Topeka Pontiac Drivers Staurday Notes

Allen paces Pennzoil effort in Topeka TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 17) -- Two weeks ago, torrential rain and high winds forced the postponement of the elimination rounds of the 10th annual Parts America Nationals. On Saturday's make-good day, more ...

Allen paces Pennzoil effort in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 17) -- Two weeks ago, torrential rain and high winds forced the postponement of the elimination rounds of the 10th annual Parts America Nationals. On Saturday's make-good day, more rainfall delayed the scheduled midday start until the early evening. At long last, the diehard race fans in attendance had their perseverance rewarded with a rare nighttime session in which the drivers fought through suspect and slippery conditions on every flame-throwing lap.

The pros in the Pennzoil paddock did their best to stay competitive. Outlaw Fuel Additives pilot Bruce Allen led Team Pennzoil's charge with a trip to the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Eddie Hill and Mike Thomas both struggled out of the traction-less right-hand lane and lost their opening round races.

The following recap offers some insight into each Pennzoil pit.

Bruce Allen, the Pro Stock driver of the Outlaw Fuel Additives Pontiac Firebird, reached the quarterfinal round by beating Pennzoil teammate Thomas in Round 1. The win, his 11th of the year, earned him the right to face 1997 Winston points champion Jim Yates in the second round, a race Allen lost due to a starting-line violation.

Allen's opening win over Thomas was highlighted by an impressive 0.414-second reaction time at the starting line (0.400-seconds is perfect.) Allen held on to take the win despite both drivers temporarily losing traction several times on the freshly-dried track.

"The surface was so slick it was dangerous," Allen said. "I got off to a good start but the car became real aggressive down track and I started spinning. I had to stay on (the accelerator) all the way through because I didn't know where Mike was and I didn't want to give away the win at the other end. I was real happy when the (win) light came on."

Despite the victory, Allen's winning time of 7.136 seconds at 193.79 mph wasn't good enough to earn him the crucial advantage of lane choice over Yates, who bettered Larry Nance in Round 1 with a 6.962-second lap at 195.95 mph.

"Going into the race against Yates, we had a go-for-broke philosophy," Allen said. "We changed a lot of things on the car between races because we knew we were running a real fast car. I got myself so wound up that I jumped the light (0.294 seconds) and gave him the win. It would've been hard to beat his numbers (6.952-second lap at 196.50 mph) regardless of what I could've run, but it would have been fun to try. Overall, this was a pretty decent race for us. I feel like we started to show what the Outlaw machine can do and I hope we can carry this over to Dallas and win a few rounds there."

Eddie Hill, the Top Fuel pilot of the Pennzoil Dragster, was beaten in the opening round by reigning Winston points champion and No. 1 qualifier Gary Scelzi. Hill's car immediately lost traction at the starting line and torqued towards the centerline before the 62-year-old race veteran managed to regain control of his car and continue his pass. Hill could have finished the run under power, but gave up when he realized that Scelzi was in the midst of the fastest run of his career. The final numbers saw Scelzi win in 4.649 seconds at 322.69 mph to Hill's 8.839-second, 97.40-mph lap.

"In my opinion, the right lane of this track is in real bad shape," Hill said. "I knew we didn't have a chance as soon as I walked up to the starting line before the session started. The rain just completely washed everything off the track. When we were here a few weeks ago, the bald spots that showed up after the rain we experienced filled in pretty quickly once the big cars started running. This time around it wasn't holding at all.

"It's another disappointing race for us. We ran a 4.71-second pass yesterday, which was the second fastest time of the test-and-tune session and I thought we had a good chance to give Gary a run for his money. But the rain put an end to that in a hurry. We've got no one to blame but ourselves. If we had qualified better, we would have had lane choice. Every car that won tonight was in the left lane. Obviously, (lane choice) would have been a real help."

Hill remains one of only six drivers that have qualified for every race this year. He has recorded eight elimination round wins.

Mike Thomas, the Pro Stock driver of the Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird, lost traction several times during his first round race against Allen and shut off his car when he neared the retaining wall. Thomas was racing out of the sub-standard right-hand lane, which produced only one opening round win.

"That wasn't what I consider racing," Thomas said. "This entire event should have been held over until tomorrow. These were the worst conditions I've ever raced on at an NHRA national event. It's ridiculous. I feel like I had the faster car and we just couldn't stay on the track. We were spinning all the way down to a little past mid-track. I eventually got over by the wall and had to lift (off the accelerator.)

"I don't want to take any credit away from Bruce. He ran a good lap and he earned lane choice. But I think he'd agree with me that the track is way below where it needs to be."

Thomas has one event win and 13 elimination round wins in 1998.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Gary Scelzi , Bruce Allen , Larry Nance