Columbus Pennzoil Sunday Preview

Powerful pair will represent Pennzoil COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 12) -- Team Pennzoil drivers Eddie Hill and Mike Thomas survived four competitive qualifying sessions and earned the right to chase the title of the 35th Annual Pontiac Excitement ...

Powerful pair will represent Pennzoil

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 12) -- Team Pennzoil drivers Eddie Hill and Mike Thomas survived four competitive qualifying sessions and earned the right to chase the title of the 35th Annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals during Sunday's elimination action at National Trail Raceway. The pair managed to beat the heat that descended on Central Ohio this weekend and were able to find a set-up for their cars that agreed with the tracks' oily, hot surface.

Here are the latest facts and figures from the Team Pennzoil pits.

Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, will use his Saturday morning pass of 4.705 seconds at 303.16 mph to take the No. 10 position on the qualifying ladder. Hill will open Sunday's elimination action against longtime friend Joe Amato, who qualified seventh with a pass of 4.682 seconds at 317.94 mph. Amato, who is a two-time national event winner in 1999, will have the advantage of lane choice over Hill.

"It'll be a real challenge to figure this track out by tomorrow morning," Hill said. "As soon as I got done with my fourth round lap I ran up to the tower to watch the rest of the fuel cars. It seems like nearly all of them are struggling to get down this hot track and I have a sneaky feeling this will turn into one of those deals where each individual race will be won by the car that gets all the way down the track under full power.

"I'm expecting Joe to put us in the left lane and we struggled in that lane in Round 4. But we did get a little closer to finding out what we can do over there as far as the tune-up goes. Of course, I'm making the tune up decisions myself this year and I know our success or failure tomorrow will depend on the calls I personally make in regards to the set-up. The ball's squarely in my court and that really gets my juices flowing."

Acting as his own crew chief, Hill, 63, has qualified for nine events this season and has logged seven elimination round wins. He and Amato have not faced each other in 1999.

Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, completed qualifying with a 7.116-second pass at 195.73 mph. His quickest lap was a 7.041-second pass at 196.07 mph that awarded him the No. 4 spot in the field. Thomas will face Tom Martino in Round 1 of eliminations. Martino qualified 13th with a 7.083-second pass at 195.56 mph.

"We couldn't be happier," Thomas said. "We've had four great laps that were all very consistent and tomorrow can't get here fast enough for me. It was nice to qualify deep enough in the field on Friday that we had a chance to try some different set ups today. Our class is so close that you're always searching for something that can pick up a fraction of a second here or there. We were able to do some of that today."

Thomas is currently in 15th place in the Winston points standings. He has successfully qualified for eight national events this season and has carded three elimination round wins.

Bruce Allen, the pilot of The Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, finished outside the 16-car field that will race for the title tomorrow after two shut-off laps in Saturday's third and fourth rounds. Allen's best lap of the weekend was a 7.094-second, 195.53-mph pass he carded Friday morning, which was 0.002 seconds off the pace.

"I'm beyond disappointed," Allen said. "It seems like a different set of problems haunts us every week. I keep telling myself 'it'll get better, it'll get better,' but it never does. This one really hurts because today's two sessions were both good enough for us to improve but we squandered our chances away any ways. We all know that second and third chances don't happen very often in the summertime. I just don't know what to say any more."

Crew chief Dave Reher is ready for drastic changes. "We're discussing the possibility of returning to our old car," he said. "That one's slower but at least we know it will go down the track every time. Desperate times lead to desperate moves. I'm tired of being embarrassed like this. We've be doing this too long to have these sort of results."

Allen has qualified for three races this season and has recorded one elimination round win. Entering this race he held the 19th spot in the Winston points standings.

Mike Ferderer, the driver of both the Pennzoil Super Gas Pontiac and the Gumout Super Comp Dragster, remains in the title hunt in his Super Gas car and will continue battling for the bracket's crown Sunday. Ferderer ran a 9.917-second lap at 149.85 mph in Saturday's Round 3 of eliminations to beat Randy Slusher, who broke out of the class' 9.90-second index with a 9.856-second pass.

"Anyone who makes it to the third round in this part of the country is a very capable driver," Ferderer said. "I was worried about this track and the various bald spots on the starting line and I was worried about Slusher. The Pennzoil Pontiac did get a little loose at the start but I managed to pull her back in and complete the lap."

Ferderer was eliminated in the second round of Super Comp racing due to a starting line violation. He launched in 0.390 seconds, missing the green light by 0.01 seconds. "The Top Fuel cars ran just before we did and the track ended up being a lot better than I expected," Ferderer said. "The Gumout Dragster launched harder than normal and that was enough to get the big red eye."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Joe Amato , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino