Sears Point: Saturday qualifying summary

SONOMA, Calif. - Gary Scelzi will attempt to break the NHRA Top Fuel single-season win record from the front of the order Sunday at the FRAM Autolite Nationals. Whit Bazemore and Warren Johnson also will lead their respective categories...

SONOMA, Calif. - Gary Scelzi will attempt to break the NHRA Top Fuel single-season win record from the front of the order Sunday at the FRAM Autolite Nationals. Whit Bazemore and Warren Johnson also will lead their respective categories into tomorrow's 11 a.m. eliminations at Sears Point Raceway for the $1.8 million race, the 15th of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Scelzi, from Fresno, Calif., covered the quarter-mile distance in 4.634 seconds at 310.98 mph in his Team Winston dragster to earn his seventh No. 1 qualifying position of the season. Scelzi, a six-time winner this season, is currently tied with eight other drivers for the mark. However, before he starts talking about records, he'll need to take first things first. The two-time Winston champ will face a driver in the first round that he's never defeated. "Right now we're focused on beating Jim Cavalieri," said Scelzi, who lost to the rookie driver in his Top Fuel debut a month ago at Denver. "If we can do that, then we'll have a big matchup in the second round with either Joe Amato or Tony Schumacher. It's going to be a tough day, but we're looking forward to the challenge." And about the record: Scelzi says there's no extra pressure. "I've been in this position before," said Scelzi, also a six-time winner in 1998. "We would like to get the record, but our primary goal is to win a Winston championship. I'd like to have a third ring." Bazemore, from Indianapolis, will try to defend his victory here from a year ago, recording his third straight No. 1 qualifying award in as many races. Bazemore powered his Kendall Chevrolet Camaro to a fast lap of 4.955 at 308.21. "It's a great effort by the Kendall Camaro Team," Bazemore said. "We're looking forward to tomorrow. We saw last weekend in Seattle that we need to be on our game for the first round. We've got Dale Creasy first tomorrow and they have a great team over there so we'll need to be ready." Winston points leader Jerry Toliver failed to qualify for Funny Car eliminations for the first time since last October in Memphis, Tenn. John Force, who's qualified second, can move into the points lead with a first round win. "I feel sorry for Toliver because it hurts to have a team that strong (and have that happen)," said Force, who'll face Tommy Johnson Jr. in the opening round. "There's a lot of stress, especially when you're running for your first title. But he's a good racer. He'll recover. We've gotta focus ourselves now. We can make a move here, but we've got to make sure we don't get beat in the first round." Dean Skuza provided the day's wildest ride when the body on his Matco Tools Dodge Avenger was blown off the chassis when the supercharger on his engine expolded near the end of the quarter-mile run. "It probably broke an exhaust rocker," said Skuza, who was uninjured. "When that happens, it's hard to handle. I think the frame is OK and we have plenty of parts, so we should be good for tomorrow. We have lane choice and as good a chance at winning the race as everyone else." Buford, Ga.'s Johnson took his fifth No. 1 position of the season in Pro Stock, posting a track record time of 6.896 at 200.53 in his GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird. Johnson will face No. 16 qualifier Tony Gillig, who claimed the final spot in the order through a top speed tie-breaker with George Marnell, who clocked an identical 7.013 elapsed time. Tom Hammonds, forward for the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves, qualified for the first time this season in his Winnebago Chevy Camaro. Hammonds, who drag races during the basketball off-season, posted a 6.995 at 197.65 to earn the 13th position and will face Kurt Johnson in the first round. "We still don't have the Camaro completely ironed out, but we're heading in the right direction," said Hammonds, who last qualified for an NHRA event at Englishtown, N.J., last May. "Now the fun starts. Qualifying is work, racing is fun."

<pre> SONOMA, Calif. - Sunday's first-round pairings for professional eliminations at the 13th annual FRAM Autolite Nationals at Sears Point Raceway, the 15th of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday.

Top Fuel -- 1. Gary Scelzi, 4.634 seconds, 310.98 mph vs. 16. Jim Cavalieri, 4.887, 290.69; 2. Doug Kalitta, 4.657, 310.13 vs. 15. Craig Smith, 4.857, 296.11; 3. Bob Vandergriff, 4.666, 314.97 vs. 14. Gary Clapshaw, 4.838, 285.29; 4. Tim Gibson, 4.680, 311.63 vs. 13. David Grubnic, 4.838, 292.58; 5. Larry Dixon, 4.681, 314.97 vs. 12. Bobby Baldwin, 4.825, 299.26; 6. Doug Herbert, 4.702, 311.13 vs. 11. Kenny Bernstein, 4.765, 303.71; 7. Don Lampus, 4.744, 309.34 vs. 10. Cory McClenathan, 4.759, 312.64; 8. Joe Amato, 4.753, 311.34 vs. 9. Tony Schumacher, 4.759, 311.70.

Funny Car -- 1. Whit Bazemore, Chevy Camaro, 4.955, 308.21 vs. 16. Dale Creasy Jr., Pontiac Firebird, 5.296, 282.01; 2. John Force, Ford Mustang, 5.005, 304.53 vs. 15. Tommy Johnson Jr., Firebird, 5.273, 286.07; 3. Bruce Sarver, Firebird, 5.007, 302.48 vs. 14. Al Hofmann, Firebird, 5.261, 282.95; 4. Tony Pedregon, Mustang, 5.016, 305.98 vs. 13. Louis Sweet, Dodge Avenger, 5.249, 287.35; 5. Jim Epler, Camaro, 5.049, 300.40 vs. 12. Gary Densham, Firebird, 5.220, 293.15; 6. Scotty Cannon, Camaro, 5.076, 288.33 vs. 11. Cruz Pedregon, Firebird, 5.170, 291.51; 7. Del Worsham, Firebird, 5.108, 296.50 vs. 10. Ron Capps, Camaro, 5.155, 298.40; 8. Dean Skuza, Avenger, 5.130, 293.09 vs. 9. Bob Gilbertson, Camaro, 5.134, 299.20.

Pro Stock -- 1. Warren Johnson, Pontiac Firebird, 6.896, 200.53 vs. 16. Tony Gillig, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 7.013, 197.33; 2. Ron Krisher, Firebird, 6.922, 200.14 vs. 15. Gordie Rivera, Cutlass, 7.008, 196.79; 3. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.923, 198.32 vs. 14. Jim Yates, Firebird, 6.999, 199.23; 4. Kurt Johnson, Chevy Camaro, 6.947, 199.79 vs. 13. Tom Hammonds, Camaro, 6.995, 197.65; 5. Tom Martino, Firebird, 6.953, 198.79 vs. 12. Mark Pawuk, Firebird, 6.987, 198.93; 6. Rickie Smith, Camaro, 6.963, 198.50 vs. 11. John Geyer, Avenger, 6.972, 198.17; 7. Darrell Alderman, Avenger, 6.965, 198.09 vs. 10. Troy Coughlin, Cutlass, 6.972, 198.64; 8. Larry Morgan, Avenger, 6.966, 199.29 vs. 9. Jeg Coughlin, Cutlass, 6.966, 199.08.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Bruce Sarver , Tony Gillig , Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Darrell Alderman , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Bob Gilbertson , Jim Epler , Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Dean Skuza , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Ron Krisher , Larry Morgan , Dale Creasy Jr. , Gary Densham , Scotty Cannon , Cruz Pedregon , Tom Hammonds , Tom Martino , George Marnell , Allen Johnson , Don Lampus , Rickie Smith , Tim Gibson , Jerry Toliver , Bob Vandergriff , Gordie Rivera , Tommy Johnson Jr.