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Topeka: Mopar Motorsports preview

Topeka: Mopar Motorsports preview
May 22, 2002, 11:55 AM

Mopar Motorsports NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series 14th Annual O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals Heartland Park Topeka Topeka, Kan. WEEKEND TELEVISION: (ALL TIMES EASTERN) QUALIFYING: Sat., May 25; 8-10 p.m.; ESPN FINAL ROUND: Sun., May 26; 8:30-- ...

Mopar Motorsports
NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series
14th Annual O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals
Heartland Park Topeka
Topeka, Kan.

QUALIFYING: Sat., May 25; 8-10 p.m.; ESPN
FINAL ROUND: Sun., May 26; 8:30-- 10:30 p.m.; ESPN
REPEAT: Fri., May 31; 4-6 a.m.; ESPN2

Wilson progressing nicely.
The Mopar rookie more comfortable with new surroundings.

TOPEKA, Kan. (May 21, 2002) -- New Jersey NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series fans stood in approval as two familiar Pro Stock drivers sat on the starting line with their yellow pre-stage bulbs lit - bristling with Wild West-like anticipation. A 77-second NHRA Pro Stock burn down classic was in progress.

A victory over veteran Mark Osborne during this past weekend's Matco Tools NHRA SuperNationals for rising young Mopar star Gene Wilson was the result, proving the rookie has come into his own as a NHRA Pro Stock driver. The Canton, Ga., resident, and driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T, bounded onto the Pro Stock scene at the 33rd annual Gatornationals in Gainesville (Fla.) earlier this season and has qualified for the last three NHRA national events.

"It may be cold out here, but I sure can't feel it," said Wilson, amid unseasonably cool 50-degree Englishtown weather, following his stirring victory over Osborne."The car really feels good to me right now. I gained a lot of confidence by winning that exhibition race in Budds Creek (Maryland), last Wednesday. The whole team has been on the same page."

Wilson defeated Allen Johnson, Ron Krisher and Tim Freemen during an eight-car exhibition race on May 15 in Budds Creek. Current NHRA points leader Warren Johnson failed to make that show.

After not qualifying in his first three NHRA Pro Stock attempts, Wilson has been steady, grabbing the 10th position at the Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway, a fifth at his hometown Atlanta Dragway and 11th in Englishtown. Wilson's race day prowess has been notable as well, winning his first NHRA race over V. Gaines in Atlanta and making the semifinals at the most recent event in New Jersey, creating an interesting plot at Heartland Park Topeka.

If everything plays to form, Wilson should be in line for a final-round appearance at this weekend's soiree in Topeka.

Gene Wilson's Ladder Effect
Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway
Round One >>>>> Lost to Warren Johnson

Atlanta Dragway
Round One >>>>> Beat V. Gaines
Round Two >>>>> Lost to Jim Yates

Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J.
Round One >>>>> Beat Arturo Delgado
Round Two >>>>> Beat Mark Osborne
Round Three >>>>> Lost to Jeg Coughlin, Jr.

Heartland Park Topeka ????????

Wilson also lit up the Old Bridge Township Raceway Park scoreboard with a career-best 6.776-second elapsed time at a career-best top speed of 203.40 mph in his second-round triumph over Osborne. The numbers also represent the second-best runs for a Hemi-powered Dodge Neon R/T, which were also recorded by a Nickens Brothers Racing machine at last year's national event at Maple Grove Raceway in Mohnton, Pa., at 6.754 seconds (third-quickest in NHRA history) and 204.35 mph (NHRA national speed record).

"I knew I was on one," said an elated Wilson."The track and weather conditions were almost perfect. When you make runs like that, you feel like you're in the groove."

Mopar Motorsports Notes of Interest

* In the Clutch. For the first time this POWERade Drag Racing Series season, Mopar Pro Stock standout Darrell Alderman failed to qualify for a 16-car NHRA field at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park this past weekend.

"They found something in the clutch box after my third run," Alderman said."That problem prevented me from having a good run off the starting line. We can't have too many of these."

* Alive and Well. Darrell Alderman's DNQ at the most recent Matco Tools SuperNationals in Englishtown, N.J., could have been worse. Prior to the event, Alderman sat third in the NHRA points chase. Only Ron Krisher moved past Alderman this past weekend, even though both first-place Warren Johnson (Round One Defeat) and second-place Jim Yates (Semifinal Defeat) extended their lead on the three three-time NHRA Pro Stock World Champion.

* Lid Lifter. Dean Skuza spends a lot of time refining and honing his television skills. Unfortunately, the Brecksville, Ohio resident's last ESPN appearance was on the wrong end of a second-straight blower explosion and spectacular first-round defeat. With three solid-qualifying passes under his belt, including a season and Dodge Stratus R/T best of 4.849 seconds during qualifying in Englishtown, Skuza pedaled his mount to a booming end. The most recent explosion catapulted the Mopar Parts Dodge Stratus R/T body into the air and onto the highlight reels. The team will run a back-up body at Heartland Park Topeka this weekend. Despite the disappointment, the team is making big strides.

"They have made a lot of improvement, especially in qualifying," said Brett Fischer, Mopar Motorsports Drag Racing Program Manager on Skuza's fourth-place effort in New Jersey."They are really starting to make some progress with the new Dodge Stratus R/T body. We're excited about the future."

* No Dodging Topeka. If there is one track on the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Pro Stock circuit that Dodge has dominated-- it's Heartland Park Topeka. Darrell Alderman captured the first three races by defeating Joe Lepone, Jr., in 1989 and 1990 and Warren Johnson in 1991. The 28-time NHRA national event winner also made the finals in 1994, the only all-Mopar final at the track, and in 2000. All in all, a Dodge has four victories in seven final-round appearances in this event.

Adding to that, a Dodge won the now-defunct Western Auto Nationals in 1997 and 1994.

* Morgan Strong in Topeka. Larry Morgan, pilot of the blue Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T, is no stranger to victory circle at HPT either. The Newark, Ohio, resident outran David Rampy in 1993 to win this event and lost to Scott Geoffrion in 1997, during the discontinued Western Auto Nationals.


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