Sonoma Finals Report

SONOMA, Calif. - Doug Kalitta defended his Autolite Nationals title Sunday at Sears Point Raceway, defeating Tony Schumacher in a final round battle between two of Top Fuel's most promising young guns. Whit Bazemore and Jim Yates also were pro...

SONOMA, Calif. - Doug Kalitta defended his Autolite Nationals title Sunday at Sears Point Raceway, defeating Tony Schumacher in a final round battle between two of Top Fuel's most promising young guns. Whit Bazemore and Jim Yates also were pro category winners at the $1.2 million race, the 14th of 22 events in the $40 million Winston Drag Racing Series. Kalitta, from Ann Arbor, Mich., covered the quarter-mile in 4.615 seconds at 315.96 mph in his Kitty Hawk dragster for his second career victory, while Schumacher, who was going for his first career win, posted a slower 5.023 at 216.17 in his Exide Batteries dragster. It was Kalitta's third straight final, and fifth overall of the season. "Ace (Ed McCulloch, crew chief) and the boys had the car running great today, it was really consistent out there," Kalitta said. "They did a great job tuning it for different track conditions and I was fortunate enough to be able to drive a really fast hot rod. I'm starting to really like this place." Kalitta, nephew of team owner and drag racing legend Connie Kalitta, defeated Randy Parks, Cory McClenathan and Bob Vandergriff to advance to the final round. In the final, he pulled away from Schumacher, showing the consistency he used for all three stops on the West Coast swing. "The car has been strong," Kalitta said. "We definitely had opportunities to win in Denver and Seattle but came up short. It feels good to get this one." Team Mopar's Mike Dunn lost in the second round to top qualifier Vandergriff, but remained in the Winston points lead, 17 ahead of Kenny Bernstein, who also lost in round two. "At least we got back on track at this race and kept the points lead," said Dunn, who earned a crucial win over points challenger Joe Amato in the first round. "We just need to fine-tune our combination and harness the power the car is making and put it to the ground a little more effectively. It's going to be a close points chase coming down the stretch."

Bazemore, from Indianapolis, scored his first Funny Car victory of the season by outrunning Frank Pedregon in the final. Bazemore's Kendall Chevrolet Camaro covered the quarter-mile distance in 4.963 at 301.74, while Pedregon's Pontiac Firebird lost traction at the start and ran 14.809 at 72.77. It was Bazemore's sixth career victory. "We lost to Cruz in the final here last year so we felt like we had do redeem ourselves, and we did," said Bazemore, who defeated all three Pedregon brothers (Cruz, Tony and Frank) and Dean Skuza to get the win. "It was tough. The toughest race was the third round against Tony. Let's face it, that's John Force's team. We knew they were capable of running 4.80s or a low 4.90. I guess Tim (Richards, crew chief), decided he wasn't going to take it anymore. That 4.87 was unbelievable. That was the highlight of the weekend." A weekend where Bazemore ran the table on the competition, taking the No. 1 qualifying spot, setting track records for elapsed time and speed and winning the race. It was his third straight final round, and fourth overall this season. "I think we have caught up to Force's team," said Bazemore, closed the gap somewhat on Force's large point lead. "It the season started today, it would be a different season. I think our new Camaro has narrowed the advantage Force's team has had this year. As long as we have a mathematical shot at winning the championship, we're going for it. We're aggressive and plan to fight them until the end." Force suffered a rare first round defeat when his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang lost traction off the starting line and independent driver Chuck Beal took the win light. However, before Beal could celebrate his first NHRA round win over the eight-time champ, his Nitro Brat Dodge Avenger went up in a ball of fire. Beal said his machine dropped a cylinder just as it crossed the finish line, eventually producing an engine explosion that popped his Avenger body off the chassis. The bodiless car crossed the centerline in the shut down area and veered in front of Force's Mustang before coming to a stop near the retaining wall. Force managed to slam on the brakes to avoid serious contact with Beal's damaged racer. "The engine let go without warning," Beal said. "I saw a bright orange glow and then all of a sudden a bunch of daylight. I knew the body was gone at that point. When the car stopped and I saw Force's car there beside me I hoped I didn't damage his car. I really hate that it happened but fortunately I'm OK, except for my singed eyebrows. We'll go back to work and put another car back together and be back out here racing again." Said Force: "That's just one of those things that happens in racing. I'm just glad that he's OK and that it wasn't as bad as it could've been. We got loose and smoked the tires and then I saw parts flying back at me from the other lane. I knew he was having problems up ahead and I just tried to get my car stopped the best I could. I hate to lose in the first round because we're chasing this points deal, but I also hate to see a guy like Chuck lose his hot rod like that. He's a good driver and I know he'll be back out here." Despite the first round loss, Force holds a 256 point lead over Tony Pedregon. Bazemore is third, 387 behind the leader. Yates, from Alexandria, Va., claimed his second Pro Stock victory of the season and third at Sears Point Raceway in a rematch of the Pro Stock final from the NHRA event at Seattle one week ago. Yates posted a 6.982 at 197.48 in a Pontiac Firebird for his 22nd career win, while Johnson lost traction at the start and ran 11.579 at 75.75 in a Chevrolet Camaro. "We've run really well at this track over the years, and I think our success has come here because we've been good at adapting to the extreme changes in track condition," said Yates, who defeated Darrell Alderman, Jeg Coughlin and Mike Edwards to get to the final. "You just have to accept that the track is going to change throughout the day and that's what we did. Fortunately we made the right calls for every round and came away with the win." Warren Johnson, who nearly failed to qualify, was upset in the second round by Edwards, but maintained his Winston point lead, 101 over son Kurt. The next NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series event is the 18th annual Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals at The Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway, Aug. 19-22.

SONOMA, Calif. -- Sunday's final results from the 12th Annual Autolite Nationals at Sears Point Raceway. The $1.2 million race is the 14th of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel - Doug Kalitta, Ypsilanti, Mich., 4.615 seconds, 315.93 mph def. Tony Schumacher, Park Ridge, Ill., 5.023 seconds, 216.17 mph.

Funny Car - Whit Bazemore, Indianapolis, Cheverolet Camaro, 4.963, 301.74 def. Frank Pedregon, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Pontiac Firebird, 14.809, 72.77.

Pro Stock - Jim Yates, Alexandria, Va., Pontiac Firebird, 6.982, 197.48 def. Kurt Johnson, Lawrenceville, Ga., Chevrolet Camaro, 11.597, 75.75.

Federal-Mogul Dragster - Duane Sheilds, Las Vegas, 18.514, 59.94 def. Darren Nicholson, Laguna Hills, Calif., broke.

Federal-Mogul Funny Car - Pat Austin, Tacoma, Wash., Pontiac Firebird, 5.728, 251.58 def. Mike Andreotti, Colusa, Calif., Dodge Daytona, 5.892, 243.94.

Comp Eliminator - David Rampy, Piedmont, Ala., Dragster, 7.053, 176.72 def. Rick Braun, Redlands, Calif., ' 97 Pontiac Firebird, 7.937, 168.68.

Super Stock - Joe LoCicero, Lithonia, Ga., '87 Chevrolet Camaro, 10.014, 123.86 def. John Schiess, N. Hills, Calif., '91 Oldsmobile Grand Am, 9.754, 143.74.

Stock - Chuck Rayburn, Castro Valley, Calif., '71 Dodge Challenger, 10.639, 123.18 def. Chuck Norton, Covina, Calif., '68 Chevrolet Camaro, foul.

Super Comp - David Rampy, Piedmont, Ala., Dragster, 8.924, 164.23 def. John Spar, West Hills, Calif., Dragster, 9.853, 178.35.

Super Gas - Tommy Phillips, Mesquite, Texas, '27 Ford 9.943, 134.44 def. Ted Seipel, San Leandro, Calif., '71 Ferrari, 9.927, 128.01.

Super Comp - John Spar, West Hills, Calif., Dragster, 8.951, 178.35 def. David Rampy, Piedmont,, Ala., Dragster, 8.924, 164.23.

SONOMA, Calif. -- Final round-by-round results from the 12th Annual Autolite Nationals at Sears Point Raceway, the 14th of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series:


ROUND ONE -- Mike Dunn, Wrightsville, Pa., 4.670, 305.91 def. Joe Amato, Exeter, Pa., 8.033, 90.77; Tony Schumacher, Park Ridge, Ill., 4.660, 318.84 def. Doug Herbert, Cherryville, N.C., 4.664, 304.67; Doug Kalitta, Ypsilanti, Mich., 4.596, 316.75 def. Randy Parks, Lombard, Ill., broke; Kenny Bernstein, Lake Forest, Calif., 4.637, 309.42 def. David Grubnic, Ennis, Mont., 12.755, 77.55; Bob Vandergriff, Alpharetta, Ga., 4.637, 314.09 def. Garth Widdison, Hooper, Utah, 4.873, 297.88; Gary Scelzi, Fresno, Calif., 4.643, 311.05 def. Larry Dixon, Cardiff, Calif., 5.709, 161.87; Cory McClenathan, Anaheim, Calif., 4.625, 317.42 def. Robert Reehl, Whittier, Calif., 11.665, 83.75; Jim Head, Columbus, Ohio, 4.785, 304.80 def. Eddie Hill, Wichita Falls, Texas, 8.054, 98.30;

QUARTERFINALS -- Head, 5.150, 302.48 def. Scelzi, 5.617, 218.83; Schumacher, 4.644, 317.87 def. Bernstein, 6.974, 112.51; Kalitta, 4.753, 301.27 def. McClenathan, 5.071, 204.57; Vandergriff, 4.789, 283.97 def. Dunn, 5.299, 204.66;

SEMIFINALS -- Kalitta, 4.673, 304.25 def. Vandergriff, 4.702, 310.91; Schumacher, 4.661, 320.74 def. Head, 4.812, 307.72;

FINAL -- Kalitta, 4.615, 315.93 def. Schumacher, 5.023, 216.17.


ROUND ONE -- Del Worsham, Laguna Hills, Calif., Pontiac Firebird, 5.131, 299.93 def. Scotty Cannon, Lyman, S.C., Firebird, 8.799, 84.21; Tony Pedregon, Chino Hills, Calif., Ford Mustang, 5.076, 280.31 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Lansing, Ill., Firebird, 5.149, 291.70; Whit Bazemore, Indianapolis, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.979, 306.05 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camarillo, Calif., Firebird, 5.236, 277.77; Chuck Beal, San Diego, Dodge Avenger, 5.294, 253.28 def. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Mustang, 5.516, 268.71; Cory Lee, R.S.M., Calif., Avenger, 5.109, 301.20 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Ottumwa, Iowa, Firebird, 5.050, 300.13; Jerry Toliver, Huntington Beach, Calif., Pontiac, 5.084, 305.01 def. Gary Densham, Bellflower, Calif., Firebird, 7.228, 116.03; Frank Pedregon, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Firebird, 5.101, 288.83 def. Al Hofmann, Umatilla, Fla., Firebird, 5.147, 281.95; Dean Skuza, Brecksville, Ohio, Avenger, 5.091, 304.53 def. Ron Capps, La Costa, Calif., Camaro, 5.678, 219.19;

QUARTERFINALS -- Bazemore, 5.021, 298.67 def. Skuza, 5.142, 293.54; Lee, 5.069, 304.05 def. Toliver, 13.753, 65.11; T. Pedregon, 5.114, 287.66 def. Worsham, 5.206, 286.86; F. Pedregon, 13.157, 65.89 def. Beal, broke;

SEMIFINALS -- F. Pedregon, 5.108, 291.19 def. Lee, foul; Bazemore, 4.876, 310.20 def. T. Pedregon, 5.075, 261.32;

FINAL -- Bazemore, 4.963, 301.74 def. F. Pedregon, 14.809, 72.77.


ROUND ONE -- Mike Thomas, Knoxville, Tenn., Pontiac Firebird, 7.252, 157.26 def. Bruce Allen, Arlington, Texas, Firebird, 12.524, 69.45; Kurt Johnson, Lawrenceville, Ga., Chevrolet Camaro, 7.052, 197.80 def. Tony Gillig, Lake Zurich, Ill., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 17.280, 45.56; Richie Stevens, New Orleans, Firebird, 7.022, 196.27 def. Mike Trumble, Pasadena, Texas, Firebird, 7.780, 137.12; Mark Pawuk, Akron, Ohio, Firebird, 6.985, 198.96 def. Greg Anderson, Jacksonville, N.C., Firebird, 7.499, 151.27; Warren Johnson, Buford, Ga., Firebird, 6.984, 200.08 def. Allen Johnson, Greeneville, Tenn., Dodge Avenger, broke; Jim Yates, Alexandria, Va., Firebird, 6.966, 198.12 def. Darrell Alderman, Morehead, Ky., Avenger, 7.038, 197.59; Mike Edwards, Broken Arrow, Okla., Camaro, 6.952, 198.06 def. Larry Morgan, Newark, Ohio, Avenger, 7.016, 197.22; Jeg Coughlin, Columbus, Ohio, Cutlass, 6.973, 198.85 def. George Marnell, Las Vegas, Firebird, 7.012, 197.22;

QUARTERFINALS -- K. Johnson, 6.990, 199.46 def. Thomas, foul. Stevens, 7.070, 196.40 def. Pawuk, 13.774, 61.48. Yates, 7.018, 196.99 def. Coughlin, 9.796, 93.82. Edwards, 7.063, 197.86 def. W. Johnson, 10.026, 94.59.

SEMIFINALS -- Yates, 6.963, 197.91 def. Edwards, 7.001, 197.74; K. Johnson, 6.956, 200.02 def. Stevens, 7.063, 195.45;

FINAL -- Yates, 6.982, 197.48 def. K. Johnson, 11.597, 75.75.

Point Standings:

TOP FUEL: 1. Mike Dunn, 918; 2. Kenny Bernstein, 901; 3. Joe Amato,873; 4.Tony Schumacher, 869; 5.Doug Kalitta, 854; 6. Gary Scelzi, 852; 7. Doug Herbert, 825; 8. Larry Dixon 789; 9. Cory McClenathan, 763; 10. Bob Vandergriff, 748. FUNNY CAR: 1. John Force, 1,361; 2. Tony Pedregon, 1,105 ; 3. Whit Bazemore, 974 ; 4. Frank Pedregon, 670; 5. Dean Skuza, 670; 6. Del Worsham, 653; 7. Cruz Pedregon, 605; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 599; 9. Cory Lee, 562; 10. Jerry Toliver, 539.

PRO STOCK: 1. Warren Johnson, 1,123; 2. Kurt Johnson, 1,022; 3. Jim Yates, 909; 4. Jeg Coughlin Jr., 785; 5. Richie Stevens, 735; 6. Troy Coughlin, 660; 7. Allen Johnson, 656; 8. Mike Edwards, 609; 9. Mark Pawuk, 595; 10. Greg Anderson, 544.


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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Doug Herbert , Frank Pedregon , Mike Thomas , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Darrell Alderman , Kenny Bernstein , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Dean Skuza , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Larry Morgan , David Grubnic , Gary Densham , Scotty Cannon , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Allen Johnson , John Schiess , David Rampy , Cory Lee , Mike Trumble , Jerry Toliver , Bob Vandergriff , Joe LoCicero , Mike Edwards