Bristol: Jerry Toliver preview

Toliver Likes His Chances if Weather's Cool at Bristol Jerry Toliver Remains in Middle of Funny Car Points Battle Despite Some Inconsistent Outings, Schick Quattro Team Is Fifth BRISTOL, Tenn., April 23, 2004 - Amazing . . . unbelievable . .

Toliver Likes His Chances if Weather's Cool at Bristol

Jerry Toliver Remains in Middle of Funny Car Points Battle
Despite Some Inconsistent Outings, Schick Quattro Team Is Fifth

BRISTOL, Tenn., April 23, 2004 - Amazing . . . unbelievable . . . inconsistent . . . unpredictable. They all describe Jerry Toliver's comeback season in NHRA POWERade Series competition.

Toliver, back behind the wheel of the Schick Quattro Toyota Celica Funny Car for the first time since early in the 2002 campaign, has been all of the above in the first five 2004 races.

To wit:

-- Amazing: his Winternationals victory at Pomona, Calif., built on a career-best 4.738-second, 328.22 mph run. He defeated Gary Densham in the finals after starting 15th.

-- Unbelievable: his not qualifying at the next event at Phoenix.

-- Inconsistent: there have been highs and lows, but the car's performance continues to improve.

-- Unpredictable: despite all that, Toliver is a two-time finalist - he was runner-up to Tim Wilkerson at Houston (April 18) - and is fifth in a tightly-bunched Funny Car field with a long way to go before anything is really decided.

So which Toyota Celica performance will be on display April 30/May 1-2 in the O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway?

Toliver, crew chief Keith Adams and the rest of the Alan Johnson Performance Engineering team that prepare the race car would like to believe it is the one that followed the 4.738-second time with a winning 4.821 run in the title round at Pomona.

The capricious nature of the runs is easily attributed to the first-year situations a new team experiences, but the affable Toliver doesn't believe in excuses. He dwells only on winning rounds and picking up valuable POWERade points.

"Once the season begins, the only thing I think about is collecting points," he says. "I know it's a long season (23 races), but, like they say in baseball, 'a win in April counts as much as one in September.' The more points we get, the better we'll be. And we'd like it to be in first place.

"No one has found a formula for running these cars that is foolproof," Toliver continued. "The bottom line is going into each race, I always expect to win and I always believe we can do better. I've looked at the weather in Bristol and it looks like it will be cloudy and cooler. That should make for a good race track, and since we run better on cooler tracks, that plays into our forte. It should be exciting."

His 4.738-second run at 328.22 mph remains the quickest and fastest in Funny Car this season.

The congested standings have 53 points - less than three round wins - separating No. 2 from No. 10, 320-267. Toliver has 287 points, putting him 33 out of second. Del Worsham leads with 405.

"It is a very tight race," Toliver said, "and it might be a tight battle all the way to the end of the season. I have a feeling that it's going to click for us and we'll have a fast race car for the rest of the season. When our combination has worked for us, it has been very rewarding. We are pleased to be there (among the top five)."

The Temecula, Calif., driver also is familiar with close races. He led the 2000 series for the first half of the season before eventual winner John Force got by him. Toliver finished third in 2000 and eighth in 1999. He stepped away from the sport after the 2001 season when former sponsor WWF (now WWE) pulled out of drag racing for economic reasons. He returned this year after joining forces with Schick Quattro.

Qualifying at Bristol Dragway gets underway Friday with sessions at 5 and 8 p.m., continuing Saturday at 1 and 4 p.m. Sunday's elimination get underway at noon.

-jtr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , John Force , Gary Densham , Tim Wilkerson , Jerry Toliver