Memphis: Finals summary

MILLINGTON, Tenn. - Jeg Coughlin clinched his first NHRA Winston Pro Stock championship early on Sunday and then finished off the day at the 13th annual AutoZone Nationals presented by Pennzoil in grand style by adding his 10th victory of the...

MILLINGTON, Tenn. - Jeg Coughlin clinched his first NHRA Winston Pro Stock championship early on Sunday and then finished off the day at the 13th annual AutoZone Nationals presented by Pennzoil in grand style by adding his 10th victory of the season in a thrilling side-by-side final round against Scott Geoffrion. Gary Scelzi, Ron Capps and Mike Coughlin also scored victories at the $1.8 million race, the 20th of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Coughlin, from Columbus, Ohio, shared an emotional NHRA winner's circle at Memphis Motorsports Park with brother Mike, who earned the Pro Stock Truck victory. Jeg drove his Oldsmobile Cutlass to a 6.878 second run at 199.64 mph, edging Geoffrion's national record-setting Dodge Avenger at the finish, which posted a near-identical 6.896 at 199.11. "This is a really special day for our entire team," said Jeg, who finished second in Winston points during the last two seasons. "We've worked so hard to win a Winston championship and to finally do it is a dream come true. To do it and win this race alongside my brother is spectacular. Deep down it means a lot. This is what we've strived for, and worked so hard for." Scelzi, from Fresno, Calif., earned his eighth Top Fuel victory of the season in a wild final against Larry Dixon. Dixon's Miller Lite dragster pulled ahead at the start as Scelzi's Team Winston dragster lost traction. Midway through the run however, Dixon's dragster went out of control and crashed.

Dixon was disqualified for crossing the centerline after his dragster went into a power wheelstand, forcing the chassis to separate near the front end. As the car lifted from the track, it crossed over into Scelzi's lane, landing just in front of the Team Winston dragster, which Scelzi had already parked just in front of the finish line. Dixon was extracted from his car by NHRA emergency services officials and was reported to be alert and responsive with no visible injuries before being transported to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis for evaluation. "I'm just numb," said Scelzi, who was in the opposite lane Saturday when Tony Schumacher's dragster suffered a spectacular crash during a qualifying attempt. "I don't know what I'm feeling. I enjoy winning races, but not like this. Larry was ahead and would've won that race. For me, this is a pretty tainted win. I really couldn't believe what I saw out there. I saw pieces of his car flying all over the racetrack. These cars aren't supposed to do that. This is a safe sport. We just had some things happen this weekend that will hopefully never happen again." Scelzi said winning isn't important. The condition of his two friends is what really matters. "After what I've went through this weekend with Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon, all I can say is thank God they're both OK," Scelzi said. With the win, Scelzi increased his Winston points lead to 126 over Schumacher. "It would be nothing for Tony or Larry to come back in Dallas and win," Scelzi said. "We're not taking anything for granted. Those cars are running well enough to win the next three races. As long as there's points left and races left, somebody else can win. I'm a realist, I understand what can happen." Capps, from Carlsbad, Calif., ended a 46-race winless streak, defeating Whit Bazemore in an all-Chevy Camaro Funny Car final. Capps drove his U.S. Tobacco Camaro to a 4.925 at 297.22, and sped away from Bazemore's machine, which suffered a supercharger explosion just after the launch and limped across the finish in 11.125 at 22.82. "It's been an exciting day," said Capps, who beat Tommy Johnson Jr., Bruce Sarver and John Force to advance to the final. "To beat Force in the semifinals, I could've almost gone home after that. It's been so long since I've won a race, you can't even imagine the feeling. It just shows what Ace (Ed McCulloch, crew chief) has done with this car this season." Capps, who entered this race with six runner-up finishes this season, moved into second place in the Winston point standings with the victory, and now trails Force by 290 with three events to go. "You've got to set goals," Capps said. "Force is out there and he's pretty much clinched it - mathematically maybe not, but realistically he has. You've got to have something to get your guys motivated. We knew if we worked hard and got after it we could catch Toliver and maybe at the end of the season stand alongside Force up there and be number two to the ten time champ." It was the third career Pro Stock Truck victory for Coughlin's younger brother Mike, and his first of the season. He claimed the automatic win when fellow Chevy S-10 driver Steve Johns red-lighted. "I tried to have a good reaction time and get it down the racetrack as good as I could," said Mike of the first-ever double victory for the Coughlin team. "This was the quickest field in Pro Stock Truck history, and there were no easy rounds out there today. This is a big win for our team. It's a pretty special feeling to win on the same day that Jeg won the Pro Stock championship and get to celebrate with him." The next NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series event will be the 15th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec, Oct. 19-22 at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Mike Coughlin , Scott Geoffrion , Steve J , Tommy Johnson Jr.