Houston Pontiac Racing Post Race Notes

3rd ANNUAL MATCO TOOLS SUPERNATIONALS HOUSTON RACEWAY PARK BAYTOWN, TEXAS BAYTOWN, Tex. (October 31, 1999) - Final eliminations for the Third annual Matco Tools SuperNationals were completed today at Houston Raceway Park. PRO STOCK -- ...

3rd ANNUAL MATCO TOOLS SUPERNATIONALS HOUSTON RACEWAY PARK BAYTOWN, TEXAS

BAYTOWN, Tex. (October 31, 1999) - Final eliminations for the Third annual Matco Tools SuperNationals were completed today at Houston Raceway Park.

PRO STOCK -- winner

Rickie Smith (Howard & Williams Pontiac Firebird) "We just haven't had a ride and I haven't had any major sponsorships since about 1994. I've been up and down handling different crew chief jobs, but when you run only three or four races a year, you're going to have good races and bad races. When I did come over here to race, maybe the breaks or the luck didn't go my way. Sometimes it can make you look bad when you seldom race, and all that anybody remembers is how bad you were. When you run all year, you shine sometimes and other times you don't. Today we shined and I demonstrated that I can still do this. The other racers know that I'm here most of the time. I just appreciate everyone staying behind me like Pete Williams, George Howard, and Larry Tutterow who helps me a ton back home with my Pro Mod car. If it weren't for him, I would have been sitting three years ago."

Do you feel that the other Pro Stock drivers respect your abilities? "I feel that they do. They know how I can race. That's how I won a lot of races years ago -- we had starting line games. Me, and Warren (Johnson) and Ronnie Soxx. Those are the two guys I battled with over in the IHRA and a lot of it was starting line games. They taught me a lot of lessons and I learned a lot of lessons back in the 80s doing that stuff. I also won a lot of races. Some guys will go up there with lane choice, they'll play games with me and they won't stage, but that's their mistake. All through the years when I was racing, and I had lane choice on a guy, most of the time I went on in and tried to make a good run. When you start playing games you lose your concentration and somebody's going to be late. It worked out in my favor today."

How long have you been crew chief for Ron Krisher? "After Englishtown. Before then I was driving this car. The funds got low on this deal and we parked it. We talked about getting it going again, and we got the motor updated with a Steve Schmidt engine before Indy. We qualified and ran well there so we've been working on this Howard & Williams Pontiac Firebird for some time. I've worked for Mike Thomas, Ron Krisher and Jim Yates for the last two years. Jim and I talk a lot about clutches and cars because we're both using Jerry Bickel cars. I stay up to date on this stuff. The only thing I need to do is make sure I stay up-to-date on my driving."

PRO STOCK

Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) "In the second round today it got loose in the middle of the track and came out of fourth gear. You can either make a real good run or no run at all; there's really not a happy medium here this weekend. I don't think lane choice had anything to do with our performance because both lanes were about equal. But like a circle track crew chief will tell you, we just missed the setup. The first-round performance demonstrated that we have the power to run fast, we just didn't get the setup right to go down the track nice and smoothly. Plus, we're also experimenting for next year. We'll try and get another win at Pomona and the rest of next year."

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) "We thought we had a better handle on it than what we showed today. The only run we had in that right lane was the one qualifying run on Friday. We should've had another run on it last night but we weren't able to run again. Whenever you get behind the eight-ball, the competition out here is so tough that you cannot afford to lose a run. That's what happened to us last night with the rain and the way things happened. Mike Thomas did a good job and got the clutch out on time, but we still should have run four-hundredths faster than what we did. We should have been out there running 6.85, but not having the right combination for that lane we struggled. If you ask any racer what he would give for just one more run on a national-event race track, it would probably be thousands of dollars. Because of a few sprinkles we lost that opportunity last night. I was happy to get by first round. I thought we had a good chance in the second round, but by losing lane choice we got farther behind. You can't have but so many strikes and then you're out. Missing the run last night was strike one, losing lane choice today was strike two and then Mike (Thomas) having that .440 light was strike three. We're out-period! We know what we did wrong, we just have to hope that at Pomona our luck will reverse. Maybe we'll get four qualifying runs, and maybe we'll get an opportunity to figure out a few more things on this Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird. We're making some changes on it this week to get ready for Pomona. We're taking it to Jerry Bickel's to get some modifications made and hopefully we can figure it out a little bit more before the Finals. We'd love to finish up this year strong and right now we're not doing that."

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) "The Summit Racing Firebird made two good runs this weekend; the first run on Friday and the first run today. The first run really wasn't pretty, it came out of low gear shaking, and in the second round it shook terribly. Then I shifted it early and just knocked the clutch out of it. When you look at the rest of the lights in the right lane, my light in the second round wasn't too bad. But still, there's never a good excuse for losing and I should have driven better. That's kind of the way our year has gone. We thought we were ready to go some rounds today and it didn't happen. We'll keep plugging away and try it again in two weeks. We're going to test here tomorrow and work on some different combinations. In Pomona we'll also try something different and that's win a race."

Richie Stevens (Valspar Pontiac Firebird) "That was a pretty good lap for us in the first round against Mark (Pawuk). The Valspar Firebird spun just a tad at the starting line but then it went straight down the lanes. I hit the shift points and Tommy (Utt) had the car set-up right. He just left on me (.467 seconds at .480 seconds) and then slowly inched away. If I had hit one of my usual lights I could have easily won this race. I just can't get a good light. It's not just me. I hate this feeling. We had a nice weekend for Valspar. Getting two cars into this field is a big accomplishment. I wish we could have won some rounds today."

FUNNY CAR

Tommy Johnson Jr. (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) We were having some problems after the second round. We blew it up pretty bad. We had a lot of problems between rounds with maintenance on the Interstate Batteries Firebird; we had a problem with oil pressure, we had a problem with air lines, and we were struggling just to get the car up there to race. It's been a hard weekend. Up until now things have flowed pretty smoothly, but we struggled pretty hard this weekend. Even to struggle and still go to the semi-finals says a lot about this team. We picked up a spot in the points so we can't complain too much. If we can go one or two rounds at Pomona then we'll be guaranteed a top-10 finish. The funny thing is that all year we haven't even worried about the points race. All of sudden all I can do is count the points. What am I doing?! I'm counting points for ninth and eighth place, but it's something we'd like to accomplish. It shows how the team was able to come together and make it into the top 10. Going to Pomona will be bittersweet, but there comes a time when you have to be happy that you had the opportunity and go on. There couldn't be anything sweeter than to go out there and end this thing with a win. I'm sure we'll be doing whatever it takes to get that done."

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) "That's one of the bigger engine detonations I've been a part of, and we're just very lucky that it happened right near the starting line. If that happened down track with a head of steam, there's no telling how bad it could have been. As bad as you could imagine I guess. It split the block completely in half. The heads were laying out, the whole blower was laying down inside where the block should be with a bunch of loose pistons laying around in there like Easter eggs in a basket. The block was just blown in half, wide open. It looked like some sort of science experiment. We've had a quick look at it. The first thing I saw that might have been a cause was a broken exhaust push rod. That's a pretty good place to point. Obviously, a lot of people missed on this first round, there was a lot more tire smoke out there than not. The Checker Schuck's Kragen Firebird had a chance to make a big move there with Tommy (Johnson) losing traction, but man, that was an attention grabber. I'm kind of mentally stunned right now, not to mention drained and frustrated and a lot of other things."

Dale Creasy Jr. (Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird) "We can't seem to get a break. Scotty (Cannon) ran a 5.41 and I never heard him when we left the line. I knew that I had him, but I never expected that the Mad Magazine Firebird would lose traction that quickly. I don't know if it was the way the track was prepared because I watched them do it and it looked like they did what they were supposed to do. But we went right to the spot where the oil was and blew the tires off. We didn't change our tune up so I can't say we were being too aggressive. We left everything alone from yesterday and we were just fine then. I'm just happy we launched well and that I did what I had to do. We didn't get it done this time but we will in Pomona. I'm looking forward to racing there. I'm not looking forward to the season being over, but I am looking forward to racing again."

Frank Pedregon (Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird) "It was an odd Funny Car session, at least for us anyway. We over shot it a little bit and there was just nothing we could do. When you smoke them right at the starting line you're pretty much dead in the water. But I look at it this way, we've had an excellent year, we have one more race to go in the Red Line Oil Firebird, Pomona is Jim's (Dunn) home track, it's my home track and we want to put on a good show for the fans. It's our last race together, and Jim's done a lot for me so we'd like to put this Pontiac in the winner's circle one last time."

Jim Dunn (Crew Chief/Car Owner, Red Line Oil Firebird) "The track was good enough or how else could Force have gone a 4.84. The air just got a little better today. We blew a head gasket at Dallas so unfortunately we replaced it with one that is 1000th of an inch smaller than what we were using and it wasn't gripping the o-ring good enough. We brought the head gasket down, changed the tune up a little bit, but there's no water in the air today so we missed it a little bit. We call it a miss-tune - the Red Line Oil Firebird had too much power, but unintentionally. We're looking forward to getting to Pomona and getting the season over with. When we watched Skuza get beat that pretty much sealed our fourth-place finish."

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Mike Thomas , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , Ron Krisher , Dale Creasy Jr. , Steve Schmidt , Rickie Smith , Tommy Johnson Jr.
Teams Williams