be required if Bernstein wants to notch his sixth series crown. Bernstein would love a repeat performance in Chicago, where in the four year history of the facility Bernstein has collected two wins, a runner-up finish, and established a national record for elapsed time (4.477 seconds).

"Route 66 Raceway is a premier facility and the racing surface is excellent," said Bernstein. "The cool, cloudy, overcast conditions we encountered in June were ideal for making a lot of horsepower. The weather will play a big role in whether or not we'll be able to push the elapsed times and speeds we had earlier this year.

"We're getting into the eye of the hurricane as far as the championship battle goes. With only five events remaining, we have to stay focused and go as many rounds as we can. Unless somebody breaks and you're fortunate to have a bye round, there are no "gimme" rounds to be had. You want to say it's the calm before the storm, but the hurricane hits every week we race. The competition is brutal. We predict this championship will be a nail-biter to the end, but the fans are loving it. Whoever stands on the podium at the end of the season will certainly have paid his dues."

"Being in the battle for the championship is what you wish for. It's why we're out here competing every year. The wins, the (No. 1 qualifying positions), the chance to be competitive, well, we've just been having a ball. Now we're just hoping all our efforts culminate in the championship trophy."

PRO STOCK PARITY: After 19 events in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series, there have been 12 different winners in Pro Stock, making the 200-mph category -- arguably the toughest in all of drag racing -- even tougher. The most recent winner, Las Vegas businessman George Marnell, was impressive in winning the AutoZone Nationals near Memphis, Tenn. Other Pro Stock winners this season include: Warren Johnson (5); Jeg Coughlin Jr. (3); Greg Anderson (2); Jim Yates (1); Bruce Allen (1); Mike Edwards (1); Mark Osborne (1); Ron Krisher (1); Kurt Johnson (1); Richie Stevens (1) and Tom Martino (1).

SPEAKING OF SPEED: Mike Dunn, driver of the Yankee Top Fuel dragster set the national speed record for Top Fuel at Route 66 Raceway in June, clocking a speed of 330.55 mph (fourth fastest in NHRA history). Dunn was able to back-up his run within one-percent as required for national record certification by NHRA rules. Interestingly, the Route 66 Raceway track record is faster than the NHRA national speed record. Kenny Bernstein, driver of the Budweiser King dragster, holds the Route 66 Raceway track record for speed at 330.88 mph. Bernstein also recorded that run in June when weather conditions were optimum for high-horsepower performances, but was unable to back-up the run within the required one-percent. Additionally, Dunn also holds the two fastest speeds in NHRA history, which are not national records. He clocked the fastest speed ever earlier this season in Houston, a 331.61 mph blast. At Topeka, Kan. in late May, Dunn clocked the second-fastest speed in history, a 331.53 mph effort.

SCELZI WANTING TO FINISH STRONG TO ATTRACT SPONSOR FOR 2002: Three-time Winston Top Fuel champion Gary Scelzi has suffered a sub-par seasons by his standards. After setting an NHRA single season win record last year (nine), Scelzi has been uncharacteristically inconsistent. This season Scelzi has been near the top in the point standings, but with only one victory, has watched Kenny Bernstein and Larry Dixon enter the final stretch of the season battling for the series crown.

"This is been a frustrating year and we just never have gotten this car and this package to run like it should," said Scelzi. "However, we have won a race and we're back in third in the Winston points. I know I sound like I'm crying over spilt milk because everyone except Dixon and Bernstein would kill to have the season that we've had in 2001. I think our plans now are to figure this clutch problem out, hang on to third place in the points - because I think that's as good as it's going to get this year - and get a couple of wins to attract the attention of a possible sponsor. Team Winston is not backing down and we'd love to get a few more wins. We can also play the role of spoiler for either Dixon or Bernstein."


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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Gary Scelzi , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , George Marnell , Mike Edwards