BAYTOWN, Tex. (April 16, 2000) - Final eliminations were held today for the 13th annual O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park. PRO STOCK Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) - "I feel real good about the way the car and the team...
BAYTOWN, Tex. (April 16, 2000) - Final eliminations were held today for the 13th annual O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park.
Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) - "I feel real good about the way the car and the team worked this weekend. Bob (Ingles) keeps building us good power and the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird has been running awfully strong. It's just a matter of getting the breaks to fall our way. We outran most of the cars we raced, I drove well, and it was just a matter of trying to get it all to come together. I'm proud of the way we came back. We have a whole new combination in the car right now and it seems to be responding fairly well. It's just a matter of going to Richmond and doing the same thing. We have a whole new combination on the car and we just have to run it in some different track conditions."
In the finals: "We both rolled in at the same time, lit the second light and I was late letting the clutch out -- it's as simple as that. I feel bad letting the team down because the car was running good, the motor was making a lot of power and we were making a lot of the right decisions. But we won a round today on a holeshot, and we didn't actually lose on a holeshot, he (Jeg Coughlin) ran a 6.90 which was one of the best runs in eliminations. You just have to give him a lot of credit. He's had the opportunity to race in a lot more final rounds than we have this year and that experience paid off. We have to be thankful that we're not losing in the first round and that we advanced as far as we did. We went a lot of rounds today, and we made a lot of progress to get back to where we need to be at the top of the points list, but it will still take some time to get the experience with this car that they have with their car. Our learning curve is pretty much straight up right now. We're gaining on it pretty quick. We just have to remain consistent. Runner up is not bad. When you go to the finals it shows you're gaining on a lot of people."
Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) - "It wasn't what we wanted. Like a number of people out here, we just have not been able to get hold of this racetrack. It shook the tires in second gear again, just like its done on every pass we've made. It runs so far and we can't get it smooth downtrack. That's where it's hurting us. The racetrack got greased up on the other end. I think a number of people got crossed up at the finish line over there. The Exxon Valdez must have moored there for a while. That's just the way it is - we'll be all right and have it figured out by Richmond."
Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing/Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird) - "As far as being consistent, I've been cutting the lights when I've needed to, and when you continue to go rounds good things will happen. We're way ahead of where we were last year and we're pleased with our program right now. We're solid in the points and keep trucking along, but we need to maintain that momentum for the rest of the season. It's been a great start - two semi-final appearances and a final round for the Summit Racing/Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird in the first five races, so that's not too bad. We don't have a win yet this year, but when you keep going rounds I have to think it's going to happen. We had a great shot today and I thought it was going to be my turn to beat Jim (Yates). He's beat up on me quite a few times but I missed it on the starting line. The car got lose down track, but a little better light on my part would have given us a shot. We still ran well, we're making progress and the guys on the team and the engine shop are doing a great job. If we keep the consistency going and keep winning rounds it could be a great year."
Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) - "This was a tough weekend. We found ourselves battling both our Century 21 Firebird and the racetrack throughout the race, and actually didn't make what I would consider a good run while here. For whatever reason, the car rode very rough - you can't really call it tire shake when the tires bounce off the ground. We tried three different sets of shocks, and made a lot of adjustments, but we were never comfortable with how it was running. What we have to do is make sure we qualify in the top half and get lane choice. I know we're going to do some testing before Richmond to see if we can get this Century 21 Firebird running like it was a few races ago. I'm confident we'll get it figured out, it's just a matter of how soon we'll do it."
Jamie Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) - "Losing in the first round is not the way we wanted this day to end up, but it was a very good race against my dad. I think we were able to show how good both of these Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebirds are. We were the fastest car in the left lane in that sesion so that's something we can build on for Richmond. If we could have performed well enough to qualify in the top six, I think this car could have gone a couple of rounds. Basically, we suffered from inexperience and unfamiliarity with the racetrack. Friday we blew an excellent opportunity and we were lucky to even get in on Saturday morning considering we made it in on top speed. I'm glad that one of us was able to advance and hopefully dad can go all the way to the winner's circle. Our goal this year is to finish in the top 10 of the points standings. Coming in here we were about a round and a half out so qualifying this weekend will help us to keep pace. The way this car is running right now gives me hope that we can make a strong move forward. We had a slow start but now the two-car theory is looking better and better. I'm looking forward to getting to Richmond - it's another fast track and we have a lot of friends and family coming in. We'll want to come out of the trailer, run strong and qualify in the top half of the field."
Richie Stevens (Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird) - "It wasn't pretty but we finally got the win light over Warren. The door broke during the burnout, the shift light didn't work, and the wind was blowing us all over the track. But after 11 tries, we finally beat ol' Warren. Beating W.J. is like winning a race in itself. He makes so few errors and loses only a handful of laps every year so to get by him is a huge accomplishment for this Valspar team. Credit (crew chief) Tommy and John Utt and the rest of the part-time crew we had here this weekend with all of our friends and family in from New Orleans helping us out. FUNNY CAR
Bob Gilbertson (Trick Tank Pontiac Firebird) - "Unbelievable. That's the only way I know how to describe this. It feels like we're in the Wizard of Oz or something. Everybody did a good job, the crew worked hard all day, we just had some lady luck. When you have it going your way you never pay too much attention to who you're racing. I watched the groove and drove straight to it. I did see Capps when he came over in my lane so I backed off because I didn't want to hit him. I did the wheelstand, came down and Capps was right there. I thought, 'this could be ugly.' I thought I saw him touch the centerline so I just took my chances with that and didn't get back into it. We got back into racing last year and I hired Paul Smith because I've always like the work he's done. He's been the kind of guy who can be competitive without running on a big budget. It's worked out for us and we've avoided using up a lot of parts. We had a little bit of bad luck with the 90 percent rule, blown up a few engines but we've had the same engine in this Pontiac Firebird since Gainesville. I think now that we can run hard for the rest of the year. We'll go to Richmond from here, it's not a very good track, but it's the kind of place Paul Smith can tune from. Maybe we can qualify No. 16 and do it all over again. That's all we can hope for - take it one round at a time and give it everything we've got. We can run in the five-ohs pretty good and now we need to see if we can step it up and run in the fours."
Al Hofmann (Jim Dunn's Mooneyes/Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird) - "The clutch locked up too soon and smoked the tires at about 500 feet. The Mooneyes Pontiac Firebird was on a good run so we can't be too disappointed. The early numbers were equal to our 4.91 run but it doesn't count unless you get to the end. We put new blowers on it last night to keep it from dropping cylinders and that helped. The team's coming around and like I've said before, some of these races have our name on them. Our problem right now is that we can run a 4.95 to a five-flat, but before we didn't know how to run a 4.90 to a 4.95 and that's the range we're learning to run in right now. We ran a 4.91 and then a 4.95 in Vegas - it just takes a while to get over each learning curve when you come to them. Once we get that down, we'll try to step up to a 4.85. Every time you make that move it takes you at least a half a dozen runs if you're lucky and a dozen runs if you're not. Sometimes you never get a stage perfected. Right now we're at a plateau where we can run between 4.90 to 4.95."
Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "When I saw Amato, Cory Mac, and Scelzi all shake and go up in smoke, I was worried. This track is so good, but the air throws you curves all the time and it's hard to walk the fine line between too much and too little. Our feeling was we didn't want to smoke the tires early, so we kept the tune-up soft in the front half of the track like it was yesterday. Problem was, yesterday it made it once and didn't make it once. Today it shook again, and finally shook the tires loose. We're going to stay and test here on Monday, to make some short bursts and find the key to getting this car to consistently get to the 300-foot mark. After that point on the track we're fine, but we have to find a way to get consistent at the hit."
Frank Pedregon (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) -- "Man I never saw him, never heard him, never knew he was there. As I hit the finish line and reached for the parachute levers he came around and my heart sank. The Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird is so sweet right now, it's just running so well and so easy. I deep staged there, which hurts the ET, so we really didn't slow down from the 4.90's yesterday. With a regular staging effort that would was a 4.99 or so. I just couldn't believe it when I heard we lost, I thought we won right up until I got out of the car."
Gary Densham (NEC/AAA Southern California Pontiac Firebird) - We ran real well on Friday, did some experimenting on Saturday and went back to something we knew would work for raceday. We had a good holeshot on Skuza in round one, about eight hundredth's in the bank and failed to capitalize on that. We had a piece of the tank come loose, it plugged up a nozzle, burnt up a piston and threw the blower belt off at about 1200 feet. I don't know if we could have beat him or not but it was at least a good race for the fans. We're real pleased with the way the season has gone so far for the NEC Pontiac Firebird. We've had a few oddball things go wrong here at Houston that hurt us, but this is the kind of racetrack we can run on. Hopefully we can go to Richmond and keep running just as fast. We'll get our 2000 Firebird body here pretty soon and until we do, we'll continue to do our best. This car's running too good for us not to win a race and Richmond may be the place we step to the forefront. You have likes and dislikes of various facilities all around the country. Of course you like Houston and Gainesville, places like that where you can throw a lot of power at the racetrack. Richmond has been a little slick recently but it's an area we like to race in with all their great fans and the heritage, we can't wait to get there."
Mike Ferderer (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) - "To say it was a great weekend would be an understatement. I didn't think we would be able to get that Pennzoil Firebird down through there but seven rounds later we're here in the winner's circle. Everything went about as smooth as it could but we're still trying to get this new racecar dialed in. It's still not where we want it to be. I'm lucky that now we can take it home and spend some time with it to get it ready for Chicago. Hopefully it will be a lot better there, but if it is, I may not be able to drive it."
BAYTOWN, Tex. (April 16, 2000) - Pro Stock Truck final eliminations were held today for the for the 13th annual O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park.
PRO STOCK TRUCK
Rick Jones (Country Motors Trailer Sales GMC Sonoma) - "This is a tough field of trucks and to just qualify is a task in itself. We can't complain. If we can continue to qualify in the top half and win rounds like we're doing, then our outlook towards the end of year is pretty good. But we can't get wrapped up in that. We have to keep working on this GMC Sonoma because it's not going to get easier. Sure you want to win, but Randy Daniels and Bob Panella are in a class by themselves right now. We can't complain, the rest of the class is running about the same and we need to pick our performance level up with the leaders. We lost our combination yesterday trying some new stuff, came back today to our baseline and made two pretty decent passes down the track. We have some performance left in this Country Motors Trailer Sales Sonoma, we just need time to find it. Some of these other teams have a lot more laps than we have but we'll get there. We're fourth in the points and my crew, Charles Barnett and Paul Yates, they've been busting their tales to get this program going. We've come a long way in a year. Last year at this race, we were lucky to be qualified 30th, and this time we qualified seventh and went a couple of rounds. We're pleased with our progress but we need to keep hitting on it. Hopefully at the next few races we'll be closer to the top."
John Lingenfelter (Summit Racing GMC Sonoma) - "Basically, we didn't have enough power. We ended up without lane choice, you combine that with a lack of power and finally you just have too many things working against you. Now I'm looking forward to getting to Richmond. We'll have a week off to try and fix everything on the Summit Racing Sonoma, and after the stretch we've had during the last month, that's going to come in handy. It's kind of tough on these guys in the truck ranks because they're not used to this kind of push. Plus running out to Las Vegas is a long haul - most of these guys live east of the Mississippi River so that makes it difficult. But we'll adjust, have some time to regroup and then it's on to Virginia."
David Spitzer (Sunnen/Dynagear Pontiac Firebird) - We're not sure what's wrong. We had three different motors in the Sunnen GMC Sonoma to try and figure out what the problem was. We even put a Brad Jeter, tall-deck Grumpy piece in that qualified at the last race and it ran just as slow as our stuff. That at least points us to the truck. We'll do the normal changes - fuel pump, batteries, ignition system to see if there is something in the truck that's slowing us down. We should have run better than we did. We'll head back to the shop, put everything on the dyno to make sure nothing is hurt and go from there. Richmond's going to be another fast track and we'll have to be on or game. With the fields this tight you can't afford to slip even a thousandth of a second. If it's cool like it was last year I wouldn't be surprised if the bump was a low 7.50. We need to get this Sonoma figured out before then because it's going to be fast."