Richmond Pennzoil Story

FORCE, MCCLENATHAN, JOHNSON AND JETER CLAIM PENNZOIL NATIONALS VICTORIES DINWIDDIE, Va. -- John Force continued his Funny Car domination at the rain-delayed fifth annual Pennzoil Nationals presented by Trak Auto May 3rd, winning his ...

FORCE, MCCLENATHAN, JOHNSON AND JETER CLAIM PENNZOIL NATIONALS VICTORIES

DINWIDDIE, Va. -- John Force continued his Funny Car domination at the rain-delayed fifth annual Pennzoil Nationals presented by Trak Auto May 3rd, winning his fourth event title of the season.

Force, from Yorba Linda, Calif., defeated teammate Tony Pedregon in a close battle between identically-prepared Ford Mustangs. Force covered the Virginia Motorsports Park quarter-mile in 4.940 at 303.30 mph in his Castrol GTX Mustang, while Pedregon posted a slower 5.040 at 293.79 in his Castrol Syntec Mustang.

Cory McClenathan, Allen Johnson and Brad Jeter were also winners in their respective categories at the $1.6 million race, the sixth of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

It was the sixth victory in six races for the Force-owned team. It was Force's 74th career victory, tying him for second on the all-time NHRA winner's list with Warren Johnson. It was Force's third victory at Virginia Motorsports Park.

"It's fun when you can go out and put two cars in the final, it takes some of the pressure off," said Force, who defeated an all-star cast to advance to the final that included Scotty Cannon, Whit Bazemore and Cruz Pedregon. "We're glad to get another win for Ford. This is what it's all about. As hard as my team works they deserve it. Someone asked me what it takes to beat us. I told them that they would have to hire my crew chiefs and my team, because they work their butts off."

With the victory, Force increased his Winston points lead to 96 over Tony Pedregon.

McClenathan, from Anaheim, Calif., earned his first Top Fuel victory of the season, defeating Larry Dixon. McClenathan ran 4.684 at 310.05 in his MBNA dragster to cross the finish line in front of Dixon, whose Miller Lite dragster lost traction and ran 5.383 at 223.99.

"The NHRA Safety Safari did a great job getting the track back in shape after the rain delay," McClenathan said. "We had some great side-by-side racing today and that's what the fans love."

It is the third victory for McClenathan at Virginia Motorsports Park.

"It's a mental thing mostly," said McClenathan, who defeated Randy Parks, Doug Kalitta and Mike Dunn to advance to the final round. "You always feel good about going to a race track where you've won before. We felt confident all weekend and I think that showed today."

McClenathan moves to fourth in the Winston standings with the victory, 76 points out of first. Team Mopar's Dunn is in first, 57 points ahead of runner-up Dixon.

Johnson, from Greeneville, Tenn., earned his first-career Pro Stock victory, defeating Richie Stevens in a photo- finish. Johnson used a reaction-time advantage and ran 6.970 at 198.17 in his Amoco Dodge Avenger, just edging the quicker Stevens, who posted a 6.960 at 198.20 in his Valspar Refinishes Pontiac Firebird.

It is the first victory for a Dodge Avenger in Pro Stock competition since the 1997 Western Auto Parts America Nationals at Topeka, Kan. Johnson ran the table on rival Pro Stock manufacturers during eliminations, defeating Troy Coughlin's Oldsmobile Cutlass, George Marnell's Pontiac Firebird and Kurt Johnson's Chevrolet Camaro to advance to the final.

"Words can't describe how I feel," said an emotional Johnson, an independent team owner not officially associated with Team Mopar. "I wanted to win this race for my dad (Roy Johnson, also team crew chief). This has been his dream. I'm just glad I was able to do it for him."

Kurt Johnson remained the Winston points leader, 95 in front of Warren Johnson, who lost in the first round, ending his streak of victories at Virginia Motorsports Park.

The victory guarantees Johnson a Pro Stock starting spot in the inaugural Winston Showdown, July 8-10 at Bristol Dragway, NHRA's $727,000 all-star event.

Jeter, from Greenville, S.C., earned his second-career Pro Stock Truck victory when fellow Chevrolet S-10 driver Bob Panella redlighted. Jeter singled to a 7.559 at 177.63 mph in his Karl Chevrolet-Sponsored Pickup.

The victory moved Jeter into the Winston points lead, 20 ahead of Mark Osborne, who lost in the semifinals. Jerry Haas set the national elapsed time record at 7.505 seconds, picking up a 20 point bonus in the standings but remains outside the top 10.

"It feels good to know that I can win again," Jeter said. "We came here with a plan to get the driver back in the program and that's what we did. We really needed this victory, it gives us confidence for the rest of the season."

The estimated, four-day attendance was 98,800.

The next NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series event is the 19th annual NHRA Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals, May 13-16, at Atlanta Dragway.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Troy Coughlin , Bob Panella , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Brad Jeter , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Doug Kalitta , Scotty Cannon , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , George Marnell , Allen Johnson , Jerry Haas , Roy Johnson