Chevy S-10 brigade looks to mix it up at Heartland Park TOPEKA, Kan., May 22, 2001 - With the approach of summer, the race to become the next NHRA Pro Stock Truck champion is beginning to heat up. At the head of the pack sit three Chevy S-10 ...
Chevy S-10 brigade looks to mix it up at Heartland Park
TOPEKA, Kan., May 22, 2001 - With the approach of summer, the race to become the next NHRA Pro Stock Truck champion is beginning to heat up. At the head of the pack sit three Chevy S-10 drivers separated by a razor-thin margin of 16 points. All three competitors have won 14 rounds of eliminations this season and two have been in first place, but after the series' last race at Atlanta, Greg Stanfield moved into the No. 1 position for the first time in 2001.
A winner at the Gatornationals last month, Stanfield, driver of the DBP Enterprises Chevy S-10, set the national elapsed-time record of 7.395 seconds at Houston in March and captured the No. 1 qualifying spot at Las Vegas. After five events, the former Super Stock world champion has 479 points.
Right behind Stanfield is defending champion Bob Panella, driver of the Panella Trucking Chevy S-10. Panella has two victories (Las Vegas, Atlanta), was No. 1 qualifier at Houston and Atlanta, and set a national speed record of 182.40 mph at Houston. Panella trails Stanfield with 465 points.
Randy Daniels enters the race at Topeka in third place after shooting out of the blocks with consecutive victories at Pomona and Houston. The No. 1 qualifier at Pomona and Gainesville, the Bailey Trucking Chevy S-10 pilot held first place in the points standings up until the season's last event in Atlanta. He now is in third place with 463 points.
The 13th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Nationals on May 24 - 27 at Heartland Park is the sixth race on the 14-event Pro Stock Truck series.
Bob Panella (Panella Trucking Chevy S-10)
"To be honest, I'm just happy to be a part of the battle. I want to win again, but right now I'm just happy to be in contention to win. Sometimes you can win championships and then the next year you don't run as well, and here I am in contention just one round out of the lead, a third of the way through the season. I'm just really happy that our Chevy S-10 is in contention and I can only hope that it will stay that way through November and we get another chance to win again."
How gratifying was it to have both Panella trucks in the final at Atlanta?
"When Jeff (Gracia) started driving for me last year, that was probably only a dream, and we really hadn't even thought about it. This year we were starting to run closer together and run better. It could've happened in Vegas but he ended up getting beat. Finally in Atlanta he pulled all the stops out and drove his butt off. It's awesome. It's great for everyone at the shop who works on these engines and everybody at the track that keeps the trucks going. It's hard in between rounds to keep both trucks going with only 45 minutes. Everyone has to work real hard. It's quite an accomplishment and I hope it happens a few more times before the year's out.
How important is it to have a two-truck team this year?
"Last year I knew it was important to gather data but we didn't get to do that a whole bunch because the trucks weren't alike. Now, this year the trucks are alike. Everybody is trying to push their trucks to the limits. You've got to be on the edge of having the right amount of clutch. Everything's got to be closer to the edge to be fast, and in order to be able to do that you have to gather as much data as you can. With two trucks we can experiment more as opposed to having just one. We can also compare our data and see which is better. We get two rounds in one session. Sometimes we can't because either the lanes are bad, or our driving wasn't as good, but for the most part we're learning a lot just by experimenting little by little, and it applies as the weekend goes on or the race goes on."
What are some of the things you are working on?
"Trying to be consistent. We did really well at Atlanta. Jeff's Sonoma ran really well in the bad lane which is really important. In order to win races you can get stuck in the bad lane and say you're done. Your competition is either going to make an out-of-this-world run and put you in the bad lane, or you could make a bad run to put yourself there. Either way you've got to be able to be competitive in the bad lane. Jeff did a great job at the last race and I've been successful when I'm in the bad lane. I remember in Chicago last year I was in the supposedly bad lane and ended up winning the race in that lane. So, that's what we're working on and will be the rest of the year - staying consistent."
How much of your focus is on the championship after five races?
"Not much. I want to stay competitive all season long and I want to stay in reach. The first time I won I was 100 points behind going into the last third of the season. So I'm not worried about it right now. Stuff is going to happen. I'm going to lose races and Randy (Daniels) and Greg (Stanfield) will win races. As long as I can stay competitive and consistent I feel pretty confident we'll do well. Especially when the weather gets warmer and the tracks get warmer. If I'm still in contention by the time the end of the year comes around, I'll be happy."
Why is better to be consistent than to win races?
"I think you've got to be consistent the entire year to be in contention. Everybody makes mistakes and the least of those you have the better off you are. You've got to be able to capitalize on the mistakes of others as well. Winning is good, but points wise you've just got to be there all the time. Look at Greg, he's won one race and Randy and I have won two. The reason he's leading the points is because he's been there every race getting to the semifinals or farther. That's how I was in 1999. I didn't win a whole bunch or races, but I came on strong at the end of the year and I was there as the year progressed. That's important."
Randy Daniels (Bailey Trucking Chevy S-10)
"So far the points race has been close. I hope it comes right down to the wire. Last year it was pretty much just me and Bob (Panella). This year it looks like (Greg) Stanfield is going to be a big player and Gracia isn't far behind."
What are some of the areas you're working on?
"We finally got our best motor back up to speed. We're real happy with that. We've been running one of our spares the last two races, and now we've got our best one back and it looks really good on the dyno. That's the main thing we've been working on the past month, trying to get our power level back up on our Chevy S-10 to where it was."
What can we expect over the next few weeks?
"We've got to step back up. We've got to win another race or two soon so we can stay in contention with the championship fight, before we get into the summer break. I still think we've got as good as shot as anyone for the championship. It's tough out there but I'm confident in myself and my team."
Greg Stanfield (DBP Enterprises Chevy S-10)
"The points battle is pretty tight right now. I'm just glad to be a part of it. I raced in the Sportsman category for a long time and was fortunate enough to win some championships. What you have to have is the attitude to just make rounds and that's what will give you the points - just focus on going rounds every race. If you just focus on the points, somehow I feel it just jinxes you. It makes it interesting for the fans but I'm having fun. I'm getting to do what I love to do."
What are some of the things you are focussing on?
"Trying to find more power and freshen everything up. We're going to do some testing on the DBP Chevy S-10 before the race. We were wounded a little bit in Atlanta and we were down on power. I think that's what was hurting us there. We were lucky to get out of there with what we had. The main thing we've done is get the power back to where it was."
How's it feel to be in first place?
"It feels good. But, I'm not new at this. I've been racing since I was 15 and I'm 35 now. I'm worn out. It takes a lot to impress me. It's hard to explain. It does feel great and I'm fortunate to be doing what I'm doing. I'm happy, I feel like I'm riding a horse and I'm going to keep riding it until it throws me off, then I'll do something else. I think we're just going to try and stay consistent. I've been pretty consistent at the starting line so we want to stay right where we are and play off everyone else's mistakes."
What will it take to stay as a legitimate title contender?
"It would be nice to stay in contention the whole year. Last year our goal was to try and finish in the top five. We held the No. 5 position and were just a few points out of third. We also wanted to win a race and we did. This year our goal is to try and contend for a championship. So far we're on par to do it.
Bobby and Randy are tough. They are the elite of the class. Hopefully we can break that up. There are some other guys that are starting to run well too. We're watching them as well. It would be neat to see different winners just to mix it up a little bit. When the same people win all the time it gets old. I got burnt out last year with seeing Bob and Randy in the finals all the time. This year though it's different. Taylor Lastor ran well in Atlanta and so did Don Smith, so it could get real interesting."