Dallas Pennzoil Pros to 'Get Into Gear'

Pennzoil pros to 'get into gear' in Dallas DALLAS (April 14) -- With four of the National Hot Rod Association's 22 national events already in the books, Team Pennzoil took a moment to evaluate its performance in 1999. The analysis produced the...

Pennzoil pros to 'get into gear' in Dallas

DALLAS (April 14) -- With four of the National Hot Rod Association's 22 national events already in the books, Team Pennzoil took a moment to evaluate its performance in 1999. The analysis produced the same prognosis in each individual driver's pit -- concerted runs for a world championship must begin immediately.

That will be the mindset throughout the Pennzoil paddock as the team's top drivers descend on the Texas Motorplex next weekend for the third annual Lone Star Nationals presented by O'Reilly Auto Parts. To be sure, each Pennzoil-sponsored driver has shown flashes of brilliance at various points of the young season. Still, it is becoming clearer every race that consistently improved results are necessary if a 1999 Winston championship trophy is to find its way onto the Pennzoil mantel. The following information reflects how each driver plans to start his title hunt in Dallas.

Eddie Hill, the driver of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, is hoping that the memories of his past successes at the Texas Motorplex, which include the sport's first four-second lap and clinching the 1993 world championship, will be the mental springboard his team needs to recognize their current racing goals.

"We need to get our edge back and get back on top of this sport," Hill said from his home in Wichita Falls, Texas. "We want to be No. 1 in the points again and have the quickest and fastest car out there. The first step towards those goals is to win races. Why not start a winning streak at a track where we've been on top of the world before. It's time to get on with it. Everyone on the team is so anxious to make us the best car in the world.

"A few golden opportunities have slipped by us this year. The car was running so fast in Pomona (Calif.) at the first race of the year. We ran a 4.535-second lap and we were ready to go after the title when the car wouldn't go into reverse after a burnout. We've set career best speeds and times several times this year only to run into some unforeseeable problem on Race Day. I'll tell you what, when we get all our equipment working properly at the same time, we'll be a handful to contend with. I hope it all starts right now in Dallas."

Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, has yet to showcase the potential his car showed during preseason testing when it ran the best unofficial time ever recorded of 6.845 seconds at 200.17 mph. Thomas has qualified for two of the first four events of the season and has logged an 0-2 record in elimination-round racing.

"It's time to get into gear," said Thomas, who last year finished in the No. 6 spot of the Pro Stock championship points standings, which led Team Pennzoil's drag racing effort. "Everybody misses races here and there and everybody has times when they're down. But we are well aware of the fact that our allotment of mistakes has already been used up.

"I really believe we made a lot of progress in Houston. We qualified well, the car was working well and we ran the best lap of the day on Sunday in the left-hand lane. Unfortunately, we were the quickest car that lost in the first round and we went home early despite running a time that would have won most of the other races. Hopefully, that won't happen again.

"We'll be testing in St. Louis prior to the Dallas race and (car builder) Jerry Bickel has scheduled some time with us to make some minor chassis adjustments, so I feel like we'll be on our game in Dallas. At this point, we have to be ready to go at every race."

Bruce Allen, the driver of The Outlaw Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, returns to his home track feeling pressure to prove his team's viability. After posting career-best speeds on the preseason testing circuit, Allen and crew have gone on to qualify for just one race and have won one elimination round so far in 1999. The Arlington, Texas, resident was hoping for more in the early stages of the season and he now looks for a fresh start in front of his family, friends and co-workers in Dallas.

"We're desperately looking for a race that will show we're on our way up," Allen said. "Our mentality now is that there is no next week. We need to prove that we can do it right now. Racing is our livelihood. Our sponsors pay us to win races and it's time we reward them for their loyalty.

"You can never start the title hunt too early. But the first thing we need to do is find a way to be consistent and qualify at every race. To do that we need to find a way to pick up two thousandths of a second. Then we need to find a way to pick up another two thousandths of a second so that we're qualifying in the top half of the field. If we can do that every race then we'll be in a position to win.

"It's frustrating because we are all working harder now than we ever have before. We just need to narrow our focus to the point where we can find exactly what little component is holding us back. Everyone at this shop and on our race team knows how to get the job done when the problem is revealed. The key is to identify the problem. I can guarantee you that we'll keep working until we're back on top. There is no surrender on this team."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Bruce Allen