Hill and Allen embrace night racing ST. LOUIS (June 24) -- The first day of professional qualifying for the Third Annual Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway had a distinctly different feel to it, and for good reason.
Hill and Allen embrace night racing
ST. LOUIS (June 24) -- The first day of professional qualifying for the Third Annual Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway had a distinctly different feel to it, and for good reason. Race organizers, in the interest of the spectators, have rearranged this year's event so that the professional racing action all takes place in the late afternoon and evening when the temperatures are more agreeable.
So far the plan is working well. Most drivers, including members of Team Pennzoil, used Thursday's early session as a tune-up for the day's nighttime lap, knowing the cooler evening conditions would be more conducive to quick times and fast speeds.
Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, followed the pattern of many of his peers by running his best time of the day in Round 2. Hill's impressive 4.628-second lap at 313.95 mph easily bettered his opening pass of 4.751 seconds at 310.55 mph and helped him vault from ninth place to the No. 4 spot on the qualifying ladder.
"We ran that well and we were still a little conservative," Hill said. "The guys wanted to tune a little more clutch in as we watched that round progress and in my heart I thought the car could handle that but I decided to play it safe and make a lap I knew we could make. I thought we would improve a bunch the way we had it and I was right."
Bruce Allen, the driver of The Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, knocked a full tenth of a second off of his earlier mark of 7.123 seconds when he recorded a 7.022-second lap at 196.76 mph in the second session. The improved time moved Allen into the No. 12 spot in the field with two rounds of qualifying left.
"There's still room for improvement and we just might need it," Allen said. "Normally when you run a time like that on Friday night you think it'll hold a spot for you on Race Day, but not here. There are a bunch of good cars that aren't in yet. I think we've got a couple hundredths of a second more in this car and I think we'll need them to stay in the field."
Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, failed to record a time in the evening session after experiencing engine problems during the pre-race burnout. Thomas' earlier mark of 7.077 seconds at 196.39 mph left him in 17th place.
"We broke a lifter some time during the burnout," Thomas said. "I heard it rattling around when I was backing up so I shut it off immediately. Thank God we have two nighttime qualifying sessions here or otherwise I'd be out of luck. It's also nice to know that we have just as good a motor right here for back up. These things do happen from time to time."