Topeka: Pontiac Racing qualifying notes

TOPEKA, Kan., May 25, 2001 - Qualifying for the Advance Auto Parts NHRA Nationals got underway today at Heartland Park. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson drove the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Grand Am to the No. 1 qualifying spot with a 6.868 ...

TOPEKA, Kan., May 25, 2001 - Qualifying for the Advance Auto Parts NHRA Nationals got underway today at Heartland Park. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson drove the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Grand Am to the No. 1 qualifying spot with a 6.868 elapsed time at a track-record speed of 200.92 mph. If Johnson remains No. 1 after tomorrow's two final sessions, it will be the first time this year that he's started raceday from the top spot. Mike Edwards is qualified second in a Cavalier, Allen Johnson is third in a Dodge, Jim Yates is fourth in a Grand Am (6.884ET/199.94MPH) and Jeg Coughlin is fifth in a Cavalier. George Marnell is qualified seventh, Bruce Allen is eighth, Mark Pawuk is ninth, Richie Stevens is 12th, Tom Martino is 19th and Brad Jeter is 23rd, all in Grand Ams.

In Funny Car, Del Worsham continues to run fast in the Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird qualifying No. 3 with a 4.824 elapsed time at 318.62 mph. The No. 1 qualifier is John Force with a 4.809 second run at 316.82 mph. Tony Pedregon is second, Tommy Johnson Jr. is fourth in a Camaro and Dean Skuza is fifth. Tim Wilkerson ran career-best numbers today in a Firebird qualifying sixth with a 4.846 second elapsed time at 318.77 mph. Scotty Cannon is qualified seventh, Whit Bazemore is eighth, Jerry Toliver is 11th, Bruce Sarver is 13th, Tony Bartone is 14th and Al Hofmann is 15th, all in Firebirds.

Mike Dunn ran the quickest elapsed time under the year-old 90-percent rules with a lap of 4.495 seconds at a track-record speed of 331.53 mph. That was the second fastest top speed in NHRA history on a qualifying run that moved the Gwynn/Steinbrenner/GMC/Yankee dragster to the No. 1 position. Doug Kalitta is qualified second, Gary Scelzi is third, Darrell Russell is fourth and Kenny Bernstein is fifth.

Qualifying highlights can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, May 26, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Final eliminations can be seen on ESPN on Sunday, May 27, starting at 3:30 p.m.

PRO STOCK

Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Grand Am) - "We looked at what we did wrong in the first session and we were a little too aggressive. We had a different clutch in it and we didn't want to burn it up in one session. We figured the next session would be better anyway so we made a valid run, got some good data, made a run out of it and went from there. We backed it up a little bit as far as the clutch is concerned - still a little aggressive. Probably left a hundredth on the table. We're happy where we are right now. I figure if we can run that time tomorrow we'll be in pretty good shape because I expect it to be a little warmer. There are so many cars that are just two-hundredths behind me that it's pretty much impossible to predict if it will stay No. 1, depending on how they ran. We made a decent run. I bet they didn't make perfect runs either. I think there's a possibility that we could get bumped out of No. 1. The reason the Pro Stock guys wanted to run earlier tomorrow, is so we could have another good session of qualifying instead of just one. Potentially the field could be set by just one session and I don't think that's what the fans want to see in any of these categories. Sometimes it doesn't even matter what we run on Saturday because the field is already set from the Friday night session. We are just trying to figure out different scenario's so that every session counts instead of just the Friday night round. There's been a couple of years where in the middle of the season it was relatively close, but if you look at the number of cars and the quality of the cars, it's going to go right down to the wire this year. Even in the Fuel categories it's that way. I think as far as the spectator's are concerned they're seeing some of the best NHRA racing ever. It makes it tougher on us but we have to realize that those are the people that we have to satisfy."

Bruce Allen (Reher-Morrison Pontiac Grand Am) - Anytime we make our first run and make it a good one we feel like we can build on it. You never know for sure because you can make mistakes but at least we're ahead of the curve. It would have to get awfully good for a 6.89 to get bumped out, so we can go up there tonight and be a little more aggressive and try to go faster. It will probably take a 6.86 to be low qualifier, and a good as our Pontiac Grand Am ran in that first session we feel like we have a shot at it. It's encouraging to bounce out like that, right off the trailer and make a good run. The car looked like it could have run a hundredth better, that's about it - we pretty much drained it. We can always pick through there and find a hundredth and if we'd have run a 6.885 that would have been just about it. We were a little off at 60-feet. This Grand Am usually runs good 60-foot times. We were a 1.01 so we can pick up a little bit there. There were a lot of good cars capable of running 6.88 or 6.89 and if that would have happened then our run wouldn't have looked as good as it was. Our first run was good anyway and that gives us a direction to go in."

FUNNY CAR

Tim Wilkerson (Levi Ray & Shoup Pontiac Firebird) - "This Firebird's been throwing us some bones here in the last couple of races with the five-disc clutch we just put in. I talked to a couple of long-car guys earlier in the week and I just wish I knew more about the car so that I could make better decisions. After listening to some of the things they did and didn't like we think we were able to make some pretty good decisions. I looked at all the data, made the call and I had no idea it would work as well as it did. I knew it would run in the high 4.80's if it stuck because it's shown us it would do that during the last two races. I'm a little surprised it ran that quick but at the same time it felt like a good pass. It was very slow early, it was so conservative early that it was a joke. I can see how Del (Worsham) ran as fast as he did in Englishtown. I'm real proud of my guys. These are the same guys who were with me in my Alcohol car back in the early 90's. They work their fingers to the bone to take this car apart and put it back together so that I don't have to worry about it. It's a big weekend for us with everyone from Sioux City Kenworth here so that qualifying run took a big load off us."

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's-Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "Nice easy run, but I think we were maybe too conservative, although, that's really easy to say after the fact. Obviously there was plenty of track out there, and this Pontiac Firebird can go a lot quicker than that, but we all know that you need that solid baseline to build from if you really want to have a good weekend. I'm more concerned about the blue car though, that was a big boomer they suffered, and they've got quite a bit of damage they've got to fix if they want to make the late session. It won't be easy for them."

After second session: "That was one incredible session wasn't it? We came up there knowing we had a tune up in our CSK Firebird that would definitely move us up from the earlier 4.88, but I just wasn't sure how much we had it loaded up. I'll say this, we weren't quite to the 4.77 level and that was by design. We just didn't quite have enough confidence that the weather was going to hold. We ended up being surprised by how the temperature held in there after the sun went down. But it plowed right down there with a 4.82 and that's good for #3, which we're happy with going into tomorrow."

Frank Pedregon (Checker Schuck's-Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "It was just running along fine, nothing incredible but pretty much right there with Del's lap, and then BOOM! That was that. It broke a nice blower into pieces. The hood cracked a little, and the firewall got all pushed up and in, just like the explosion last week in Englishtown. Needless to say, this is a trend we pretty much need to stop. We don't know what happened yet, and we don't know if we'll make it back for the night run but we're trying. We're working hard and trying to get back out there and put a number up."

After second session: "Well, we blew it up pretty well in that first one and just couldn't get it back together for the night session. We were working hard, but the Firebird body was damaged pretty badly and we had half the team working on that and half putting a new motor and new blower on it because we disintegrated the blower on that run. We were thrashing and probably could have gotten it up there but not with the time we need to make sure we didn't just come out here and do it again. According to the computer there was nothing wrong with it before it blew up, and that's more of a concern than when he can see something out of whack. This way we'll be ready for tomorrow and we'll push it right into the field."

TOP FUEL

Mike Dunn (Gwynn/Steinbrenner/GMC/Yankee) - "The car 4.54 on the run before, and put some cylinders out downtrack so we stepped on it. It didn't hurt anything on the first run, it was just too rich and too soft. We stepped the motor up, gave it a little more clutch early and tuned the fuel system up to try and get it to run on all eight cylinders. We knew if it would stick it would fly. It went through halftrack and felt good but I couldn't really tell. Then the motor started coming up at halftrack, I went through the lights, the chute hit I said 'man that had to be good!'

-GM racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Brad Jeter , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Tony Bartone , Al Hofmann , Dean Skuza , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Scotty Cannon , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Allen Johnson , Jerry Toliver , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr.