Baytown: Mopar Motorsports Saturday summary

Alderman qualifies in the top half of the field johnson makes first race with new Dodge Stratus R/T. Baytown, Texas (April 12, 2003) -- Three-time POWERade Pro Stock World Champion Darrell Alderman placed his Hemi-powered Mopar Parts Dodge Neon...

Alderman qualifies in the top half of the field
johnson makes first race with new Dodge Stratus R/T.

Baytown, Texas (April 12, 2003) -- Three-time POWERade Pro Stock World Champion Darrell Alderman placed his Hemi-powered Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T into the sixth-qualified position for tomorrow's running of the 16th annual O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park. This weekend's field is the quickest; and first sub 6.80-second Pro Stock field in NHRA history with a bump spot of 6.768 seconds.

Alderman, who also collected the third quickest lap during the fourth session of today's qualifying, ran a career-best 6.744-second elapsed time at a career-best top speed of 203.98 mph. The Morehead, Ky., resident will begin his quest for a 29th NHRA national event victory with a round one match up with fellow Mopar driver Greg Stanfield.

"We changed the transmission ratios and a little bit of the set up on that last run to prepare for tomorrow," Alderman said. "It will be real tough -- as usual -- in the NHRA Pro Stock category. It seems like the left lane is much better right now."

Allen Johnson had a strong debut with his Dodge Stratus R/T Pro Stocker this weekend. The Greeneville, Tenn., resident recorded the fourth-quickest pass of the final session today -- and wrapped up the 10th-qualified position. On Friday night, Johnson drove to a career-best 6.757-second elapsed time at 204.45 mph.

"This new Stratus looks like its really going to be glued to the track," Johnson noted. "We're not worried about shaking (the tires) like we were in the Neon. We're gaining on the field with every run. We're getting more speed in the back half and the guys are tuning the car pretty well. We made a top-four run during that last session in the bad lane -- so we're pretty happy.

Stanfield put his Hemi-powered Dodge Neon R/T into the 10th-qualified position with a 6.759-second elapsed time at 204.23 mph. The Bossier City, La., resident expanded upon his newly built racer.

"We're somewhat satisfied," Stanfield relayed. "We're looking for a little more power, but we're happy with our runs because today represented the 11th and 12th passes in our new car. We also have a new engine -- so we've been doing a lot of work."

Gene Wilson missed the top 16 with a weekend best combination 6.810/203.74, combination. Teammate Larry Morgan also struggled, posting a 6.820/201.73.

"We thought the conditions we're going to be good enough to get in this morning," Wilson said. "But, both the track temperature and humidity were a lot higher than we thought it was going to be. In that session, there were only four cars that ran well enough to even get into the show. That's a quite a bit different than what we were expecting. We were a little too aggressive on our clutch tune up -- you really have to go for it if you want to have any chance of getting into a field like this. We tried a race day tune up on that last run, so we could get ready for Bristol."

Bazemore Takes Home Second; To Face Teammate Scelzi

Whit Bazemore wielded his Matco Tools 'Iron Eagle' Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car to the second slot. The Indiana resident maneuvered through the suburban Houston quarter mile with a 4.778-second elapsed time at 323.89 mph. It's the second-straight top-two qualifying effort for the Schumacher Racing driver.

Bazemore's effort sets up a round one race against Mopar-backed Funny Car teammate Gary Scelzi

"Downforce is so important at a track like this," Bazemore said. "There are bumps here though, and you can see them on the computer and certainly feel them down track. The bumps do a lot to unload the car and they are down track when we're at speed. It's an area that we rely on traction, especially in our car because we run so strongly in the middle. Those bumps can unsettle it and really smoke the tires down track. I'm pleased that we haven't smoked the tires down track at all this weekend thus far.

"The Dodge Stratus that the Mopar engineers have put together is an excellent car," Bazemore added. "They continually take this car to the wind tunnel and have made it better an better. Virtually every race we seem to make an improvement to the body. Thats exciting from a drivers standpoint that we have technology that can take care of problems on the track.

"We've run well in both lanes -- so I'm not sure if it's going to be a disadvantage or not to be in either lane," Bazemore continued. "I really don't think its that big of an issue for the Funny Cars."

As for Scelzi, the three-time Top Fuel champion drove his Oakley-sponsored Dodge Stratus R/T to the 15th-qualifed position. Scelzi logged a weekend best 4.936-second elapsed time at 313.37 mph.

"We just got behind this weekend," Scelzi said. "We got behind in Las Vegas trying new things -- and we started to get behind here. We put everything back to normal and was probably just a little too aggressive. This is a good race track, and the air was pretty good. We just had to pull it back a little. That's so tough to do when you know you can run in the seventies like the rest of these guys. We had no choice because our backs were against the wall. We came out of it okay, but ran it so soft on that last one its ridiculous. We have Bazemore in round one -- so either way there will be a Dodge in the second round."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Darrell Alderman , Whit Bazemore , Gary Scelzi , Larry Morgan , Gene Wilson , Greg Stanfield , Allen Johnson