PONTIAC NOTES & QUOTES 34th ANNUAL WINSTON FINALS SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 1998 POMONA, CALIFORNIA
POMONA, Calif. (November 14, 1998) - Qualifying was completed today for the 34th Annual Winston Finals at Pomona Raceway. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson held on to the No. 1 qualifying position with his Thursday afternoon run of 6.891 seconds at 201.02 mph. It is the 13th time this season that the "Professor" has put his GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird on the pole for Sunday eliminations. Johnson has won six times at Pomona Raceway after qualifying in the top position and he now holds the speed record at all 22 events on the NHRA tour. In Funny Car, Cruz Pedregon's Firebird grabbed the No. 1 qualifying position with a morning qualifying run of 4.867 seconds at 302.72 mph. Including the Winston Invitational at Rockingham, N.C., it is the 13th time this season that the 35 year old California native has qualified in the top spot. Tim Wilkerson is qualified second and Al Hofmann is qualified fifth.
Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird) "We've been here for three days, and our last run was the slowest time since we got here - we've absolutely figured out how to make this car go backwards! Actually we wanted to try something in the last session. We felt that no one was going to take away the No. 1 qualifying spot, so this was a good time to experiment. We'll go back to Thursday's setup for race day. I really don't have a lane preference right now; neither lane seems to upset the car. Winning the final race of the season is better than going out with a loss. We came here with the intention of winning, just like we approach every race." No. 1 qualifier - 6.891ET / 201.02MPH
Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) "We've been working on the chassis, the clutch and the gear ratios and we're starting to make some pretty good progress in that area trying to get the front half of the track covered. The car is still laying down on the back half. It's just not getting up and running down there the way it should. We're going to go back the other way on the engine tune up and see if we can perk up this Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird. If we can get it to run from the eighth mile to the finish line, then it's probably capable of running a 6.91. It's just a matter of getting it to run the full 1320 feet. There was a hundredth or so left in that first run. We made a move with the engine tune up that got us through the first half but not the back. We know what to do, we just got a little crossed up that time. We're going to try going the other way tonight. We're like a mouse in a maze. If he goes one way and it doesn't work then he goes back the other way and tries it again." No. 7 qualifier - 6.929ET / 198.32MPH
Bruce Allen (Outlaw Pontiac Firebird) "That was a better run in relation to the rest of the field but we're still way off. Even if that was a perfect run, which it wasn't, but if we had just killed the track, then it might have been a 6.98 at best. It's not looking good (for us making the field) unless there's a bunch of oil downs and the round is really delayed until it cools off, then we're probably finished. We'll continue to work and we won't give up at all. It just feels like one of those races when it's not going to happen."
Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) "We finally got everything together in the first session. We were pretty soft, but the Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird made a real nice smooth run. I kind of felt like it was on a good run because we sere staying right there with Kurt (Johnson) on the back half. Even though he was ahead of me, I knew it was good because he left before I did. We were right together on the back eighth, so I felt that if he had made a good run I also made a good run. It's encouraging. As it got hotter today, not too many cars kept up, and we were able to jump into the top half of the field. It's a real motivator for all of us. We knew we had the potential with the way the car has performed during the last month. We should have run better on Thursday than what we did, and yesterday we just made a bad pass. I think there's still some left in it. We were a little soft and there might have been a hundredth left in it. You never know. I'm just happy that we were able to hit it this morning and that we were able to make a real good run. It says something about how this crew has pulled together and I'm proud of them. They never gave up even when we were struggling earlier in the year. Hopefully we can carry it through to a win tomorrow night." No. 8 qualifier - 6.944ET / 198.85MPH
Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) "We keep taking clutch out and we still haven't quite found the mark yet. The Pennzoil Firebird is running real well. We've been consistent, which is something you strive for, but I still believe we can go a lot faster. We just got bumped out of the top half and we're going to do everything we can to go faster this afternoon to get back in the top eight. Lane choice could be critical tomorrow." No. 4 qualifier - 6.922ET / 199.24MPH
Cruz Pedregon (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) "This is the 13th time this season that the Interstate Batteries Firebird has been the No. 1 qualifier. To accomplish that, you have to do so many things correctly and I have to credit Wes Cerny and the team for making it all happen. The changing track conditions usually plague other teams with sunshine and 90 degree temperatures during the day, and cool dewy evenings. When you think of all the elements that you encounter throughout the entire 23-race season, it really says something about a team that can accomplish what we have done this year. We've been No. 1 qualifier at over half the events this season and we've been in the top five 19 times. It's tough to do it once let alone 13 times. I think that now, being the last race of the season, winning the race is our goal tomorrow and it would be a great way to cap off our season. It's going to be tough though. There are a lot of good cars out there and we'll just have to make it happen. That's all we can do. We're poised and ready to go. All the people who have supported us, Pontiac, Interstate Batteries, Hot Rod magazine and all of the rest, we couldn't have done any of this without them. There are countless hours we spend in the GM wind tunnel that the fans don't see that contributes to this finished Firebird race car. We're disappointed that the championship didn't go our way, but with the way things are going now, we're anxious to get next year started right away. I hope this is a prelude of things to come, and I feel this car is capable of winning any race we enter."
After the DNQ here in February, is this a vindication for the team? "Definitely. We thought about it for an instant, but the character of this team is just too good to let things like that keep us from performing the way that we should."
What will it take to win this race tomorrow? "Probably four consistent runs in the 4.90s. We'll need to be steady and keep doing what we're doing. I didn't think that we were on the edge when we ran the 4.86, but you still have to take what this track will give you, and you're going to have to be in the fours to win. From the first round on we're going to have to be on our toes because there are a lot of cars that can jump up and bite you. We'll stay aggressive. You can't back off because you're No. 1 because when you do that things can get away from you pretty fast. Those are things that we've learned over the year. Our strategy is to be aggressive and be steady. That will be critical. If we can end the season winning two races in a row, that will be a tremendous boost for next year. Especially if we can do it in front of our hometown Southern California fans." No. 1 qualifier - 4.867ET / 302.72MPH
Al Hofmann (GM Performance Parts Pontiac Firebird) "We broke one of our very own rules today when we messed with the car in the staging lanes. We don't normally do that but we saw everyone else running real well. That's one of the disadvantages of running last. No matter how well we were going to run, the best we were going to do was be No. 3 again. So we gambled by trying to step it up, we got the clutch ahead of the motor and smoked the tires. That's all there is to it. The clutch program seems to be working real good. We'll try and set the GM Performance Parts Firebird up to run a 4.87 and we'll see what happens. We're pretty confident that we have a fast race car for race day. We have a setup that we're going with tomorrow morning that we know is going to work. Right now we're working on a setup that might just be a hair faster, so that later in the day, when we're running for the championship, we'll have something for them." No. 5 qualifier - 4.976ET / 307.58MPH
Del Worsham (Checkers Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) "One of the main lines just blew off at the fitting in the first round. The CSK Firebird was running perfect. It left hard, really moving and then it just blew off and that was that. I guess the only thing I can think of as good news is the last time we had this happen was during qualifying in Chicago and we went all the way to the finals there. But here, we've got to get it down the race track if we're going to have a chance."
Randy Anderson (Parts America Pontiac Firebird) "We're looking pretty good here. We changed coils after the first two runs on the Parts America Firebird, the ignition picked up, and ran the 5.05. We knew it would run any where from a five-flat to a 5.10. It just went out there and shook tonight because it got cold and we didn't have enough power. Not to many other cars got down there either so we weren't the exception. Tomorrow, we'll hop it up and it should run a 4.95 to a five-flat. That should be good enough for the first round. We're pretty confident that we can do what ever we need to do with this race car and it will respond. By the second and third round though this place is going to get cool and then it's going to be a whole new ballgame." No. 9 qualifier - 5.056ET / 304.98MPH
Dale Creasy (Creasy Racing Pontiac Firebird) "We skipped the morning session to save parts. We knew that we would have to run the last session because we were early in the round. The Creasy Racing Firebird will be ready and hopefully we can run in the five-teens. There's too many good cars left that aren't in yet and I'll be surprised if that 5.26 holds up." No. 15 qualifier - 5.265ET / 271.32MPH
Tim Wilkerson (JCIT Pontiac Firebird) "We've been trading punches with that Interstate Batteries team for the No. 1 position. I think if we were to run a 4.80 they would probably come back with a 4.79. We just have to keep the JCIT Pontiac Firebird consistent and see if we can come out tomorrow and run four good passes. That's what will win the race. If we can get to where it's not spinning the tires when the clutch locks in, this car will run in the 4.80s. I don't think we're going to run 4.86, but we don't have to. That's okay. They can have the No. 1 spot and then maybe we can match up with them in the final round. We've been struggling with our clutch like everyone knows for the last three or four races and it's finally starting to come around. We don't try and make big moves, and that has its advantages and disadvantages. We don't get too far from our setup when it's running quick, and at the same time, when we're struggling, it takes a little longer to catch up to where we need to be. We're methodical but that's the mindset of this team that we choose to operate with. We're patient and sometimes the race car isn't as patient as we are. That's why when our car's running good, it does so for a long time. We don't get emotional or crazy and that seems to work for us." No. 2 qualifier - 4.913ET / 304.87MPH
Shelly Anderson (Parts America/Pontiac) "I have a little bit if a headache but it's more disappointing for the fact that we didn't qualify. I'd put up with a hundred headaches if I could be racing tomorrow. It's tough to end the season like that, especially at home. I wasn't expecting to win, but I definitely wanted to qualify and go a couple of rounds. Hopefully Randy (Anderson) can win this race for us tomorrow. The motor was running away from the clutch and it had done that on the run before but I got off the throttle a little bit and then got back into it. I thought if I kept my foot in it would be OK. I did and the motor just kept running away from the clutch, blower boost went up and it just blew up. I was confident that it would recover and that's why I pedaled it. I was trying to hit the fire bottles because my neck brace was on fire. It never went off but that's all right. If anything is going to go wrong it's going to go wrong on our car. I just wish we would have done better."