AtLanta: Pontiac racing post-race

COMMERCE, Ga., May 6, 2001 - Final eliminations for the Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals were completed today at Atlanta Dragway. Jim Yates took over the points lead in Pro Stock with his win in the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am, and...

COMMERCE, Ga., May 6, 2001 - Final eliminations for the Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals were completed today at Atlanta Dragway. Jim Yates took over the points lead in Pro Stock with his win in the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am, and Frank Pedregon in the Checker-Schuck's-Kragen Pontiac Firebird bested Ron Capps in the Funny Car finals for his first win of the year. Mike Dunn won Top Fuel in the Gwynn/Steinbrenner/Yankees GMC Dragster over Darrell Russell. Jeff Gracia also drove his GMC Sonoma to his first career final-round appearance in Pro Stock Truck before losing to teammate Bob Panella Jr.

PRO STOCK TRUCK

Jeff Gracia (Panella Trucking GMC Sonoma) - "It was great having an all-Panella Racing final, but I wish it would've gone a little bit different. I saw the yellow and left, and I didn't even know I had red-lighted because I was having trouble getting into second gear and was looking down, and I looked up and I said 'I guess I red-lighted,' and I didn't even realize I had done it. It was a golden opportunity to beat three of the best guys in Pro Stock Truck history (Randy Daniels, Greg Stanfield and teammate Bob Panella), but I guess two out of three isn't too bad, not a bad batting average."

PRO STOCK

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am) - "The last three weeks we've gone through both highs and lows. We've been in three of the last four finals and this new Grand Am has been excellent, but coming here yesterday we almost didn't qualify. You start to question your ability, but then to go out there yesterday and lay down a 6.93, and that's the kind of thing that builds a championship-caliber team, to be able to go out there and produce the run when you have to. It's nice to be in the points lead, but obviously way to early to start talking championship. Plus this Pro Stock category is just so tough with so many guys that can win, just like Greg's (Anderson) been proving these last few weeks. But you can't even start thinking about winning a championship if you're not winning races, and we weren't winning races - so this one was good to get. And then to come out today and beat Kurt (Johnson) in the first round here at his home track - well, he's a tough competitor. He's going for your throat and you know he's going to run fast, and you just have to let it all hang out. Guys were cutting some good lights in that lane and I think I cut a .404, so I'm just glad we got one of them. But the team's been right there all week, they've been working hard the whole time and they just don't give up. That's what it takes to win."

Greg Anderson (Marnell-Black/Humphrey Motorsports Pontiac Firebird) - "I actually thought I caught that light better than the rest of them (.407 and .405 in Rounds 1 and 2). Obviously I did, but just a little too much and they won't let you have those. But the guys have done a great job working on the car and we've definitely turned some heads these last few weeks, so we can't be too disappointed."

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Grand Am) - "I'm pretty happy we even made it to the semifinal round. I really wasn't expecting that kind of performance today, but the Summit Racing Grand Am ran good until the semi's. We had a shock problem and Jim (Yates) has been awfully tough since he got in on that last qualifying session. Since then he's had a fast racecar. I took a shot at him - I normally don't do that, but I knew we had a shock problem and I wasn't sure what the car was going to do. Unfortunately, when you gamble like that you normally lose, and I lost. I don't think we would've beat him anyway. But it's good to get to the semi's and get those points. First through fifth in the driver points is pretty close - I think I'm only about a round and a half out of fourth - and we've got a little cushion behind us, so I'm pleased with our performance today. Obviously you want to win them all, but to go rounds is the key factor and we won more rounds than I expected."

Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Grand Am) - "The car's coming around. We're finally getting the handle on the car. (Mark) Osborne has been known to pull these stunts at the light all the time, and he just got by with it this time. If you don't see him put his light on, you don't have the realization of how much time you've got to stage, so I had to hurry up and stage and it was just one of them things."

Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Grand Am) - "As soon as I hit the throttle, the car began to miss and sputter, so I knew we were in trouble. There was nothing I could do but coax it to the top end. When we got back to the pits, we found the ignition coil had failed, killing the engine. It's very disappointing because we felt good about our chances today. We thought we had a handle on the combination this weekend and were looking to go some rounds. You try to keep ahead of these things, but sometimes you're going to have parts failures. We have some time and a lot of work ahead of us before Englishtown. Between it being Century 21's home race and with all of our family and friends, we'll have a lot of people there that we won't want to let down."

FUNNY CAR

Frank Pedregon (Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "I tell you what, I'm exhausted right now but I love it. I love every minute of it. This is quite a group and Checker-Schuck's-Kragen has really put a good team together with Del winning and now me winning. Dave Fletcher has been tuning this Pontiac Firebird so well, it's on rails and it's fast. Our goal is to win more races and finish in the Top five at the end of the year. We just need to build on this and keep on winning.

(ON BEATING DEFENDING FUNNY CAR CHAMP JOHN FORCE IN THE FIRST ROUND) Ah, the King, that's Force. They don't have all those championship trophies over there because they lose in the first round all the time. I don't mind telling you now that I honestly didn't sleep very well last night. The last time I beat John Force in the first round was at Indy and I went on to win. I knew it was going to be tough, but I knew if we got past that round with all of the emotions from both teams, I knew we could go all they way. But when you beat John Force, you've done something.

(ON BEATING TEAMMATE DEL WORSHAM IN THE SEMIFINALS) Man, the Internet is full of so-called "experts" who talk about these multiple-car teams and team rules and people taking dives and stuff. We've always raced heads-up, we always will. And to beat Del in the semifinal is awesome because my teammate is one of the best there is. Racing Del was like racing (brothers) Tony or Cruz - I put Del in that category because he's like a brother to me. But I want to beat my brothers worse than anybody else, and it's the same with Del because he's like family. Both teams were wanting it so badly, everyone was shaking hands in the staging lanes before we ran wishing each other good luck, and I know the Red guys are disappointed. They're not showing it though - they were right on top of the Blue car as soon as it pulled into the pits, ready to go to work."

Del Worsham (Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "Oh man, I truly, honestly am just so happy for those guys and our whole team. I don't see how we could possibly put on a better show in the semi's than that. I'd be lying if I said I wanted it to go this way, I wanted to win more than anything. But Frankie got out on me, he's been driving great, and he was right out the window the whole way. I just couldn't catch him. What a great deal - now we've got to cash this in."

Bruce Sarver (e-moola.com Pontiac Firebird) - "We should've run a lot, lot better in the semi's. We put a new motor in it for that run, stepped everything up and we still didn't have any power. We don't exactly know why just yet, but the guys will figure it out. It should've run an .85 or .86, that's what the game plan was, but as soon as I hit the gas I knew I was dead."

Whit Bazemore (Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird) - "We had to change a few things from our first run, and we just missed it with the Matco Tools Firebird. The track was hot and this Firebird can make a lot of horsepower. We have ran low 4.80's with runs that really shouldn't have been that, so it's running strong. We just overpowered the track a little bit. Frank Pedregon is a Pedregon, and they are all tough, whether it's Frank, Tony or Cruz. They are all good sports and they play fair and it was a good race. We are disappointed. The car was loose the whole run and then it spun the tires pretty hard in the middle of the track. We have a great team and a really good Firebird. We are running well in the heat, but we also can run really well in good conditions. The next race is Englishtown, and we should have a good, cool track and good atmospheric conditions, so I am really looking forward to getting there. Plus it's the Matco Tools SuperNationals - our sponsor race."

TOP FUEL

Mike Dunn (Gwynn/Steinbrenner/Yankees GMC Dragster) - "My team did a great job, all the guys. We struggled a little bit in qualifying even though we qualified No. 2 with that 4.58, but that was the only time we made it down the track, and even then we spun the tires a little bit. I hate to see what happened to Darrell (Russell) and I would've definitely liked to race against him, but when I saw he wasn't going to make it to the starting line and I had a single, I wasn't going to complain. These things are so hard to win that you'll take them any way you can."

(ON TAKING OVER THE POINTS LEAD) "Being No. 1 in points is great. But basically all we're trying to do is stay in the hunt. The only thing that matters is if you're No.1 after the first race. But you've got to stay in the hunt and basically that's what we're doing. We've struggled a little bit at a lot of these races in qualifying, but we seem to get it together and go rounds, we've got a couple wins and a runner-up, and that's what counts. If we can get the team to gel just a little bit more we could really be tough."

-GM Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Bob Panella , Mike Dunn , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Greg Anderson , Jeff Gracia , Randy Daniels , Greg Stanfield , Tom Martino