St. Louis Funny Car notebook

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 SEARS CRAFTSMAN NATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *Speedy recovery: Tom Hoover won the Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing on June 15 at Columbus, Ohio,...


Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761


*Speedy recovery: Tom Hoover won the Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing on June 15 at Columbus, Ohio, in the Pioneer Electronics Dodge Avenger just nine weeks after undergoing heart-bypass surgery. This race was only the second event in which Hoover, from Minneapolis, competed since his surgery. He missed four national events during his recuperation. *Big climb: Tom Hoover became the first No. 16 qualifier to win a pro category at an NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series national event this season by winning the Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing. *Unpredictable: Eight drivers have won in Funny Car during the first 10 races of the season, and Funny Car driver Tony Pedregon thinks it won't be any easier to pick a winner of the inaugural event at Gateway. In fact, he said it's almost impossible to prognosticate because no teams have experience on the new surface at Gateway. "This is one race that's an equalizer," Pedregon said. "No one has any idea of what the track conditions are going to be like. If the weather is good, the track operators and the NHRA have massaged tracks enough to get the cars down the track." *Rarity: Defending NHRA Winston champion John Force lost to Cruz Pedregon in the first round of the Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing, his earliest exit since losing in the first round to K.C. Spurlock at the Northwest Nationals in August 1995 at Seattle. Pedregon lost in the quarterfinals in the McDonald's Pontiac Firebird to eventual race winner Tom Hoover. Force has two victories this season in the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang but is winless since the ATSCO Nationals in late February in Phoenix. But he still leads the NHRA Winston standings by 170 points. Force won 13 of 19 races last season, but his teammate, Tony Pedregon, insists that it's unrealistic to expect Force to duplicate his 1996 success this season. "I've always felt it was just a matter of time," Pedregon said of the rest of the category becoming competitive with Force. "It doesn't surprise me. They took their lumps. Their budgets are there, their crew chiefs are there. It was just a matter of them putting it all together." *Staying focused: Funny Car rookie Randy Anderson has followed a simple formula while climbing from 15th to third in the NHRA Winston point standings this season in the Parts America Pontiac Firebird: Ignore the points. "I don't want to get caught up in the points," Anderson said. "Each week, I just want to concentrate on that weekend. If I drive better and improve at every race, the results will be good." Indeed. Anderson has two victories this season. But it might be tough for him to keep his attention off the point standings. He is just four points behind second-place Whit Bazemore but is just five points ahead of fourth-place Chuck Etchells. Anderson and his younger sister, Top Fuel driver Shelly Anderson, form the only brother-sister team in major North American motorsports. Shelly is ninth in the Top Fuel point standings this season in the Parts America Dragster. *Local hero: Tim Wilkerson has turned a few heads this season with his solid performance in just his second season of Funny Car racing. Wilkerson, from Springfield, Ill., is ninth in the NHRA Winston point standings in the JCIT Pontiac Firebird. He competed in a limited schedule of events in 1996 after moving up from the Federal-Mogul Funny Car category, which consists of cars that travel about 0.8 seconds and 50 mph slower than Funny Cars. Wilkerson is just one of five Funny Car drivers to qualify for all 10 national events this season. The others are defending Winston champion John Force, Tony Pedregon, Chuck Etchells and Kenji Okazaki. *Expo: The exciting sights and personalities of NHRA Winston Drag Racing will come to downtown St. Louis for the first time during the Western Auto Parts America "Thunder In The Streets" motorsports expo June 25. "Thunder In The Streets" is a street festival with a motorsports theme. The expo, open from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., will take place in Kiener Plaza, bordered by Market Street, Chestnut Street, Seventh Street and Broadway. Admission is free. Nearly 20 interactive displays, NHRA race cars and race-car transporters will be on display for fans. Many top NHRA drivers will sign autographs, including Kenny Bernstein, John Force, Shelly Anderson and Randy Anderson. *Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 3:30 p.m. June 27 and continues at 7:30 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. June 28. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. June 29. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 10 a.m. June 26. *Tickets: Tickets are available for the Sears Craftsman Nationals. Call (888) 82-SPEED. Tickets also are available at MetroTix outlets. *On TV: ABC will televise one hour of highlights from the Sears Craftsman Nationals at 4 p.m. (CDT) July 6. *On the Web: The NHRA home page on the World Wide Web at offers more information about NHRA Winston Drag Racing, including qualifying and eliminations results, news, point standings, statistics and driver biographies. -30-


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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Chuck Etchells , Tim Wilkerson , Shelly Anderson