Pomona 2: Preview

POMONA Calif. - In all of motorsports, there's nothing quite like the electric atmosphere produced when a pair of richly-tuned, nitro-burning Top Fuel dragsters cackle at the starting line, awaiting the green light to flash at one of the NHRA's ...

POMONA Calif. - In all of motorsports, there's nothing quite like the electric atmosphere produced when a pair of richly-tuned, nitro-burning Top Fuel dragsters cackle at the starting line, awaiting the green light to flash at one of the NHRA's premier speedplants.

The explosive blast that thunders from two 6,000 horsepower dragsters marching side-by-side down the dragstrip is guaranteed to provide an extreme shot of adrenaline to even the most conservative attendees.

One blink and it's over. The spectacle is intensified dramatically when it takes place at night, under dim stadium lights. Triangles of fire rage from four sets of header pipes and glimmers of color deflect from all points as flashbulbs from a thousand cameras try to capture the surreal moment. Two dragsters streaking the distance of a quarter-mile, leaving only a trail of vapor and wake of jolted fans in the distance.

For three spectacular nights at historic Pomona Raceway, legions of fans who crave 330 mph blasts that last less than five seconds and long for the glory days when nighttime drag racing was a weekly standard in Southern California will get to take a step back in time.

Certainly, it will be a nostalgic experience to remember at the inaugural Pep Boys NHRA 50th Anniversary Nationals presented by American Racing Wheels, July 5-7 at historic Pomona Raceway near Los Angeles.

The $1.9 million race, which will feature competition in four NHRA Winston pro categories, Nostalgia Top Fuel and seven NHRA Federal-Mogul series categories, is the 13th of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series for 2001.

With NHRA Winston championship points on the line, this festival of speed under the lights will be fierce, as NHRA's powerbrokers of high-horsepower set their machines for maximum performance. No doubt, fans will be treated to a record-breaking showcase given the list of performances displayed during the first half of the season.

National records have been set in every category, while the chase for NHRA Winston championship glory is as close as ever.

In Top Fuel, Kenny Bernstein has been the hottest driver, recording four victories and lowering the national elapsed time record to a blazing 4.477 seconds in his Budweiser King dragster. Meanwhile, the NY Yankees dragster driven by Mike Dunn clocked the national speed record at 330.55 mph en route to two victories. Other winners have included Larry Dixon in the Miller Lite dragster, Doug Kalitta in the Mac Tools dragster and Darrell Russell, who claimed the season-opener here in February in Joe Amato's dragster. Among drivers still looking for their first win of the season include three-time Winston champ Gary Scelzi and '99 champ Tony Schumacher.

With two victories and a national elapsed time record (4.763 seconds), John Force has again established himself as the driver to beat in Funny Car as he seeks an unprecedented 11th Winston championship in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. Overall, however, Funny Car has been one of the most competitive categories, featuring record-breaking 16-car fields at every event. Other two-time season winners include Del Worsham and Force teammate Tony Pedregon. Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr., Frank Pedregon and Bruce Sarver are also among the season-winners. Whit Bazemore, Dean Skuza and Gary Densham, who recently teamed with Force, are all on the verge of getting their first victory of the season.

As many as eight drivers are battling for the Winston crown in Pro Stock, in one of the most tightly-contested fields in NHRA history. Jim Yates leads the charge with one win in four finals in his Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am, while Mark Pawuk's record-setting Summit Grand Am (6.806 seconds) is in the hunt with three runner-up finishes. Warren Johnson has claimed two victories in his GM Goodwrench Grand Am, while Jeg Coughlin and Mike Edwards have also claimed victories in their Chevy Cavaliers. Richie Stevens, Ron Krisher and Kurt Johnson, who hasn't won since the season-opening race here, are all top contenders in the 200-mph category.

It's a three-way battle for the Pro Stock Motorcycle championship, as defending series champion Angelle Savoie is locked in competition with fellow Suzuki riders Matt Hines, a three-time champ, and Antron Brown, who is seeking his first title. Hines and Brown have claimed two victories, while Savoie has earned one. Four riders are looking to make a move in the Winston point standings with a victory at Pomona, including Craig Treble, Reggie Showers, Geno Scali and GT Tonglet.

In the special nostalgia top fuel dragster category, several top drivers are expected to compete. These tradition-rich 3,000 horsepower slingshot chassis feature a 240-inch wheelbase with a mounted front-engine and are capable of producing speeds over 250 mph and elapsed times in the five-second zone. Fresno resident Rance McDaniel, who holds the record for the quickest run in history by a front engine dragster at 5.87 seconds, will battle with local favorites Howard Haight of Upland and Lee Jennings of Chino. Other top drivers include Utah's Jack Harris, Gerry Steiner of San Jose, Force Racing aerodynamics specialist Tim Gibson and former NHRA Funny Car standout Dale Pulde.

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying begins at 2 and 4:45 p.m. on July 5 and continues at 3:30 and 6:45 p.m. on July 6. Nostalgia qualifying is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on July 5 and at 4:15 and 7:30 p.m. on July 6. Final professional eliminations begin at 4 p.m. on July 7.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the Pep Boys NHRA 50th Anniversary Nationals presented by American Racing Wheels. Call the NHRA national ticket office at (800) 884-6472, or Ticketmaster, for ticket information. Tickets also are available at nhra.com.

· TELEVISION: ESPN2 will televise three hours of eliminations at 10 p.m. (ET) on July 7. ESPN2 also will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 7:30 p.m. (ET) on July 6 and another hour of qualifying highlights at midnight (ET) on July 6.

ON THE WEB: NHRA news, photos and driver information available at www.nhra.com.


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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Dean Skuza , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Ron Krisher , Reggie Showers , Gary Densham , Craig Treble , Geno Scali , Tim Gibson , Dale Pulde , GT Tonglet , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr.