Atlanta: Pontiac Friday notes

COMMERCE, Ga., May 4, 2001 - Qualifying for the 21st annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals got underway today at Atlanta Dragway. In Pro Stock Truck defending champion Bob Panella Jr. set track records for both elapsed time and top...

COMMERCE, Ga., May 4, 2001 - Qualifying for the 21st annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals got underway today at Atlanta Dragway. In Pro Stock Truck defending champion Bob Panella Jr. set track records for both elapsed time and top speed in his Chevy S-10 to claim the top qualifying position. Panella had an elapsed time of 7.471 seconds at 180.69 mph. Teammate Jeff Gracia was right behind Panella in his Panella Trucking GMC Sonoma with an elapsed time of 7.499 seconds at 180.43 mph. Rounding out the top five in qualifying was Don Smith, Greg Stanfield and Taylor Lastor, all piloting Chevy S-10s. John Lingenfelter in the Summit Racing GMC Sonoma qualified 10th with an elapsed time of 7.565 seconds at 179.56 mph.

In Pro Stock, Greg Anderson qualified No. 1 in his Pontiac Firebird with an elapsed time of 6.934 seconds at 198.47 mph. Mike Edwards is second, Kurt Johnson is third, and Edwards' teammate Ron Krisher is fourth, all in Cavaliers. George Marnell rounds out the top five in his Grand Am. Other Grand Am qualifiers include Richie Stevens Jr. in seventh, Bruce Allen in eighth, Mark Pawuk in ninth, and Tom Martino rounds out the top 10 in 10th. Brad Jeter is 12th and Warren Johnson is 13th in their Grand Ams.

In Funny Car, Pontiac also held down the No. 1 qualifying spot as Jerry Toliver in the WWF/XFL Pontiac Firebird qualified first at 4.843 seconds at 310.98 mph. Bruce Sarver is also in a Firebird in second, Ron Capps is third in a Camaro, John Force is fourth in a Mustang, and Jim Epler is fifth in a Camaro. Del Worsham and teammate Frank Pedregon are sixth and seventh, respectively, in their Firebirds, and Scotty Cannon is eighth in a Firebird. John Lawson is 10th, Al Hofmann is 11th, Whit Bazemore is 12th, Tim Wilkerson is 13th, Johhnny Gray is 15th and Tony Bartone is 16th, all in Firebirds.

Mike Dunn in Top Fuel qualified the Gwynn/Steinbrenner/Yankee GMC Dragster qualified second at 4.583 seconds at a track-record speed of 324.75 mph. Kenny Bernstein qualified No. 1 at 4.521 seconds at 318.92 mph.

The Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals is the seventh race on the 24-event NHRA Winston championship tour. Television coverage of qualifying highlights can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, May 5, beginning at 4:30 Eastern. Final eliminations will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Sunday, May 6, starting at 5:00 p.m.


Jeff Gracia (Panella Trucking GMC Sonoma) - "The motors that Bob (Panella) and I run are pretty close. We finally made two good runs next to each other. We made a lot of changes after that first run and it paid off. We hope to repeat the same run tomorrow a couple of more times. We've got a good baseline for tomorrow and we're going to just make minor adjustments to adjust to the weather and hopefully we'll improve." No. 2 qualifier - 7.499ET/180.43MPH

John Lingenfelter (Summit Racing GMC Sonoma) - "We've just been terrible the first 60 feet. If we can get that squared away we'll be in good shape. The truck's just not leaving at all, so we'll have to look at it. We're not really sure where the problem is." No. 10 qualifier - 7.565ET/179.56MPH


Greg Anderson (Vegas Construction Pontiac Firebird) - "I don't know what's going on. It's a completely different car. This Pontiac is absolutely awesome. It's like I got Warren Johnson's car. That's it - somebody put Warren's car in my trailer overnight or something. It's surprising me every run. It just keeps getting faster and faster and faster. It's unbelievable. I've never had a car like this." No. 1 qualifier - 6.884ET/199.82MPH

George Marnell (Marnell & Black Pontiac Grand Am) - "Our Grand Am made a good move on Saturday in Bristol, and even though we missed the field by about a thousandth, we knew we had a good handle on how the car was going down the racetrack. We've just carried that over and with the weather the way it is, we've been right there with everyone else in the top half." No. 5 - 6.913ET/199.97MPH

Richie Stevens Jr. (Valspar Refinish Pontiac Grand Am) - "We had some problems on that first run with the shift light blinking on and kind of messed me up in the car, but we came back and fixed the problem and made a pretty good run. The car felt good and we're in the field. I wasn't really expecting to run quite that good, but we'll take it. That helps us out a lot and we'll sure be able to go to the hotel and sleep a lot better tonight." No. 7 qualifier - 6.916ET/199.20MPH

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Grand Am) - "We're not real pleased. We've been struggling with this car since Bristol. It gets out of control the first part of the track and we just can't recover. We're a little disappointed because we started off the year so strong, but we've got a strong, young team and we'll get it figured out. We have not made a real strong run yet here this weekend." No. 9 qualifier - 6.925ET/199.29MPH


Jerry Toliver (WWF/XFL Pontiac Firebird) - "Oh my gosh! I feel great. We've been really struggling here lately. We really needed this. We always knew that we had a good team, and a good Firebird, we just kept getting snake bit. We knew that we could make this kind of a run, unfortunately it's just taken more time than we wanted to get there. I am very pleased and happy for the WWF team. Our confidence is up and running after that run. I finally got asked for an autograph again - by a little girl!! It feels great and we're ready and fired up for tomorrow. I tell you what this team has worked so hard and we've tested a lot to get to this point again. I hope we're over our bad spell. I'm ready to have some good luck." No. 1 qualifier - 4.843ET/310.98MPH

Del Worsham (Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "It made it, that's more than most people can say. We had it plenty soft going up there, then we saw car after car smoking the tires out there so we softened it up some more in the lanes. Now, this is where it gets interesting. The sun will start to set, it's going to cool down, and you're going to be able to get after it tonight. What helps us is the baseline of a full pass. If you blew the tires off early in the first run, it's harder to know what to do in the later session. We're going to load it up pretty good." No.6 qualifier - 4.906ET/309.77MPH

Second session: "The conditions out here changed so much, it was really tough to make the tuning call. When we had to set the car up in the pit, and make those blower and gasket decisions that you can't change and just have to live with, it was still steaming hot out here. When we arrived in the staging lanes, I honestly thought we might've hopped the car up too much. As the sun set, everything came around into what were almost perfect conditions. By the time we ran, we were slightly underpowered, so that's how much it all changed. But to get a 4.90 on the board will work for now. I think, even in the heat of the day tomorrow we can still improve a bit."

Frank Pedregon (Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "I think it would've made it actually, but it got just a little out of the groove down there and that was the difference. Our cars were set up so much alike I really think getting out of the groove by a foot was the cause of the tire smoke down there. Everyone else who was smoking the tires was doing it well before we did, so we got past the trouble spots out there. The blue CSK Pontiac will right down there this evening, you watch." No. 7 qualifier - 4.924ET/299.26MPH

John Lawson (Lucas Oil Pontiac Firebird) - "First lap we had a problem and broke a driveshaft, but the second lap everything stayed together and we feel real good about the run. We changed our combination last week and it looks like it's coming to life and not beating itself up, so we're real happy right now. We've been looking for this Pontiac to run fast without tearing itself up, and it's finally doing it." No. 10 qualifier - 4.974ET/301.67MPH

-GM Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Bob Panella , Mike Dunn , Richie Stevens Jr. , Kenny Bernstein , Brad Jeter , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Jim Epler , Tony Bartone , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Jeff Gracia , John Lingenfelter , Scotty Cannon , Greg Stanfield , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Jerry Toliver , Mike Edwards