Richmond Toliver Ready to Rumble

TOLIVER READY TO RUMBLE WITH FUNNY CAR FOES AT PENNZOIL NATIONALS DINWIDDIE, Va. -- Let's get ready to rumble. That's what Jerry Toliver is tempted to blurt out at the top of his lungs every time he drives his WWF-sponsored Pontiac Firebird...

TOLIVER READY TO RUMBLE WITH FUNNY CAR FOES AT PENNZOIL NATIONALS

DINWIDDIE, Va. -- Let's get ready to rumble.

That's what Jerry Toliver is tempted to blurt out at the top of his lungs every time he drives his WWF-sponsored Pontiac Firebird to the starting line for NHRA Funny Car eliminations.

Toliver, from Huntington Beach, Calif., has a vivid picture of the one match he wants most.

Toliver's energizing hard rock music blasts over the track's loudspeakers, signaling his approach to the quartermile 'ring'. Behind a cloud of smoke his Pontiac appears, complete with wrestling champion Stone Cold Steve Austin's likeness painted on the hood. The fans go wild.

His opponent, from Yorba Linda, Calif., is the eight-time reigning Winston champion. John 'The Brute' Force pulls into the opposite lane in his unbeatable Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, affectionately nicknamed 'Hound Dog.' Force does his patented long burnout while his legion of fans chant their approval.

At stake: the coveted Winston Funny Car championship belt and of course, a year's worth of bragging rights. The match will feature a four-second time limit, with speeds in excess of 320 mph. May the best man win.

Toliver hopes to make his day dream vision a reality at the fifth annual Pennzoil Nationals presented by Trak Auto, April 29-May 2 at Virginia Motorsports Park. The $1.6 million race is the sixth of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

It could happen.

Toliver, currently eighth in the Winston point standings, has had one of the most consistent cars all season. With new crew chief Rob Flynn and a new cast of crew members, Toliver says success for the team is just around the corner.

"We're improving all the time," Toliver said. "We're a little higher in the point standings than we thought we would be at this time, but we've got a real experienced crew and they've been around for a long time and they know what to do. As far as driving goes, I just get in there and drive the car no matter what track we're racing on. I'm sort of a seat-of-the-pants type driver and I respond to the way the car acts. It's really not something you can plan for. You can have a game plan going in, but the bottom line is you've got to be able to react to what the car does. That's the key. We're really excited about the program -- it's coming together very well."

Toliver campaigned a limited schedule in 1998, making one semifinal appearance at the end of the season. When he decided to run full time in 1999, he joined a list of newcomers that have already added some excitement to the category.

"There's some new guys that are colorful," Toliver said. "I think the sport needs a little color, it never hurts. Basically we're all here for the same reason, to win races and go on to win the Winston championship at the end of the year. Each team has a little different approach and style. The new guys are good, but it's the old guys who are writing the record books right now. John Force is running strong right now. He's going to be tough to beat."

About as tough as Stone Cold Steve Austin in the world of professional wrestling. Toliver says he enjoys representing a sponsor like the WWF and bringing a little attitude and flair to NHRA.

"That makes it fun for me and that's why I'm out here," Toliver said. "There's a lot of wrestling fans out here and the car has been popular at every event so far. I enjoy mingling with the fans and the Stone Cold car has come off really well. The WWF is all about entertainment and that's what we are, sports entertainment. I think the two work really well hand-in-hand. It's definitely been a heck of a lot of fun driving for (the WWF)."

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Jerry Toliver