Chicago Pontiac Racing Sunday Notes & Quotes

JOLIET, Ill. (June 4, 2000) - Final eliminations for the 3rd annual Prestone Nationals were held today at Route 66 Raceway. PRO STOCK Ron Krisher (Eagle One Pontiac Firebird) - "We were all concerned with what was going to go wrong next. ...

JOLIET, Ill. (June 4, 2000) - Final eliminations for the 3rd annual Prestone Nationals were held today at Route 66 Raceway.


Ron Krisher (Eagle One Pontiac Firebird) - "We were all concerned with what was going to go wrong next. We just had little things here and there that cost us in some close races. Warren (Johnson) beat me by two thousandths in Gainesville and Yates beat me with that .414 light in Houston. I told Mike (Edwards) at the last race that I just didn't know what we needed to do to get over the hump. We've got everything on this team that it takes to win, we just hadn't been able to get there. We went through the car in Houston and made some significant changes that has helped my driving as far as getting off the tree. We've been building confidence but we've just been tripping over dumb things. It's nobody's fault because everything that's happened has been out of our control. Today we managed to control it all, we got through the bumps in the right lane and we ran consistent numbers all day. We were a little light in the clutch during the final race against Troy (Coughlin) because the track improved. We set it up approximately 90 minutes before the championship round for better conditions and it slid a little bit in high gear. We should have been able to go 200 mph. We had a lot of wing in the Eagle One Pontiac Firebird though to get through the bumps, more than we typically run because the track was rough down there in the right lane. There was one bump in the left but three in the right that could have upset the car. Once we put the wing in the car, it settled it down there on the top end and we made a real good run in that right lane. We ran good in both lanes today and we had good lights on everybody.

How did the rain delay affect you? "It was deflating. You're psyched when you come up here - I mean you're ready to roll. You have to be or you're not going to do your job. You're sitting out there and you're just kind of melting in the car. I didn't know if I could get pumped back up mentally to the level that I had to be to do what we did. I was working at it though - all the way up there and all the way back. If you pump up too early you let down before you get to the starting line. I've learned to get prepared about one pair of cars back. That way I can keep the momentum. We have a good handle on what we're doing now. We made some significant improvements in the Eagle One Firebird in the last week. We've changed some things and it's made quite an impact on our performance - both on the front half and the back half of the racetrack. I think you'll see us in the winner's circle some more."

Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) -- "The car was all over the racetrack. Apparently our setup wasn't compatible with a cool track, or we didn't have the right approach. The bottom line is that the car lost traction about 2.5 seconds into the run and it was all over. I am hoping for warm weather because we can do well when it's hot. If it's 50 degrees when we race in St. Louis, I'll know something is definitely wrong. We're all dealing with the same conditions, and it appears that our competitors have a combination that's better for a cool track than ours. We'll just keep working to improve our performance. We've invested time, money, and manpower in testing, and we intend to run as well as we can for the rest of the season."

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) - "There's not much to talk about. We had a car that worked really good yesterday when the track was warm and we seemed to be getting down as fast as anybody. In both the evening sessions the car just shook, but this morning the track was pretty cold. With the cloud cover the track is the coldest we've seen all weekend. So we knew we were outside the window that the car has operated well in all weekend. We made some pretty major chassis changes to try and compensate for what it was doing. The car felt like it was on a pretty good run in first and second gear, just the groove was real narrow out there, and I got a little to the left. I probably could have driven it through, and got a 6.94, but it was pretty loose and I just didn't want to take a chance on crashing the car. I think we've got a racecar that will get off the starting line now when the track is real cold like that. It's just a matter of trying to get it to straighten out in the middle. I don't really believe we have that much of a problem we have with the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac because I think our problem was with the racetrack. Columbus is a totally different track and has totally different weather conditions. We have the chassis worked out now, we just have to work on the engine tune-up to try and come up with a combination that will work well in the different conditions at Columbus."

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing/Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird) - "It just seems like we can find every way to lose. The Summit Racing Firebird ran so good yesterday and Friday. Something happened to the car in third gear and doomed us. It's getting real frustrating. We've qualified in the top half at every race this year - its disappointing to say the least. We've got a fast racecar here and a great group of guys, we just can't seem to get the breaks we need to go a few rounds. If it happens and we get rolling, its going to be awesome. We're just going to keep working and concentrate on our efforts to move the program forward. Hopefully we'll get the breaks we need to go a few rounds at the next race in Columbus which is real important for Summit Racing, and Pontiac and all my fans."

Richie Stevens (Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird) - "I'm ready to get out of here and forget all about Chicago for awhile. We just had no luck at all this weekend. Not one little bit. The only positive I can think of is that we did compete in the Dominator Duel, which is a true sign that you're one of the best eight teams of the past year. Other than that, I'd just as soon put this race behind me. In the finals, Kurt and I were side by side until the eighth-mile mark then I started moving around all over the place and he stayed straight. That was the difference between winning and losing. We just never had a good run here."


Bruce Sarver ( Pontiac Firebird) - "Well it wasn't much of a run. Basically I went up there hoping to run a good number against Ronnie (Capps) and it shook real hard. I had to pedal it but the wheels were spinning and our day was done. We had high hopes to run good because we did so well in Dallas last weekend but we got behind in the first two runs - smoking the tires in the first one and the mag went bad in the second. In the first run Saturday morning we had mag problems again, so we really only got one run in. But we did get the Firebird in the show. We're staying over and testing tomorrow. We ran real good in Richmond and Atlanta, so for some unknown reason it hit us again. We're going to work on getting the car to 60 feet like the other cars and progress from there."

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "This track is so stout, but it's tricky. You can run big numbers here, and you can shake pretty hard or spin the tires too. We out there and it started to rattle. Then I felt it busting loose and I caught it pretty quick. Our Pontiac Firebird hooked up enough from there on for me to leg it on out and get the win light an that's all that matters. We were down there hooking up to tow back when Frankie (Pedregon) came down track and we saw what happened to him. He did his job. I'm proud of him but I was worried for him. But Frankie's okay, that's what is important."

Semifinal Round: "Thankfully we saw it, and thankfully when we got back to our pit we could tell it was no one's fault -- just a weird freak thing. These crew guys take their stuff very seriously, and very personally, and I didn't want to find a loose nut or fitting, for their sake. The gasket that is between the head and head cover adheres to the cover, and we check it every run to make sure it's sound and not burned through anywhere. When we pulled the cover off and looked at the gasket from that side, it looked fine, not a problem. When we got back here, we peeled it off and on the other side, the side stuck to the cover. There was a small spot where it was degraded a little, a little too thin. In my ten years of Funny Car racing I've never had that happen. It was just a fluke, weird thing and that was the only way it could go undetected. The oil was only dripping out like a tiny faucet leak, just drip, drip, drip, it wasn't anything big. But if we would've run the car, when I hit the throttle the pressure would have eventually blown the gasket out and we would have burned the red Firebird up to go along with the blue car we toasted this morning. It was the right call to shut off, it was no one's fault, and we're probably lucky the little leak showed up. I don't know if we could have given Toliver enough to stay with his 4.83, but we were up there to race."

Frank Pedregon (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "I'm okay. Everyone is fine. They gave me some oxygen down there and I was fine. All the safety stuff worked just like it's supposed to and I got out of there as fast as I could. The body is damaged, but we don't know how bad it is just yet. The car will be fine. I was so focussed. I was out on him, then it started to spin the tires down there and I had to pedal it. I pedaled it once, then again and then a third time. Somewhere between the first and third pedal job the right side of the motor let loose. I saw the fire through the dashboard, hit the extinguisher bottles, but it kept going. Then it started to get bigger and I decided I'd better get the thing stopped and get out. Right after that, the inside of the car filled with smoke and fire and I couldn't see a thing. Right then, still rolling or not, it was time to get out because my legs were starting to get hot. I got out without breathing much smoke, just a little, and got away from it. That was my first fire and although I've heard guys talk about them, it's not the same until you go through one. I never panicked; I just did what I had to do and got out. It's a little more scary after it's over and you're remembering it than when it's going on. I hope we can get our stiff back together and save this new 2000 Firebird body. It's just a mess right now, and we lost a race we were winning. We'll be back stronger than ever."


Pat Austin (ProMax/Valvoline Pontiac Firebird) "This was a very tough weekend for us. We started out poorly performance-wise while other guys managed to run pretty good. Obviously as the year goes on, that competition level gets better and better. There were some very good running cars here this weekend, and we were fortunate to get the win considering how we struggled. Today was the best day out of the three. The ProMax Pontiac Firebird started doing what we hoped it would do. My father (Walt Austin) made some adjustments and I have a lot of confidence in him so it was just a matter of time before the car came around. I want to thank Pontiac, ProMax, Valvoline, Hoosier tires and everybody involved with this racecar. It was just a great effort today. I was glad that I was here to see John (Force) get the record today. We started that Castrol team together and were able to win a lot of races when he wasn't. Obviously he's carried on nicely since we left so I'm very excited for him.

What's the gameplan now for Columbus? "We're going to rebuild everything and start out this year where we ended last year - running as good as we possibly can. We lost a close one there last year to Manzo so we'll just try to carry on.

Are you looking forward to the Federal Mogul All Star Race? "That's a great race that Federal Mogul puts on for us. It pays a little money to win that and that's what we're trying to do - pay for our vacation. We're on vacation, working hard, having fun and if we can get a few more buck to help pay for it, that's great."

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , Ron Krisher