Topeka Rick Santos Preview

RICK SANTOS LOOKS TO REPEAT AT TOPEKA IN THE OAKWOOD HOMES FEDERAL-MOGUL DRAGSTER TOPEKA, Kan. --- When Rick Santos and the Jack O'Bannon race team went to Topeka last year for the Sears Craftsman Nationals, they had hopes of winning the event...

RICK SANTOS LOOKS TO REPEAT AT TOPEKA IN THE OAKWOOD HOMES FEDERAL-MOGUL DRAGSTER

TOPEKA, Kan. --- When Rick Santos and the Jack O'Bannon race team went to Topeka last year for the Sears Craftsman Nationals, they had hopes of winning the event but were not considered a real threat for the national championship. Although the team had two national wins under its belt in 1997, one at the Texas Motorplex and one at Seattle International Raceway, they were still not thought of as serious contenders. Topeka was the turning point. "We were pretty far down on the list in points," said Rick Santos, driver of the Oakwood Homes Federal-Mogul Dragster. "Bobby Taylor was leading the point standings, and we were really only considered an outside chance. We just went to the event planning to do the best we could do, not really thinking about national championship points." Santos qualified second for the event with a elapsed time of 5.589. He defeated Michael Gunderson in the final round, beating him by only a car length. Santo's elapsed time was 5.585 over Gunderson's 5.662. "The track was getting tricky as the week went on," said Santos. "We tried hard not to beat ourselves and hoped that it would be the other guy that made the mistake. It's always exciting to go back to an event you have had success at in the past. I also like coming to Topeka because we get the opportunity to race against some different competition. "Topeka is a nice facility. The track and pits are all paved and that definitely makes it more convenient. The place kind of reminds me of Dallas, the way the tower is at the starting line. The track can be really good, depending on the weather." Santos will enter the national event at Topeka for the fourth time in his career. He won the event in 1997 and finished runner-up in 1993 with the S & S Automotive crew. He also competed in 1994. "We were joking after we won the event last year, saying we would probably have to win every race from then on out to be a contender for the championship," said Santos. "At that point, winning the championship was in our thoughts, but we never actually expected it to happen." "No one, including the NHRA, figured us competitors for the national championship until Topeka," said Norm Grimes, crew chief of the Oakwood Homes Federal-Mogul Dragster. "Even at the last division race in Phoenix, everyone thought the national championship would be wrapped up by either Bobby Taylor or Randy Parks. They had all but given it away. When Parks and Taylor ran against each other, they said the winner of that round would probably be the national champion. We went to the finals against Taylor with new tires on the car. They thought we were nuts." Santos defeated Taylor and won his second Pacific Division championship and his first National Championship at Firebird International Raceway. Santos and the Oakwood Homes / Jack O'Bannon race team have already won the 1998 division seven championship. After winning eight of 10 races they entered this year, including three national events, they are at the head of the national point standings.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Rick Santos , Michael Gunderson