Gainesville Battle of 60-year-olds to Highlight Race Day

Battle of 60-year-olds to Highlight Race Day GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 20) -- One of the most interesting races on the schedule for the opening round of eliminations at the 30th Annual Mac Tools Nationals will feature a pair of sexagenarian's ...

Battle of 60-year-olds to Highlight Race Day

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 20) -- One of the most interesting races on the schedule for the opening round of eliminations at the 30th Annual Mac Tools Nationals will feature a pair of sexagenarian's racing side-by-side. Pennzoil Top Fuel driver Eddie Hill, who at 63-years-old is the oldest driver in the National Hot Rod Association, seemed happy with his first round pairing against "that youngster, Connie Kalitta," who recently turned 61.

"Score one for the graybeards," Hill said with a grin. "This should be a lot of fun for both of old guys. I just hope Conrad remembers to show respect for his elders." Hill, of Wichita Falls, Texas, is the oldest driver in drag racing history to win a national event (at age 60) and a world championship (at 57-years-old in 1993.) He also is a three-time winner of the Gatornationals (in 1988, '92 and '93.)

The rest of Team Pennzoil didn't fare quite as well as Hill. Both Bruce Allen and Mike Thomas failed to qualify for Sunday's elimination racing action.

Here's a recap of each driver's weekend.

Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, qualified for his 43rd straight elimination session with his opening round lap of 4.577 seconds at 314.97 mph. The time temporarily gave Hill the No. 1 spot, but he eventually settled for eighth place on the ladder.

"After that first lap put us safely in the show, we spent all of our energy trying to be the first driver to run a 4.4-second pass," Hill said. "We were pushing the car as much as we could and we ended up breaking some parts along the way. We're still real happy with where we are heading into tomorrow. We do have lane choice (due to a superior qualifying time over Kalitta) and that should really help us get through the first round.

"We sure are having fun in sunny Florida. My wife Ercie is from here and our Pennzoil boss Tom Floyd was raised pretty close to here. The fans have been so receptive that we feel like we're at home. Their support means the world to us."

Kalitta qualified in the No. 9 spot with a run of 4.584 seconds at 314.61 mph.

Bruce Allen, the driver of The Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, narrowly missed the super-quick 16-car field of cars that will compete on Sunday. Allen's third round 6.979-second lap at 195.73 mph - his best of the weekend - left him in 18th place, a mere seven-thousandths of a second out of contention.

"I'm so upset right now that I feel sick to my stomach," Allen said. "We can't keep racing right on the edge like this. We have to get quicker and qualify solidly in the field at every race. We will finally unveil our new Don Ness car in Houston and we are very hopeful that it will help us get to that next level. We'll have plenty of laps on it by then so we should know how it runs."

Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, failed to qualify for the elimination rounds after four sub-par runs. Thomas' best lap was a 7.034-second, 196.93-mph pass he made in Round 3, which left him well back in the 39-car pack in 28th place.

"We don't have a clue what's wrong," Thomas said flatly. "I'm lost. We are already scheduling some extensive testing between now and Houston. I have to find out what's wrong with this car. I don't know how we went from running a 6.845-second lap during preseason testing in January to being this confused right now. These problems are putting us in a tough spot early in the season and that's never a good position to be in. We have to fight through this."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Bruce Allen , Connie Kalitta