Gainesville: Pontiac final qualifying

GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 17, 2001 - Qualifying for the 32nd annual Mac Tools Gatornationals continued today at Gainesville Raceway. In Pro Stock, Mark Pawuk took the No. 1 qualifying spot, his first pole position since the 1992 Winternationals...

GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 17, 2001 - Qualifying for the 32nd annual Mac Tools Gatornationals continued today at Gainesville Raceway. In Pro Stock, Mark Pawuk took the No. 1 qualifying spot, his first pole position since the 1992 Winternationals at Pomona, Calif. The Summit Racing Grand Am stepped up in the third round of qualifying this morning with a track-record time of 6.846 seconds at 200.68 mph. Darrell Alderman is the No. 2 qualifier in a Dodge. Ron Krisher is third with the quickest Cavalier. The Eagle One Chevy qualified with a run of 6.856 seconds at 201.46 mph. Jim Yates is qualified fourth in a Grand Am, Mike Edwards is fifth in a Cavalier and Kurt Johnson is sixth in Cavalier with the fastest top speed to this point. KJ's ACDelco Chevy ran 6.869 seconds at a track-record 202.24 mph. Jeg Coughlin is seventh in a Cavalier, Rickie Smith is eighth, Mark Osborne is ninth, Tom Martino's Century 21 Grand Am is 10th, Brad Jeter is 13th, George Marnell is 14th and Warren Johnson is 15th. This is the first all 200-mph qualifying field in NHRA history.

In Pro Stock Truck, defending Gatornationals champion took the No. 1 qualifier in an S-10 with a track-record elapsed time of 7.431 seconds at 180.98 mph. Greg Stanfield is qualified second in an S-10 with a national-record top speed of 182.08 mph. Bob Panella is third in an S-10 and teammate Jeff Gracia is fourth in a Sonoma with a run of 7.456 seconds at 179.92 mph.

In Funny Car, John Force is the No. 1 qualifier with a 4.812 elapsed time at 316.08 mph. Frank Pedregon is second in a Firebird, Dean Skuza is third in a Dodge, Del Worsham is fourth in a Firebird and Ron Capps is fifth in a Camaro. Tommy Johnson Jr. is sixth in a Camaro, Tony Bartone is seventh in a Firebird, Tony Pedregon is eighth in a Mustang, Al Hofmann is ninth in a Firebird and Tim Wilkerson is 10th in a Firebird.

In Top Fuel Gary Scelzi is the No. 1 qualifier with a run of 4.576 seconds at 322.58 mph. Team Chevrolet driver Larry Dixon is second with a lap of 4.588 seconds at 316.38 mph. Mike Dunn in the Gwynn/Steinbrenner/GMC/GM Mobility dragster is qualified third. Dunn covered the quarter mile in 4.591 seconds at a track-record top speed of 326.79 mph. Doug Kalitta is fourth and Kenny Bernstein is fifth.

PRO STOCK

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Grand Am) - "The Summit Racing Grand Am's been working really well for us, we've worked hard on the first part of the racetrack and it's showing. We don't have the most power out here, we're not running a tremendous amount of speed but we're running very fast to the eighth mile. We're making consistent runs. There was a lot of racetrack out there for guys that wanted to run fast and I have to believe that most of the fast cars kind of missed it allowing us to step up. We made the great run at the right time for a change. Both the second run yesterday and the first run today were real smooth. It's kind of like this Pontiac's on glass. It moved around a little more today in fourth and fifth gear. It got a little close to the wall in fourth and started moving around a little bit, but yesterday was definitely the smoothest run we've made in a long time. Obviously today wasn't far off and elapsed time is what counts. Maybe that moving around helped it go faster. It felt good to hit a fat pitch like that. We're just hoping it stays hot so that the number holds up. No. 1 qualifier would really be a great way to go into Sunday eliminations."

Second session: "We missed it a little bit during the last session but I was just hanging on. We don't have the most power out there but we're making the most consistent runs, and we're running really fast to the eighth mile. When you can do that, and the car goes straight good things can happen. The testing paid off. We were a little disappointed with our performance in Pomona after running so well in Houston. We went back to Bradenton last week and ran pretty good again and it showed here. Not so much in the elapsed time, even though it was good, but in the consistency in being able to run quick laps. When things come together like that you can usually go rounds on raceday. Our class is so tight. We all saw those 6.85s that popped up there today. If you leave on time and your car goes down straight down the track then you have a good chance of winning. I think we're one of the fastest cars out there, and if I can continue to drive like I have at the first two races then we may be able to go some rounds. I'd love to win. I've never done that here before. I've been to a final round and I'd love to carry that No. 1 all the way to the winner's circle. The extra couple of inches of wheel base on the Grand Am makes it a lot more stable down track. It seems to go over the bumps better, it's a little more forgiving but we still have a narrow window to work in. Our tune up is different, and the way we figure out our tune up hasn't changed, but our weight distribution, the feel of the car, and the additional stability down track make it a much better car. I can't say enough about our team. Everybody works so well together, and they work so hard - we're focussed. When we're all going in the same direction, good things are going to happen. We've stayed with what we know works and it paid off for us. Rob Downing made the right calls and the car responded." No. 1 qualifier - 6.846ET(track record)/200.68MPH

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am) - "Terry Adams has been working has been working his tail off to figure out how to get a handle on this Splitfire Grand Am. We've had a lot of tire speed all weekend, and we've kept backing it off and backing it off and we still can't get on the other side. Even on that last run we were really aggressive in low gear, had a very bad 60-foot, and we're still one of the best in top speed. Bob's (Ingles) got the motor making a lot of power and now it's just a matter of getting it to the track in low gear. If we get it posted up to run a good 60-foot time, I'm certain we can run a 6.84. We came in here thinking the track was going to be a lot better, and truthfully the testing we did last week may have hurt us. We got here, and every run we make the track is backing up a step-and-a-half for every step we back up. We're really not catching up to it and testing may have given us a false sense of security. Gainesville is the king of speed and the first all 200 mph Pro Stock field proves that. This place has a very smooth track, the barometric pressure is usually tremendous and for the naturally-aspirated engines this is a great place to run high speeds. It's just a matter of getting all of that horsepower to the ground in low gear. This track is a little bit slick the first six or seven feet out. The Cavaliers and the Grand Ams are in a class by themselves right now and if you look at the guys running fast you may see that they've got a little bit left." No. 4 qualifier - 6.863ET/201.61MPH

Brad Jeter (Southern Rods & Parts Pontiac Grand Am) - "We're just trying to be a little more consistent and working on it down low. It kind of threw us a curve in the clutch and right now we've got to get it right. We're just not doing a good job in the bell housing. Hopefully tomorrow we can get it fixed and be ready to race. We have the power to run with the top six cars out here, and I think I know what I have to fix in the bell housing, I just have to put it to use. The new Grand Ams and Cavalier are awfully slick and all 200 mph fields is what they wanted. I think General Motors did a great job designing this body. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. We're fourth in the points now, two points out of third coming in here and if we can maintain our position in the top five we'll be in great shape. I definitely want to be in the hunt this entire season, but it's a long year and I want to battle - give it everything we've got and hopefully we'll be right there." No. 13 qualifier - 6.899ET/200.62MPH

Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Grand Am) - "I think we were extremely lucky that the conditions improved as well as they did for that last session. The track was slightly worse but the weather got a little better. You can make the best run in the world, but if the track and the air aren't there, then sometimes the e.t. doesn't stand up. I've been No. 2 or 3 in a bad session and gone home. We're tickled that we had four opportunities to get our Century 21 Grand Am qualified even though it took us to the last session to get it done. We made wholesale changes to the car after testing. This is the second time we've gone to a race happy after testing. The tracks we test on don't compare to the tracks we race on. We changed the car completely around - the transmission ratio, suspension and weight distribution. We then just made an okay run and still ran a 6.88. I've never been one to boast but I really feel that we have a racecar ready to go tomorrow. There's no excuse for not running a 6.85 on that last pass. It shook horribly through the middle of the track and still ran 200.53 mph. When they told me at the other end that we ran 6.88 I thought 'wow!, we can race tomorrow." No. 10 qualifier - 6.883ET/200.53MPH

George Marnell (Marnell Racing Pontiac Grand Am) - "We didn't make a perfect run. We left a couple of hundredths on the table so that gives us a little incentive to strut our stuff and see what we can do tomorrow. We're excited about it. This is the fastest field in Pro Stock history and we're proud to be a part of it. We're starting off on the right foot this year and if we can keep the momentum going we'll have a pretty good season. We've tested twice since Phoenix, trying some different combinations, and to be quite honest we don't have these new Grand Ams figured out yet. We're getting closer, and I think as soon as we get a handle on it, this car is going to be really fast. What's nice about these cars is even on tracks that are marginal down track, they're pretty stable. That's going to come in handy tomorrow. This track surface has been tricky to get a hold of and I think as the weekend progresses, everyone's getting a better handle on it." No. 14 qualifier - 6.903ET/200.11MPH

PRO STOCK TRUCK

Mike Corvo Jr. (Motorhomes Unlimited GMC Sonoma) - "We went into the third qualifying heat not in the field so the pressure was really on us to make sure we made a good run in the good session. These guys are carrying me though - Rick Jones, Charles Burnett, Ricky Jones. We stayed up until midnight last night talking and in the morning they made the decision that got us in the show. This GMC Sonoma made a great pass when we really needed it. I knew it was good as soon as I hit third gear. The truck was back on the wheelie bars, the front end was up and it felt really good. The field's real tight and just because we're No. 6 racing No. 11 doesn't mean a thing. We'll need to be on our game and hopefully we can win some rounds." No. 6 qualifier - 7.476ET/179.95MPH

-GM Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Bob Panella , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Darrell Alderman , Brad Jeter , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Tony Bartone , Al Hofmann , Dean Skuza , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Ron Krisher , Jeff Gracia , Greg Stanfield , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Terry Adams , Mike Corvo Jr. , Rickie Smith , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr.