Indianapolis Sunday Pontiac Notes & Quotes

PONTIAC RACING NOTES & QUOTES 44TH ANNUAL U.S. NATIONALS INDIANAPOLIS (September 6, 1998) -- Qualifying was completed today for the 44th running of the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park with Pontiac drivers vaulting to the top in two...

PONTIAC RACING NOTES & QUOTES 44TH ANNUAL U.S. NATIONALS

INDIANAPOLIS (September 6, 1998) -- Qualifying was completed today for the 44th running of the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park with Pontiac drivers vaulting to the top in two professional categories. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson grabbed the No. 1 qualifying spot on Friday night with a track record lap of 6.977 seconds, and never let go to take his ninth pole position of the year. The GM Goodwrench Firebird driver is looking to win his sixth Pro Stock title at the fables raceway. There are 10 Firebirds in the Pro Stock field for final eliminations tomorrow. In Funny Car, JCIT Pontiac Firebird driver Tim Wilkerson is the No. 1 qualifier going into tomorrow's race with a quarter-mile run of 4.961 seconds. It is the second pole of the year for the 1997 U.S. Nationals runner-up. Cruz Pedregon was runner-up today in the $100,000 Big Bud Shootout for Funny Cars and has his Interstate Batteries Firebird qualified in the No. 3 position. In Top Fuel, Cory McClenathan is qualified third with an e.t. of 4.614 seconds.

PRO STOCK

Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird) In generic terms, we messed up on the first run so we didn't get any valid data for the afternoon run. We took our best shot in the second run today, and now we know that approach can't be used tomorrow. The run this morning was quick, but the e.t. was erroneous because the car rolled the lights at the starting line -- it should have been a 7.01. We came back, discovered our mistake, and made what we thought were the appropriate changes -- but we were much too aggressive. We know where the edge is as far as how much clutch we can use for these conditions, but we don't know yet where the lower limit is. We'll have to go to our data bank to determine how far we can back off safely. We'll have to analyze what the weather and track conditions give us on race day. I've had nothing but .470 and .480 reaction times in qualifying, which should be sufficient to win unless someone makes a lucky guess on the starting line. It's a roll of the dice, but it's not going to change our approach. We're going to stick with the plan that got us here. No. 1 qualifier -- 6.977ET/197.62MPH

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) I'm real happy with the combination we ran today, and yesterday in the heat of the afternoon. The Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird seemed to respond very well with what we tried to do with it. There's a little left in it though. We were a little aggressive with the clutch, trying to sneak up on it. But come tomorrow, the guy who can get down this slick track is the one who's going to win the race. We need to find a good combination to prepare for that. The right lane has some bumps in it right now, and the slicker the track becomes, the more obvious the bumps are on the car. I think lane choice will be worth a couple of hundredths tomorrow, so our goal will be to keep it for as long as we can. No. 3 qualifier -- 6.990ET/196.03MPH

Bruce Allen (Outlaw Pontiac Firebird) At Reading, the track conditions will be quite a bit different from here. Over the years, it's been a pretty fast track and the setup from here to there won't even be similar. We'll go off our notes and make some changes on the Outlaw Pontiac Firebird based on what we've done over the last few years. We've usually run pretty good there and I feel like we can hit it pretty close. Other than missing the Friday night session, the car made a couple of pretty good runs here. That's kind of the luck of the draw but we'll make some adjustments and be ready for Maple Grove. We just have to remember that this is just one race, stay positive and move on.

Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) We had the Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird set-up with too much clutch and not enough clutch today so it really feels like we have a narrow window defined on how we need to be. It's exciting to be in the field. We're very fortunate. There were 47 cars here all trying to reach Monday's eliminations and we ended up being one of the few who made it. Now we start over and aim for a win. It'll be a real battle. Everyone in the field is great. We'll have to be close to perfect to win. No. 9 qualifier -- 7.018ET/195.90MPH

George Marnell (Tenneco Pontiac Firebird) I feel real good about our chances tomorrow. The Tenneco Pontiac Firebird has made some pretty good passes this entire weekend. We've been working on our setup and we've tried some different things. On that last pass, I'm not sure exactly what happened, but it went straight as soon as I let the clutch out. Then it took a lunge for the wall, so I shut it off. We've covered some ground today and I think we got a good opportunity to win a race here on Monday. A lot of guys are saying that the left lane is the best lane, but we made our best passes in the right lane. I can't say that there's a lot of difference there, but we have to be careful that the starting line doesn't throw us a curve and that's going to depend on what happens in front of us.

If you can get off there OK, you're going to be tough. The problem is that you can't have too much clutch at the starting line, but just enough clutch to go down the race track. If you don't put enough in it, you're going to knock the it out as soon as you get some traction. It's a difficult track to run on and it gets more difficult as the day wears on. The key is to find a balance tomorrow. We don't have lane choice first round, so we'll deal with whatever is dealt to us. No. 11 qualifier --7.025ET/195.18MPH

Steve Schmidt (Dynagear Pontiac Firebird) I think the Dynagear Pontiac Firebird is ready to go tomorrow with consistency being the key to winning this race. If the crew does a good job assessing the track, if we have the right setup, and I leave on time, we'll be just fine. A lot of it will also depend on the weather. It's supposed to rain and cool off, and that's going to change everything. It will be a new ballgame when we show up here in the morning. We've run very good in both lanes, and in that last qualifying session, we did extremely well because we were trying something different. Short of that, we're running well, the crew's done a great job and we're pretty pumped up about our chances tomorrow. No. 13 qualifier -- 7.028ET/195.95MPH

FUNNY CAR

Tim Wilkerson (JCIT Pontiac Firebird) We were a little hopped up this morning. As soon as we went back to our Friday night tune-up, the JCIT Pontiac Firebird went right down through there. I just wanted to make sure everyone knows how proud we are to have John Costanza as an owner. JCIT and Demand Flow have put this thing together and at the beginning of the year, I'm sure no one expected us to do as well as we have. If you look around at our crew, and all of the folks who that are involved on that race, I'm probably the one who has the least experience. For me to be able to drive with this team makes me very, very proud. Tomorrow, we're going to have to watch out for anyone we're racing against. There isn't anybody in the 16 car field that you can take for granted. It used to be that after the second round you had to start looking over your shoulder. You can't do that anymore. You have to be ready to go as soon as that light drops on Monday morning. The guy next to you is going to go 5.15, so you have to constantly be on top of your game. You have guys out there that you know are going to run 5.00s every time out. We're going to go up there, race the race track and try to copy what we've been able to do for the last couple of days. No 1 qualifier -- 4.961ET/305.39MPH

Cruz Pedregon (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) We want to win all of these races but this one is really special. Right now we're just going to go out there, do our thing and hope for the best. We lost a cylinder on that second run, but I'm sure Wes (Cerny) and the guys will fix it. It's going to be a good race. Our opponent's been running good so we'll go up, run our race and may the best team win. This weekend has been excellent so far. We won that second round after putting a cylinder out and those are the kind of breaks you get when you are running good. We're not going to let that little glitch faze us at all. As far as the runs in qualifying, the Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird has been running solid five-ohs (5.00s), and it's been doing everything we've asked of it. When something like that happens and you can get away with it, a lot of times it turns out to be a good thing. Hopefully, we can make it our day.

We gave it our best shot in the Big Bud Shootout. I feel bad for the team, but it was nice that we were able to make a race out of it. We made them earn it, but they ran well today and I have to give the credit where it's due. I'm awfully proud of all of the guys. It was scorching hot out here today. I have it easy. I can go upstairs between rounds and cool off. They're out here all day thrashing to give me a good race car and I couldn't do it without them. We're coming out here tomorrow with a lot of confidence because we went out and had a great shot at winning this race. We had a cylinder go out but Wes (Cerny) will get it figured out by tomorrow. I've been around this sport long enough to know that it doesn't do you any good to mope around. You have to go on and look at tomorrow as another opportunity to make something happen. This Interstate Batteries Pontiac team is the best one I've ever been on and that's saying a lot. No. 3 qualifier -- 5.023ET/309.81MPH

Dale Creasy (Creasy Racing Pontiac Firebird) This is a blast! This is what it's all about though. A little bit of pressure in that last session to get in, and show them what we had and today we did it. I'm happy that the Creasy Racing Pontiac Firebird is going down the race track. I'm not happy with our performance. I wish it would run a little bit better, but we don't want to make any wholesale changes because then it may not make it down the race track. Our goal is to make them beat us. If it cools down, we'll run better. The motor's been a little bit rich and we haven't been able to correct for the high air temperature. If the air comes around to us, we'll be even better.. On the last run I felt more pressure than at any other time in my life. Something about Indy and being in front of all my friends and these great fans makes you think a little bit more about what you're doing. Winning this race would be the best. I want to win this race more than anybody in this place. No. 16 qualifier -- 5.232ET/286.53MPH

TOP FUEL

Shelly Anderson (Parts America/Pontiac) We were more than three tenths of a second off of qualifying time, and we junked three motors in four rounds, so we decided to park it. The heat on the track is only getting worse, and these conditions make for difficult racing, even when your car is running the way it should. Obviously, I'm disappointed that we didn't do better. Indy is the biggest race of the year, and I worked hard to get here. Nevertheless, I'm glad to be back and racing. They say the first race back is always the hardest, and now it's behind me, and I'm looking forward to Reading.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Warren Johnson , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Steve Schmidt , Shelly Anderson