COMMERCE, Ga. (May 16) -- By qualifying three drivers and winning four elimination rounds on Race Day, Team Pennzoil exits the 19th Advance Auto Parts Nationals at Atlanta Dragway knowing it had its best race weekend of the season. Top Fuel...
COMMERCE, Ga. (May 16) -- By qualifying three drivers and winning four elimination rounds on Race Day, Team Pennzoil exits the 19th Advance Auto Parts Nationals at Atlanta Dragway knowing it had its best race weekend of the season.
Top Fuel driver Eddie Hill and Pro Stock pilot Mike Thomas both recorded a pair of wins Sunday, which makes this race each driver's best outing of 1999. Meanwhile, Bruce Allen managed to successfully qualify his Outlaw machine in the 16-car Pro Stock field, marking the second time this season he's survived the cut in his bracket.
Here's a recap of each driver's weekend.
Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, had a disappointing loss of traction in the semifinals against Doug Kalitta and could only watch as Kalitta took the win in 4.814 seconds at 297.81 mph to his 7.190-second, 106.27-mph lap. Prior to that run, Hill, the No. 5 qualifier, had carded impressive wins over Jim Head and Tony Schumacher.
"I was tickled with how everything was working out this weekend until about 1.5 seconds into my last lap," Hill said. "We kept the exact same tune-up we used to beat Schumacher and, with the conditions deteriorating the way they did, I guess we should have backed her down just a tick or two. The track just wouldn't hold her.
"But the good news is that we ran real well during Race Day on a marginal track under less-than-desirable conditions. I'll take a streak like that at every race, especially as we head into the warm months. This weekend was fun and it reminded us all what winning is all about. I decided that we really like it and we want a bunch more of it. I certainly have gained a lot of confidence in the car and I'm already excited about the next race."
Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, gave away his semifinal race to Richie "The Kid" Stevens when he left the starting line too early and was disqualified. Thomas drew the red-light violation when he left in 0.343 seconds, 0.057 seconds before the green light came on. The Knoxville, Tenn. resident went on to post a 7.211-second lap at 190.48 mph to Stevens' 10.038-second lap at 90.82 mph.
"I got too fired up and just dumped the clutch too early," Thomas said. "I knew we needed everything we had because we were in the bad lane and I just left early. The car actually hooked up and ran pretty well. It continues to be very consistent, which I always feel is the way you need to be in order to win races and to put yourself in a position to win races.
"The weekend was a big, big step in the right direction. We just did some quick arithmetic and it looks as though we moved up to 14th in the points and got within real close striking distance of the Top 10. We'll just keep fighting and eventually we'll get to where we need to be. All the pieces are in place."
Thomas, who qualified in the No. 3 spot on the ladder, had soundly beaten current Winston points leader Kurt Johnson and Greg Anderson on his way to the semifinals.
Bruce Allen, the driver of The Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, lost his first round race against two-time Winston champion Jim Yates after starting the day out of the 13th qualifying position.
"This track proved how important lane choice is," Allen said. "Your No. 1 goal at every race is to get in the field. A real close No. 2 goal is to be in the top half of the field so that you have lane choice. Especially at tracks like this where one lane is so much better than the other.
"Overall, this weekend was much more positive for us than the past few races have been. It feels like we made a lot of progress and that we're on the way to turning this thing around. I'm encouraged by the way the car ran and the way the engines performed. I'm starting to think that we're not too far away from having a car that can be in the top half of the field at every race. Then we can start to work on goal No. 3, which involves getting a trophy at the end of the day."