FUNNY CAR: JIM EPLER'S CAMARO NO. 1 QUALIFIER...FOR NOW JIM EPLER, KANE'S BIG RED MACHINE CAMARO Z28, is No. 1 qualifier (4.947/278.06) after only two rounds of Funny Car qualifying due to rain delays. One round of qualifying for Funny Car and...
FUNNY CAR: JIM EPLER'S CAMARO NO. 1 QUALIFIER...FOR NOW
JIM EPLER, KANE'S BIG RED MACHINE CAMARO Z28, is No. 1 qualifier (4.947/278.06) after only two rounds of Funny Car qualifying due to rain delays. One round of qualifying for Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster will be held tomorrow at 11 a.m. before eliminations begin at 1 p.m. Tire problems and cold temperatures have caused concern among competitors and officials, resulting in the cancellation of a third qualifying session this evening. Drivers and crew chiefs are reporting that the track is "too good," and the tires are gripping too well. NHRA will check the track overnight in an attempt to fix the problem.
JERRY TOLIVER, THE 'ROCK' CAMARO Z28, is No. 2 qualifier (4.974/298.47). However, this pass was made with the Pontiac body. Toliver then switched to the Camaro body for the second qualifying session (6.519/135.41).
EPLER: "It's unbelievable that we could have a situation where the track is too good. The fortunate thing for us is that we made a run last night that gave us enough data that fixed the problem we had yesterday. The car went down the track and I shut it off at 1100 feet. It could have run a little better."
TOLIVER: "The track is not allowing the tire to slip at all down there (at the end of the track). It's pulling the rubber off the tire. We don't know whether it's a manufacturing problem; it's never happened before. It's happening to everybody. It's not one bad batch (of tires). Last night we had huge chunks out of the tire." ON SWITCHING TO THE CAMARO BODY: "Dale Armstrong (crew chief) just felt that we would change the body strictly because the track was in such good condition and had such good grip. We didn't need downforce. It actually slowed down the e.t. and speed. Dale felt we didn't need the extra downforce that we were getting with the Pontiac body. So we changed to the Camaro. It's a better body for this race track."
WHIT BAZEMORE, KENDALL OIL/MATCO TOOLS CAMARO Z28, was on the losing side of the tire and traction problem tonight. He experienced a blown left rear tire which tore apart his Camaro body. Whit deftly kept the car under control, avoiding hitting the guard wall, recording an elapsed time of 5.045 seconds at 295.27 mph, good for the No. 4 qualifying position.
BAZEMORE: "It all happened so quickly. At one point I was going down the track and everything was perfect. I was paying attention to the usual things, such as how the Camaro was running, and where I was in the groove. I was worried that something had gone wrong with the motor, because it nosed over near the top end. Then all of a sudden, at the finish line, the tire just let go, and it got really loud. Right away, the car wanted to turn, and I had to fight to keep it straight. It's a shame because it tore the hell out of our car. The Camaro body we had used for this weekend with the Kendall/Sunoco/Matco paint scheme was brand new -- that last run was only the second time it went down the track -- and now it's destroyed. In addition, we'll also have to go to our backup chassis. It shouldn't be a problem, but it's a lot of work for the team. I have no doubt that it was a tire failure. When we took the engine apart, we found it was just a little rich, with absolutely no damage. The problem is the track is just so good that the tires don't slip at all, which creates a lot of heat between the core and the rubber. Everyone's tires look the same, we were just the unfortunate ones. I'm sure Goodyear will resolve it because they make a great product. It's going to be a long night, but we'll be ready for eliminations."
RON CAPPS, U.S. TOBACCO CO. CAMARO Z28, is No. 16, 7.236/264.96.
PRO STOCK: PRO STOCK FIELD SET, KJ IS NO. 16, HAMMONDS IS A DNQ
KURT JOHNSON, ACDELCO CAMARO Z28, experienced a nail-biter this evening. He had not yet qualified for the field as the third, and final, qualifying session came around. He squeezed out a 6.880-second lap at 201.01 mph, which put him into the 16th spot in the quickest Pro Stock field in NHRA history (6.822 to 6.880).
KURT: DID YOU HAVE ONE EYE ON THE SKY HOPING IT WOULDN'T RAIN? "I didn't even worry about it. I just kind of said I didn't want to look at the sky. If we're lucky enough to get another run, I know I can get in, and even down there at the finish line they told me I ran an .85. I said 'Hey, that's good. At least I'm in, I'm not going to get bumped.' Then Jeff (Purley, crew chief) comes down and says we're barely in. I said, 'what do you mean we're barely in?' He told me we ran an .88 with a zero (the scoreboard had a few bulbs out). There were five or six cars left and I said let's weigh this thing and go back to the truck, let's not even watch. I'm sure I couldn't have run faster on a perfect run, but we haven't made a perfect run with this (new) car yet. Once we figure it out, it's going to be a good car."
TOM HAMMONDS, WINNEBACO/GM PERFORMANCE PARTS CAMARO Z28, did not qualify in his first appearance of the year (6.979/197.88). Tom was devastated by the death of his friend and Minnesota Timberwolves' teammate, Malik Sealy:
HAMMONDS: BEFORE THE FINAL QUALIFYING SESSION: "I planned on leaving tomorrow, but found out we are taking the team plane to the funeral. I'm not sure when that will be. We are in limbo at the moment. There's no reason to go back and sit around the house. When I find out when the team plane is going to leave I will leave. Malik I'm sure knows how much I love racing and he wanted me to be doing what I love to do. So we will run here and see what happens and when I find out the situation with the team plane, I will fly with the team to the funeral in New York City."
AFTER THE FINAL QUALIFYING SESSION: "We just chased it all weekend. With the weather we were not getting a good run. In the first session we were just kind of out in left field. We got a little bit closer in the last run, but we were way, way light on the clutch. For us to run a .97 -- looking at the way the run came up on the computer-- we thought was pretty good. There's a hundred per cent room for improvement in our Chevy Camaro. Horsepower is not a problem. Ron Krisher, Jimmy Oliver and Tom Roberts gave us good power. We just have to apply it to the track now." ON THE SMOKE WE SAW IN THE FIRST RUN TODAY: "There was smoke out of the back end. The tires were rubbing against the body. That killed a lot of our e.t. and speed. We came back and made some adjustments and I think we got that problem cured. The big thing now is that we have to go out and keep testing and we are ready to run fast in Dallas." HOW DID IT FEEL AFTER YOUR FIRST OUTING THIS YEAR? "I am disappointed. Obviously you are disappointed when you don't qualify, but at the same time this is our first race and we know we have a lot to work on as a team, but the positive thing about it is that I have a good crew, good people who work hard, and that's a big key." WAS SEALY ON YOUR MIND? "It was tough. There were times that I thought of not even running today, but knowing how Malik knows how much I love drag racing he wouldn't have it any other way. He and I would talk about him coming to a race; actually we talked about him coming here because he's a native New Yorker. It's just a tough situation. I had a lot of stuff on my mind, but Malik will just have to watch from a different seat." WHERE YOU GOOD FRIENDS? "He was definitely a good friend. I played with him the last two years and got to know him personally. Our whole team is very close. I think that's very unusual in professional sports today. That's why it was really hard to take when I first heard the news."