PONTIAC NOTES & QUOTES 34th ANNUAL WINSTON FINALS SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 1998 POMONA, CALIFORNIA PRO STOCK Race Winner - Richie Stevens (Collins Racing Pontiac Firebird) "This is the most unbelievable feeling I've ever felt. We've been...
PONTIAC NOTES & QUOTES 34th ANNUAL WINSTON FINALS SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 1998 POMONA, CALIFORNIA
Race Winner - Richie Stevens (Collins Racing Pontiac Firebird) "This is the most unbelievable feeling I've ever felt. We've been battling all year and to win the last race like this is just the best. I never thought when we started this season with two cars, two rookie drivers and no information on any track that we'd win an event. I had confidence in my driving but until you actually win, you sort of think in the back of your mind that you might not be able to do it."
"Shawn Collins and his wife Mary gave me a chance to drive even though I was just a teenager. I'm so glad I was able to show them that they made the right choice picking me. My crew chief Tommy Utt taught me so much and he and the rest of the crew worked their butts off at every race to make me look so good. This is for them, all of them."
"I have to thank the other drivers in Pro Stock. They all treated me like an equal from the word go and it meant a lot to me. I never heard a mean word about our team or me. The whole NHRA just welcomed us in like we were family. My experience from junior drag racing has really paid off. I was excited all day today but I wasn't that nervous. I think my time in the junior ranks helped me control my emotions."
"It's going to be a great winter now for the whole Collins Racing Pontiac Firebird team, and now we all know that hard work pays off. I just hope that both Shawn and I can both be in the top-10 next year. He'll have a new car and I just showed that my car is strong so it should be fun."
Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird) "The track has taken a real beating with all the oildowns today. It's the first time I've ever had a Pro Stock car shake in the finish lights. From 330 feet to the end of the track, the car is spinning and shaking because the track's so slick. The fuel cars can deal with these conditions because they have thousands of pounds of downforce, but that's a luxury a Pro Stock doesn't have. As the heat builds up on the starting line, we're changing gear ratios and still can't get the clutch to slip. Apparently the starting line isn't as good as we think it is. We're pulling a gear ratio we never used before with this relative altitude. Either the car's going to run real fast or run real slow - there's nothing in between. We made a step in the right direction, but it wasn't enough. I don't know whether we've got a bad batch of clutch discs, but we can't seem to get them to function like they did earlier this year. Now we've got a couple of days off before the new season begins, so we'll get it figured out before we come back to Pomona. We'll refurbish this car for next season; we're not ready to take this horse out behind the barn and shoot it quite yet. We'll also have a new race car, and our plan is to go to Tucson and test for a week with both cars before the Winternationals. I think we've got enough of a data base now with this car that when we get to the hot and steamy part of the year next season, we'll be able to pick up the pace a bit. We're going to get hot and heavy on trying to build some more power for next year so we can get serious about this."
Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) "We looked really good in the first round and we thought we had a pretty good combination on the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird. Right in front of us in the second round, a top fuel car oiled down the track in the right lane so we switched over to the left. We just had the wheelie bars a little crooked and it started moving towards the center line. I tried to correct it, and I had to pedal it in fourth gear to keep it from flipping over. George (Marnell) just squeaked on by me. We gave it our best shot and it was just a typical ending to the kind of year we've had. We're going to take all the engines back to New York, test them on the dyno to see where they are, and then go to Houston running every motor through one car. That will give us a correlation between the best and the worst and we'll be able to see how they compare against each other. Then we'll go back to the dyno and try to make more horsepower. We want to baseline them against each other so that we'll know which motor is the best going down the race track. We'll use the dyno to correlate the data. We'll start tomorrow. We're not wasting any time. We want the championship back and we're going to work hard to get it."
Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) "We made some changes on our staff, and I think that really helped to bring the morale around and our performance as well. Our Summit Racing Pontiac team is excited about next year and I think we'll do even better. We qualified fairly well at a lot of races and we just couldn't get past the first round. We made some changes for race day and that seemed to help. We really feel that we made some tremendous strides in September that put us in the Winston top-10 for good. My hat goes off to my crew, Rob Downing, Mark Lavoy, Paul Lavoy, the guys at the engine shop, Scott Pastercack and Dave Cook. They've done a tremendous job keeping this Firebird a fast car. The game plan for the off season is to put in a lot of work and think of way to catch WJ."
Pontiac Note: Rickie Smith drove Mark Pawuk's backup Pontiac Pro Stock Firebird in today's race. Smith, who qualified 11th,,suffered an accident during Friday afternoon qualifying and was not able to return in his primary race car.
"After my accident last year at Woodburn, a lot of guys pitched in and helped me out so that I would be ready to race in Seattle," explained Pawuk. "I wouldn't have been able to compete without the generosity of the teams and drivers in the NHRA Pro Stock division. That's what you do around here when someone needs a little help and it's just my way of returning the favor."
Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) "Raw horsepower won the race against Allen Johnson. We were light on the clutch set-up and my Finish Line Racing Engine carried me through the lap. I was pushing the Pennzoil Firebird so hard the shift light never went off. I've always said you have to be good and you have to be lucky to win a race. We just used up a little luck. I want to win this race. I don't care about the points, I just want to win."
George Marnell (Tenneco Pontiac Firebird) "We broke our primary motor during qualifying and we could never get the backup motor to perform like we wanted. It definitely has more power than that, but we have a gremlin somewhere and we just have to figure out what it's going to take to run well. We were lucky enough today to do the right things. We got down the sloppy lanes and we ended up winning a couple of rounds. We didn't win the race but we were successful in making the best out of a bad situation. That says a lot about Bob Cave and the rest of the Tenneco Pontiac Firebird team. Everybody did their job. Now if we can get everything working together we'll be a pretty good team. We're awfully tenacious so we'll get there. We're looking forward to next year and we're happy to end this season on a positive note. We got some breaks today but we've been due for a little luck. We've been on the wrong end of those a few times this year and sometimes the table just turns your way. We'll go back to the shop and start tearing things apart. We have two months to figure it out and that's precisely what we plan to do."
Cruz Pedregon (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) "Actually, a bracket that holds the throttle cable in place just broke clean from the weld. That's just something that you can't plan and probably won't happen again in another 10 years. It just doesn't happen. After a while, you put some time on these chassis and things like that become more probable. This Interstate Batteries Firebird has been a great car, but sometimes the breaks just don't go your way. All I can say is that we're extremely happy with the way things went this year. Thirteen No. 1 qualifying spots and three national records, it's hard to complain about that and now we'll turn our focus towards next year. What happened today is certainly not a reflection on how good this team is. We're getting a new Firebird, and a brand new chassis and it has some modifications on it that will make it extremely fast. We're not standing still. We always want to be on the cutting edge of technological advancements at Joe Gibbs Racing and with Wes Cerny, we are. We have the resources to win a championship and we're certainly not going to sit down on what we've done. The goal is to go quicker and faster and that's what we'll work on during the off season. Next year it's going to be a battle and we'll be prepared."
Al Hofmann (GM Performance Parts Pontiac Firebird) "I'm just glad this season is over with right now. We'll come back over the winter, do some testing and see if we can't come out here and put this GM Performance Parts Pontiac Firebird back in the top-three where it belongs. I want to thank all my sponsors for helping us out and hopefully we can come right out of the chute and be competitive. I thought when we came out on Thursday and ran in the 4.90s like we did that we would be able to step up into the 4.80s. Things just didn't go our way I guess. But I guess it's better to have those problems happen at the last race rather than at the first race when we start counting points all over again. You're never any better than your last run so right now we're not very good. Everything looked pretty good but obviously something wasn't happening like it should have been in the clutch. I hate to sound like a broken record but that's just the way it is. We thought we were on to something pretty good that worked for a couple of runs for us but then it went away. We have a lot of time over the winter to think about what we're going to do next year. When we start testing, we're going to put the Logan clutch disks in and we're not going to look back. We almost used them on Saturday and looking back on it, that's probably the way we should have gone. But hindsight's 20-20 and we're disappointed we didn't go that way. That's the way it goes and you learn from experience."
Dale Creasy (Creasy Racing Pontiac Firebird) "I was just too excited because I wanted to win the race so bad. I went up there, everything was ready to go on the Creasy Racing Firebird and I just blew it with a .350 red light. I knew it as soon as I did it and there was nothing I could do about it. I was just mad because we could have beat Tim (Wilkerson). I can pedal it and run better than a 6.12. But Tim's a good guy and I walked over to him after the race and told him Merry Christmas. We'll be back next year and we're working on possibly bringing in a new sponsor. When the Winternationals roll around, we'll be ready. We always enter a new season with the attitude that we can finish in the top-10. If we're proved wrong, we'll skip some of the Western swing races just to conserve our budget. But we didn't do too bad this year. Most of the times when we didn't make a race it was because of a parts failure. I'm not saying that we didn't do something to cause that, but we had a blower belt break at the last race and this time it looks like a fuel pump went out. So things that aren't supposed to happen are happening. Our maintenance is pretty good on this team. We don't fudge on a thing. Other than that, this wasn't too bad for my first full year. We're still around and I'm happy."
Tim Wilkerson (JCIT Pontiac Firebird) "I guess it just wasn't our day. We thought we were starting to get a little good luck, especially after we got by the first round. It just wasn't to be. That was our early Christmas present. The year as a whole, I would probably give our performance a 'B.' I did some dumb things and the car did some dumb things but with the new team, we're still learning. I think as long as we keep eliminating ways to make mistakes, we'll keep getting better. We were really struggling with our new clutch disks. We had it figured out but when the track conditions changed, that threw us a curve. We talked about it after the race and we're pretty confident that we have a handle on it. We'll come back next February and the JCIT Pontiac Firebird will be ready to go. We'll take it somewhere in January and run the wheels off of it. By that time, we should be a pretty tough car to beat."