Atlanta Pontiac Racing Saturday Notes

NOTES & QUOTES 19th ANNUAL ADVANCE AUTO PARTS SOUTHERN NATIONALS ATLANTA DRAGWAY COMMERCE, Ga. (May 15, 1999) Qualifying was completed today for the 19th annual Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals. Going into Sunday...


COMMERCE, Ga. (May 15, 1999) Qualifying was completed today for the 19th annual Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals. Going into Sunday final eliminations, Warren Johnson will start from the No. 1 qualifying position. His GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird improved on yesterday's pole- setting qualifying run and 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). It is the sixth time this year that Johnson has started from the top spot. Richie Stevens is qualified second, Mike Thomas is third, Jim Yates is fourth, George Marnell is fifth, Steve Schmidt is seventh, Mark Pawuk is eighth, Bruce Allen is 13th and Tom Martino is 16th. In Funny Car, Tim Wilkerson grabbed his first No. 1 qualifying position of the year in his JCIT Pontiac Firebird with an elapsed time of 4.976 seconds at 287.35 mph. Cruz Pedregon's Interstate Batteries qualified second with a lap of 4.986 seconds at 297.81 mph. Al Hofmann is eighth, Dale Creasy Jr., is ninth and Del Worsham is 11th.

In Top Fuel, Cory McClenathan is qualified No. 13 with an elapsed time of 4.784 seconds at 269.29 mph. The No. 1 qualifier is Bob Vandergriff who posted an elapsed time of 4.651 seconds at 305.91 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) The track was a little different today. The final round of qualifying was dictated by track temperature and the fact that the atmospheric conditions weren't as good as any of the other runs. That's what slowed everybody down this afternoon. When you look at where everybody qualified to where they slowed down, it's all pretty relative. The high mph is a by-product of the horsepower getting down the racetrack and in this exercise, we have to get there quicker than everybody else, not necessarily faster. There were two or three cars in that final session that were equally as competitive, and they just did an awful good job of getting down the racetrack. Tomorrow could be a whole new scenario out there and it could be completely different again. We don't know what we're going to have for cloud cover, we don't know what the humidity is going to be and everybody is going to have to deal out of the same deck and roll with the punches. I guess we've done the best job so far of, I hate to say guessing, but in some cases that's all it is.

We've only tested here this year maybe three or four times. Our schedule's been so busy that it really hasn't permitted it. Each time that we have tested here has been an abbreviated session because we were either on our way to a race, or we got here late or had inclement weather. We really haven't spent a full day out here at any one of those sessions. The other side of that is the fact that when you're testing out here, the track is the same as far as the bumps and everything else, but the track surface is completely different. The NHRA spays the surface full-length and you have a lot of different rubber compounds distributed throughout because of the different car classes. That's opposed to being here on a weekly basis when there are all bracket racers and it's the same kind of surface. Therefore when you're testing on it, the traction on the racetrack is completely different than when you're at a national event. The bumps on the track remain the same, and you can adjust your gearing so you're not shifting on a bump, but the amount of clutch you need, the amount of gear you need and the spring rates are completely different because the amount of traction is different. No. 1 qualifier - 6.901ET(track record)/200.83MPH (track record)

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) Today we tried a couple of different chassis combinations on the Splitifre/Peak Pontiac Firebird to try and take advantage of the racetrack. Neither of them really worked and we'll go back to our baseline we ran Friday morning during the first session. That should be pretty close to what we see first round tomorrow. We were one of the fastest cars down the track that session and we'll go back to that combination, try and run that and see where that puts us in the first round. Lane choice right now is going to be critical. That left lane is getting difficult to get down - some cars can but most cars can't. We have lane choice in the first round and we'll just have to see how it goes. I think as the day goes on and if we're lucky enough to win rounds, lane choice is going to become more and more critical as the track deteriorates. No. 4 qualifier - 6.943ET/198.23MPH

George Marnell (Dynomax Pontiac Firebird) We had our act together a little better this morning than last night. We're running this new DRCE motor, and we have to figure out exactly what it wants as far as tune up and clutch is concerned. We're sneaking up on it even though it's a little different than the motor we had been running previously. The other motor was good, but this one makes more power everywhere. It accelerates at a different rate and that sort of thing, so we're getting closer to zeroing in on what it wants. I think the morning session was evident of that. We made a pretty good move to fifth, and qualifying in the top half of the field means lane choice if we can hold on. It really depends on what the weather is going to do, but unless it does something that we're not expecting, I think we're going to be in good shape. We were the No. 3 qualifier in the morning session, and jumped up from the No. 9 spot so we were pretty happy with that - and it wasn't a perfect run either. There was still some room there. We were off on our 60-foot time, but other than that, the Dynomax Firebird did exceptionally well. The lane was better too. Even though the weather was better last night, the track was much better today and that really helped us. No. 5 qualifier - 6.947ET/198.58MPH

Bruce Allen (Outlaw Fuel Additives Pontiac Firebird) We get to play on Sunday so we've accomplished our No. 1 goal. Of course we would've loved to have been higher up the ladder but the Outlaw Firebird is in and that at least gives us a chance to win. We've run well in both lanes, which is very encouraging. Now we need to watch the weather and the track, run as fast as we can and we'll see what happens. No. 13 qualifier - 6.988ET/198.58MPH Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) This was a nice qualifying session for us. It's great to be one of the frontrunners and the way the Pennzoil Pontiac crew has this car running, I really like our chances heading into tomorrow. Kurt (Johnson) will be a handful to open against. He's the No. 1 guy in the points race right now for a reason - he's a great driver with a great car. I'll have to be on my game to get by him. It should be a real battle. No. 3 qualifier - 6.941ET/198.85MPH


Tim Wilkerson (JCIT Pontiac Firebird) Terry (Manzer) leaned in before that first run and told me that the left side had a rear end groove, and that he wanted me to drive it out there to the right, but I couldn't get it done for nothing. I ended up half stepping off the gas pedal to get it steered over there because it kept drifting towards the wall. The JCIT Firebird did exactly what Terry said it was going to do. By the time I got it back in the groove and my foot back on the gas, I had already struck a ton of ET. That was pretty much a driver-error run but still, it ran down the racetrack and I guess that's really what we're looking for. That's three runs in a row that we've made it down the track so that probably makes us one of the most consistent cars on the track. On Sunday it's going to be tough and consistency is what we'll need to win--that's all we're looking for. The track was really a lot better than what I thought it would be. I don't know if we can run another four this afternoon, but we'll see.

Second Session: I think today the racetrack was a car's worst enemy. When the sun comes out it just makes the asphalt tricky and that's what we're seeing right now. When you saw all of that tire smoke towards the end of the final qualifying session, that was the cause. The rain helped last night. Anytime you can wash all of that junk we've accumulated all weekend to the side, and then have the Safety Safari come out and prep it, clean it and spray it, that improves the track considerably. We knew that if we could stay around here long enough last night the track was going to be about as good as it was going to get. You saw that from last night's runs. This morning the track was excellent as well, the driver just made a couple of mistakes in the cockpit. The 4.98 was a good run last night and Cruz (Pedregon) made a good run this morning. We also would have made a run that fast. I got out of the groove and kind of backed off the gas pedal, and when I stepped back on the throttle I lost a lot of ET. We couldn't have run in the 4.90s but we would have run five-flat. We took it up there this afternoon and tried to go 4.90 and you saw the result. That's good though because we usually don't have quite enough power to do that and we shake the tires. We haven't shaken the tires once this weekend. Tomorrow's going to be tough though. If you can consistently run between 5.00 and 5.10, you're going to be tough to beat. No. 1 qualifier - 4.976ET/287.35MPH

Cruz Pedregon (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) That run reminded me of the Interstate Batteries Firebird of old there in the first session. That was just a great run; a textbook run to be exact given the conditions. That's how you would draw it up in the Simpson guide as Bob Frey would say. Everything from the start to the finish was just beautiful. Numbers are important but being able to run in different conditions and being competitive against the rest of the class in any given session is what really counts. For us, that's a good indicator of how well we stack up against the rest of the field. Everything worked like it should have and that's a good feeling. This is a lot like what we're going to see on race day so it's business as usual in the Interstate Batteries Pontiac camp. Based on what we've done this year, the car's run pretty good in less than ideal conditions. It's just been a tick off what we were expecting based on what we did last year. Last season, we made an awfully lot of good runs in similar conditions where it was extremely warm and where track conditions had begun to deteriorate. We've answered the call many, many times and I feel like we're a win waiting to happen. With a little luck on raceday, we'll be fine. There's nothing keeping us from winning and it's a good feeling knowing that we have that kind of potential. This is why we do what we do and sacrifice the hours. But now we have to go out and repeat tonight what we did today, and I'm sure that's what Wes (Cerny) will be looking for in the next session. No. 2 qualifier - 4.986ET/287.35MPH

Dale Creasy, Jr. (Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird) That was an ugly run but we'll take it. The Mad Magazine Firebird was running good to half track and then all of sudden it nosed over a little bit and I thought, 'Oh my gosh!' Then I started smelling oil and I thought, 'I'm in trouble now.' I looked up and I could see the finish line coming, but it looked like it was about 25 miles away because it wasn't coming fast enough. Then I started looking over at Safety Safari because I knew that if they started rolling that I was on fire and then I would know what to do next. I looked up at the windshield and now its covered with oil as well, so I looked between my legs because there's hole in the tin where the fire will come up through the floor, but I didn't see anything. I knew it was hurt but I had to get that Pontiac in the race. We could have run a 5.13 or 5.14 easily with eight cylinders in it. We have another motor in the trailer, but we have to be careful because we have a lot of races coming up that we're staying out for. We'll have a fine line to walk between being as competitive as we can be, and being conservative enough to where we don't hurt anything else. We'll be ready for them tomorrow though. No. 9 qualifier - 5.186ET/276.29MPH

Al Hofmann (Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird) The last session was pretty much what we were looking for. Our motor is back, and where it went for six months we have no clue, but if we did, we would make sure that it never goes there again. Our Firebird was awfully strong and I worked the brake pretty hard to get it down through there. We hurt a couple of motor parts but we're real happy to be in the top half of the field. We have lane choice and that's going to be a major concern here tomorrow. After Richmond, we're just happy to be out here able to race. Hopefully, I think if we can repeat what we did tonight then we can go some rounds. We ran 5.17, and there were a lot of 5.18s, but tomorrow anybody can win this race. We got a little bit of a baseline and we're real encouraged. We see some things that are good and we see some things that aren't so good. We'll come out tomorrow and give it our best shot. No. 8 qualifier - 5.173ET/257.38MPH

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) The good news is we got better every run. We battled elements, battled the track, battled our car, and battled sleep deprivation. We kept easing up on the tricky conditions, getting about a tenth quicker on each of the first three passes, then another five hundredths quicker in that last pass. But the bad news is we didn't quite step up enough to get in the top half, so that's disappointing. We blew the blower up last night, stayed here until almost 2 a.m., got a couple of hours of sleep, and were back out here at 7:30 thrashing. We were ready for the first session today with an entire five-seconds to spare. We actually rolled up to the starting line as the signal was given to start our pair. One more minute and we'd have missed the session. Our guys worked their butts off, and that's the only reason we made it up there.

Right now there is a lane difference out there. But that could change by tomorrow. Regardless, I'm sure Jerry (Tolliver) will get some advantage out of it. We're just going to have to beat him and his crew chief Rob Flynn. There are no easy deals out here anymore, you have to run tough every lap, every round. We'll have to find a way to get up as much speed as possible early, then back it off from the mid-point on and hope it holds on out there. Tomorrow, if we're side by side, I'll keep my foot in this Pontiac Firebird even if it starts to haze the tires out there. In qualifying, we didn't need the one blower explosion and we sure didn't need another one, so we were a little more conservative. No. 11 qualifier - 5.187ET/284.33

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