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May 23, 2004 (pictures courtesy Guy Van Syckle and are copyright SpeedZone Magazine.com).

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Pro Results Funny Car......... Weather can certainly change the face of a weekend, especially for Drag Racing, where you can't even run a slow car down the track with a sprinkle on the surface. Sometimes the weather can be used to a race's advantage as well. While the fans did not get to see all the qualifying they had hoped to, what they saw from both Nitro classes in qualifying and elimination's quality wise, more than made up for the quantity end of the equation. The tone was set Friday night when "Team Schumacher's" Gary Scelzi & Whit Bazemore ran side by side 4.70's (4.76 and 4.73 respectively) and Scelzi being the first ever to run 300 mph. with his 330.15 mph blast. The fire works did not end there though, as the final pairing saw the newest rivalry in the class; "rookie Eric Medlen and the guy who left Team Force (giving Eric the opportunity"), Tony Pedregon squared off in the final pairing. The race was anti climatic as Eric smoked em, but Tony in the new Monte Carlo body, shot off like a rocket to a new et and mph record run, an awesome 4.716/331.28 blast that left the fans with their jaws around their ankles. Unfortunately the TF session was washed out Friday evening but the fans still got their money's worth. Saturday got shortened to one session for each fuel class as well due to the weather, but it was enough to give Funny Car its quickest bump spot of the year, a 4.909 held down by Jerry Toliver, and a 23 car field that saw the slowest car go a respectable 5.15 that would of qualified that car( Cory Lee was the #23 qualifier) at four of the previous seven events in 2004. In elimination's, the three Force team cars were all on the same side of the ladder and two (Medlen and Densham) faced each other in round two. They ran side by side 4.70's in rd. two, and Medlen came out on top of that battle. Force's match-up in round two saw him get the win over Tony Pedregon, when Tony took out the centre line cones from the 1000 foot mark through the finish line. On the other side of the ladder, Whit Bazemore continued his hot streak of late and took out Tim Wilkerson with a 4.76 in round two. His semi final opponent was Tony Bartone, while Medlen and Force were set to battle on the other side. The side by side battles sucked, but one car in each race laid down what would make one of the most anticipated final rounds of the year. Force tied a personal best 4.721 to defeat the "Kid", and Whit Bazemore crushed the et and mph record books with a 4.713 @ 333.25 victory over Bartone. Would the final reach its potential? Unfortunately, it did not, when Whit blazed the tires and Force went on to a very strong 4.75 victory, his second of the year and 111th of his career. The points changed at the top with Whit Bazemore taking over the point lead and John Force moving up to 2nd place. 32 points behind Bazemore, is season long point leader Del Worsham, who was a first round casualty.

Top Fuel....... It was a tough act to follow the Funny Cars, but Top Fuel at least matched the quality of runs their nitro counterparts laid down. And they only got two session to run their best numbers. By missing their Friday night and Saturday evening sessions who knows what would have been.....and that was the talk of the Internet message boards as even some prominent media types were wondering out loud. By the end of qualifying, the bump spot was a solid 4.69 and #1 was held down by David Grubnic who turned in the only '40 of qualifying, a great 4.471 @ 331mph. In elimination's, only one winning run in round one was slower than 4.57, and there was even a 4.54 losing run (David Baca). Round two did not reach its potential, as a number of teams either smoked the tires, red lit, or wheel stood away their chances. The semis saw Scott Weis, in his best performances (et wise) of his career, take on Doug Kalitta and #'s 1 and 2 in the points, Tony Schumacher and Brandon Bernstein face off. The Weis/Kalitta race proved to be THE match-up, when Scott had a .088 advantage at the tree, but was caught around 1200 feet down track as Kalitta blasted to a 4.465/332 to Weis' solid 4.566/327 effort. The other race saw Schumacher pedal the car a couple times in a losing effort as Bernstein ripped off a Kalitta equaling 4.462/332. Brandon had lane choice by 3/1000ths of a second, but based on some of the side by sides, it likely did not matter much. Both cars in the final left with a hundredth of each other, so it should have been a great race, unfortunately for the "Bud car", they forgot to tell the front end of that car, as it came off the ground and continued to lift until Brandon had to abort his potential liftoff, giving Kalitta the win. He would have been tough to top anyway, as Doug ripped off a world best 4.420 that was 1/1000ths too quick to count his his earlier 4.465 as a back up. He left without the record but got the win, his first of the 2004 season. The top three remained unchanged in the standings with Schumacher, Bernstein and D. Kalitta still in the same positions. David Grubnic moved into fourth, and Scott Weis moved into the top 10 with his semi final finish

 

Pro Stock Bike...... is actually as exciting as it has ever been in 2004, and it is due to a couple reasons. Number one, parity; ya, that word is out there again, but the class is pretty wide open, with four different winners in four races. The champ from 2003 is in 7th place and the top seven are separated by 5 rounds of racing. This weekend, it was controversy ridden Shawn Gann in the winners circle as he got the win before he left the starting line when Andrew Hines shot himself in the foot with an unnecessary red light. Andrew had over a tenth on Gann the entire weekend and could have just been better than a .1 light to almost assure victory. His red was not even close (-.035). Shawn Gann is probably not complaining though. The big biggest question in the class is probably when are they going to add weight on the Harley's as I'm sure the Japanese Bike representatives are starting to put pressure on NHRA to even out the rules. The battle between the two girls in PSB is great for the class as well. If only Pro Stock was as exciting.

Pro Stock....It is getting harder and harder to get excited about Pro Stock as the season goes on. Sorry for that statement, but parity is what makes a class exciting. It certainly is not a slam on Greg Anderson/Jason Line and the Vegas Construction team, it is a credit to them, but when you have a team that has two very good drivers and they have a few hundredth on everyone else, you know what the results are going to be. And the results for the year and this past weekend bears that statement out. Eight races this year, Greg has been to 7 finals and won six of them, Jason after a slow start to the season has been to three of the last four final rounds, and got his first win of the year on Sunday against his team mate Anderson. They qualified #1 and #2 and had close to 3/100ths on the next closest competitor during qualifying and elimination's (Kenny Koretsky surprisingly enough in qualifying and David Connolly in elims). With the win by the Vegas construction "team II" car (a car any other team would give up their first born to have), Jason Line moves into 3rd place in the standings and is only one round plus four qualifying points back of Kurt Johnson. How quickly will the team run away with the title, will it be by or before Indy. I say a resounding yes!!

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