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Bob Panella, from Stockton, Calif., escaped from the inaugural NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill. still perched on top of the NHRA Winston Pro Stock point standings. Although Panella suffered a rare first round loss - - having 34...

Bob Panella, from Stockton, Calif., escaped from the inaugural NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill. still perched on top of the NHRA Winston Pro Stock point standings. Although Panella suffered a rare first round loss - - having 34 consecutive first round wins prior to this event - - the reigning and two-time Winston champion lost only 19 points to second place.

Panella entered the Chicago event 84 points ahead of second place Randy Daniels, from Grantsboro, N.C., who lost in the second round at Chicago. Greg Stanfield, from Bossier City, La., who was runner-up to the event winner Taylor Lastor, remained in third but moved to within eight points of Daniels.

Panella, who now has accumulated 984 points, now leads Daniels by 65 points, with two national events - - Dallas and Pomona - - left on the NHRA Winston Pro Stock Truck Championship Drag Racing Series. Stanfield trails the leader by 73 points.

Panella's teammate Jeff Gracia, is currently in fourth position, 272 points behind first. With 276 points up for grabs in the final two events, this means that Gracia is all but mathematically eliminated from winning the Winston Championship. Continuing to follow the math, that means anyone from Todd Patterson, from Augusta, Kan., in fifth, on back, does not have a chance at the top prize. But you can rest assured that each driver will be vying for a win in the final two events so that they might climb as high in the Winston point standing as possible.

"It's dishearten to see (Randy) Daniels and (Greg) Stanfield going rounds when you're here getting ready to load up, but losses happen. I'm not going to give up and nobody here on this team is going to give up. We know we've got one of the fastest trucks out here now. We just need to get the driver back in order and go get them in Dallas," said Panella immediately following his hole shot loss in the opening round of the Chicago event.

Patterson, who saw his championship hopes vanish at Chicago, has two goals as he finishes out the remainder of the Pro Stock Truck season in his Dodge Motorsports Dakota R/T.

"We know our championship hopes are gone, but I think conceivably fourth place is still up for grabs," said Patterson. I know that (Jeff) Gracia has kind of stumbled here the last couple of races. We've made up some ground on him in the last two events. Now we've just got to focus on Dallas and Pomona and continue to go rounds. If it happens, it happens.

"The points will take care of themselves. Our primary goal is to win a race. We've been to the semifinals six times, so we're doing our darndest to break through that barrier of getting by the semifinals. With the Winston championship gone, all we are trying to do is win a race for our own satisfaction and maybe play spoiler in the last two races," concluded Patterson.

Gracia, who finished seventh in points in 2000, is not only thinking about Patterson, but he also still has hopes of moving to a higher number in the point standings.

"First we've got to worry about (Todd) Patterson, (Taylor) Lastor, and (Mike) Coughlin. We need to get our act together or they are going to catch us from the backside. As to moving up, it will be tough to catch (Greg) Stanfield or (Randy) Daniels," indicated Gracia after a red-light loss in the opening round at Chicago. "But there is still a little chance I can sneak up on them. That red-light didn't help today. We need to put four good runs together during qualifying and go a lot rounds on race day in the next two races. On top of that, they've got to lose early. But we're still going to need luck a lot of luck. It's going to be tough."

Taylor Lastor, the winner of two races this year, including the most recent in Chicago, jumped from eighth to sixth in points. The Austin, Texas driver says he still trying to win races this year.

Said Lastor, "We're not really in any kind of significant points race so our only focus is to win races. We have two more to go so we're gonna try to win both of them." <pre> As of 09/30/01 (after 12 of 14 Pro Stock Truck events on the 2001 NHRA schedule) the NHRA Winston Point Standings are as follows:

1.    Bob Panella           984    (Total Points For Leader)
2.    Randy Daniels        -65    (Points Behind Leader)
3.    Greg Stanfield        -73    (Points Behind Leader)
4.    Jeff Gracia             -272  (Points Behind Leader)
5.    Todd Patterson      -322  (Points Behind Leader)
6.    Taylor Lastor         -354  (Points Behind Leader)
7.    Mike Coughlin       -369  (Points Behind Leader)
8.    Don Smith              -390  (Points Behind Leader)
9.    Scott Perin             -411  (Points Behind Leader)
10.  Victor Cagnazzi      -499  (Points Behind Leader)

-psta-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Panella , Todd Patterson , Jeff Gracia , Randy Daniels , Mike Coughlin , Greg Stanfield