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The Force Is With Force Again

Drag racing: He clinches eighth funny car championship.

November 16, 1998|From Associated Press

POMONA — John Force clinched an unprecedented eighth NHRA Winston Funny Car championship Sunday at the Winston Finals at Pomona Raceway.

Kenny Bernstein, Chuck Etchells, Richie Stevens and Matt Hines took pro category wins at the last of 22 events in the $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Force advanced to the semifinals before losing to eventual Funny Car winner Etchells to claim his eighth championship this decade.

Other 1998 NHRA Winston champions who earned titles prior to Sunday's eliminations include Gary Scelzi in Top Fuel, Warren Johnson in Pro Stock, Larry Kopp in Pro Stock Truck and Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Bernstein earned his fourth Top Fuel victory of the season, outrunning two-time Winston champion Scelzi in a close final. Bernstein ran 4.628 seconds at 320.85 mph in the Budwesier King dragster, while Scelzi was a tick slower in the Winston dragster, running 4.652 at 301.91.

Etchells claimed his third Funny Car win, defeating Dale Pulde in the final. Etchells covered the quarter-mile distance in 5.119 at 308.21 in his Kendall Oil Chevrolet Camaro, while Pulde lost traction at the start and finished at 9.570 at 94.41.

Stevens won a Pro Stock rookie duel, outrunning Jeg Coughlin for the first victory of his career. Stevens ran 6.945 at 198.10 in his Collins Racing Pontiac Firebird, while Coughlin's Oldsmobile got out of the groove near mid-track and ran 7.625 at 141.02.

Hines punctuated his dominant Pro Stock Motorcycle season with his 10th victory. Hines ran 7.324 at 184.23 on his Eagle One Suzuki, holding off first time finalist Ron Ayers, who ran 7.390 at 180.07, also on a Suzuki.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

NHRA Season Champions

TOP FUEL

* Gary Scelzi, Fresno.

*

FUNNY CAR

* John Force, Yorba Linda, Ford Mustang.

*

PRO TOCK

* Warren Johnson, Duluth, Ga., Pontiac Firebird.

*

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

* Matt Hines, Trinidad, Colo., Suzuki.

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PRO STOCK TRUCK

* Larry Kopp, Baltimore, Md., Chevrolet.

Winston Finals Winners

Top fuel--Kenny Bernstein, Lake Forest.

FUNNY CAR

* Chuck Etchells, Putnam, Conn., Chevrolet Camaro.

*

PRO STOCK

* Richie Stevens, New Orleans, Pontiac Firebird.

*

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

* Matt Hines, Trinidad, Colo, Suzuki.

*

PRO STOCK TRUCK

* Brad Jeter, Greenville, S.C., Chevrolet.

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