Bob Patton had won drag races during his career, but before last weekend he had never won a Super Pro race and had never won a $5,000 purse. So when the native of Accokeek in Prince George's County placed first in that class during Saturday's Computech/Bill Mitchell Shootouts action at Maryland International Raceway, he was a happy man.

He was even happier because his friends -- who had given him the car a decade ago and spent late nights with him working on it -- were there to share the experience with him.

"I'm lucky, because I have some of the best friends a person could ask for in a lifetime," said Patton, who was one of two drag racers who picked up big money during the first round of the shootouts last weekend.

Mark Cook, of Lagrange, Ohio, won Friday's race, and the $5,000 purse that accompanied it. The event is one of the richest multi-weekend, quarter-mile Super Pro ET series in the world.

One of the most prominent members of Patton's circle of friends is fellow racer Wayne Campbell, who joined Patton's crew after being eliminated earlier in the competition. A friend since junior high school, Campbell gave Patton the car Patton won with on Saturday in 1988, three years after Campbell won a $5,000 race in Florida with it.

When Patton became more involved with his job at a communications company in Virginia, Campbell helped him maintain the car. So did John Watkins, whom Patton befriended when he started racing at MIR in 1977.

"Without Wayne and John Watkins, it wouldn't have been possible," Patton said.

Patton also credited Fred Frye, another fellow racer who quit four years ago but helped with the fabrication on Patton's winning car.

Patton once traveled on the drag racing circuit with Jim Yates, who is now a pro stock racer. "We used to go around together [during the mid-'80s], and now he's on to bigger and better things," Patton said. "But I tell you what, I wouldn't change anything in the world."

Sunday Races Canceled

Sunday's Super Pro ET Series races had to be stopped because of rain, and the $10,000 purse was split among the 38 drivers still remaining in the competition.

When the gates opened at MIR at 10 a.m. Sunday, there was only intermittent rain. But by the end of the afternoon, there had been three stoppages to dry the track, and the effort was finally given up just after 4:30 p.m.

"We had a lot of people in from out of town to race, and they all had a long drive home ahead of them," said Chris Miller, an MIR spokesman. "So we just decided at that point it was time to call off the race and let them get started home."

The second and third rounds of the shootouts, scheduled for Aug. 6-8 and Sept. 24-26, again will award Super Pro drivers $5,000 Friday and Saturday and $10,000 Sunday for winning. The overall champion, who finishes with the highest season point total, will be awarded $5,000.

Computech/Bill Mitchell Shootouts

* Friday

W/R-U Racer Hometown Class R/T Dial-In E.T. MPH

W Mark Cook Lagrange, Ohio S/P .509 12.56 12.572 104.93

R-U Mike Alexander Mechanicsville, Va. S/P .521 9.43 9.470 132.57

* Saturday

W/R-U Racer Hometown Class R/T Dial-In E.T. MPH

W Bob Patton Accokeek S/P .534 10.50 10.528 123.15

R-U Stacey Johnson Dumfries, Va.S/P .530 8.75 8.782 147.81

W John Mattera WaldorfH/E .513 11.10 11.094 116.87

R-U Monty Cornwell WaldorfH/E .477 12.01 13.590 75.10

W Ronnie Procopio Upper MarlboroM/C .507 8.63 8.736 139.29

R-UKevin Garman Forestville, Md. M/C .627 9.35 9.514 137.27

W Frank Thompson HughesvilleJ/D .432 8.41 8.441 74.93

R-U Brian Hubble Seabrook, Md.J/D .494 9.10 9.115 68.90

W Russell Ridgley Lothian, Md.T .690 11.75 12.076 85.74

R-U Charles Gibson AlexandriaT .891 18.15 18.619 72.10

* Sunday

This event was completed at 4:47 pm when a storm came through and soaked the track. Track officials battled the rain most of the day, including drying the entire track three different times. When the race was completed, track officials split all of the money in each class with the drivers left in competition. There were 38 Super Pro drivers remaining, 24 drivers in Heavy Eliminator, six riders in Motorcycle, and the Trophy final was completed.

W/RU Racer Hometown Class R/T Dial-In E.T. MPH

W Wayne Smith Callaway, Md.T .635 13.56 13.623 97.59

R/U Wesley Washington King George, Va.T .515 15.25 15.451 87.81

S/P -- Super ProH/E -- Heavy EliminatorJ/D -- Junior DragsterM/C -- MotorcycleT -- Trophy

CAPTION: THE WASHINGTON POST

Racer Michael MacDonald, foreground, wipes off the hood of his car after one of several rain delays that ultimately canceled Sunday's competition at Maryland International Raceway.