Topeka Larry Kopp POro Stock Truck Preview

KOPP HOPES TO EXTEND WINSTON LEAD WITH STRONG TOPEKA RUN TOPEKA, Kan. -- Larry Kopp made a major statement to all Pro Stock Truck challengers with his performance at the recent NHRA U.S. Nationals. Now, the Baltimore driver hopes to...

KOPP HOPES TO EXTEND WINSTON LEAD WITH STRONG TOPEKA RUN

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Larry Kopp made a major statement to all Pro Stock Truck challengers with his performance at the recent NHRA U.S. Nationals. Now, the Baltimore driver hopes to back up his Indy effort with an equally strong run at Heartland Park Topeka, Oct. 1-4 at the 10th annual Parts America Nationals, and move even closer to claiming the inaugural Winston Pro Stock Truck championship.

The $1.8 million race is the ninth of 12 events for Pro Stock Trucks in the $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Kopp, driving a Chevrolet S-10, claimed his fourth No. 1 qualifying effort of the season at the U.S. Nationals and went on to become the first Pro Stock Truck winner at the prestigious race.

"That was a great win," said Kopp of his fourth victory of the season. "I won three races back-to- back this year and to win at Indy was just as exciting. Now we're ready to go out and try our luck at Topeka. It's a fast track, so I like our Chevy's chances there."

The victory couldn't have come at a better time. Kopp had hit a mid-season slump following his three-peat, which included victories at Atlanta, Englishtown, N.J., and Chicago. In the following three races, Kopp posted early round losses. His team's less than spectacular performance at Madison, Ill., Sonoma, Calif. and Seattle prompted more research and development work.

"We tested extensively before Indy," Kopp said. "We made around 20 passes in two days. We had to do it because we lost some ground during the western swing and lost some of the cushion in our Winston points lead. We had to do something to get our advantage back."

He feels confident he can stay ahead of his competition -- primarily John Lingenfelter, Jerry Haas and Todd Patterson -- for the final four races and reap the coveted first championship trophy for the new category at the end of the season.

"When they're as fast as we are, we will be one step ahead of them, and will be faster," Kopp said. "It's going to be tough to win this Winston championship. But I think we have a good shot."

And the fans will be watching. Interest in the new category has increased with each event.

"There's bigger crowds around our pit area at every race," Kopp said. "We give out about 2,500 autograph cards at each event. Fans can really identify with the trucks. That's what this sport is about."

* Patterson moves up: Todd Patterson, of Augusta, Kan., has moved from sixth to fourth in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series point standings in last four Pro Stock Truck events.

Patterson, driver of the Team Mopar Dodge Dakota, posted a runner-up finish in his first final round appearance earlier this season at the Autolite Nationals in Sonoma, Calif. He hopes to earn his first Pro Stock Truck victory in his home state at the upcoming Parts America Nationals.

* Truckin' Coughlin: Mike Coughlin, 32-year-old brother of Pro Stock tandem Troy and Jeg, had his best Pro Stock Truck outing of the season at the recent U.S. Nationals. Coughlin, driving the Jeg's Mail Order Chevrolet S-10, advanced to the semifinals before losing to eventual runner-up Bob Panella Jr. Like Patterson, Coughlin is also aiming for a first victory at the Parts America Nationals.

"Indy was only our fifth race in the truck and I think we're about to get it dialed in," Coughlin said. "Our entire team worked very hard to prepare for Indy and the results showed. We spent two days testing and made some improvements under the hood. We're looking forward to Topeka and the rest of the season. I think you can look for big things out of our camp in the future."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Panella , Todd Patterson , Larry Kopp , Mike Coughlin , John Lingenfelter , Jerry Haas