Sears Point: Mopar Saturday qualifying

Skuza Blows Top Off Sears Point Raceway ONOMA, Calif. (Aug. 5, 2000) - SIt wasn't the type of headlines Matco Tools/Mopar Parts Nitro Funny Car Sdriver Dean Skuza was looking for. Skuza, who currently ranks seventh in NHRA Winston Nitro Funny...

Skuza Blows Top Off Sears Point Raceway ONOMA, Calif. (Aug. 5, 2000) - SIt wasn't the type of headlines Matco Tools/Mopar Parts Nitro Funny Car Sdriver Dean Skuza was looking for.

Skuza, who currently ranks seventh in NHRA Winston Nitro Funny Car points, popped a blower and sent his Dodge Avenger body flying during the final session of Saturday qualifying for the 13th annual Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals at Sears Point Raceway. The run destroyed the body, many engine components and the fuel cell. A backup body and block are being installed for Sunday's round of eliminations.

Despite his trouble, Skuza still made the top half of the field with a 5.130-second elapsed time at 261.98 mph. The Ohio resident will face Bob Gilbertson in round one of eliminations.

"It probably broke an exhaust rocker - and when that happens - it's hard to handle," said Skuza, who has won two NHRA national events. "I think the frame is okay and we have plenty of parts, so we should be okay for tomorrow.

"We're taking a lot of lead out, which puts very little in the magnetos at the finish line," Skuza added. "When we did that, we would blow the center of the spark plugs out creating too much cylinder pressure. It doesn't fire the fuel soon enough, so it creates a lot more cylinder pressure."

Skuza was uninjured in the incident.

Darrell Alderman, driver of the Team Mopar Dodge Avenger, put together a solid four rounds of qualifying and took the seventh position. Alderman, who failed to improve during today's final two sessions, clocked in at 6.965/198.03. Alderman will take on Troy Coughlin in round one.

"I'm looking forward to tomorrow; Troy is always tough," said the three-time NHRA Winston Pro Stock World Champion. "The car was pretty straight down the track and we have a lot of power. The new Hemi engine is progressing well. In fact, we're with everyone else as far as horsepower is concerned.

"We have lane choice in the first round, which will help us here," Alderman added. "I think the left lane is better, but I made my two better runs in the right lane."

Dodge Motorsports Avenger driver Larry Morgan ripped off 6.966/199.08 and grabbed the eighth qualifying position. Morgan, who was lying well outside the top 16 after the first two rounds, put together a solid effort during the morning run.

"I'm really proud of this team, they have worked so hard to get it right. We also have lane choice for tomorrow, which is critical," Morgan said. "We finally were able to get this Dodge Avenger down the track. We did have a bad clutch last weekend (Seattle International Raceway) and it affected how we ran. We're back to form."

Scott Geoffrion failed to make the field with a 7.029/196.53 outing. The nine-time national event winner barely missed the field after breaking the wishbone suspension and throwing a drive shaft in his third qualifying run.

"We barely missed the show today," Geoffrion said. "It's frustrating, but our new car is on the way."

Nickens Brothers Racing purchased former Dodge Motorsports driver John Nobile's Avenger, which will serve as Geoffrion's machine at the next event at Brainerd (Minn.) Int'l Raceway.

Two other Dodge Avengers found there way into the top 16. The Team Amoco mount of Allen Johnson nabbed the third slot after running a 6.923/198.32 combination. In addition, John Geyer took his Hemi-powered Motown Missle Dodge Avenger to the 11th-qualifying position with a 6.972/198.17 weekend best.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Troy Coughlin , Darrell Alderman , Dean Skuza , Larry Morgan , Scott Geoffrion , Allen Johnson