Bristol Friday qqualifying

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Anthony Vestal IHRA Director of Communications (423) 764-1164 / (423) 274-0530 (Spring Nationals Press Box) June 6, 1997 Hartman-Smith leads Top Fuel pack at Spring Nationals BRISTOL, Tenn. -- After missing...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Anthony Vestal IHRA Director of Communications (423) 764-1164 / (423) 274-0530 (Spring Nationals Press Box)

June 6, 1997

Hartman-Smith leads Top Fuel pack at Spring Nationals

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- After missing the qualifying cut at the season-opening IHRA Winter Nationals, Rhonda Hartman-Smith turned her drag racing fortunes around at the 33rd annual Prolong Super Lubricants Spring Nationals presented by Parts Pro with the quickest run during first round Top Fuel qualifying. The race is the second of eight national events on the IHRA Snap-on Tools Drag Racing Series. The Williamston, S.C. racer covered the Bristol Dragway quarter-mile in 4.961 seconds at 277.83 miles per hour. Hartman's closest competitor Friday was Armada, Mich.'s Shirley Muldowney (4.97, 298.07). The ladies were in the first pair of 15 cars that made qualifying attempts.

Jim Bailey of Mantua, Ohio was third fastest with a career best of (5.02, 284.87). Winter Nationals winner and current IHRA Snap-on Tools points leader Paul Romine was fourth (5.07, 269.51) in his first run at Thunder Valley since 1978.

"We were hoping for a better run on that pass," said Hartman-Smith, former IHRA Rookie of the Year. "We feel safe with the 4.96. We feel like we're in the program. We've been gradually stepping our program up since Darlington. We've got all new equipment and new parts. We've been working hard and testing a lot, trying to get the car better. We've invested a lot in the car and we just want to work and learn some things and make that investment worthwhile."

Hartman, along with many other IHRA Top Fuel drivers, feels like Bristol will see its first 300 mph pass this weekend. "I think the track will hold it," Hartman-Smith said. "If somebody doesn't run it I will be surprised. We would love to be the first. We ran 299.90 (Bristol Top Fuel track record) here before, and we're just surprised that the cars weren't quicker out there today."

In other professional categories, Galena, Kan. racer Jerry Yeoman was fastest in Pro Stock. He drove his 1996 Oldsmobile Cutlass to a track record pass of 6.82, 202.73. Doug Kirk was second (6.84, 202.73), and Angelo Alesci third (6.84, 202.73). "It was a fair pass," said Yeoman, owner of Tulsa (Okla.) International Raceway about his first qualifying attempt. "I was all over the track and went to one side and had to pull it back. We were a little heavy on the clutch and the track was loose on the big end. I think the track is good enough to go faster here this weekend."

There was a tense moment in the first round of Pro Stock qualifying when Roy Hill careened between the Bristol Dragway walls after he lost control of his Pro Stock Ford Probe. Hill wasn't injured in the incident and hopes to have a new car ready before qualifying starts Saturday. "I watched 20 people in front of me go real fast and I was trying to do the same thing," said Hill, owner of Roy Hill's Drag Racing School, based in Sophia, N.C. and a 30-year veteran of drag racing. "I stayed in it too long. When I did get out of it, it grabbed and jerked to the right. It was sideways and went up on two wheels and the guard rail caught me and kept me from going out of the ballfield. It was my fault. I was trying too hard. I just have to thank God that I'm OK."

Kentucky businessman Billy Harper drove his 1969 Barracuda to the top qualifying spot in Pro Modified. He covered the quarter-mile in 6.605, 197.39. King, N.C.'s Rickie Smith was second fastest at 6.608, 213.30 in a 1963 Corvette. "We hurt three cylinders five seconds into that run," Harper said. "So it has the potential to go faster. We've got to learn to run the number without hurting the motor. The track is good here at Bristol and we're going to have to go faster if we're going to stay in that top position because these Pro Mod guys always find a way to go faster."

A new track record was established in Alcohol Funny Car by Ashland, Va. Racer Scott Weis. He drove his Sherwin-Williams Paint-sponsored Ford Mustang to the first ever 5-second Alcohol Funny Car elapsed time at Bristol. The two-time Bristol winner ran 5.996, 230.80. Jimmy Rector was second in a Dodge Avenger at 6.086, 230.80.

Snap-on Tools Drag Racing resumes Saturday at Bristol Dragway with professional qualifying starting at 1 p.m. The popular Saturday Night of Fire program, the final professional qualifying session will begin at 8 p.m. Final eliminations are Sunday at 12 p.m. (noon). (-end-)

***IHRA Snap-on Tools Drag Racing***

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Series Drag
Drivers Paul Romine , Shirley Muldowney , Scott Weis , Rhonda Hartman-Smith , Angelo Alesci , Rickie Smith
Teams Williams