Hill takes Shootout's runner-up spot
POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 14) -- The final race of the Big Bud Shootout was a thrilling side-by-side race that finished with Rookie of the Year candidate Doug Kalitta edging 62-year-old legend Eddie Hill at the finish line. The final tally saw Kalitta complete his run in 4.599 seconds at 313.26 mph to Hill's 4.620-second lap at 307.06 mph.
The event, which pits the top eight qualifiers of the year against one another, was run during Saturday's final day of professional qualifying for the 34th Annual Winston Finals at Pomona Raceway.
The runner-up finish in the Shootout garnered Hill $15,000 and his victorious first-round lap of 4.600 seconds at a career-best 315.12 mph placed him in sixth place of the 16-car field that will compete for the crown of the Winston Finals Sunday.
Hill will be joined in Sunday's action by teammate Mike Thomas, who put his Pennzoil machine into the Pro Stock field in the No. 4 spot. Noticeably missing from the elimination rounds will be Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock driver Bruce Allen, who failed to qualify for the event.
Here's the latest news from each Pennzoil driver's pit.
Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, was pleased with his runner-up finish in the prestigious Big Bud Shootout and the personal-best speed he posted along the way. Starting as the No. 5 qualifier, Hill beat the No. 4 driver, Mike Dunn, and the No. 1 driver in the world, Gary Scelzi, before losing in the finals.
"How can you not call this day a huge success?" Hill said. "The car was fantastic and we did everything we could to win. To advance to the finals of this classic race when you're facing the best drivers in the sport every round is just a thrill. We were as competitive as we could be each round and we didn't beat ourselves with engine problems or tire-smokers. It's hard not to be pleased with how everything came out.
"We have also placed ourselves in a good position to make a real run at the title tomorrow. It's very comforting to have the amount of confidence in your car that I do. I credit (crew chief) Dan Olson and the rest of boys for having the car ready to go every single lap. I would love to finish with a win. It would be a huge lift for all of us."
Hill will open Sunday's elimination rounds against Cory McClenathan, who ran a 4.646-second lap at 300.60 mph to finish in the No. 11 spot. McClenathan beat Hill in their only meeting this year. Hill has recorded nine elimination round wins in 1998 and has qualified for every race, extending his current streak to 40 straight races.
Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, saved his best run for the final round where he carded a 6.922-second lap at 199.07 mph. The run propelled Thomas to the No. 4 qualifying position. He will open Sunday's elimination rounds with lane choice over the No. 13 qualifier, Allen Johnson, whose best run was a 6.964-second pass at 198.93 mph. This will mark the first race between the two men.
"We finally made a run that matched our potential," Thomas said. "I love it when my best run is the last one. It makes you feel like you're peaking at the right time. We need to hit it again in the first round and try to advance a few rounds. I've never raced Allen before and that always makes me a little apprehensive. But if I concentrate on what I need to do and just race the track then everything will take care of itself. I would love to finish with a win. We also have a chance to move up in the points. Tomorrow will be exciting."
Thomas has qualified for 21 races this season and has added one event win and 13 elimination round wins to his resume in 1998.
Bruce Allen, the driver of the Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, slowed to a 7.045-second lap at 195.39 mph in Round 4. His best time of the event was a third round lap of 7.005 seconds at 196.42 mph, which leaves Allen outside the group of qualified drivers who will race on Sunday.
"The ongoing saga of inconsistency we've been suffering from continued today," Allen said. "It's a sad way to end the season. All year long it was one thing or another hampering our efforts. We did the best we could, but it wasn't ever good enough.
"I can tell you this -- you will not see this level of performance from this team any more. We've got a brand new car and we plan on starting over from scratch. We need a fresh start and we'll have it by February. The off season will be filled with plenty of test runs and we plan on attacking the 1999 season as a front runner."
Allen qualified for 10 races in 1998 and won 11 elimination round races.