News and notes 2001-05-20

* QUICKEST FUNNY CAR FIELD HAS BEEN SET SEVEN TIMES IN 2001: Just making the show has become extremely competitive this season in the NHRA Funny Car category. No longer does running the 6,000 horsepower vehicles in the 4.9-second range guarantee a...

* QUICKEST FUNNY CAR FIELD HAS BEEN SET SEVEN TIMES IN 2001: Just making the show has become extremely competitive this season in the NHRA Funny Car category. No longer does running the 6,000 horsepower vehicles in the 4.9-second range guarantee a spot among the top 16 qualifiers for eliminations. Following the 2000 season the quickest FC field was 5.022 seconds (Bruce Sarver, Matco Tools SuperNationals, Houston). Funny Car starting lineups have continued to become quicker over the course of the 2001 season.

NHRA Funny Car teams will try to lower the 16-car field record once again when qualifying begins for this weekend's Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals, May 31-June 3, at Route 66 Raceway, Joliet, Ill.

-Pomona, Calif.: No. 1 qualifier, Tommy Johnson Jr., 4.838 seconds, to No. 16 qualifier, Tony Bartone, 5.013.

-Phoenix: No. 1 qualifier, Dean Skuza, 4.805, to No. 16 qualifier, Gary Densham, 4.961 (first four-second field).

-Gainesville, Fla.: No. 1, John Force, 4.812, to Chuck Etchells, 4.960.

-Las Vegas: No.1, Bruce Sarver, 4.822, to No. 16, Al Hofmann, 4.958.

-Commerce, Ga.: No. 1 Jerry Toliver, 4.843, to No. 16, Johnny Gray, 4.957.

-Englishtown, N.J.: No. 1, Tony Pedregon, 4.801, to No. 16, Tim Wilkerson, 4.950.

-Topeka, Kan.: No. 1, John Force, 4.809, to No. 16, Chuck Etchells, 4.911.

* WHO'S HOT: The following drivers have made big moves in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series championship point standings in recent weeks.

Kenny Bernstein, Budweiser King dragster. With back-to-back victories in Englishtown, N.J. and Topeka, Kan., 56-year-old Bernstein moved into the lead in the Winston point standings for the first time since he won the coveted championship in 1996. Bernstein leads Larry Dixon by 19 and Mike Dunn by 31.

BERNSTEIN: "It's still early and I think everybody has to realize that. There's still a long, hot summer ahead of us. We just have to keep after it."

Tony Pedregon, Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang. With consecutive victories over his boss, John Force, Pedregon has moved from out of the Winston top 10 into sixth place in just two weeks. In addition, Pedregon clocked the fastest speed in NHRA history, a 324.83 mph effort. He failed to back-up the run within the required one-percent to certify the run as an NHRA national record. Interestingly, Pedregon also holds the quickest run in NHRA history, a 4.779 second effort ('99 Gainesville, Fla.).

PEDREGON: "This is a credit to the entire team. They stuck with the program and my crew chief, John Medlen, got us back on track. We're back from the worst slump of our career and we can't wait to get to Chicago."

Mark Pawuk, Summit Racing Pontiac Grand Am. With three runner-up finishes (Topeka, Kan.; Englishtown, N.J.; and Phoenix) and a national record performance for elapsed time (6.806 seconds at Englishtown), Pawuk moved into the Winston points lead for the first time in his 14-year Pro Stock career following the Advance Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka. He holds a 47-point advantage over Warren Johnson. PAWUK: "I love the Grand Am, it's a great racecar. I've been driving better this year, and when you go fast and stay consistent, good things can happen. Unfortunately the season is only one-third of the way over and we've got a long way to go yet, but I'm pleased with the performance. It's by far the best start of my Pro Stock career."

* WHO'S NOT: The following drivers have struggled recently and hope to turn their fortunes around at the Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals.

Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army dragster. Uncharacteristic first round losses at Atlanta and Topeka, Kan., have relegated this championship contender to his current position of seventh in the NHRA Winston Top Fuel standings.

Al Hofmann, Mooneyes Pontiac Firebird. After roaring to a runner-up finish at Bristol, Hofmann seemed to be on a charge to the top of the Winston point standings. However, he has failed to qualify at the last three races. The exclamation point to his team's struggles came at Heartland Park Topeka last weekend when the car suffered an engine explosion at the starting line, with enough jolt to separate the carbon fiber body from the chassis. Hofmann was not injured in the incident.

Kurt Johnson, AC Delco Chevy Cavalier. After winning the season-opener, Johnson has hit hard times. In his last four races, Johnson posted a second round loss (Bristol); two first round losses (Atlanta and Englishtown, N.J.) and most recently suffered a rare DNQ (did not qualify) at Topeka.

<pre> * NHRA TV UPDATE: Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals TV schedule on ESPN2 includes the following: May 31 NHRA Heat, 6:30-7 p.m. (ET) June 2 Qualifying coverage, 9-11 p.m. (ET) June 3 Repeat NHRA Heat, 3:30-4 a.m. (ET) June 3 Repeat qualifying coverage, 4:30-6:30 a.m. (ET) June 3 Final round coverage, 7-10 p.m. (ET) June 4 Repeat final round coverage, 1-4 p.m. (ET) June 17 Federal-Mogul coverage, 10:30-11:30 p.m. (ET) June 22 Repeat Federal-Mogul coverage, 1-2 p.m. (ET) * all shows on ESPN2


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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Tony Bartone , Al Hofmann , Dean Skuza , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Chuck Etchells , Johnny Gray , Jerry Toliver , John Medlen , Tommy Johnson Jr.