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Believe it or not, race fans, the 2001 season has already begun at "the Strip at Las Vegas." Due to the late signing of Las Vegas to Super Chevy Shows schedule, AutoStar Productions and the Gustin family did not want to be unfair to any racer and decided to make the race count for 2001 Nitro Coupe points.

For all you trivia buffs out there (and a special copy to Chris Martin) Doug Winter's TPI/Hooters Corvette is the first official 2001 winner in Nitro Coupe.

Las Vegas is a great place period, but drag racing fans got quite a treat with this very first Super Chevy Show. Bill Kuhlmann competed in his first race since fire destroyed his Corvette and left him singed in the hospital with severe smoke inhalation. His new ride, a '57 Chevy was put together in time for the Vegas race. [Editor's Note: see this month's Features section for a complete look at Kuhlmann's car.] Kuhlmann qualified number six in the field and showed that the accident hadn't diminished his driving ability when he turned the best reaction time in the class with a 0.424.

In the first round, Kuhlmann spun the tires and shut off, but still got the win when Jim Nordhauser's '40 Willys crossed the center line during his 6.49/205-mph run. Number one qualifier Doug Winters took out Bill Hill's Budweiser Nova with a 6.62/207.88 in a battle of the '63's.

Dave Graytek (right) in the "Grand Pop's Toy" Corvette smoked Mel Eaves with a 6.43/224.51 when Eaves' "MegaPower" Vette had engine problems and could only muster a 6.87/129.08. Dan Nickelson finally got his sharp little Chevy Beretta dialed in with a fine pass of 6.47/215.48 to defeat Gary Irving. Irving usually drives his own Nitro Coupe, but he also had a fire in 2000 and so was driving Mel Eaves' number 2 car at Las Vegas.

AutoStar president Roger Gustin has vowed to make the Nitro Coupe safer for the 2001 season and is contemplating safety changes, such as mandatory roof hatches, for quicker exit from the cars in case of fire.


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