St. Louis Top Fuel notebook

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 SEARS CRAFTSMAN NATIONALS TOP FUEL NOTEBOOK *A mystery: The inaugural NHRA national event at Gateway International Raceway could be a tricky affair for Top Fuel drivers ...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 SEARS CRAFTSMAN NATIONALS TOP FUEL NOTEBOOK *A mystery: The inaugural NHRA national event at Gateway International Raceway could be a tricky affair for Top Fuel drivers because no one has a book of setup data about this track to help concoct a strong tuneup, Kenny Bernstein said. "You don't know what to expect," Bernstein said. "We don't know what we'll have there. It will be a learning experience." *Like clockwork: The Top Fuel dragster owned and tuned by Alan Johnson has won at least one round of eliminations at the last 28 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series national events in which it was raced in eliminations. The last time Johnson's car lost in the first round was September 1995, when his brother, the late Blaine Johnson, lost to Larry Dixon at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Blaine Johnson won at least one round at the last four events of 1995 and 14 events in 1996 before his death in a qualifying crash at the U.S. Nationals. He led the NHRA Winston Top Fuel standings by 113 points -- nearly one race -- entering the U.S. Nationals. Gary Scelzi has advanced to at least the semifinals in all 10 races this year in the Team Winston Dragster, owned and tuned by Alan Johnson. Scelzi leads the NHRA Winston standings by 194 points -- nearly two races worth -- over second-place Joe Amato. Johnson appears to be one of the few crew chiefs not to fall prey to the dreaded clutch bug during the last two years. Many crew chiefs have struggled with changing compounds coating their clutch discs, making it tough to devise a consistent tuneup. "It's constantly something we have to juggle," Bernstein said of clutch problems. "It's very frustrating. It's hard for me to understand and believe. Everything we've done in racing, we've always been able to take parts and build on them and improve them. This one we can't. It's not an easy process. Obviously Alan Johnson has done a good job of it." *Homecoming: Kenny Bernstein lives in Dallas. He also spends time in Southern California and Colorado. But racing at Gateway International Raceway is a homecoming for him, because the facility is just a few miles from the headquarters of his primary sponsor for the last 18 years, Anheuser-Busch. Bernstein drives the Budweiser King Dragster. "This one is big because we get to go home, so to speak, to our primary sponsor for the last 18 years," Bernstein said. "As far as performance goes, they're all important. We target all of them. We want to win them all." *Delicate balance: It would be easy to understand if Kenny Bernstein took a win-or-nothing approach to the upcoming crucial stretch of summer races in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. After all, he's 377 points behind leader Gary Scelzi after 10 races this season in the Budweiser King Dragster. But Bernstein knows a balance must be struck between aggression and consistency to have any chance of repeating as NHRA Winston champion. "I think I'm going to have to win some and have consistency," Bernstein said. "The bottom line has been, and always will be, consistency. That's what it takes to win a championship." *Quite the sensation: Top Fuel driver Shelly Anderson often has described the sensation of driving a Top Fuel dragster as similar to having a bowling ball thrust into your chest for nearly five seconds. Driver Gary Scelzi put his spin on the physical demands of driving a quarter-mile in 4.6 seconds. "I know it's a good run because it hurts me," Scelzi said. "The car just pushes you so far back into the seat that it actually hurts your tailbone. I'll deal with the pain anytime, though." The engine of a Top Fuel dragster generates between 5,500 and 6,000 horsepower, launching the car and driver from the starting line with a force five times that of gravity. That's the same force as the space shuttleleaving the launching pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Top Fuel dragsters accelerate from 0 to 100 mph in 0.9 seconds. *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- 6/15/97-MI2-090

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , John Force , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Shelly Anderson