Topeka: Panella, S-10 win

PRO STOCK TRUCK: PANELLA WINS HIS FIFTH TITLE, IN THE FIRST NON-ALL-CHEVY-S-10 FINAL ROUND It wasn't easy, but BOB PANELLA JR., PANELLA TRUCKING CHEVY S-10, defeated Dave Spitzer's GMC Sonoma today, in the first non-all-Chevy S-10 final round...


It wasn't easy, but BOB PANELLA JR., PANELLA TRUCKING CHEVY S-10, defeated Dave Spitzer's GMC Sonoma today, in the first non-all-Chevy S-10 final round of the season. Both trucks had problems under sunny, hot conditions, but it was Panella with the fewest taking the victory over Spitzer with a 7.672-second elapsed time at 175.16 mph to Spitzer's 7.698/174.37. It was Panella's slowest round of eliminations, after defeating Jeff Naiser with a 7.581, Mike Coughlin with a 7.643, and his nemesis Randy Daniels with a 7.617. This marked Panella's fifth title victory of the season, extending his lead over Daniels, who was competing under a cloud of uncertainty as his dad and crew chief Garley continues to be hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat.

PANELLA: ON HIS .446 REACTION TIME TO SPITZER'S .452: "I worked at it all day. In the first round it shot me in the butt (a .539 R/T) a little bit. I had a breakthrough and a warning. You don't want to keep doing that. I worked on that knowing it's a tight field and Dave is a real good driver. He's beat me on holeshots before. I didn't want to leave anything on the table. Unfortunately, I made a poor run. I would have liked to have run better in the final, but I guess he had an even worse run."

NOW THAT YOU'VE EXTENDED YOUR LEAD ON DANIELS, WHAT'S THE PLAN FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR? "Just try to win races. I don't want to think about counting any money or any championship points because anything can happen. We're a good team, Randy's is a good team, and there are 25 other good teams. It's all about who puts it together on race day the best. I'd like to do that one or two more times this season. Whatever happens in points will happen. We had a great year, an awesome year. If Randy wasn't there it would really show what kind of year we had."

ON RUNNING AGAINST A GMC IN THE FINAL FOR THE FIRST TIME: "It's kind of cool. (Todd) Patterson (in a Dodge) ran well this weekend; Spitzer did a great job. Lingenfelter (in a GMC Sonoma) has been running good too. I'm happy to see that. It's obviously good for the sport, it keeps Chevrolet on its toes, it keeps all the teams on their toes."

ON WINNING FROM NO. 1 QUALIFYING SPOT FOR ONLY THE THIRD TIME THIS YEAR AFTER QUALIFYING NO. 1 SEVEN TIMES: "It's almost to the point where when I qualify No. 1 I'm kind of scared. It used to be that was like an indication I was going to win the race, but the last couple of times I've been No. 1 we haven't been here on Sunday. We tried to make four good runs today. Unfortunately, we only made two good runs and had two lucky runs. Fortunately for us the truck in the other lane in the second round (Mike Coughlin with a 7.703) and final round made as bad a run as we did, and we got the win. It feels good."

Panella's teammate JEFF GRACIA, PANELLA MOTORSPORTS CHEVY S-10, had the opportunity in the second round to dispose of RANDY DANIELS, BAILEY TRUCKING CHEVY S-10 one round earlier, but was unable to do so with his 7.760/175.59 lap against Daniels' 7.629/176.24. In the semifinal round it was the all-too-familar Panella vs. Daniels match-up, which Panella won (7.617/176.88 to 7.792/175.05).

Note: Today, Oct. 1, is Bob Panella's birthday.

JEFF GRACIA: "This is the third time racing him. He beat me all three times. I left on him two of those times, once we had the identical reaction time. The track kind of changed a little bit for us and we missed the setup a little bit. He ran excellent for that session. He had the better setup on his S-10 and the better truck at that particular time of day. I was hoping to beat him to give Bob a bit of a cushion (in the point standings). It would have been a good birthday present if I could have beaten him. Now I have to buy him a present."

RANDY DANIELS: "We had a real hard weekend (speaking of his dad's hospitalization). It's a lot of added pressure. We really hadn't had our minds on what we were supposed to be doing. I had mechanical problems. Something happened to the clutch. When I got ready to stage the S-10 it just drove right on in. I really deep-staged. I have never done that before. It rattled me when I saw that I deep-staged. Then it just blew the tires off the truck, and we made an absolutely horrible run."

ON THE CHAMPIONSHIP: "I think that's probably pretty much over with. But we're not giving up. We will try to win us a few more races before the year is out."

Inaugural Pro Stock Truck Winston Champion (1998) LARRY KOPP, SPEEDCO CHEVY S-10, qualified for the field for the first time this season since he returned to the driver's seat at the Sears Craftsman Nationals in June. Prior to the St. Louis race, Tim Freeman drove for Kopp. Although he was eliminated in the first round by Jeff Gracia, he was pleased with the progress of the new Chevy S-10 he purchased from Scott Tidwell, who is no longer competing in the series.

LARRY KOPP: "I bought this Chevy S-10 from Scott Tidwell last week. I was hoping to get an older truck, one that I felt is a better truck than the newer trucks. It's more like my first S-10 that I won my championship with. And we came here and the first time out we qualified 12th. The truck works extremely well and it's going to be a nice truck once we learn how to deal with it."

ON QUALIFYING FOR THE FIRST TIME THIS YEAR: "This was a very important race for us with this new truck. I hope this is just the beginning of a good ending for the year."

ON LOSING TO PANELLA'S TEAMMATE JEFF GRACIA IN THE FIRST ROUND: "I left on him, I had the starting line advantage. I did what I had to do but the weather and the track conditions just were different in that session than what we saw or understood. We just need to gather more information with this truck, (such as) what it wants, and when it wants it with different track conditions."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Panella , Jeff Gracia , Randy Daniels , Mike Coughlin , Tim Freeman