Sonoma: Pontiac final qualifying notes

SONOMA, Calif., August 4, 2001 - Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird driver Whit Bazemore captured his third No. 1 Funny Car qualifying spot in the last four races today at the 14th annual Fram-Autolite Nationals at Sears Point Raceway. ...

SONOMA, Calif., August 4, 2001 - Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird driver Whit Bazemore captured his third No. 1 Funny Car qualifying spot in the last four races today at the 14th annual Fram-Autolite Nationals at Sears Point Raceway.

Bazemore's Firebird set the pace all day on Friday and jumped to the head of the pack in the evening session with an elapsed time of 4.883 seconds at 301.87 mph. The 38-year-old Indianapolis resident continued his torrid pace on Saturday by running the quickest e.t. of the day at 4.956 seconds.

"It's a reflection of the job that the team is doing," Bazemore said. "It's a great result and it means that we have our Matco Tools Pontiac very, very competitive. We have to be ready for Sunday though. Just because we're No. 1 tonight doesn't mean anything when eliminations start tomorrow. I know that this team will stay here as long as they have to tonight in order give me the best racecar possible.

"So far this Firebird is doing everything we tell it to. It's responding exactly the way we'd like it to, and Lee (Beard) and Mike (Neff) are making all the right calls. We feel very capable of winning this race tomorrow but it's going be a case of not making any mistakes. We have this car right on the edge, and we have to be very careful, but I feel that our performance has the attention of our opponents. We just need to get the job done and try to bring home another trophy."

Dean Skuza is qualified in the No. 2 position, John Force is third, Bruce Sarver is fourth in a Firebird and Ron Capps is fifth. Sarver's 4.960 second run in the final qualifying round was the quickest e.t. of the session.

Johnny Gray is qualified in the No. 7 spot, Scotty Cannon is eighth, Frank Pedregon is ninth, Bob Gilbertson is 10th, Del Worsham is 12th, Jerry Toliver is 13th and Al Hofmann is 16th, all in Pontiac Firebirds.

In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson's Grand Am leads all Pontiacs heading into raceday qualified in the No. 2 position with a 6.882 elapsed time at 199.73 mph. Jeg Coughlin Jr. took the No. 1 spot in a Cavalier with a track-record elapsed time of 6.880 seconds at 199.14 mph. Kurt Johnson is third in a Cavalier, Bruce Allen is fourth in a Grand Am and Mark Osborne is fifth.

Although qualified in the No. 6 position, Jim Yates' Grand Am ran the quickest e.t. of the day in the first session turning in a lap of 6.910 seconds, and the quickest e.t. in the final round at 6.915 seconds.

Mark Pawuk is qualified in the No. 10 spot, Tom Martino is 11th, Brad Jeter is 13th and George Marnell is 14th, all in Grand Ams.

Pro Stock Quotes

Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Grand Am) - "There's a good reason they're plowing up this track on Sunday night after the race. It's an old facility and with the performance level that the cars have achieved, the track just isn't up to spec. Tomorrow will probably be one of those typical unpredictable Sears Point races with plenty of upsets and very few prerace favorites in the winner's circle. The right lane is definitely rougher than the left lane, but you can get down it if you make the appropriate changes. It may be just a little slower. There won't be any 6.80s out there tomorrow; as soon as the track starts getting warm and with the bumps out there, the performance will deteriorate. I'm staying with a conventional Pro Stock tire instead of the alcohol tires that Kurt is using. We know from past experience that the big tires are suitable to certain tracks, and now that Goodyear is offering a variety of tires that fir the parameters we need, it may be time to pursue that path again. I don't think that the big tires will improve performance, but they could improve consistency in some situations."

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am) - "It was very important to run good in the morning session because that's very similar to the conditions we'll have tomorrow morning in the first round. That gives us a pretty good indication of where we are, but still, we left a lot on the table with the run. The track here has changed here so much in every session that we're a little bit behind the eight ball trying to predict what's going to happen next. The track has gone from being tremendously good last night to being slick and greasy today. We didn't take enough clutch out of it, spun the tire pretty hard and were way off on our 60-foot number. We came back and ran good e.t. at the finish line. We'll try to tune it up, see what we can do and hopefully avoid shooting ourselves in the foot. We were tied for low e.t. in the right lane last night and we were low e.t. in the left lane today. Whatever lane we're in, the Splitfire Pontiac Grand Am is going to be one of the two fastest cars. It's a case of being in the good lane when it matters. I feel pretty confident that if we'd been in the left lane last night we'd have been No. 1 or No. 2 qualifier. Right now we're sitting at No. 6. What really matters is how fast we run tomorrow. Qualifying will be over tonight and then we have to come out tomorrow morning and get the job done. We just have to make sure we run fast enough in the first round to not only win but keep lane choice. There are probably eight cars that are within a hundredth of a second of each other so you can't count on winning from the right lane. Tomorrow's going to be completely different. It's going to be a lot like it was this morning, maybe a little slicker, we just have to adapt. Qualifying last night was a fantasy world. The air was really killer, the track was 80 degrees, the surface was sticky, and you cold put a big number up. That's good for qualifying, but we're here for the points and that race is tomorrow. The guy who can get down the track when it's real slick is the guy who will be standing in the winner's circle tomorrow night."

Bruce Allen (Reher-Morrison Pontiac Grand Am) - "This morning we made probably one of our best runs in these kind of conditions. Hopefully we're making some progress on our Grand Am but here we seem to have stumbled on, for whatever reason, a pretty good setup. The conditions will change even more for tonight's session so we need to make some adjustments and see if we can still make a good run. This morning's session was actually a little earlier than when we'd run on raceday. We've been able to run good on maybe one or two runs during a weekend, but as the conditions have deteriorated we haven't kept up and that's what's got us in trouble first round. We're just a little bit behind the curve and then we get out there and stumble. I think maybe we're a little better than that now. If we get lucky and win first round then tonight's run we'll give us information that will come in handy. We're running good enough, our Pontiac's fast enough, we're competitive and it's kind of fun to get excited about seeing how good we can do."

Funny Car Driver Notes

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "This track is tricky, but there's no question the right lane is tougher. Right at 330 it's awfully tough to keep the tires stuck. I know you can do it, but the problem is you pretty much have to run slower than we''e already run and that wasn't going to do us any good. If you get stuck over there on Sunday you're going to have to walk a tightrope, hope you can run a mid-5.0 and maybe win the battle at the lights. Our last pass this afternoon is in the left lane so it's pretty important that we step up on that one."

-GM Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Bob Gilbertson , Al Hofmann , Dean Skuza , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Scotty Cannon , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , George Marnell , Johnny Gray