Las Vegas: Team Panella final eliminations

First win of season for Bob Panella Qualified ...

First win of season for Bob Panella

Qualified #3 @ 7.597 seconds and 178.59 mph

Round 1: Panella: 7.558 seconds at 177.84 mph def. Larry Kopp: 7.641 seconds at 175.98 mph
Round 2: Panella: 7.548 seconds at 178.31 mph def. Don Smith: 7.596 seconds at 176.95 mph
Round 3: Panella: 7.531 seconds at 178.99 mph def. Randy Daniels: 7.617 seconds at 178.31 mph
Round 4: Panella: 7.414 seconds at 181.67 mph Greg Stanfield: 7.439 seconds at 180.94 mph

Las Vegas - - Bob Panella, Jr., from Stockton, Calif., ran the second quickest time in the first round of eliminations during the NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals. In a battle of Winston Pro Stock Truck champions, Panella, the two-time Winston champion (1999 & 2000) took the measure of Larry Kopp, from Baltimore, Md., who won the Winston championship in 1998. It was a 7.558 second elapsed time for Panella to 7.641 seconds for Kopp.

In the second round, the twenty-nine-year-old Panella, defeated Don Smith to square off against rival Randy Daniels in the next round.. Daniels defeated Panella in the final round two weeks ago in Houston. In the semi-final, the two-time and reigning Winston champion turned back Daniels, resetting the track record for elapsed time and speed en route. Panella ran a pass at 7.531 seconds at 178.99 mph.

On the other side of the Pro Stock Truck ladder, Greg Stanfield, the number one qualifier, defeated Matt Rhoades, Brian Self, and Jeff Gracia to reach the final round against Panella. Panella has all important lane choice. In the final, Stanfield got a slight jump at the start, but the Panella power caught and held off Stanfield all the way to the finish line.

It was Panella’s first win of the 2001 season in two final rounds. For his career Panella now has 10 Pro Stock Truck wins in 19 final rounds. Against Stanfield, Panella is 2-0 in final rounds and 7-2 for his career.

“We had a big win in the semi-finals when we beat Randy Daniels, but the biggest thing today was lane choice. We capitalized on having lane choice in the final and it paid off for us. I never saw Greg (Stanfield) until I got loose in high gear. Then I saw some purple and it keep coming and coming. But my Chevy S-10 settled back down and squeezed out the win. The difference at the 1000-foot mark was probably the difference at the finish line,” said Panella.

“We have a good group of guys that work on my truck and Jeff’s (Gracia) GMC Sonoma. Our program speaks for itself and we have two of the 16 to 18 quickest and fastest trucks out here. Maybe one day soon we’ll get both trucks in the finals together.”

Panella remains in third in the NHRAWinston Pro Stock Truck point standings with 271 points.

***

Gracia reaches semi-finals

Qualified #5 @ 7.604 seconds and 177.67 mph

Round 1: Gracia: 7.561 seconds at 177.93 mph def. Jeff Naiser: 7.650 seconds at 175.82 mph
Round 2: Gracia: 7.646 seconds at 177.70 mph def. John Lingenfelter: 7.667 seconds at 176.40 mph
Round 3: Gracia: 7.613 seconds at 178.42 mph lost to Greg Stanfield: 7.549 seconds at 178.57 mph

Las Vegas - - In the opening round of the NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it was the GMC Sonoma of Jeff Gracia, from Ontario, Calif., over the Chevy S-10 of Jeff Naiser, from Houston. Gracia recorded a pass of 7.561 seconds at 177.93 mph in defeating Naiser, who ran a 7.650 second elapsed time at 175.82 mph.

In the second round, although he won the match up with John Lingenfelter, mechanical problems keep Gracia from having the all important lane choice for the semi-finals. It was a major factor in his semi-final lost to Greg Stanfield from Bossier City, La.

“We had a good set up in the opening round this morning and ran the third best time of the round. In the second round the set up again was good but we had a problem with the shift light. It didn’t work. I was kind of shifting by the seat of my pants. It cost us lane choice. Lane choice was very important to the truck category. Losing lane choice put us at a disadvantage in the semi-finals. We made some changes to get us down the right lane but still came up short,” said Gracia.

“I know going to the semi-final for the first three races of the season is an accomplishment for both me and the whole Panella Trucking team, but I want to go to the finals and meet Bobby (Panella). Maybe next time will be my time.”

Gracia remains in fourth in the NHRAWinston Pro Stock Truck point standings with 224 points.

-Mickey Schultz

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Panella , Larry Kopp , Jeff Gracia , Randy Daniels , Matt Rhoades , John Lingenfelter , Greg Stanfield , Brian Self