Atlanta Pontiac Racing Friday Notes

19th ANNUAL ADVANCE AUTO PARTS SOUTHERN NATIONALS ATLANTA DRAGWAY COMMERCE, Ga. (May 14, 1999) After the first day of qualifying for the 19th annual Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals, Warren Johnson's GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac ...


COMMERCE, Ga. (May 14, 1999) After the first day of qualifying for the 19th annual Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals, Warren Johnson's GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird grabbed the No. 1 qualifying spot in Pro Stock with an elapsed time of 6.935 seconds (track record) at 200.05 mph (track record). Mike Thomas is qualified second, Jim Yates is third, Steve Schmidt is fifth, Mark Pawuk is seventh, George Marnell is ninth and Bruce Allen is 10th. Tom Martino is the No. 22 qualifier. In Funny Car, Tim Wilkerson is the No. 1 qualifier tonight in his JCIT Pontiac Firebird with an elapsed time of 4.976 seconds at 287.35 mph. Cruz Pedregon is sixth, Al Hofmann is ninth, Del Worsham is 10th, Gary Densham is 14th and Dale Creasy Jr., is 16th.

In Top Fuel, Cory McClenathan is qualified No. 8 with an elapsed time of 4.784 seconds at 269.29 mph. The No. 1 qualifier is Larry Dixon who posted a lap of 4.654 seconds at 311.92 mph.

Fox Sports will televise same-day coverage of final eliminations on Sunday, May 16, beginning at 5 p.m. local time. Check your local listings for specific times and air dates. Speedvision will televise qualifying highlights of the Southern Nationals on Saturday, May 15, and Sunday, May 16.


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) We made two runs down the racetrack today and they weren't very pretty. The first run we hit that blue spot out there, got a little out of control but still had low ET for the round. The second run we rattled it pretty hard. The track was cold and damp, and we rattled the tires in second gear, third gear and fourth gear pretty hard. I was surprised that we ran a 6.93 on a run like that. But fortunately the track was cold enough that it let it turn the tire and didn't keep shaking the tires. We'll take it though -- we learned something from it and we'll use what we learned tomorrow. The track and atmospheric conditions are totally different from what we've ever experienced testing here, so you have to kind of discount that. Tomorrow will be a different day. We'll be back to relatively normal conditions, and hopefully we can step up to the point where we were in the first session because we were pretty dominant there. The gameplan is to get qualified on Friday and ready to race on Saturday. No. 1 qualifier - 6.935ET(track record)/200.05MPH (track record)

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) We have struggled a lot in the last four or five races just trying to be consistent. We came in here with our total focus on just trying to run consistent, be conservative and just make good runs. Tonight with the rain and the way the track changed, it really threw us a curve ball because no one prepared to go out there and run on this track in these kind of conditions. I was extremely happy that we were able to come so close to a combination that would get the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird down the racetrack. We were heavy on clutch but it doesn't seem like it hurt the run at all. It just spun a little out in third gear when it hit the bumps, but other than that she made a pretty sweet run. That left lane has a lot of bumps when you come off the concrete in the middle of the track and we lost a lot of momentum there. But it ran really good to that point and it ran really good from that point on, so the net is a very decent ET car. I'm just satisfied with our consistency here. We've made two runs down the track, we were No. 3 this evening and we were No. 3 in the first heat and each of those runs can be improved upon. But at least we were consistent and we're moving in the right direction. We're also finding the tune up for this DRCE engine and I feel like we're getting so close to being able to tune it. The weather tonight was so drastically different from today. The humidity was high, the air was cool and yet we knew what to do with this engine to make it run respectable for the session. Tomorrow should be a lot like raceday. We're just going out in race mode, make two good runs, work on reaction times and be consistent in the top two or three cars. No. 3 qualifier - 6.943ET/197.36MPH

Steve Schmidt (Dynagear Pontiac Firebird) We've had some problems with the engine we've been running for several races, and couldn't quite figure out why. We felt like we fixed it last week and that's what we had in. We have a new engine that we feel is a couple of hundredths quicker that we may or may not run tomorrow. We were pleased. We didn't make a perfect run by any stretch of the imagination, but it was good enough to be fifth and that's what our potential is. We should be three through sixth at every race. This was one of those rare instances where whatever happens tonight is almost certain to determine the field. The corrected altitude changed by almost 1000 feet and the racetrack was a heck of a lot better. The sun was off of it, it was probably 35 degrees cooler, and the rain washed all of the clutch dust and oil and everything else off the track. The track was really pretty good, so not only did we improve the track conditions, but we improved the real horsepower because of the atmospheric conditions. We knew just from the weather and the track that we should run 6.94 or 6.95, and if we could have made a better run it would have been a 6.94. I think the guys that didn't are capable of running as fast as we did but they just didn't do it. Depending on what the weather does tomorrow, there may be a shot for some of the good cars that didn't get in to make the field. Anything is possible and that's what we have to be ready for. No. 5 qualifier - 6.957ET/197.88MPH

George Marnell (Dynomax Pontiac Firebird) We got our new DRCE motor in the car and it worked very well. It actually accelerates a little better than our old motor, so we revved up in first and second gear probably a little more than we should have. That's easily corrected by lowering the shift lights. We'll get it back in a power band where it's supposed to be and the Dynomax Firebird will be ready to go. We were also using a brand new clutch in the car and with everything brand new, it takes a little time for that stuff to seat. Anytime you redo everything you have to readjust and alter your data to accommodate the situation. There was definitely something left in the run. We made a pretty good baseline pass, and by revving the motor up through second gear, we got into third gear a little later than we wanted to. That had us shifting right on the bump and that got the car real loose there. Theoretically, if I would have made the first two shifts when I was supposed to, then we would have hit third a little bit sooner and that would have helped the situation. It made one real big move out there, but the motor ran flawlessly and I'm pretty optimistic about that. I think with a little tune up we can be right in the hunt. No. 9 qualifier - 6.977ET/196.93MPH

Bruce Allen (Outlaw Fuel Additives Pontiac Firebird) It's good to make a so-so run and still be in the field. We've returned to our No. 1 race engine and the main thing we wanted to do that round was to get some information. The fact that the Outlaw Firebird ran as well as it did, especially from mid-track to the finish line, which is where we have been struggling the most in the past few races, is a real bonus for us. I believe we can run a lot quicker and we'll need to in order to stay in the field.

Second Session: We spun and shook all the way through second and third gear and still ran a pretty good lap. That's real good news for us. The engine is running so well that it's actually ahead of where the car is at this point. If we get the power to match the car, then we'll be in the top half of the field. By far, this is the most encouraging racing we've done all year. No. 11 qualifier - 6.988ET/198.06MPH

Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) All things considered, this is a perfect way for us to begin this weekend. The run was just okay by our standards and we can definitely go faster, but to be this high up after round one is great for us. We spun like crazy and I was fighting the car all the way down but I can't complain because I don't think we've even been in the field after any round one this year. Now we can take our time and make the necessary adjustments from the data we gained without having to panic about anything. This is a real good start.

Second Session: Obviously the car is getting closer to where we need it to be. I'm very pleased. The Pennzoil crew is doing a great job of adjusting this Firebird to all the different conditions we keep encountering. This weather system really changed the track for the better and the guys were right on top of it. Things are looking pretty darn good right now. No. 2 qualifier - 6.941ET/198.85MPH

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) We were disappointed because we were on a good run this morning and couldn't capitalize on it. The engine just shut off. The Summit Racing Firebird actually ran about a hundredth faster to the 330 this morning in a lot worse air. But I'm happy that we're sixth - I think that will hold out but you never know for sure. I haven't qualified here in several years so that's one monkey I want to get off my back. Unfortunately it looks like it may come down to a one-shot Friday night deal, but this time maybe we're on the right side of the stick. I think we can run faster tomorrow depending on what happens with the air and there are still a lot of good cars out there that can step up. But consistency is what wins races these days and this Pontiac is headed in the right direction. If we can come out on Saturday and run the two sessions in the top-four or five in the pack, that will give us more confidence for Sunday. We know we should be able to run faster, but I can't say enough for the guys at the engine shop and the team at the track. Everybody's really working hard, our performance has dramatically improved over last year and we're just going to keep working on it. No. 6 qualifier - 6.959ET/198.12MPH


Dale Creasy, Jr. (Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird) Our problem in the first session was that we were too conservative and had the Mad Magazine Firebird set up too soft. We watched everyone in front of us smoke the tires and we made some changes when we should have left it alone. I don't if that would have worked but what we did do didn't work. The conditions here are better than what we had two weeks ago and we had the setup that we used in Richmond just to get down the track. This track has a little bit more bite to it and the car didn't like that. The car started drifting a little on me but I'm used to that. When it started shuttering, I knew I was going to smoke the tires so I shut it off. No. 16 qualifier - 7.832ET/108.18MPH

Al Hofmann (Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird) The race track had pretty good teeth in it but the car went out at about 1.2 seconds, which is a hard part for Funny Cars, and it just blew the tires off of it. It didn't gave us any warning, there was no shake or anything like that, it just knocked them off. The track was really good right there and we just blew through the clutch. As the rpm got up, it sawed through the clutch and took the driveshaft with it. The track can be weird like that after a rain. Our Firebird actually did pretty good out there this morning and we really didn't expect any problems there where we got them. But all we can do is go out again tomorrow and give it another try. We should be more consistent. The first run today didn't do us any good because the conditions were so different during the second session. The rain washed all the rubber off that was out there so that made it tough on everybody. No. 9 qualifier - 5.306ET/257.38MPH

Tim Wilkerson (JCIT Pontiac Firebird) We were on a good pass until we started spinning the tires down track, but we'll take the 5.18 into the next session and try to improve on that. There's no doubt in my mind that's we were on a 5.00 pass. It was in trouble from about two-and-a-half seconds on so we were happy to get out of it what we did. Anytime our JCIT Firebird can go through the middle of the track as fast as we did that time we're going to be happy with it-it finally threw us a bone. I don't know what Terry's (Manzer) plan is for tonight but I'm sure it will be good.

Second Session: We knew if we could get the JCIT Firebird to stick that we could run a good number. We were just hoping that the racetrack would allow us to turn that kind of performance. Obviously it was good enough today. We don't think we hurt it at all. Everything looks good, it's nice and safe looking and I didn't hear it popping or banging. It looks to me like we're going to get some sleep, come back at it again tomorrow and see if we can't get it to go down the racetrack in the middle of the day. You could tell this car was really flying. It was spinning the tires from about 900 feet on. I don't think it was smoking them, but the motor would come up, and I would lift and then get back on it, but it wasn't bad. It was kind of like bracket racing out there tonight. The track was a little tricky, but this car seems to be coming around. It's thrown us two bones in a row and you have to like that. No. 1 qualifier - 4.976ET/287.35MPH

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Larry Dixon , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Dale Creasy Jr. , Gary Densham , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Steve Schmidt