Memphis Teams Gear For Gut Check

MILLINGTON, Tenn. - The gut check starts here. With few points separating a host of contenders for Winston championships in Top Fuel, Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock Truck, the action at the Memphis Motorsports Park quarter-mile will be...

MILLINGTON, Tenn. - The gut check starts here. With few points separating a host of contenders for Winston championships in Top Fuel, Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock Truck, the action at the Memphis Motorsports Park quarter-mile will be extreme as pro category teams head into the first of a demanding four-race finale on the 1999 NHRA schedule, that also includes event stops at Dallas, Houston and Pomona, Calif. In Funny Car and Pro Stock, title pursuers will need to make a firm charge if they're to catch the runaway leaders. Indeed, the 12th annual NHRA AutoZone Nationals presented by Pennzoil, Oct. 7-10 at Memphis Motorsports Park, has the potential to become one of the most significant events in determining 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series champions. All teams will be working overtime in hopes of claiming a win at the western Tennessee event. In addition, teams also will be setting their machines for maximum performance in hopes of securing valuable bonus points by setting NHRA national records. Joe Amato, Al Hofmann, Warren Johnson, Angelle Seeling and Bob Panella Jr. are the defending pro category winners of the $1.7 million race, the 19th of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Amato, from Exeter, Pa., pulled out a hard-earned victory over longtime rival Kenny Bernstein to take the '98 Top Fuel title. Amato and Bernstein are part of an incredible 10-team chase for the NHRA Winston Top Fuel championship this season. Other top contenders hoping to propel their hopes for the title include current leader Tony Schumacher, Mike Dunn and Gary Scelzi. Hofmann, from Umatilla, Fla., earned a popular victory here last season, driving his independently funded Pontiac Firebird to a win over Cruz Pedregon. Both drivers would welcome a final round rematch. Meanwhile, category points leader John Force is nearing his ninth championship. Tony Pedregon, Whit Bazemore and recent U.S. Nationals winner Frank Pedregon also are among the favorites. It was a family affair in Pro Stock last season when Warren Johnson defeated son Kurt in a thrilling side-by-side final round match. W. Johnson is putting the final touches on another championship season and would like to add a victory at Memphis Motorsports Park for good measure. Drivers hoping to thwart his championship dreams include the Coughlin clan, Troy and Jeg, arch-rival Jim Yates and '95 Memphis winner Mark Pawuk, who has been coming on of late in his Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird. Seeling, from New Orleans, ran away with the Pro Stock Motorcycle victory here one year ago when final round foe Matt Hines had problems on board his Suzuki. This season Memphis will provide a platform for the two rival performers to battle for the 1999 title, as Hines leads Seeling by four points in the Winston standings. Antron Brown, Dave Schultz and Craig Treble have all earned wins this season and will be hungry for more at Memphis Motorsports Park. Bob Panella Jr. had the horsepower to defeat Brad Jeter in a fierce battle between Chevrolet S-10s here last season. The two drivers are among a group of truckers battling for an NHRA Winston championship this season. Former Pro Stock standout Mark Osborne, Randy Daniels and Mike Coughlin also are among drivers locked in a battle for the title.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Frank Pedregon , Matt Hines , Bob Panella , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Brad Jeter , Al Hofmann , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Mike Coughlin