Pomona Winternationals Preview

POMONA, Calif. - It's time to wipe the slate clean, the '90s are only a distant memory. NHRA teams are preparing for NHRA 2000, where nitro power provides the thrills and speed reigns supreme. A new century of drag racing is set...

POMONA, Calif. - It's time to wipe the slate clean, the '90s are only a distant memory. NHRA teams are preparing for NHRA 2000, where nitro power provides the thrills and speed reigns supreme. A new century of drag racing is set to begin, complete with its share of 4.4-second quarter-mile passes at speeds approaching 330 mph. Competition between rivals is sure to be intensified. There's a certain excitement in the air with the beginning of each season. Every NHRA team enters the new year with an unblemished record, fresh parts, renewed enthusiasm and new hope. Before the first winners are crowned, every team is a championship contender. The long journey for NHRA teams pursuing the title of first Winston champion of the new millennium begins at the 40th annual AutoZone Winternationals, Feb. 3-6, at Pomona Raceway. Mike Dunn, Tony Pedregon, Jeg Coughlin and Randy Daniels are the defending event winners in their respective pro categories for the $1.7 million race, the first of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Dunn, from Wrightsville, Pa., was impressive here one year ago in Top Fuel, setting an elapsed time national record en route to a season-opening victory behind the wheel of his Darrell Gwynn-owned dragster. Ironically, the final round match featured the only two drivers to hold the Winston Top Fuel points lead during the 1999 season, as eventual series champ Tony Schumacher posted the runner-up effort. The two drivers head the list of favorites this season, which also includes veterans Joe Amato and Kenny Bernstein and two-time series champ Gary Scelzi. Pedregon, from Chino Hills, Calif., outran Funny Car journeyman Gary Densham for the victory here last year in a rain-delayed final. Densham, a local favorite from nearby Bellflower, is still seeking his first career victory in the 6,000 horsepower division. Pedregon's teammate and team owner, John Force, will kick-off the beginning of his quest to surpass 85 career victories and earn a 10th NHRA Winston championship in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. The race will mark the debut for Funny Car rookie Bruce Sarver, driver of the Alan Johnson-owned E-Moola.com Pontiac Firebird. WWF Racing's Jerry Toliver, the last Funny Car winner of the 1990s, Kendall Racing's Whit Bazemore, along with the Checker Schuck's Kragen team of Del Worsham and Frank Pedregon, also are among top contenders in the category. Columbus, Ohio's Coughlin, who closed last season with a victory at Pomona Raceway, hopes to begin the chase for his first Winston Pro Stock championship in similar fashion. Five-time category champ, Warren Johnson, heads the list of favorites, which also includes Richie Stevens, Troy Coughlin, Tom Martino, Allen Johnson and Kurt Johnson. Daniels, from Grantsboro, N.C., will need to work hard if he's to defend his Pro Stock Truck victory here from '99, as the Castrol Super Clean team of Rob Slavinski and Steve Johns will challenge for race victories and the Winston championship in 2000. Other top truck contenders include '99 series champ Bob Panella and points runner-up Brad Jeter. Jeg's Mail Order Racing tandem of Mike and John Coughlin should also pose a threat to the competition.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Bob Panella , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Brad Jeter , Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Randy Daniels , Gary Densham , Tom Martino , Darrell Gwynn , Allen Johnson , Jerry Toliver , Steve J