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MOHNTON, Pa. - What was once a very interesting Top Fuel points chase in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series, just got a little more complex. In seasons past, the Top Fuel points chase usually became a little clearer following drag...

MOHNTON, Pa. - What was once a very interesting Top Fuel points chase in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series, just got a little more complex. In seasons past, the Top Fuel points chase usually became a little clearer following drag racing's most prestigious event, the U.S. Nationals. A leader would emerge and most often as many as two drivers would formulate a strategy to catch him. This season as Top Fuel teams head to the 15th annual True Value NHRA Keystone Nationals, Sept. 16-19 at Maple Grove Raceway, it's just plain goofy. The top-10 drivers in the 6,000 horsepower category are crammed in a tight log jam, as only 119 points separate points leader Tony Schumacher from the driver holding the No. 10 spot, Bob Vandergriff, Jr. Mike Dunn, driver of the Team Mopar dragster, held the lead since the season-opening race, only to see it slip away at the U.S. Nationals. Dunn was among many favorites who lost in the opening round at Indianapolis Raceway Park. The Wrightsville, Pa. driver hopes to use the home crowd advantage to pull back into the lead at one of his favorite stops on the circuit, historic Maple Grove Raceway. He's still smarting from the 'Big Go' that got away. "We had a great chance to separate ourselves from the field at Indy and a mechanical failure sent us out early too," Dunn said. "To have five of the top six cars either not qualify or lose in the first round is pretty amazing at this time of the year. I have been saying all year that anybody can win the Winston championship. With what happened at Indy, a six-horse race basically became a top-ten shootout. There are just too many teams that can win a race on any given weekend. We have been the hunted all year, now we get to be the hunter. It's gonna be a great race to the Finals." Dunn, 42, has posted three victories this season, at Pomona, Calif., Gainesville, Fla. and Chicago. His dragster has been consistently quick and fast this season and he feels his chances are as good as other top contenders. "A year ago we were a fifth place team with no chance of winning the championship," Dunn said. "We knew we had a good car capable of winning races, but we just couldn't put four good runs together on Sunday. This year, a couple of factors have added to our success. We've got a handle on the five-disc clutch and fuel-management systems. Improvements in those areas have made a huge difference." However, his team has hit a slight roadblock in recent events. The hot and humid conditions have forced crew chief Ken Veney and the team to scramble for a new combination. His first round loss at the U.S. Nationals where he was a runner-up last season, is just the latest early exit for Dunn. "We knew the summer months would be difficult," Dunn said. "Our combination was great on fast track surfaces, but we struggled on marginal tracks. We just didn't have enough information on the marginal tracks to adjust our tune-up. Quite honestly, we're lucky to still be in contention." He hopes to turn that trend at Maple Grove Raceway, where he was a runner-up last season. He also posted a runner-up finish at Dallas last Fall. He is a former winner at Memphis, as well. "I'm not sure why I have more success in the fall months," Dunn said. "Tracks like Reading and Memphis seem to be conducive for the way we race. After those events you get into the 'super tracks' where you see the big numbers run by the big-horsepower teams." One thing is for sure, he's going to enjoy the ride. He says being in a Winston points chase of this magnitude is incredible. "I've never been in this position at this point in the season," Dunn said. "So I really don't know what it's supposed to feel like being in this position. I've raced for a lot of years and this is all new stuff to me. We're just going to focus on trying to win races and hope to find the consistency that we had earlier in the season."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Dunn , Bob Vandergriff