Seattle: Amato ready for Western tour

KENT, Wash. - Joe Amato called it the comeback of his career. Just a little more than a week after undergoing corrective laser surgery for his right eye, the crafty veteran Top Fuel driver proved he could still get the job done in the NHRA ...

KENT, Wash. - Joe Amato called it the comeback of his career. Just a little more than a week after undergoing corrective laser surgery for his right eye, the crafty veteran Top Fuel driver proved he could still get the job done in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Amato drove his Dynomax dragster to a string of consistent 4.80-second runs at Denver's Bandimere Speedway to defeat Gary Clapshaw, Bob Vandergriff, red-hot Cory McClenathan and defending series champion Tony Schumacher to record his first victory of the season, and 51st of his career. More importantly, his victory served notice to fellow competitors in the 6,000-horsepower category that Amato is still a force to be reckoned with. "It was one of my biggest wins ever," said Amato, who will lead Top Fuel competitors into action at the 13th annual Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts, July 28-30, at Seattle International Raceway. The $1.6 million race is the 14th of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

"Three weeks ago I was sitting in a doctor's office after laser eye surgery and he was telling me that I might never race again," Amato explained. "Then to come back and win the next race, that's unbelievable. Someday I'll write my memoirs and that will be a special chapter in the book."

Amato encountered a rare problem that can occur when a driver experiences high negative g-forces over an extended period of time following many runs down the quarter-mile at 320-mph speeds.

"It's something that can happen when we pull the chutes," Amato said. "Or if there's a lot of tire shake. Over the years those two things took a toll on my eyes. I'm glad to get the surgery completed and move on."

The victory puts Amato, 56, into position to win the mythical Western Swing, something only he and Cory McClenathan have accomplished in past seasons. Amato turned the hat-trick in 1991, the season he won his fourth Winston championship. McClenathan took the trio of races in 1997.

Regardless, Amato is ready to win more races and improve upon his fourth place position in the Winston point standings. He currently trails leader Gary Scelzi by 223.

"We just want to be steady and get down the track, that's our mission for the rest of the season," Amato said. "We want to make a move in the Winston points chase."

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Cory McClenathan , Bob Vandergriff