Pomona: Bragging rights on the line

POMONA, Calif. - While NHRA Winston championship battles for Y2K have long been decided, that doesn't mean teams will slow their charge as they prepare for the season's last hurrah. As long as there's still money to be won, ...

POMONA, Calif. - While NHRA Winston championship battles for Y2K have long been decided, that doesn't mean teams will slow their charge as they prepare for the season's last hurrah. As long as there's still money to be won, performance records to be set, positions to be gained in the Winston Top 10 and bragging rights to be had, racers will be working to gain every advantage. And at historic Pomona Raceway, one of the quickest quarter-mile facilities on the circuit, there'll be plenty of money and points up for grabs. Indeed, drama will be plentiful at the 36th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, Nov. 9-12 at Fairplex. Mike Dunn, Jerry Toliver, Jeg Coughlin, Antron Brown and Steve Johns are the defending winners in their pro categories at the $2 million race, the final of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Dunn, from Wrightsville, Pa., outran Doug Kalitta for the Top Fuel victory here last year in a thrilling side-by-side final. Dunn returns to defend his title in a new machine -- the blue pinstriped New York Yankees dragster. Kalitta, a three-time winner this season, also is among top favorites in his MGM Grand dragster. Newly crowned Winston champion Gary Scelzi, an eight-time winner this season, is looking for another victory. Veterans Kenny Bernstein and Joe Amato also will be tough to beat as two of the eight teams qualified for the $100,000 Budweiser Shootout, a special bonus program for select Top Fuel entries. Toliver, from nearby Huntington Beach, earned his first-ever Funny Car victory here last year in front of hometown fans and friends, defeating category kingpin John Force. Toliver hopes a victory this season will salvage a second place finish in the point standings as Force has already recorded his 10th Winston crown. Other top favorites in the 6,000 horsepower category include Ron Capps, Tony Pedregon, Whit Bazemore, Scotty Cannon, Jim Epler and Bruce Sarver. Coughlin, from Columbus, Ohio, defeated Warren Johnson in a fast Pro Stock final here last year. Coughlin clinched the 2000 Winston championship in Memphis, Tenn., but hopes a victory here will tie him with Darrell Alderman's longstanding season-win record of 11. Johnson needs a victory to salvage a tough season that has brought only two victories. Jim Yates needs to win to keep his record of winning at least one race since 1994 alive. Other favorites in the 200-mph category include Kurt Johnson, Ron Krisher and Scott Geoffrion, driver of the national record-holding Dodge Avenger. Brown, from Chesterfield, N.J., used a holeshot start to defeat fellow Suzuki rider Craig Treble in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final. Brown and Treble lead the favorites into action again this season. Another favorite to win, Angelle Seeling, secured her first Winston championship recently in Houston, becoming only the second female in NHRA history to win a pro title. Two-time Finals winner Matt Hines is also a top threat for victory in the two-wheel category, along with Tony Mullen, Geno Scali and Steve Johnson. Johns, from Mountville, Pa., took the holeshot start and never looked back to take the Pro Stock Truck win here one year ago over Bob Panella. Johns gained momentum in the 2000 season by recently winning at Dallas. Meanwhile, Panella has already clinched his second Winston championship, as he has posted five victories during the season in his Chevy S-10. Randy Daniels, Greg Stanfield, and GMC Sonoma drivers David Spitzer and Rick Jones are all top favorites.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Bruce Sarver , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Joe Amato , Doug Kalitta , Ron Krisher , Randy Daniels , Scotty Cannon , Craig Treble , Greg Stanfield , Geno Scali , Scott Geoffrion , Jerry Toliver , Steve Johnson , Steve J