Seattle: event over view

KENT, Wash. - The symptoms are easy to recognize. Bulging eyes. Sweaty palms. High body temperature. Fidgety behavior. Sleepless nights. It doesn't take a doctor to make a diagnosis on this one. The ailment that has hit many drivers, crew ...

KENT, Wash. - The symptoms are easy to recognize. Bulging eyes. Sweaty palms. High body temperature. Fidgety behavior. Sleepless nights.

It doesn't take a doctor to make a diagnosis on this one. The ailment that has hit many drivers, crew members and team owners in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series pit area is a fairly common condition often widespread among drag racers at this time of the year.

It's Winston championship fever.

No need for a check-up: If you're a professional drag racer in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series, you've got it.

In Top Fuel and Funny Car several teams are battling for Winston championship glory, with hopes still alive for a November celebration in Pomona, Calif. In Pro Stock, teams are frantically chasing a runaway leader, trying to chip away at his massive points lead.

No doubt, with this much riding on the line, the competition will be fierce at the Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts, July 28-30, at Seattle International Raceway.

Joe Amato, Del Worsham and Kurt Johnson are the defending winners in their respective professional categories at the $1.6 million race, the 14th of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Amato, from Exeter, Pa., earned his second straight SIR victory last year, defeating the quicker machine of Doug Kalitta with a holeshot start. The Dynomax dragster driver will try for three in a row and six overall at this event, while Kalitta, who drives the MGM Grand dragster, looks for his second victory of the season. Five-time season winner Gary Scelzi and defending Winston champion Tony Schumacher are both top threats in the 6,000 horsepower category and currently locked in a tight battle for the Winston championship. Veterans Kenny Bernstein, Cory McClenathan and Doug Herbert are also top contenders for a victory.

It was an emotional scene as young Worsham ended an eight-year winless streak here one year ago, bettering Whit Bazemore in the Funny Car final round. Worsham, from Costa Mesa, Calif., enters this event hungry for another victory as this season he has joined forces with Frank Pedregon to give the Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird team another weapon. Bazemore, a recent winner in Denver, hopes a win could turn around a tough season that has included several first round losses. Nine-time Winston champion John Force, a four-time winner of the event, needs a win to hold off determined Winston championship challenger Jerry Toliver, a three-time winner this season in the WWF Racing Pontiac Firebird. Other top contenders include two-time SIR winner Al Hofmann, and '98 event winner Ron Capps. Lawrenceville, Ga.'s Johnson drove his AC Delco Chevy Camaro to a victory here last year in Pro Stock, powering past Jim Yates' Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird in the final round. Johnson, also a winner at SIR in 1993, hopes to add his third trophy from this quarter-mile facility to his collection this season. Yates, who has never won at SIR, leads the list of top contenders that also include five-time Winston champion Warren Johnson, hot newcomer Ron Krisher, a two-time winner this season, and Mark Pawuk, driver of the Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird, who recently ended a five-year victory drought by winning at Columbus, Ohio. Jeg Coughlin, who has earned six victories this season, will try to solidify his first-ever Winston championship with a victory behind the wheel of the Jeg's Mail Order Oldsmobile Cutlass.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Kenny Bernstein , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Ron Krisher , Cory McClenathan , Jerry Toliver