Gainesville Friday report

Opening Day thrills provided by Hill GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 19) -- An appreciative near-capacity crowd greeted the fastest drivers of the world Friday as qualifying for the 30th Annual Mac Tools Nationals commenced at Gainesville ...

Opening Day thrills provided by Hill

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 19) -- An appreciative near-capacity crowd greeted the fastest drivers of the world Friday as qualifying for the 30th Annual Mac Tools Nationals commenced at Gainesville Raceway.

The day started out great for Team Pennzoil. The quickest car in the first round was Pennzoil Top Fuel driver Eddie Hill, who ran a solid 4.577-second lap at 314.97 mph to grab the early pole. As Hill himself predicted, the time didn't hold the top spot for long with two other drivers managing to eclipse his mark in the second session.

Here's the latest news from the Pennzoil pits.

Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, dropped a cylinder during his second lap and failed to improve on his opening 4.577-second, 314.97-mph pass. The Wichita Falls, Texas resident still managed to stay near the top of the field in the No. 3 position.

"After such a great start we decided to try an experimental cam shaft in the second run and it didn't quite work," Hill said. "Experimenting with different things to make your car faster is the big advantage you have when you qualify well in the first round. Now we plan on returning the car to its race day set-up so that we can accomplish our primary goal of being the first 4.4-second car in the history of the sport. It could happen tomorrow morning."

Bruce Allen, the driver of The Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, ran a much-improved 6.997-second lap at 195.90 mph in Round 2. Despite posting the quicker time, Allen actually slipped out of the field into 17th place, as the majority of the Pro Stock teams were able to find more speed in the afternoon session.

"That was a pretty good lap for us," Allen said. "We hit it pretty close to how we want this car to run. We improved four-hundredths of a second (in Round 2) and if we can do that again tomorrow when the conditions are a little cooler, then we'll be looking good. We're on the outside looking in right now so our No. 1 goal is to get into the field. I think we can do that."

Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, had another unsuccessful pass in the second session. Thomas fishtailed wildly just off the starting line and he turned his car off to avoid an accident. He is currently in 38th place in the 39-car field.

"We made some pretty drastic changes in the drive train before we got here and so far it has been very hard to get an accurate setting for the clutch," Thomas said. "Once again, we spun like crazy right from the start that run. If I ever get this car past second gear, it'll be hell on wheels. For now, we're searching for the proper set-up. It's time to get to work."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Bruce Allen