Atlanta Team Pennzoil Preview

Excitement builds as Atlanta race nears ATLANTA (May 7) - They all have their own reasons to be optimistic, but the professional drivers of Team Pennzoil share one common thought - Atlanta Dragway and the 19th Annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals...

Excitement builds as Atlanta race nears

ATLANTA (May 7) - They all have their own reasons to be optimistic, but the professional drivers of Team Pennzoil share one common thought - Atlanta Dragway and the 19th Annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals should be the perfect place to energize their seasons. The race begins May 13 and continues through May 16.

Be it past successes, recent accomplishments or new equipment, each driver that carries the Pennzoil banner is anxiously awaiting the start of this historic race hoping that ultimately the weekend will end with a trophy presentation. This month marks a year since a Pennzoil machine has been driven into the National Hot Rod Association"s Victory Circle and driver's Eddie Hill, Mike Thomas and Bruce Allen are ready to end the drought.

Here's a look at how each driver plans to pursue Atlanta's crown.

Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, has been to the finals of this race on four occasions, taking wins in his world championship year of 1993 as well as "88 and finishing in second place in "94 and "89. The past successes of the Wichita Falls, Texas resident combined with his recent hot streak has him excited about a return to Georgia.

"It's always a good feeling to go to a track where you know the way to the Winner"s Circle, Hill said. "And it's even better when you head into a race with a car that"s running as well as ours is right now. We finished Richmond on a real up beat despite losing our second-round race by an inch or two.

"The track in Virginia was very hard to navigate for us fuel cars and most of my competitors had a real tough time getting down the track every time. We only had one bad lap on Friday and we ended up being the quickest car of the day on Saturday. Even in our loss on Monday we were really pleased with the lap we ran out of a lane that no one could even get off the starting line in. We"re pretty pleased with the car.

"It would be nice to extend the 'quickest car of the day' streak to all three days in Atlanta and we've got every reason to believe that will be the case. We ran a 4.66-second lap in Atlanta last year and now with our five-disc clutch, we should be at least a half of a tenth of a second quicker this time around. If we can pick up our times that much and be consistent, then I just might get to remind myself how to get to Victory Circle. That would mean the world to me, my team and Pennzoil. I'd dearly love to see it happen." Hill is currently in 11th place in the Winston championship points standings and has recorded four elimination round wins in five races.

Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, enters Atlanta brimming with confidence. The eight-year pro from nearby Knoxville, Tenn. is still buzzing over the 200.35-mph lap he recorded at the NHRA"s last stop in Richmond, Va. that earned him a spot in the prestigious Speed-Pro 200-mph Club. He is also buoyed by the continued success of his Finish Line Racing Engines, which have already helped seven different drivers" log 18 elimination round wins and three runner-up appearances in 1999.

"We are so close to a win I can taste it," Thomas said. "The car, the crew, the engine, everything is working perfectly. I"m so ready for a break-through race. I"d love to have it happen in Atlanta. This is the closest track to my home and we"ll have plenty of family and friends on hand to see us run. I"d love to show them what a victory party is like.

"We"ve made some more changes on the car and (crew chief) Rick (Hickman) believes we now have the capabilities for a national record run. The mark is at 6.840 seconds right now and we think we have a 6.82 or a 6.81 under the hood. If the conditions are right it could happen in Atlanta.

"This team is ready to step into the role of title contender at every race. Everyone is so focused on getting the job done right. It's been a while since I've been able to concentrate solely on driving but we"ve reached that stage now. I know we have enough power to outrun everyone out there. It's time to prove it to the world. Bruce Allen, the driver of The Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, reached the finals of this race last year before settling for second place. The affable Texan, who also logged a runner-up finish at Atlanta Dragway in 1989, has struggled so far this season, missing the cut at five of six events. However, a newly rebuilt powerplant has him anxious to start a new winning streak at a track that provided his best moments of 1998.

"This season has been a real struggle," Allen said. "We hoped to get our new car in January so that we could test it and we ended up getting it in the middle of March. That put us behind a bit. Then, when we finally start to get the new car sorted out, we blow-up our race motor. It's been one of those deals where everything seems to be working against us.

"Atlanta will mark the first race of the year where we will have both our No. 1 and No. 2 race motors up to speed and our car in good working order. Finally, we should be able to see what we"re truly capable of doing. We might not like the results but at least we'll really know what to work on to get us back on track.

"I"m glad it"s come together at this track because we've had success here in the past and the fans in Georgia have always been very receptive to us. We"re ready to turn the corner.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Bruce Allen