Reading: Seeling closing in on her first Winston championship

MOHNTON, Pa. - Angelle Seeling has enjoyed some special times at Maple Grove Raceway in past seasons. She hopes to add a special moment to her list there Sept. 14-17, at the 16th annual Keystone Nationals. With a victory,...

MOHNTON, Pa. - Angelle Seeling has enjoyed some special times at Maple Grove Raceway in past seasons. She hopes to add a special moment to her list there Sept. 14-17, at the 16th annual Keystone Nationals. With a victory, the New Orleans Pro Stock Motorcycle standout could move ever closer to her ultimate goal as one of the quickest NHRA competitors on two wheels: becoming an NHRA Winston champion. Seeling, a winner at the tradition-filled event in 1996 and '98, leads the 2000 Winston standings on her Team Winston Suzuki with five victories in seven final rounds. She currently holds a 157-point advantage over three-time defending champion Matt Hines entering the $1.9 million race, the 18th of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. With a victory, 14-time winner Seeling also could move closer to surpassing Shirley Muldowney as the NHRA's all-time winningest female competitor. Muldowney earned 18 career victories while winning three NHRA Winston Top Fuel championships in the late '70s and early '80s. With a Winston championship this season, Seeling also would join Muldowney as the only female competitors to win Winston crowns. It seems as if destiny is on Seeling's side. Two races ago in Brainerd, Minn., Seeling nearly crashed her Suzuki, a near-catasrophe that could have not only totaled her bike, but also her championship hopes. Her bike veered off course after her rear tire went down. She made slight contact with the guardwall, but managed to control the machine and prevent further damage. Her Team Winston crew was able to rebuild the bike and put her back in competition. Her points lead wasn't jeopardized because Hines also lost in the second round. "I was just happy and thankful to still get a chance to compete," Seeling said. "That was a really scary ride and once the rear tire came off the rim, I had very little control over where my Team Winston Suzuki went. Luckily we were able to get everything repaired and ready to race." She definitely realizes how fortunate she was in the incident. "My first thought after the bike came to a stop against the wall was, 'This can't be happening'," she added. "We've worked so hard and done so well and we're in a tight battle with Matt Hines and we need every run we can get. My crew did a tremendous job getting the bike ready to run."

STEVENS WANTS ANOTHER WIN: A recent victory in Seattle this season only whetted Richie Stevens' appetite for more Pro Stock success. After finishing fifth in the Winston standings in '99 with one win in four final rounds, Stevens had high hopes entering the 2000 season. However, the season has been sort of a struggle for the 'The Kid,' as he's called by fellow competitors and fans. He hopes a strong run at Maple Grove Raceway will help him finish strong and improve on his seventh place position in the Winston point standings. "This year isn't what we expected it to be," Stevens admitted. "We hoped to finish in the top three (in Winston points) and right now I'm not sure we'll be able to do that. If I could just make it to some more semifinal and final rounds, I would be thrilled. Winning a race or two would be nice as well."

YATES SAYS COMPETITION GETTING TOUGHER: Jim Yates has seen a flock of new talent emerge in Pro Stock racing in recent seasons. The two-time NHRA Winston champion says qualifying is as tough now as it has ever been. With many top teams simply struggling to qualify, actually crafting a race victory is another story. Yates, who earned Winston crowns in 1996 and '97, knows that all too well. The Alexandria, Va. driver needs a victory in one of the final six events this season to keep his current winning streak alive. The Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird driver has won at least one NHRA national event every year since 1994, including Keystone Nationals titles during his championship seasons. "The level of performance is becoming more equal," Yates said. "There's so many good cars that the difference in the top qualifier and the bottom qualifier is very small. The field moving closer together makes it tougher to win on Sunday." One of those young drivers - Jeg Coughlin Jr. - has dominated this season, winning eight of 10 final rounds. Coughlin, driver of the Jeg's Mail Order Oldsmobile Cutlass, is the defending Keystone Nationals Pro Stock winner.

KRISHER NOT SURPRISED: Many Pro Stock fans across the nation have been asking the same question: 'Who in the heck is Ron Krisher?' The Eagle One Pontiac Firebird driver, who has emerged onto the NHRA scene in grand fashion by claiming victories in Chicago and St. Louis and earning No. 1 qualifying awards at four events, is just a regular guy that loves to go drag racing. Journeyman? Krisher doesn't think so. "I don't think this season took us by surprise at all," Krisher said. "We were pretty quick in pre-season testing. I've got a lot of confidence in my crew chief (Mike Edwards) and my team. We were prepared to do well this season. It's been a lot of fun."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Ron Krisher , Mike Edwards