Chevrolet Has Established Winning Legacy at NHRA Finals POMONA, Calif., Nov. 10, 2004 - The 23-event NHRA POWERade season comes to an end this weekend with the running of the 40th annual Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at...
Chevrolet Has Established Winning Legacy at NHRA Finals
POMONA, Calif., Nov. 10, 2004 - The 23-event NHRA POWERade season comes to an end this weekend with the running of the 40th annual Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at Pomona Raceway. Over the past five decades, Chevrolet has established a long and distinguished history at the NHRA Finals, but not every red bowtie victory at drag racing's season closer has occurred at this legendary facility on the western edge of the L.A. County Fairplex.
Chevrolet Racing History At The NHRA Finals
Dave Strickler captured Chevrolet's first NHRA Finals trophy at Tulsa, Okla., in 1968 when he drove a '68 Super Stock Camaro to a winning 11.89 e.t. at 116.12 mph. In 1969, the NHRA Finals pulled up stakes, left Oklahoma and headed south to Dallas where the contest was held until 1971. The NHRA Finals then moved northwest across Texas to Amarillo where in 1972, Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins gave Chevrolet its first Pro Stock victory at the NHRA Finals. Jenkins drove a Vega to a final-round 9.77 e.t. at 140.62 mph. Just one year after Jenkins Pro Stock win, Frank Hall gave the Chevy red bowtie its first NHRA Finals Funny Car title by driving a Vega to a 6.39 second run at 224.43 mph.
In 1974, the NHRA Finals moved to Ontario, Calif., where in 1975-76, Don "The Snake" Prudhomme piloted a Chevy Monza to back-to-back Funny Car wins defeating Denny Savage in '75 and Ed McCulloch in '76. At Pomona Raceway in 1984, Sherm Gunn drove a Camaro Funny Car to a final-round victory over Mark Oswald, and John Force drove a Chevy Lumina to the NHRA Finals championship in 1994 over Cruz Pedregon. Chuck Etchells guided a Camaro to its last NHRA Finals Funny Car victory in 1998 and Jerry Toliver sat inside a Chevy Corvette as he maneuvered his way to the NHRA Finals title in 1999.
At the 1981 NHRA Finals hosted in Irvine, Calif., Lee Shepherd gave Chevrolet its first Pro Stock win at the season-ending event since Bill Jenkins red bowtie victory in 1972. Shepherd's Chevy Camaro defeated John Hagen with an 8.35 second run at 151.29 mph to Hagen's 8.39 e.t. at 154.23 mph. A Chevrolet would not win the NHRA Finals again in Pro Stock until 1985 at Pomona Raceway when Joe Lepone defeated Bruce Allen in the first, and only all-Camaro final round in the category. Lepone's Chevy defeated Allen's Reher-Morrison Camaro on a holeshot posting a winning 7.660 e.t. at 179.92 mph.
Chevrolet's most recent Pro Stock victory at the NHRA Finals was provided courtesy of Kurt Johnson in 2002 when the ACDelco Cavalier pilot motored past Gene Wilson in the money round. Johnson's Chevy posted a winning time of 6.801 seconds at 202.88 mph to Wilson's 6.843 second run at 201.79 mph. Johnson also won the 2000 NHRA Finals in a Camaro defeating perennial standout Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the title round.
Gone but not forgotten are the Chevy S-10 trucks that dominated the Pro Stock Truck category from 1998-2001. Chevy S-10 pickups won and were runner-up at every NHRA Finals contested during that time frame. Chevrolet NHRA Finals champions in Pro Stock Truck included Brad Jeter (1998), Steve Johns (1999), Greg Stanfield (2000) and Mike Coughlin (2001).
Chevy's Winning Tradition Continues In 2004
Looking to continue Chevrolet's winning tradition in NHRA Drag Racing, the Monte Carlo made its Funny car debut in February at the NHRA Winternationals at Pomona Raceway. In its first successful season in straight-line, quarter-mile competition, Funny Car drivers racing Chevy Monte Carlos have captured seven national-event victories, advanced to 12 final rounds and earned low qualifying honors seven times.
On March 20, Tim Wilkerson earned low Funny Car qualifying honors for Chevy Monte Carlo for the first time at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. A Monte Carlo driven by Phil Burkart won for the first time in Funny Car at Las Vegas on April 4. Del Worsham's most recent win in Joliet (Ill.) on Oct. 3 was Chevrolet's 71st all-time victory and its 146th final-round appearance in NHRA Funny Car competition.
Current Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Car drivers who have previously won the NHRA Finals include Del Worsham (2001, 2003) and Tony Pedregon (1997). Current Chevy Monte Carlo Funny car drivers who have previously been runner-up at the NHRA Finals include Tommy Johnson Jr. (2002), Tony Pedregon (1996) and Cruz Pedregon (1994-95).
There are five Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Car drivers in the top 10 of the POWERade points standings. Del Worsham is tied for second place with Gary Scelzi with 1,490 points and five victories (the most in the category this year), Tim Wilkerson is seventh in a Chevrolet with 1,186 points and two victories, Cruz Pedregon is eighth in a Chevrolet with 1,156 points, Tony Pedregon is ninth in a Chevrolet with 1,138 points and Phil Burkart is in 10th place in a Chevrolet with 1,105 points and two victories.
Chevrolet will finish second behind Pontiac in the race for the 2004 NHRA Manufacturer's Cup. With one race remaining on the 23-event schedule, Chevrolet has accumulated 3,700 points to Pontiac's 4,220. Dodge will finish in third place with 1,300. With 15 NHRA Manufacturer's Cups, Chevrolet has won more than any other automobile nameplate in the history of the sport. Chevrolet won its first Manufacturer's Cup in 1966 and most recently captured the prestigious auto racing title in 2002.
Contributing to Chevrolet's run at the 2004 NHRA Manufacturer's Cup was second-year Pro Stock competitor Dave Connolly. The 21-year-old Connolly has driven his GM DRCE-powered Cavalier to three national-event victories, competed in five final rounds, captured 39 round wins (.684) and earned low qualifying honors at Memphis. Connolly currently sits in third place in the POWERade Pro Stock standings just 69 points behind second place Jason Line. Connolly's most recent win at Joliet (Ill.) on Oct. 3 was Chevrolet's 121st all-time in NHRA Pro Stock competition.
In addition to Dave Connolly, there are four Chevy Cavalier drivers in the Pro Stock top 10. ACDelco Chevrolet pilot Kurt Johnson is in fourth place with 1,214 points and one victory, Jeg Coughlin Jr. is sixth in a Chevrolet with 1,077 points, Steve Johns is eighth in a Chevrolet with 986 points and Rickie Smith is in 10th place in a Chevrolet with 859 points.
Current Chevy Cavalier Pro Stock drivers who have previously won the NHRA Finals include Kurt Johnson (1997, 2000, 2002), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (1999) and Steve Johns (PST, 1999).
ACDelco Chevrolet driver Kurt Johnson has won at least one national event every season since 1995, and in 11 of the last 12 years dating back to 1993. KJ's win streak currently ranks second among active Pro Stock drivers behind Warren Johnson's 22-year run.
Qualifying highlights for the 40th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals will be telecast on ESPN2 on Saturday, Nov. 13, beginning at 10 p.m. Eastern. Final eliminations will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Sunday, Nov. 14, starting at 6 p.m. Eastern.
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