ENNIS, Tex. (May 28, 2000) - Final eliminations for the 4th annual Castrol Nationals were held today at the Texas Motorplex. PRO STOCK Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) - "All things considered we're not overly...
ENNIS, Tex. (May 28, 2000) - Final eliminations for the 4th annual Castrol Nationals were held today at the Texas Motorplex.
Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) - "All things considered we're not overly disappointed with the outcome today. I try to look at the big picture and remember when I stole one from Vieri (Gaines) at the finals at Sonoma a couple of years ago. We didn't make a decent run in that race but we still won. It all averages out over the course of a career so I guess it's all right. There's a long season ahead of us and obviously we gained some points this weekend on the leader. All we have to do is just gain one round per race, so after today, we're actually two rounds ahead of schedule. We've found some things out in the last two weeks on this car and Kurt's car that coming into the hot part of the season is going to be beneficial to us. We took what we considered to be our best motor out because it's performance was deteriorating. Now we can freshen that motor up -- it's considerably faster than the piece we used here this weekend. The motor we used today we ran a tire test with Hoosier on it, and three test sessions at Atlanta with it without taking it apart, so it has a lot of runs on it. To run as well as it did is pretty impressive since we were the fastest car out there. We feel pretty good based on some things we learned about the chassis and now we can go back, tune the engines up and we'll be in pretty good shape for the rest of the season. This kind of track for the most part benefits ours program with the power we have. The track remained pretty consistent today even though it started getting some long bald spots at the starting line. We were chasing that around but even then we were making decent runs. Certainly the object is to win, but looking at the big picture, being runner up means we were better than 14 other cars out here."
Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing/Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird) - "It was a close race against Warren (Johnson). For some reason we haven't been able to run a lot of speed here in the last few races and he caught me right at the traps. I thought Mr. D (engine) might take him out today - it just didn't happen. The Summit Racing Firebird ran good, and we were the only car to run good in that lane that session but we had a car that made it to the semi finals (Greg Anderson). Hopefully we're starting to gain the momentum again as we get a little closer to Columbus. It took us until Sunday, but we were able to crack that six-second barrier. We made a pretty good run in the first session, and actually made a pretty good run in the second round. Our raceday tune up is looking pretty good. We just need to improve on our qualifying numbers and keep going rounds on raceday. We'll continue with the gameplan we've been on and hopefully at the end of the year you'll see this car in the top five in points."
Bruce Allen (Texas Harley Pontiac Firebird) - "I really felt I had a good shot at beating Greg (Anderson). I thought we had a good car, that we would make a decent run and cut a good light. But we still did a lot better today than what we thought we would. We didn't do as well as we would have liked, but better than expected. The car went dead right in the second round. In the first round, it went a little left. It didn't get out of the groove but we decided to make a small correction for the second round. I let the clutch out and the car just drove to the right. This is a track where you can't get it back. You have the wheel turned, and you keep cranking on it but it's tough to get it back. That's what gets you in trouble here. The farther downtrack you go, once it bites it just shoots you over to the other side. You gain more and more speed, and once you get the tires turned it takes you across the track. You have to know when it's the right time to get out of it. We didn't adjust enough for it to go right like that so it likes we adjusted the wrong thing. Next week in Chicago we'll have the Dominator Duel and it will be a whole new start. We missed a run here and were one lap behind. We want to get qualified good and solid there so that we can take four good shot at the racetrack before eliminations. We weren't able to do that here and that hurt us."
Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) - "We simply underestimated the track. We thought it would be a little worse than last night and that's how we set the car up. In actuality, it was about two hundredths better. As a result, we knocked the clutch out of it all the way down the track. We had out run Gaines by three hundredths each time down the track, so we should have gone 6.97 to seven flat. But he did a good job today and we were too light on the clutch. Last night we were aggressive with our setup and our Century 21 Firebird went pretty fast. Unfortunately we didn't stick with it and we should have. Trust me, we won't let that happen again."
Brad Jeter (Dynagear Pontiac Firebird) - "The motor's working great, the crew's doing a good job and we're still working on getting some new motors put together. It's good to know that we can make a bad run and still qualify. We always want to qualify in the top half but I don't really think lane choice was all that important today. This program's coming around, we're not discouraged and we're happy with what's going on. The main thing is that we picked up after every round this weekend. Things are looking up for us and we're looking forward to the rest of the season. We feel that by the Western swing we should be in great shape. We're competitive now but not exactly where we want to be. All the guys by at Schmidt's Shop are doing a great job. We'll going to get this Dynagear Pontiac Firebird in the winner's circle before too long."
Cristen Powell (Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird) - "We're really happy with this weekend. We went from not qualifying at a number of races to not only qualifying, but starting today from the top half of the field. We won first round and almost run down John Force in round two. We ran a 4.95, and a 4.96 which is great for us, and that last lap was at 307 mph. Andy Neering has done a great job as crew chief, and Helen (Hofmann) has put in a lot of work trying to get this team put together. Now we're looking forward to getting to Chicago. It's a gorgeous facility and even though I've only raced there once, I'm looking forward to it. Some people may not like racing at back-to-back events but we can't wait to get on the racetrack again. It's getting exciting around here because our Pontiac Firebird is beginning to run fast. We sat out the last qualifying session and that was the right thing to do. We ran a great final lap in qualifying, and then came back today and did it again. The car left really hard, softened up in the middle and then came on strong at the end of the track. That's where the high mph came from."
Al Hofmann (Mooneyes/Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird) - "I was pretty proud of the whole Mooneyes/Red Line Oil Pontiac team here, especially Jim Dunn. We struggled with this car all weekend, and to pull that 4.91 out of the hat like that was pretty impressive, but that's what he's known for. When his back is up against the wall he's ready to go race. It was a heckuva job by the whole team. I left on him and at halftrack this Firebird was out in front by a fender. By a thousand feet we had him by six inches and then he just went around us in the lights. It was a good drag race, I just need to quit coming up short against that guy. I really feel like Jim has a good handle on this five-disc clutch and I think that will keep getting better. It would've been nice to take the fastest guy out in the first round but we came up about four inches short. Sooner or later we'll come up on the winning end of this thing and get a couple of victories. The team needs it, they've worked hard, but it will come."
Jim Dunn (Mooneyes/Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird) - "With the heat of the track it may have been a little loose in the middle. Last night we smoked them in the middle because our tune up and clutch weren't happy together, so we changed the whole setup so that the two would work together. That's why the Mooneyes Firebird went down through there like it did. Last night in the final session we hopped it up and blew the tires off. That's why we worked with the clutch to make it compatible with the power we gave it. We gave it more compression and more mag - we can't give it more nitro. The motor's happy because it was running 245 at the eighth mile. This was a proven combination here. We ran a 4.91, now we have to pick up the mph to between 307 and 310 and then it will run a 4.88."
Tim Wilkerson (Sioux City Kenworth Pontiac Firebird) - "We've been getting things turned around on our level of performance. We're just trying to be consistent and make this Sioux City Kenworth Pontiac Firebird go down the racetrack. We did that in the first round and the car did precisely what we wanted it to do. We tried to run a 4.94 and it went a 4.93 so we were real happy with that. We stepped it up a little for Tony (Pedregon), but the clutch pedal fell off the turnbuckle. I don't know if the bolt broke or what happened to it, but that kind of stuff happens - that's a part drag racing. You're going to have those small mechanical failures that seem to plague your life sometimes but maybe we can go to Chicago, and knock on wood, act like we know what we're doing there. It would be really cool to be a repeat champion. It took me a long time to be a champion and to be a repeat winner would be really cool. We're just going to keep our heads on our shoulders, go race and learn something about our racecar. Hopefully we can continue our sponsor search. We'll have a big announcement in Chicago about a new sponsor, and it won't put us up there with John Force, but it will keep us in the hunt. This was a big ego boost for my guys. We work on these things every day and they just beat you up. When they throw us a bone it's good for everybody. When your attitudes are up then your performance is up. I've found out from experience that it's as true in racing as it is in business."
Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "It's not part of the master plan to have these two cars face each other in round one. Later in the race would be fine, but round one is not the goal around here. As tough as qualifying was here, we were both happy to get in as high as we did. It was just bad luck that we drew each other. We probably had something in the clutch system malfunction, or maybe the magneto retarder system, because it just shouldn't have done that. There really wasn't any reason for it to smoke the tires at that point on the track. I know I left on him pretty well, then zing, it went up in smoke. I pedaled it once, but he was gone. We'll analyze it more later, but right now we're all working on getting Frankie's CSK Pontiac Firebird some more round wins today."
Frank Pedregon (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "First of all congratulations to Scotty Cannon, Jimbo Ermalovich and the whole Oakley team. The fact that they were up there with us is a credit to Scotty's program. I wanted him there, I wanted to race, so I'm glad they made it up there. My car sounded a little off from the hit of the throttle. I knew it was mixing some cylinders up, then it just banged and the pressure relief panel went flying. It actually didn't hurt much. The blower is still on it and there aren't any rids out of it or anything. To be safe, we're just putting all new stuff on it: a new motor, new mags, new plug wires the whole thing. Both teams are working together well and that's a good thing because we've run at the end of each round and have absolutely no more than the magic 75 minutes to get back up there. We've got my brother Tony in the semifinals. I'm one and one against him this year, so I'm planning on going up on him on this lap."
FEDERAL MOGUL FUNNY CAR
Pat Austin (ProMax/Valvoline Pontiac Firebird) -- "This feels great. We got all 70 wins with GM products and Pontiac has been here today with the Firebird body -- it's really been a tremendous help. I can't say enough how much we appreciate all their support. To get 70 wins in a career has just been a wonderful experience. We've done it with my mom, my dad (Walt Austin), my brother and my sister -- it's just been a family affair. It's been that way from the start and it remains that way after 70 wins.
Does the 70th win feel as good as the first win? "Absolutely. The wins don't get any easier. Anytime you get a win in this sport it's quite an accomplishment and it means that you did something right on that particular day. They're not easy to win anymore, although it's not like they ever were, but you look back years ago and think maybe it was, but it wasn't. What's going on now is very, very tough and we're just glad to have the ProMax/Valvoline Firebird in the thick of things this year. We hope we can get Pontiac another world championship this season and that's what we're shooting for.
Are you satisfied with the season so far? "We're going at it full tilt but it takes a lot of help to do that. We have many sponsors that help us get to where we need to go. We won in Phoenix, we won a points race at Mission Raceway and we won here today, so we have three wins this year towards the world championship. It's awful early in the season, but just to be in the thick of things and be involved in this sport is where it's all at."
Where do you go from here? "We'll go to Chicago, we'll have a week off after that to prepare and then we'll go to the Pontiac Excitement Nationals in Columbus. We'll then head west for the points series on the west coast. We're committed to this, we're going after it and you don't get any better sitting at home. The more you do it the more you improve so we're ready to go. Today you wonder if the conditions can get any hotter than this, but I'm sure they will just as bad during the next few months. It's actually better to have it this hot before the summer schedule where the heat is constant. This is a good race for us. We were able to get this Firebird to run in the 5.60s this weekend and it's a credit to my father and my crew. I'm just a very lucky guy."