Pomona III: Pontiac final qualifying notes

POMONA, Calif., Nov. 10, 2001 - Jim Yates returned to the No. 1 qualifying position today at the NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway after driving the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am to an elapsed time of 6.850 seconds at 201.22 mph. It was the ...

POMONA, Calif., Nov. 10, 2001 - Jim Yates returned to the No. 1 qualifying position today at the NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway after driving the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am to an elapsed time of 6.850 seconds at 201.22 mph. It was the second consecutive event that the two-time Pro Stock champion has claimed the raceday pole position and the fourth time this season for the Arlington, Va. resident. "The Splitfire Pontiac made a good run this morning that felt really strong," said Yates. "I was pretty happy with it until we got back to the pits, saw the graph and realized that we probably left five or six thousandths on the table. The track was just so good that we didn't have the car prepared adequately so we slipped the clutch quite a bit. We knew this afternoon with the weather holding up like it did, and with a lot of good cars coming over into the left lane, that the pole would be in jeopardy. Bruce (Allen) actually tied me with his 6.85 e.t. but we were able to edge him out with our top speed. "We'll take a little luck here and there if we can get it. Actually, we'll take a lot of luck tomorrow because that's what it's going to take to win this race. I mean, just look at this field tonight. Everyone's running 6.86 or 6.87, and from top to bottom, this 16-car field is only separated by 29-thousandths of a second. That's incredible!" For Yates, it was his third No. 1 qualifying spot in the last six races. Over the course of his career, he's won twice and raced in three final rounds at Pomona Raceway. In 24 races this season the Splitfire Pontiac Grand Am pilot has qualified in the top half of the field 22 times, and at the contest in Atlanta where Yates qualified 14th, he was the eventual race winner. "We'll have to be on our game on the starting line tomorrow," said Yates. "If we're not we're going home early and we don't want to end the season like that. I can't think of a Pro Stock field that's ever been this close. My No. 1 elapsed time from the first day would not have held up to make this field here tonight. There are so many fast cars out here right now. It's a tribute to the work done on the Grand Ams and the Cavaliers this year and the work that NHRA has done to improve this racetrack. The NHRA made a commitment to Pomona Raceway and now it's one of the smoothest tracks on the circuit. "Our crew has done a tremendous job this year. With me being out and not being able to work for a couple of races, Terry Adams and Jamie (Yates) stepped up and Bob Ingles found us some more power. Since we've gone to the two Grand Am team with Rickie (Smith), we've been No. 1 qualifier at three of the last six races and the worst we've qualified is fifth. That says a lot about the two-car system." Bruce Allen's Reher-Morrison Pontiac Grand Am is qualified second, Mike Edwards is third in a Chevy Cavalier and George Marnell is fourth in a Grand Am. With GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac driver Warren Johnson qualifying in the No. 5 position, the Pro Stock championship will be decided on the final day of the final race. Johnson can mathematically clinch his sixth Pro Stock championship by winning his first-round match with Darrell Alderman. There are 114 career victories between the two long-time rivals. "The drama continues," said Johnson. "The car moved off a little to the left which indicates we had a little too much bite or not enough wheel speed - and that we can fix. Overall it wasn't a bad run, but this engine is a little tired. We ran 6.86 on both sides of the track today. Tomorrow we'll just come to race and do what we have to do. I guess Alderman and I will both put in bigger fuel tanks." In Funny Car, Whit Bazemore improved his elapsed time during the first qualifying session of the day. The Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird set both ends of the Funny Car track record running 4.741 seconds at a track-record top speed of 324.67 mph giving the 38-year-old Indianapolis resident his ninth No. 1 qualifier in the last 12 races. He was the No. 1 qualifier for the 50th anniversary race at Pomona Raceway last July where this streak began (Bazemore was also runner-up for that event). He's won three national events this season in seven final rounds. "To be honest with you, we were actually disappointed with our run tonight," said Bazemore. "We thought the Matco Tools Pontiac would go quicker. That says something about this team and our expectation of excellence when we're not satisfied with a 4.74. "These cars never do everyhting you want them to. Even five or six weeks ago, running a 4.74 was outstanding, and just nine weeks ago it would have been the best ever. It just shows you how quickly things can change in this competitive sport." The Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird was a model of consistency during Pomona time trials. Bazemore posted the three quickest elapsed times of the weekend including a 4.772 second run on Friday, and a 4.744 second run during tonight's last session, in addition to his pole setting run this morning. Furthermore, those qualifying passes are three of the five quickest Funny Car runs in NHRA history. Bazemore will finish the season tomorrow second in the Winston points standings - his best career finish to date. His previous best was third in '99. "We have a lot of work to do now that we've added Scotty Cannon and the Oakley team," said Bazemore. "At the same time we want to maintain our momentum. Next year certainly looks promising but you can never predict what's going to happen in motorsports. Obviously, we should be very competitive from the beginning of the season, and like every year, our goal will be to win the championship. Right now it looks like the best chance I've ever had and we intend to make the most of it. "Now we truly have a well funded team. We have a research and development program that's one of the best in this sport and Lee Beard has been a master at adapting our Firebird to changing conditions. We've been very consistent, we have a lot of performance and we'll definitely be working hard to get even better over the winter." For the ninth time this season, the nitro Funny Car class posted its quickest field ever anchored by Bob Gilbertson's 4.889 elapsed time. John Force is qualified in the No. 2 spot, Tony Pedregon is third, Tommy Johnson Jr. is fourth in a Chevy Camaro and Gary Densham is fifth. Johnny Gray is qualified eighth, Bruce Sarver is ninth, Frank Pedregon is 10th, Del Worsham is 11th, Scotty Cannon is 12th, Tim Wilkerson is 13th, Al Hofmann is 14th, Jerry Toliver is 15th and Bob Gilbertson is 16th - all driving Pontiac Firebirds.

-GM Racing-

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