12th ANNUAL AUTOZONE NATIONALS MEMPHIS MOTORSPORTS PARK MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE MEMPHIS, Tenn. (October 10, 1999) - After numerous rain delays that washed out Friday's, and most of Saturday's professional activities, final eliminations for the 12th...
12th ANNUAL AUTOZONE NATIONALS MEMPHIS MOTORSPORTS PARK MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (October 10, 1999) - After numerous rain delays that washed out Friday's, and most of Saturday's professional activities, final eliminations for the 12th annual AutoZone Nationals began today following an abbreviated qualifying format. PRO STOCK
Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) "We just didn't back it down for the first round far enough. The racetrack got a little bit warmer, we backed the combination up a little bit so it would soften it on the starting line, but we just didn't back it up far enough. It got out there and shook the tires halfway through low gear, shook 'em in second gear, shook 'em in third gear. End of story. We knew going in based on all the testing we had done that we needed to back it down. It's hard to back something down far enough that you know it's going to be safe. If you back it down too far it's not going to get to the finish line. So you're playing this game of how much can I put in versus how much do I really need. I just got too aggressive. We're actually kind of glad the whole scenario played out the way it did because we didn't want to come back next weekend. We have so much work at the shop to get done, plus we have to do some testing based on some new stuff we're working on. We want to get that out of the way, so all in all, things could be worse. We lost first round, but at the same time the points battle with the way it is right now, the Coughlin's are pretty much out of it, and Kurt's nipping at my heels. But I think we can resurrect our old operation here shortly. We have only three races left, so we'll be all right."
Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) "We were fortunate just to get the Century 21 Firebird in the show. We were lucky enough to be one of those teams at the front of the pack last night that got to run, but we broke the transmission. If we wouldn't have run last night, that transmission would have broken this morning and we wouldn't have gotten in. We didn't have any data going into this morning's qualifying session, made a decent enough run and got in. We tried to tune it up, and now that we've had to time to look at the run, if we wouldn't have done anything, we're pretty sure that the track would have come to us. I guess we had our heads up our rears and didn't pay attention to the track before the first round. We thought maybe we could get lucky, slide through, get by Steve (Schmidt) in the first round and then tune it up for the second round. That didn't happen. We knew we were in deep trouble when we got up to the starting line, but I guess that's what happens on a rain weekend. We just didn't do a good enough job of staying on top of the track after we did get some runs on it. There's no reason why we shouldn't have gone 6.96 or 6.97 in the first round. I had to shut it off in second gear. We changed transmissions, moved weight around and put more clutch in, and we needed to go the opposite way with the trans, not touch the weight and take clutch out. We may have been able to get away with two of three, but by making all three mistakes, we were terrible."
Bruce Allen (Outlaw Fuel Additives Pontiac Firebird) "In the first round against Kurt (Johnson) the Outlaw Pontiac Firebird ran good enough to beat him, we just didn't get the job done. You get running well enough to win and when you don't, or you don't advance into the field, it's a huge disappointment. Before, when you're just trying to get your car fast enough to be competitive it's not that big of a deal. In the last couple of months though that's changed. Now the car is running stronger, but I have just have to do a little better job of driving. It's frustrating, but that's just part of it. The key is to keep working at what your weakest area is and right now that's reaction time. We'll stay here tomorrow and see what we can do to fix it. Everybody goes through it the same way a good hitter will go through a slump. It seems like you do pretty good for awhile and then you fall off, but then you get better again. We'll figure out what the problem is, fix it and go on from here."
Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) "Ever since our wreck in Indy we've struggled with this chassis. In Reading it wanted to be setup one way and in Topeka it wanted to be setup another way. I think we finally got it back to where it was before the wreck. The Pennzoil Firebird actually went left in that morning run. We probably could have been close to 6.90 if we had gone straight. We were excited about eliminations at that point. In the first round it spun a little at the start so I jammed it into second gear hoping that would stop the spin. But it just made it worse. Once we slipped out of the groove a little the car slid sideways and we blew another chance to make up a bunch of points. We have a recurring problem here that we need to fix. I think it's the ignition so we'll replace the entire system. I'll be racing in Bristol next weekend for sure now. We need to get this figured out before Dallas, and there's a match race going on at Bristol that we can race at in order to test this car. Hopefully, we'll be better by the time we get to Texas."
Steve Schmidt (Dynagear Pontiac Firebird) "We still don't know what happened yet in the second round. When we staged the Dynagear Firebird, and I put it against the t-chip, the engine just flat-out shut off. The guys said the engine sounded funny when I started to stage it. We'll have to check it out. I don't know if it blew a head gasket or what, but you can see where the problem is on the computer. Instead of the engine going up when I let the clutch out, it actually pulled the engine down about a thousand rpm. Other than that we're happy with the way the weekend's gone up till now. We have an engine in Mike Edwards car. He qualified second, and we qualified fourth so that's two engines in the top four. That's not too bad for Pro Stock. Anytime you can do that in this class you've definitely earned your money. The crew did an excellent job as well and Terry Adams (crew chief) made some great calls. We made a real nice run this morning in the final qualifying round, and we made another good run in the first round of eliminations in that bad lane, so things were definitely going our way. I think this Pontiac was good enough to win this race and that's a big disappointment."
George Marnell (Dynomax Pontiac Firebird) "The Dynomax Firebird made a real good run this morning which the car is more than capable of doing if we have the right setup. We didn't have the right setup in the car for this last run and it was just a matter of hanging with it for as long as I could. The car never made huge moves in that second round but it did make constant moves. It was out of control from the time I let the clutch out to the time I pulled the parachutes. It was constantly moving, never got traction and that showed up in the e.t. Obviously we have a lot more power than that, but you just try to hang in there, run it out and see what happens. I think we have some pretty good information for Dallas because we've ran pretty good there before. We have some major bugs out of the car now, and we'll stay tomorrow and try to fine tune a little more. We'll put our Dallas setup together and try to win a race."
Al Hofmann (Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird) "With the help that we've had from Jim Dunn all weekend, and for that matter since Sonoma, this Firebird is starting to run up to it's potential. It's still not where we want it to be, but if we can make a couple of more good showings at the next three races, then maybe we can get back into the top 10 for Pontiac and everyone that stands behind us. The way we've been at the last couple of events is starting to put a smile back on my face. In that last race, we put a cylinder out right at the hit, fast enough that I was starting to wonder why the car wasn't moving. We still ran a 5.16 and if we can get this thing moving on all eight then we'll be in the high 4.90s or five-ohs. I very excited about driving for Jim Dunn next year. With Mooneyes, Red Line oil and Pontiac, it's going to be a great situation for everybody."
Del Worsham (Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Pontiac Firebird) "Man, we just let one get away I guess. I'm not sure we were going to run a 4.95 or anything, so there's no telling if we'd have won, but I did not expect to do that. For the last two weekends we've had a great cold weather tune-up, we were running real nice and consistent laps when everyone else was struggling. Then, we roll up there for Round 1 and the sun's out, it's hot, it's muggy, and I'm thinking we may not have what we need. Sure enough, we got out there and they started to let loose, I pedaled it quick, and then they busted loose completely. We're all watching points now, it's that time of year. We came into this race one point behind Dean Skuza for 5th place, and when he went out in the first round we had a chance to really do some damage. Oh well, I guess the optimistic way to look at it is to say that everyone else around us lost too, so our Round 1 loss didn't hurt us nearly as bad as it could have. We have to go to Dallas and just let this thing loose. I'm about 9-tenths totally upside down about this. I'm so mad I can't see. If I had written a script for us today it wouldn't have been much different than this, and then we went out and didn't do our part."
Cruz Pedregon (goracing.com/okid.com Pontiac Firebird) "We want to get this Firebird to run on eight cylinders first and foremost. We have some new equipment on the car in the area of different cylinder heads and stuff like that. It's pretty major equipment, and a substantial investment on our part, but our last outing at Indianapolis wasn't anything to brag about, so we felt like we had to do something. My goal is to be competitive, qualify in the top half of the field and win races. If we can qualify solid then we'll have a shot in final eliminations because that's how you win races. We wanted to come to Memphis, then wind the season up in Dallas and Pomona and get ready for next year. We've made the extra effort so that we can run the race car under national event conditions, learn some new things, but also to try and get the win as well. The first run kind of let us down. We had another cylinder out, but Ronnie (Swearingen) will get it figured out. We're plugging away and hopefully we can make a good run tonight."
Final Eliminations: "We lost two cylinders on the same side which is very unusual, numbers three and five to be exact, and it moved the goracing.com Firebird towards the left. I didn't want to run over the cone, so I got out of the throttle, and back on it and that probably cost us the race. We're still searching trying to get the car to go from a to b, but at least we made a race out of it. We're working on trying to get this combination to where it needs to be and it's like a juggling act. We'll keep chipping away at it though. It's disappointing because we have great equipment and a great team and our performance this weekend doesn't reflect the potential that this program has. We have really good people working on the car. When I go to the next race and people ask me what my goal is going to be, that would be to get this car running on eight cylinders. Everything else will take care of itself. We lost a couple of qualifying rounds, and that hurt us because we wanted to use this race as a testing session as well. It would have been nice to get that first round win. Then we could have gathered some more data and used that in the second round. It didn't happen. These cars seem to be real temperamental and all I'm going to do is keep backing my crew chief Ron Swearingen because he's as anxious as I am to get this thing turned around. Moving forward is the only thing we know how to do."
Gary Densham (NEC/AAA Southern California Pontiac Firebird) "The NEC Pontiac Firebird ran good and for the first round we played it pretty conservative thinking that was good enough to win. We broke a rocker in the second round and that was the end of the game. It wasn't a bad weekend all in all. We're moving in the right direction but unfortunately we smashed out pretty car up this morning in qualifying. For Dallas the goal will be to go even faster. It's a good racetrack, and we have NEC and the AAA of Southern California coming in so we had better do the best we can. We thought we might have things going our way here in Memphis because we've done well here before. But like I said, we've had worse weekends that's for sure."
Regarding qualifying mishap with Frank Pedregon "Whenever you have another car run into you at 260 or 270 mph, and you walk away with the car, you've done okay. It got my attention that's for sure. You think you're driving along pretty good and all of a sudden you get hit pretty hard, but like they say, that's racing and that's the way it goes. Actually the car didn't react as badly as I thought it would especially with the jolt I felt. These cars are pretty stable from an aerodynamic standpoint. This Firebird is a pretty nice piece and it planted pretty hard. With the carbon fiber absorbing most of the impact we came out of it all right."