FINAL CHAPTER OF THRILLING '99 SEASON TO UNFOLD AT POMONA RACEWAY POMONA, Calif. - The final chapter of what has been an exciting drag racing season featuring some of the closest championship battles in NHRA history will be written Nov.
FINAL CHAPTER OF THRILLING '99 SEASON TO UNFOLD AT POMONA RACEWAY POMONA, Calif. - The final chapter of what has been an exciting drag racing season featuring some of the closest championship battles in NHRA history will be written Nov. 11-14 at historic Pomona Raceway. Championship trophies will be up for grabs in three of NHRA's five pro categories as teams prepare to contest the 35th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Fairplex. Competitors in Top Fuel, Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock Truck have worked hard during the grueling season-long campaign to get into position in hopes of capturing Winston championship glory. Drivers in Funny Car and Pro Stock will be working to better their positions in the final standings in hopes of making it into the Winston Top 10. Kenny Bernstein, Chuck Etchells, Richie Stevens, Matt Hines and Brad Jeter are the defending pro category winners at the $1.7 million race, the final of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series for 1999. Bernstein, from Lake Forest, Calif., captured an emotional victory here last year to claim Pomona Raceway bragging rights over Team Winston's Gary Scelzi, who used the runner-up finish to clinch his second-straight NHRA Winston championship trophy. Scelzi is trying to catch points leader Tony Schumacher, who holds a 109 point advantage entering the event. Etchells, from Putnam, Conn., closed his '98 Funny Car season in impressive fashion, knocking off surprise finalist Dale Pulde. An Etchells-Pulde rematch is unlikely as Etchells has turned in his driving gloves for an ownership role on his Kendall Chevrolet Camaro. Season-long dominator John Force has already claimed his ninth Winston championship, but will be focusing on setting record marks in elapsed time and speed. Etchells' new driver, Whit Bazemore, will look to keep the Finals trophy in the Team Kendall camp, while a host of drivers - Tony Pedregon, Jerry Toliver, Jim Epler, Del Worhsam, Dean Skuza and Cruz Pedregon, among others - will look to close their '99 campaign with a victory. New Orleans' Stevens won the battle of Pro Stock rookies here last year, outrunning Jeg Coughlin in the final. Stevens and Coughlin are both looking to improve upon their final Winston points position with a good showing at Pomona Raceway. GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird driver Warren Johnson has already locked up his fifth NHRA Winston championship, while Johnson's son Kurt tries to hang on to second place in the points standings. Hines, from Trinidad, Colo., celebrated a victory and his second Winston championship at Pomona last year, defeating Ron Ayers in a close final round affair. Hines will need every point he can get this season, as he tries to chase down points leader Angelle Seeling for the claiming rights to the '99 championship trophy. Jeter, from Greenville, S.C., proved he had the horsepower to become a first-time Pro Stock Truck winner here last year in a tight battle between Chevy S-10s, as he ousted Tim Freeman. This season Jeter comes to Pomona Raceway looking to become a first-time Winston Pro Stock Truck champion, as he trails points leader Bob Panella by 56. Former Pro Stock racer Mark Osborne also has an outside shot at claiming the championship trophy. The Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, first held at Tulsa (Okla.) International Raceway in 1965, is NHRA's fourth-oldest event, behind the Winternationals, Springnationals and U.S. Nationals. The race has also been contested at dragstrips in Dallas; Amarillo, Texas; Ontario, Calif; and Irvine, Calif. before NHRA moved the event to its current home in Pomona, Calif. in 1984.
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