Bristol: GM Racing Saturday summary

Pontiac Grand Ams dominate Thunder Valley qualifying. BRISTOL, Tenn., April 26, 2003 - After a four-hour rain delay today at Bristol Dragway, qualifying was completed for the Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals. Pontiac SC/T Grand Ams dominated...

Pontiac Grand Ams dominate Thunder Valley qualifying.

BRISTOL, Tenn., April 26, 2003 - After a four-hour rain delay today at Bristol Dragway, qualifying was completed for the Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals. Pontiac SC/T Grand Ams dominated the Pro Stock field during time trials occupying the first four starting positions for Sunday's eliminator. GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver Warren Johnson took full advantage of the cooler air temperatures tonight to record his second consecutive No. 1 qualifying spot, driving his SC/T Grand Am to an elapsed time of 6.862 seconds at 200.62 mph.

"With the changing conditions we just kind of rolled the dice," said Johnson. "But at the same time, they changed a whole lot more than we expected. We're fortunate to be in this position because we really didn't have the right setup for what we had out here tonight. We didn't know for certain how good that left lane was going to be, but it came around and this Pontiac Grand Am went right down through there."

For Johnson, it is the 129th time in his career that he's started final eliminations from the No. 1 qualifying position. It is also the fifth time in the first six races this year, and the fifth consecutive event that a Pontiac SC/T Grand Am has started raceday from the lead position.

"Tomorrow we're probably looking at completely different conditions than what we had out here tonight," said Johnson. "Everybody will be digging through their notes tonight to find the right setup for tomorrow."

Greg Anderson's Pontiac SC/T Grand Am finished just .002 of a second off Johnson's lead time. The Vegas General Construction Pontiac pilot turned in a lap of 6.864 seconds at a qualifying-best top speed of 201.25 mph.

"With conditions like this, and the cloud cover, you just go up there and throw everything you have at it," said Anderson. "These Grand Ams are so nice in these conditions because they don't slide around, they don't shake the tires and they're just a pleasure to drive. We came up .002 of a second short but tomorrow will be another day. It may get hot so it's going to come down to who's can adapt the best. We're confident in our setup and feel we have as good of a shot as anybody. I think this Grand Am may be the most consistent car this weekend. If we can say that tomorrow night then we may end up in the winner's circle."

Mike Edwards had his best qualifying effort of the season after driving the Young Life Pontiac SC/T Grand Am to the No. 3 position with an elapsed time of 6.881 seconds at 199.26 mph.

"We feel like we're making long strides with this new SC/T Grand Am," said Edwards. "This team has come a long way. We started out the season with a new Pontiac and it looks like it's going to be pretty good. Frank Iaconio is giving us great horsepower and I can't say enough about what this team has been able to accomplish today. We finished off the first part of the weekend with some success, now we have carry that over to tomorrow.

"This place can throw you a curve. It's kind of like racing at Las Vegas because of the elevation, and I didn't run well there so I was concerned on how we would perform here. It's a great feeling to run as well as we have so far this weekend."

Bruce Allen's Pontiac Grand Am jumped to the No. 4 spot with two solid runs today. His best pass also came in the final session tonight when the Speedco Pontiac turned in a 6.886-second run at 199.40 mph.

"We were a little worried coming into today because we didn't know if the conditions would give us the opportunity to get in the field," said Allen. "We made a really nice run this morning which was actually better than what our Grand Am ran tonight. We were a little too aggressive this evening, still made a good run and maintained our No. 4 qualifying position. As close as this field was, that was awesome. That shows that we can adjust for the different conditions and tomorrow that's going to be pretty important.

"It was such a good qualifying session for the fans. The tech guys and everyone at the top end were cheering us on. Car after car after car kept knocking each other out of the field. Our Speedco Pontiac would have stayed in anyway, but we were fortunate to make a good run tonight and start tomorrow from the top half of the field."

Kurt Johnson's ACDelco Chevrolet had the quickest Cavalier after four rounds of time trials. Johnson took the No. 5 spot with a run of 6.887 seconds at 200.23 mph.

"The track wasn't really all that different from last night," said Johnson. "The air was about 500 feet better, so we didn't make any wholesale changes from what we ran last night. As the last session progressed, I was surprised by the numbers that were being posted and I started moving backwards to where I worried about getting bumped out. Fortunately our ACDelco Chevrolet Cavalier was bale to run that 6.88 and put ourselves back in the top half of the field."

Ron Krisher is qualified in the No. 8 position, Jeg Coughlin Jr. is 10th, George Marnell is 13th, Mark Pawuk is 14th and Troy Coughlin is 16th.

"We've been working on the setup of this new Grand Am," said Marnell. "Up until now we haven't been able to find the sweet spot but we've been working at it to no end. We've actually probably tested this car more this year than we did all of last year. We've been struggling and it shows. But we've been inching up on it and we're getting closer to that right combination. On this pass tonight we swung for the fence, and sure enough, our plan came together."

There are 14 GM cars in the 16-car field tomorrow including six Grand Ams and eight Cavaliers. The bump was Troy Coughlin's 6.912 seconds at 198.15 mph. The qualifying margin is .05 of a second.

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Bruce Allen , George Marnell , Mike Edwards