* 10-TIME WINSTON CHAMP JOHN FORCE ON ADDITION OF GARY DENSHAM TO FUNNY CAR TEAM: 10-time Winston Funny Car champion John Force has added a third Funny Car to his already-successful John Force Racing team. Long-time competitor Gary Densham will...
* 10-TIME WINSTON CHAMP JOHN FORCE ON ADDITION OF GARY DENSHAM TO FUNNY CAR TEAM: 10-time Winston Funny Car champion John Force has added a third Funny Car to his already-successful John Force Racing team. Long-time competitor Gary Densham will join Force and Tony Pedregon to form the three-car team. The Force-Densham relationship dates to 1974 when both were in Australia on tour. Densham already was a seasoned veteran but Force, in competition for the first time, was completely new to the intricacies of racing a car professionally. "Densham took me under his wing and got me through it," said Force. "If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here because I probably wouldn't have made it back from Australia. But that's not why I hired him. I hired him because he's a good driver and because he can help (crew chief Jimmy) Prock teach these new guys how to race." The addition of the Funny Car will precede the addition of the long-rumored Top Fuel dragster to Force's stable. "The dragster's coming," said Force. "Our original plan was to run for the (Winston Top Fuel) championship in 2002. That's still our plan. We were going to test the dragster this season to get ready for next year. And that's still what we're planning to do. The only thing that's changed is that the dragster won't be ready as quick as we thought."
* DAVE SCHULTZ MEMORIAL TOUR: Sunoco and the family of NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle legend Dave Schultz have announced plans for a memorial tour in his honor. The tour will celebrate the life and career of Schultz, a six-time NHRA Winston champion, who died of cancer Feb. 11. The tour will consist of a rider making a solo pass on Schultz's Suzuki between the semifinals and final at each of the 14 Pro Stock Motorcycle events on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. John Smith, who rode Schultz's motorcycle at three events last year, started the tour off in Gainesville, Fla. Antron Brown is scheduled to be the solo rider at the O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park. The plan is for various riders Schultz tutored over the years to take part in the tour. "Sunoco and Dave had such a good relationship over the last nine years, that I think this memorial tour is a great idea," said Meredith Schultz, Dave's widow. "This tour is a way to pay tribute to the relationship Dave had with everyone at Sunoco. It is a way for two good friends to say goodbye and to remember all the good times."
* ANGELLE SAVOIE ON BEGINNING THE 2001 SEASON AS DEFENDING WINSTON CHAMPION: "I'm excited to have the No. 1 on the Team Winston Suzuki, but it's definitely a different feeling than ever before," said the recently married Savoie. "I don't feel any different personally, but there is the sense that everyone is gunning for me now. I'm not feeling any pressure because I know we can win and we've proven we can win the Winston championship. The only pressure I might feel is from the fans because they always watch when the champions come to the line, no matter what class they're in. The off-season really flew by because of my wedding. "Our plan is to run the old bike until we have a reason to break out the TL1000. I think the new engine deals George (Bryce) has are good because he can get those other teams to test some new ideas with the engines, and that should help us down the line. I'm excited to see a lot of new faces in the division this year. We've got some more women competing this season - Stephanie Reaves and Peggy Llewellyn - so that's good for the division. With Peggy, she's the first black woman in the division, so that's really good for the Pro Stock Bikes. I think you're going to see an exciting division this year, and hopefully we can come out on top."
* WALLY AND BARBARA PARKS NAMED 2001 HOT ROD REUNION GRAND MARSHALS: National Hot Rod Association founder Wally Parks and his wife, Barbara, have been named as the grand marshals for the 2001 California Hot Rod Reunion, which will be presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California in Bakersfield, Calif., on Oct. 5-7. Parks formed NHRA in 1951 while serving as the first editor of Hot Rod magazine, a position that he held until becoming NHRA president in 1963. Parks currently serves as the chairman of the NHRA Motorsports Museum, which he played a major role in developing prior to its opening in April 1998. He is also a member of the NHRA board of directors and is on the Automobile Competition Committee for the United States (ACCUS), this country's branch of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). "For Barbara and me, there is a special honor in having been named grand marshals for the 10th annual California Hot Rod Reunion," said Parks regarding his grand marshal selection. "As a part of the celebration of NHRA's 50th Anniversary, this year's reunion is sure to stimulate more memories of drag racing's early years than has any similar prior occasion. Little did any of us know, when we were forming NHRA in 1951, that it would accomplish so much in the cultivation of a car enthusiasts' sport. And certainly when Barbara was typing those first membership cards, no one could have envisioned that NHRA would one day become the world's largest motorsports organization, with enrollment of over 80,000. "In NHRA's infancy, racing was not a part of the original format until the growing need to control illegal street racing became a serious problem. We worked hard to develop a pattern for safe off-street racing, often with car clubs as event organizers. Without the support we received from our members, the clubs, early advisers, and the directors of NHRA's seven divisions, the nationwide program might not have succeeded. With its limited staff and an army of member volunteers, NHRA was the active catalyst and a source of inspiration for its coast to coast following of ambitious car enthusiasts."
* MIKE THOMAS LOOKING TO REBOUND AFTER DISAPPOINTING 2000 SEASON: Mike Thomas had a very disappointing 2001 season in Pro Stock. The Knoxville, Tenn., driver qualified for five of 24 events last season and never qualified higher than 10th. He was anticipating a stronger performance in 2001 with the delivery of the Pontiac Grand Am body style. During a testing session prior to the season-opener in Pomona, Calif., Thomas' Grand Am experienced mechanical problems, went out of control and made contact with the retaining wall. "We immediately loaded the car up and returned it," said Thomas. "I certainly didn't want to take any more chances." Thomas purchased a 1997 Chevrolet Camaro from fellow Pro Stock driver Kurt Johnson. Johnson drove the Camaro to six national event victories during the second half of the 2000 season. It's a good car," said Thomas. "We just didn't have enough time to match it up with our stuff before the first two races of the season. I believe we can successfully qualify for races, and with this Camaro, there is no reason to think we can't win some rounds and put ourselves in a position to win a race. We'll just keep working hard until something good happens."
* MIKE CORVO JR. MAKING TRANSITION TO PRO STOCK TRUCK: Mike Corvo Jr. competed in the sportsman categories for nearly ten years and is now competing in the Pro Stock Truck ranks. During the 2001 NHRA Winston Drag Racing season, Corvo will be driving the Motorhomes Unlimited Sonoma GMC for championship chassis builder Rick Jones, who decided to get out from behind the wheel of the Sonoma. In his professional debut at the season-opening AutoZone Winternationals, Corvo qualified 13th and lost in the second round to Jeff Gracia. "This GMC is smoother and faster than anything I've ever been in and now I know what they mean by a professional-grade truck," said Corvo. "A Pro Stock Truck can be a real challenge to drive, and if you're not on top of things, it can get wicked. I was actually somewhat pleased with our performance in Pomona, being my first race and all. I've always wanted to be in a professional class and I've proved to myself that I can do it." Corvo is participating in a class that is arguably the most competitive category in the NHRA professional ranks. Many drivers he has competed against in the past have made the transition to the Pro Stock Truck class. "A lot of guys have raced in this class since the beginning," said Corvo. "They're all veterans and it's kind of intimidating, but it makes it more exciting. When you can go out there and leave on someone you have respected for so many years and then beat them across the finish line, that's exciting."