* KANSAS GOVERNOR AND TOPEKA MAYOR TO CELEBRATE NHRA'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY: Kansas governor Bill Graves and Topeka Mayor Butch Felker will both participate in a celebration of the NHRA's 50th anniversary at the Kansas State Capitol Building on...
* KANSAS GOVERNOR AND TOPEKA MAYOR TO CELEBRATE NHRA'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY: Kansas governor Bill Graves and Topeka Mayor Butch Felker will both participate in a celebration of the NHRA's 50th anniversary at the Kansas State Capitol Building on Thursday May 24 at noon.
Both politicians will be presented with an honorary "Wally" trophy, which is a replica of the trophies awarded to event winners during NHRA competition. NHRA President Tom Compton will present the trophies.
Also on hand will be the U.S. Army dragster of 1999 Winston Top Fuel champ Tony Schumacher and Dean Skuza's Mopar Parts Dodge R/T Funny Car with other nostalgia vehicles on display.
The ceremony was arranged to honor the support the state of Kansas has offered to the NHRA over the years, beginning with the first NHRA national event ever held back in 1955 in Great Bend, Kan.
* NBA FORWARD TOM HAMMONDS BEGINS 2001 PRO STOCK SEASON: Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Tom Hammonds has turned in his NBA jersey for a fire suit and a helmet. He entered the Englishtown, N.J. event as the first Pro Stock race behind the wheel of his new Chevy Cavalier and suffered a disappointing DNQ (did not qualify).
The 34-year-old Hammonds qualified for his first race at the 1997 NHRA event in Reading, Pa., and has continued to compete on limited basis ever since. "My passion for motorsports probably goes all the way back to when I was in middle school," said Hammonds. "I grew up watching guys like Lee Shepherd, Bob Glidden and Warren Johnson and I became enamored with Pro Stock. My dad used to race as well and that's how I got started. I was involved or interested with drag racing pretty much throughout high school and even when I was in college playing basketball at Georgia Tech.
"I've got one more year left on my contract with the Timberwolves, and with the way my nagging injuries have plagued me throughout the year, we'll just have to see how I feel this summer. But there is no guarantee that I will go back and play next year."
* DOUG HERBERT WAITING FOR SEASON TO TURN AROUND: "The car has been running good during qualifying, and that has raised our expectations," said Herbert, driver of the Snap-On Tools Top Fuel dragster. "We should be a contender to win every race, but it's not looking that way...Lately, with the slick tracks we have been running, about the only thing we have learned is what not to do. We'll keep working on the combination. We're doing the best we can. Ultimately, it's going to come around.
"We need to find the half-way point between our qualifying combination and the one we run during eliminations when the sun is out and it's hot. Like I said, we keep learning something new each race so we should get it right soon."
* AL HOFMANN COMMENTING ON HIS MOONEYES TEAM SUCCESS: "It's been up and down but we're doing better than we did last year. The performance of the Mooneyes Pontiac Firebird is up quite a bit. We just need a little bit of luck to go along with it. Going to the finals in Bristol (Tenn.) pumped up the team, but then we got the wind taken back out of us in Atlanta. The field is so competitive that there are going to be a lot of good cars that don't get qualified. It's been that way so far and it's going to continue. There are 20 cars that can run in the 4.90s at any time.
"(Crew chief) Jim (Dunn) is a great tuner and I think we're going to be doing really well. I'm looking forward to the next few races. I think we can pick up the pace here and shoot for finishing in the top five in the Winston points. It will be tough but I think we can do it. We're starting to get a handle on the car now. It's been running in the low 4.90s and the motor looks brand new. Jim knows and I know it's time to step on it a little bit even if we have to hurt it. There's a lot of room for improvement."
* LARRY DIXON ON TIGHT TOP FUEL POINTS RACE: "Looking at the standings really lets you know how tight the competition is in Top Fuel right now," said the 34-year-old Dixon. "If you look at Pro Stock, the points leader over there would only be good for fourth or fifth place in Top Fuel. That's how strong our class is running right now. Anyone in the top six, or even 10 cars, can go out and win a race. This weekend could see the winner propelled from fifth place into first, or see the points leader drop down to fifth. This is one of the toughest years I can remember. No one is running away with anything.
"(Gary) Scelzi and (Tony) Schumacher are definitely figuring things out and that will make things even tougher. Anyone who has the potential to go out and win rounds like they do can make it that much harder for us to win an event."
* PANELLA SEEKING THIRD STRAIGHT WIN IN TOPEKA: Two-time Winston champ Bob Panella is seeking his third straight Pro Stock Truck win at Heartland Park Topeka and already has scored wins in Las Vegas and Atlanta this year.
"I've been working real hard on my reaction times," said Panella. "I was getting sick of hearing about me getting beat on a holeshot on television or the magazines. We had a great weekend (in Atlanta). I hope it's the start of good things to come for the team. We've been trying real hard to get both trucks in the finals and now we want to keep it up."
* PEDREGON FOLLOWING HIS ATLANTA WIN: Frank Pedregon earned his first victory of the season in his Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird in the recent NHRA event in Atlanta. The win was not an easy one having to defeat 10-time Winston champ John Force in the first round of competition and then driving past teammate Del Worsham in the semifinals.
"Ah, the king, that's Force," said Pedregon. They don't have all those championship trophies over there because they lose in the first round all the time. I don't mind saying now that I honestly didn't sleep well (the night before meeting Force). The last time I beat John Force in the first round was at Indy in '99 and I went on to win. I knew it was going to be tough, but I knew if we got past that round with all the emotions from both teams, I knew we could go all the way. But when you beat John Force, you've done something.
"To beat Del in the semifinals is awesome because my teammate is one of the best there is. Racing Del was like racing (brothers) Tony or Cruz. I put Del in that category because he is like a brother to me. But I want to beat my brothers worse than anybody else, and it's the same with Del because he's like family. Both teams wanted it so badly, with everyone shaking hands in the staging lanes and wishing each other luck. I knew the Red Team was disappointed (when they lost)."