NHRA: Top Fuel Points Leader in Position to Set Record for Season Victories
22 October 1998While Cory McClenathan will be seeking his third straight win at the Revell Nationals, Oct. 25, at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, the McDonald's driver will also be looking to increase his point lead in the tight NHRA Winston Top Fuel standings.
McClenathan enters the Revell Nationals with a slim 11-point lead over Gary Scelzi. McClenathan, who had the lead for most of the year but lost it after the Sept. 20th Pioneer Nationals in Reading, Pa., regained the lead following his victory in Topeka, Kan. last week at the Parts America Nationals.
"Though the points standings will show that I have the lead, I look at it as if it were a tie," said McClenathan, who has finished second in standings three times -- 1992, 1995 and 1997. "When you're talking 11 points, that's only one round and we have 12 rounds to go. This is great for the fans, but nerve-racking for the drivers.
"It's hard to say who has the advantage. The contending cars are all running strong and there are a number of other cars right now that are just as strong. The key is to avoid silly mistakes and be on the receiving end of a few breaks."
Within a seven-day period, Scelzi and McClenathan faced each other in the second round with each driver scoring a victory. Scelzi beat McClenathan in Memphis (Oct. 11) and McClenathan won in Topeka. That was a pivotal win for McClenathan, who came into the Topeka race trailing Scelzi by 44 points.
"If we had lost to Scelzi in the second round and had he gone on to win the race, our chances of catching him would have been very difficult," McClenathan said.
While the pressure is building, McClenathan can't think of a better place to be racing than at the Texas Motorplex where he has won the past two years. At last year's event, McClenathan became the first driver to crack the 320-mile per hour barrier with a run of 321.77 mph.
"One thing about the Motorplex is that you can put the power to the ground and that's exactly what our McDonald's car likes," McClenathan said.
McClenathan, whose win in Topeka was his sixth of the season, is in position to set a season record for most Top Fuel victories.
McClenathan, along with seven other drivers, is tied for most Top Fuel season victories with six. McClenathan and the late Gary Ormsby have done it twice -- McClenathan in 1997 and 1998 and Ormsby in 1989 and 1990.
Other Top Fuel drivers who have won six races in a season are: Don Garlits (1985), Darrell Gwynn (1988), Joe Amato (1990), Kenny Bernstein (1991), Eddie Hill (1993) and Scott Kalitta (1995).
"The championship is what we want, the record would be a bonus," McClenathan said.