Pomona Funny Car notebook

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (626) 914-4761 WINSTON FINALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *Dunn, Kenji split: Kenji Okazaki will drive for car owner Jim Dunn for the last time at this event. Okazaki, from Tokyo,...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (626) 914-4761

WINSTON FINALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK

*Dunn, Kenji split: Kenji Okazaki will drive for car owner Jim Dunn for the last time at this event.

Okazaki, from Tokyo, earned his first career victory this season at the Mopar Parts Nationals in May at Englishtown, N.J., and he also earned $100,000 for winning the prestigious Big Bud Shootout during the U.S. Nationals in August at Indianapolis.

But Okazaki's collision with the guardwall during qualifying at the Revell Nationals in October at Dallas spelled the end of his five-year relationship with the crusty Dunn, one of the most respected crew chiefs in drag racing. The accident caused $44,000 worth of damage to the Mooneyes Dodge Avenger.

Okazaki already had tendered his resignation his resignation in September and promised to finish the season. The team skipped the Matco Tools SuperNationals late last month in Houston while its car was being repaired. Dunn served as a tuning consultant at Houston for the McDonald's Pontiac Firebird driven by Cruz Pedregon.

Dunn has named no replacement driver for next season, but he insisted that he won't revive his driving career.

"No, I will not drive," Dunn said with a laugh. "Hell, I'm 64. Besides, my license has expired."

*Speedy: The three fastest speeds in NHRA Funny Car history were recorded by Chuck Etchells, Ron Capps and Tony Pedregon during qualifying for the Matco Tools SuperNationals in late October at Houston.

Etchells was clocked at 315.56 mph in the Kendall Dodge Avenger, Capps at 315.45 in the Copenhagen Chevrolet Camaro and Pedregon at 315.34 in the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. None of the drivers could back up their speeds within 1 percent at this event for an NHRA national record, so the record remains 314.46 by John Force, set a week earlier at the Revell Nationals in Dallas.

*Speed freaks: Many people think NHRA Funny Car drivers are nuts for climbing into a car that reaches 315 mph in a quarter-mile and accelerates from 0 to 100 mph in 0.9 seconds. But the drivers insist there is nothing that can replace the thrill they get from driving a car with a nitromethane-powered, 5,500-horsepower engine sitting just in front of their knees and feet.

"The sensation of the acceleration of one of these cars is unbelievable," Castrol GTX Ford Mustang driver Tony Pedregon told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I flew with the Blue Angels, and the pilot was having a little fun. He was trying to get me sick, and he did. But after we landed, he said, 'If this ride's a 10, what do you consider your Funny Car?' I said, 'Well, you made me sick, but really that wasn't a 10.' That plane ride was a 9, maybe a 9 1/2.

"This is a 10. When you're lying in bed at night, and you've just run a 4.90, that's all you think about. That's what it's all about."

*Turn it up: Al Hofmann completed his recovery from injuries suffered in a fiery crash in March by winning the Revell Nationals last month at Dallas.

The victory was Hofmann's first since winning the Mac Tools Gatornationals in March at Gainesville, Fla. His Classic Chevy Pontiac Firebird burst into flames at the finish line, and Hofmann suffered a broken right arm and a severely cut left hand.

While veteran Hofmann recuperated, less-experienced drivers Jeff Arend and Cory Lee took over in the driver's seat. Crew chief Jimbo Ermalovich reduced the horsepower of his engines to compensate for the less-experienced replacement drivers.

Hofmann returned to the seat for good at the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals in July at Denver, but Ermalovich was reluctant to return the power to the engine, afraid that a mechanical malfunction could endanger Hofmann again. Hofmann pleaded with Ermalovich to hop up the car.

"I said, 'Jimbo, look, if I was meant to die in this thing, then I'm meant to die in it,'" Hofmann said. "'Let's stand on the gas and see what this thing will do.' We came into Dallas and stood on the gas."

*Bummed out: Rookie Randy Anderson was depressed after losing in the first round of the Matco Tools SuperNationals in late October at Houston, as he slipped from sixth to seventh in the NHRA Winston point standings.

"Fifth place in the Winston standings is something you can be proud of," Anderson said. "Seventh place is terrible. I'm not happy."

Anderson, from Ontario, Calif., can climb into fifth with a strong showing at this event in the Parts America Pontiac Firebird. He is just 36 points behind fifth-place Cruz Pedregon.

*Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 6, as this is one of only two events in which pro qualifying takes place Thursday. Qualifying continues with at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 7 and ends with sessions at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 8. Final eliminations start at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 9. Budweiser Classic rounds are scheduled for 11:30 a.m., 1:45 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. Nov. 8. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 8 a.m. Nov. 6.

*Tickets: Tickets are available for the Winston Finals. Call NHRA Ticketing at (800) 884-6472 for ticket information. Tickets also can be purchased at Ticketmaster outlets.

*On TV: The Nashville Network (TNN) will televise 90 minutes of live, final-round competition from the Winston Finals at 4 p.m. (PST) Nov. 9. TNN also will televise one hour of live, first-round competition at 10:30 a.m. (PST) that day. TNN will show one hour of live, final-round competition from the Budweiser Classic at 4 p.m. (PST) Nov. 8. -30-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Ron Capps , John Force , Chuck Etchells , Cruz Pedregon , Cory Lee