Topeka 2 Top Fuel notebook

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (626) 914-4761 SEARS CRAFTSMAN NATIONALS TOP FUEL NOTEBOOK *What a roll: Cory McClenathan tied an NHRA Top Fuel record by appearing in his sixth consecutive final round in the...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (626) 914-4761 SEARS CRAFTSMAN NATIONALS TOP FUEL NOTEBOOK *What a roll: Cory McClenathan tied an NHRA Top Fuel record by appearing in his sixth consecutive final round in the McDonald's Dragster owned by former NFL coach Joe Gibbs at the Pioneer Electronics Keystone Nationals earlier this month at Reading, Pa. McClenathan won four straight races -- the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals, Autolite Nationals, Northwest Nationals and Champion Auto Stores Nationals -- and was runner-up at the U.S. Nationals before winning at Reading, Pa. Scott Kalitta also appeared in six consecutive finals in 1994, winning four. McClenathan has charged from fifth in the NHRA Winston standings in late June, 413 behind leader Gary Scelzi, to within 75 points of Scelzi. "As we go into Topeka, there's no more need for gloves," Scelzi said. "We're taking our gloves off because we're ready for a five-race fight for the Winston championship." Kalitta is impressed with McClenathan's streak, but he thinks the McDonald's team, led by crew chiefs Mike Green and Jim Brissette, should be wary of overconfidence. "This is such a sporadic business," Kalitta said. "We'll see how they do the next couple of races. (Crew chief) Alan (Johnson) and Scelzi, as far as I'm concerned, are still the most consistent. A few races as opposed to the whole year, for the most part, is different." *New chief for the King: Lee Beard guided driver Kenny Bernstein to a runner-up finish at the Pioneer Electronics Keystone Nationals earlier this month in his debut as crew chief of the Budweiser King Dragster. Beard replaced Dale Armstrong, who parted company with Bernstein on Sept. 8 after nearly 16 years as crew chief. Beard tuned the late Gary Ormsby to the NHRA Winston Top Fuel championship in 1989 and tuned for Cory McClenathan from 1994-96. Top Fuel driver Scott Kalitta thinks the arrival of Beard could revitalize defending NHRA Winston champion Bernstein, fifth in the point standings. "You wonder how that is going to pan out," Kalitta said. "Lee is no dummy. He jumped right in here and ran 4.68 on his second lap with the team. He's a consistent, conservative guy. "Will he take it to the next level and try right away to take it to the low 4.60's or high 4.50's? Or will he be happy to maintain a consistent high-60's thing? Don't know. He's capableof doing either. We'll see." *Two is too many: Scott Kalitta won the 1994 and 1995 NHRA Winston Top Fuel championships as part of a two-car team with his father, Connie Kalitta. Connie Kalitta quit driving this April to concentrate on his burgeoning air-cargo business, American International Airways. Scott's crew chief, Dick LaHaie, left the team around the same time, so team owner Connie Kalitta decided to field just one car for Scott. Ed "The Ace" McCulloch, Connie's crew chief, moved to Scott's car. Slimming to a one-car team was a smart move, Scott Kalitta said. "If you have one crew chief on one and one on another, and they don't necessarily work together, their mind is already made up," Scott Kalitta said. "You've got to have the right mix to be able to benefit. So I guess at this point, the way ours is being done is better." *Performance prediction: Top Fuel event and track records will be in jeopardy with cool weather at the Sears Craftsman Nationals, Scott Kalitta said. "There will be some 4.50's, and there will be speeds upward of what we're running right now, 316 to 318. I don't think you're going to see 4.52 at 321 or anything, but I think you'll probably see a few more 4.58's or .59's at 316 or 317." The elapsed-time event record is 4.605 seconds set by Kenny Bernstein last September, and the speed event record is 313.69 mph by Shelly Anderson last September. The elapsed-time track record is 4.592 by the late Blaine Johnson in July 1996, and Kalitta still holds the speed track record of 315.67, also set in July 1996. One barrier that probably won't be broken at Heartland Park -- or any other track -- this year is 320 mph by a Top Fuel dragster, Kalitta said. "Anything is possible, but if I was betting I would say no, probably not," Kalitta said. "I don't think guys are looking for that. If it happens, it will happen. But they're not trying to do it." The fastest speed in NHRA history is 318.69 mph by Kenny Bernstein in October 1996 at Dallas. Bernstein failed to back up that speed within 1 percent at that event, required for an NHRA national record. The NHRA speed national record is 318.24 set by Joe Amato at the U.S. Nationals earlier this month at Indianapolis. *Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 3 p.m. Sept. 26 and continues at 7 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 p.m. Sept. 27. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. Sept. 28. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 9 a.m. Sept. 25. *Tickets: Tickets are available for the Sears Craftsman Nationals. Call Heartland Park Topeka at (800) 43-RACES. Tickets also are available at Ticketmaster outlets throughout the Midwest. *On TV: The Nashville Network (TNN) will televise 90 minutes of live, final-round competition from the Sears Craftsman Nationals at 4:30 p.m. (CDT) Sept. 28. TNN also will televise one hour of live, first-round competition at 11 a.m. (CDT) that day. *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- 9/17/97-TK2-147

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Cory McClenathan , Scott Kalitta , Dick LaHaie , Connie Kalitta , Shelly Anderson