Reading Team Pennzoil Elim Round 2 Story

Pennzoil pair exits in second round READING, Pa. -- A promising start came to an abrupt end for Team Pennzoil as drivers Eddie Hill and Mike Thomas both followed their opening round wins with quarterfinal losses Sunday, thus ending their ...

Pennzoil pair exits in second round

READING, Pa. -- A promising start came to an abrupt end for Team Pennzoil as drivers Eddie Hill and Mike Thomas both followed their opening round wins with quarterfinal losses Sunday, thus ending their individual quests for the title of the14th annual Pioneer Keystone Nationals. Although both drivers were initially disappointed, the weekend at Maple Grove Raceway has to be considered a success for Pennzoil. Prior to this race, Pennzoil had not advanced two cars into the second round since May 31 in Chicago.

Here's the latest news and notes from Pennzoil's pit row.

Eddie Hill, the Top Fuel pilot of the Pennzoil Dragster, barely got off the starting line in his quarterfinal race against Jim Head when he smoked his tires and was forced to abort his run. He eventually crossed the finish line in a pedestrian 12.258 seconds at 83.92 mph. Head had no problems affecting his pass of 4.752 seconds at 298.21 mph.

"We were the first pair out there and they had just scraped the track," Hill said. "I think that might have hurt us a little. I've run out of things to say. We have had so many races this year just like this one where we qualify great and then have terrible luck on Sunday. It's tough on everyone. On one hand, I'm really pleased with the car and how it's been running. On the other hand, I'm really down about the way we lost. But we'll just have to keep after it and eventually luck will turn our way."

Crew Chief Dan Olson was equally perplexed. "We're investigating now to find out what happened today," he said. "The RPMs were way down and that caused the clutch to slip. There's a reason that happened I just haven't found it yet. The end result is the same -- we smoked the tires on race day and we go home disappointed."

Hill had been the most consistent Top Fuel pilot of the weekend, posting runs of 4.639, 4.642 and 4.650 seconds during qualifying. The marks perpetuated a yearlong streak of great qualifying sessions for Hill. He has reached the elimination rounds of every race this season and has qualified in the top half of the field on 12 occasions. Additionally, Hill has recorded eight elimination round wins in 1998.

Mike Thomas, the Pro Stock driver of the Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird, was outrun at the long end of the track by Jeg Coughlin in the quarterfinal round. Thomas carded a 7.040-second lap at 195.60 mph to Coughlin's 7.012-second pass at 196.37 mph.

"I must have a problem with the engine because nobody beats me at the other end of the track like that," Thomas said. "All season our strong point has been the ability to drive away from people from half-track on. Today, Jeggy just pulled away from me. My hat's off to those guys. They flat-out beat us.

"This has been a great weekend for us. We're real close to being back where we were when we won in Chicago. My reaction times are better, the team is real focused and the clutch is right where it needs to be. I can't wait for the next race. I guarantee you, we can win a few events before this year is up."

In addition to his event title in Chicago, Thomas has been the most successful driver for Team Pennzoil this year with 13 elimination round wins.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Mike Thomas , Jeg Coughlin