Las Vegas: Team Panella final qualifying

Panella begins assault on title from third Qualifying Session 1: 7.623 seconds @ 178.24 mph ( ...

Panella begins assault on title from third

Qualifying Session 1: 7.623 seconds @ 178.24 mph (#2)
Qualifying Session 2: 7.597 seconds @ 178.59 mph (#1)
Qualifying Session 3: 7.635 seconds @ 177.84 mph (#2)
Qualifying Session 4: 11.151 seconds @ 74.68 mph (#3)

Las Vegas - - Bob Panella finished qualifying third on the ladder. Being in the wrong lane at the wrong time may have cost the 29-year-old driver a chance at a pole for the NHRA Summit Nationals. The second factor was the weather. Rain and high winds interrupted qualifying on more than one occasion throughout the afternoon, with the first session of pro qualifying taking more than six hours to complete. Additionally, the final truck session was not completed until a few minutes after 7 p.m., with both track and air temperatures very cool.

“It’s a shame that the weather gave us only one good shot today. The first session was the best opportunity we had at the number one spot, but we were in the wrong lane. The lanes are a factor here - - one lane good, one lane horrible. There’s a significant bump in the right lane. In our first pass, we didn’t catch it properly and started spinning in fourth gear and never quit,” said Panella, the two-time and reigning NHRA Winston Pro Stock Truck champion.

“The conditions seemed to be alright in the final qualifying sessions but we got loose and shut the run down. We’ll regroup and go at them again. Tomorrow’s another day and as long as we can stay in the left lane we should be alright. Based on our three qualifying runs we should be pretty dangerous.”

It will be a battle of Winston champs tomorrow. Panella, from Stockton, Calif., will be match against 1998 Winston Pro Stock Truck Champion Larry Kopp, from Baltimore, Md., in the opening round. Kopp qualified 14th with a run of 7.655 seconds at 175.64 mph.

Entering this event, Panella is third in the NHRA Winston point standing.


Gracia is fifth as qualifying comes to an end

Qualifying Session 1: 7.635 seconds @ 178.02 mph (#4)
Qualifying Session 2: 7.648 seconds @ 177.42 mph (#4)
Qualifying Session 3: 7.604 seconds @ 177.67 mph (#3)
Qualifying Session 4: 7.645 seconds @ 177.11 mph (#5)

Las Vegas - - On the strength of a strong qualifying run in the third session, Jeff Gracia, from Ontario, Calif., nailed down fifth spot on the qualifying ladder at the NHRA Summit Nationals. Gracia’s GMC Sonoma covered The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 7.604 seconds at 177.67 mph.

“On our first run today, we used the same set up that Bobby (Panella) used on his 7.597 (second) blast last night,” said Gracia. The truck responded and it paid off for us with the second quickest run of the session. In the final session we didn’t improve and finished fifth. We got a good run earlier today and that will give a strong base line for tomorrow.”

“Lane choice will come into play tomorrow. The left lane is definitely better. The right lane has a bump right where you change gears and it kind of throws the chassis adjustment off because the tires don’t stay planted. If you get stuck in the right lane, you just have to make adjustments to try and get over the bump. You can shift either before or after the bump,” concluded Gracia.

Gracia will meet Jeff Naiser, from Houston, when eliminations begin tomorrow. Naiser ran a 7.655 seconds pass to nail down the 12th position.

Gracia will be trying to improve his fourth place standing in the NHRA Winston standings during eliminations.

-Mickey Schultz

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Panella , Jeff Gracia