Columbus: Pontiac event notes

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 17, 2000) - Final eliminations for the 36th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals were completed today at National Trail Raceway. PRO STOCK Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) - "Winning this race in Ohio at the...

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 17, 2000) - Final eliminations for the 36th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals were completed today at National Trail Raceway.

PRO STOCK

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) - "Winning this race in Ohio at the Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing, Matco Tools being a local company, what I else could I ask for. In front of my hometown fans, in front of my family, my engine shop guys were here, the list just goes on and on - it's endless. We came into eliminations the worst we've qualified all year. The Summit Racing Firebird is the only car that's qualified in the top half of the field all season. We really struggled all weekend and made an awful run in the last qualifying session on Saturday. I thank God that the rain held off. We got in the ninth spot, which wasn't bad, and we learned that we had some defective clutch parts, made a change this morning and continued to build on that. The Cowboy is back with his driving as well. Their ain't no controlling this camp baby. It's been five years and I'm ready to rock and roll! It's Father's Day so that makes it extra special. My son and daughter are here. They gave me cards this morning and my son said, 'Daddy, you need to put that card I gave you in the car.' I said, 'Kyle I have nowhere to put it, but I have yours, and Cassandra's picture in there and you're going to ride with my all day.' Every race I come home they ask, 'Daddy, do you have a trophy?' And I say, 'no kids, but I'm working on it.' Today I can finally give them a trophy."

This win moves you to fifth place. "We're having a great year. We've lost the last three races prior to this event by a total of three hundredths of a second. This team is right on the verge of exploding. I got a great young group of guys. Everybody's working real hard, pulling together and we have everyone here this weekend -- it couldn't be better. Paul Sergi, the owner of Summit Racing is a very mellow individual, and when he's high fiveing and hugging people on the starting line you know it's exciting. There are some things I've always wanted on my professional my wish list. We held the national record for awhile, something I never expected, but that's one we accomplished. I wanted to win Columbus and now we have that handled. Now I want to win the U.S. Nationals, and a world championship so I'm gaining ground."

You had a tremendous holeshot in the finals. "Normally a sheet comes by after every round which shows reaction times. I never saw a sheet the whole race today and I didn't really care. I knew Ron (Krisher) was fast and that I'd have to win on a holeshot. I've driven the best that I have in a long time, and when you do that you get your confidence back. Maybe it would have been detrimental to me if I would have known what kind of lights he'd been cutting. I saw his lights from Chicago and I knew they were awesome. Ron has a lot of steam. He's running awfully good. It's just nice that the Summit Racing Firebird could when this race."

How does this boost the team heading into the second half? "After coming off this grueling stretch of the schedule we've had, I could tell that my guys were getting burned out. They're slowing down, and there's some friction but that's because everybody is working so hard. I think breaking that dry spell and getting the victory here is just going to pump everybody up to work even harder. The way this team has pulled together through good times and bad, after Chicago I was pretty down but they got me focussed again. To come back with a victory here is going to give us the momentum we need to start accelerating. Here we are at the middle of the season, in our home state, and I remember when I got beat in the finals in Super Gas. That was tough. This is Columbus, it's close enough to Cleveland that I can call it home. We finally conquered National Trail Raceway. I love the Buckeye State!"

Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) - "We lost the fuel pump. It's a goofy thing, but we put a new fuel pump on for this race and it decided to go south of the Mason Dixon land on that run. The last time that happened was in Pomona in 1987. We're getting a little bit better handle on this whole thing. We actually feel pretty good about the direction we're headed. I just wish we would have done better. Lately the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird has been getting down the race track a little faster. So all in all we didn't do real bad but we did want to win. It just wasn't meant to be today. We're going to regroup and head to St. Louis. We are in better shape now then we were at the start of the season. We just have to eliminate these little glitches and if we do that we'll be in pretty good shape."

Bruce Allen (Reher-Morrison Pontiac Firebird) - "We didn't make a very good run that round, and didn't have a very good light so it's going to be hard to beat Mark (Pawuk). Being the first pair out seems to be a little bit of a disadvantage. We need to get qualified better. We're better than an eight or nine car. We need to run a little better in qualifying and that would help us. We're fighting a couple of problems but we are making progress on it. We're not happy with how we are running -- we feel like we could run a little better. The rest of it - not much we can do about it. Mark made a decent run and there were a lot of shut offs in that first round. But he made a good run, had a good light and just beat us. We got to do better than that. In St. Louis last year we ran real well. So I am looking forward to going there, it should be a good track for us. We will probably make a few little changes and get our power a little bit faster. The engine isn't performing in the car right now. Where we are is that the engine is running better than how good of a job we are running our power. That's better than being the opposite because there isn't anything to pick up if the car is running better than the engine. I feel like the Reher-Morrison Pontiac Firebird is a top four or five car and in St. Louis I think we'll show that. We also need to get an easier first round if there is such a thing. The way Pro Stock is now, if you get into the field and get your Pontiac in there you are doing good. We're just going to have to keep working and get faster. All the parts are capable of doing what they're supposed to do, we just need to get it done."

Brad Jeter (Dynagear Pontiac Firebird) - "I don't know where to start. We've learned a lot this weekend about the Dynagear Pontiac Firebird. We tried something today but it didn't work. We're going to go to St. Louis and try and do better. I did all I could do to try and beat Warren (Johnson). I felt like I could beat him. Warren is a tough racer and I knew I would have to be on time to beat him. I did my job but the car didn't do its job. So we're going to work on it, try and get it better and go win in St. Louis." Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) - "Everything was proceeding as normal. We both took our time with Allen (Johnson) going in first. However, before I had a chance to stage, the red light came on. I'm not sure what happened, but it seemed a lot shorter than five seconds. It's frustrating to lose without even being able to run the race. The only consolation is that we made progress with the Century 21 Firebird throughout the weekend and qualified well. It's just a shame we couldn't show how good it was on Sunday."

FUNNY CAR

Al Hofmann (Mooneyes/Red Line Pontiac Firebird) - "We were happy with our qualifying run with the Mooneyes/Red Line Pontiac Firebird and we were pretty confident going up there. We just need to get some rounds. I'm looking forward to St. Louis, but I look forward to all the races. I just want to get there, start over, get going and make up for what we did here in Columbus. It's tough to lose. I hate it and so does Jim (Dunn). I know there has to be a winner and a loser but I am getting tired of being the loser. Hopefully St. Louis will be better."

Tim Wilkerson (Sioux City Kenworth Pontiac Firebird) - "I think what we've learned from the weekend is that even though I think we do a good job servicing our parts, we have found a weak link. We broke a rocker arm during the first run and we went a 5.10. Then in the third run it broke an input shaft. When it did that, the motor went to 10 thousands and leveled everything. The input shaft only had 11 runs on it, and now that our car is so fast we're finding all the weak links to it. Now, what do you do? After only 11 runs we're still trying to figure that out. So we're going to go to a different size input shaft, fix that problem, look at our rocker arms and then go from there. We're going to carry on. We still have a fast car. With all the problems we've had and making it to first round-there's no excuse for how we ran. I'm very embarrassed, but we'll rebound. I'm on a mission now to St. Louis. We will have the Sioux City Kenworth Pontiac Firebird kicking, I promise you that."

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "We're a team and Frankie is here to win. We're all pitching in to get him to round two against Jim Epler. But I'm not happy about losing the race. I cannot understand why our car made a move to the centerline. It rattled a bit and when it does that it tends to move right on me. I wasn't able to pull the CSK Firebird back. As I got near the centerline it got out in the marbles and I lost traction. I pedaled it three times, but Frank made a clean safe run and there was no catching him. The only silver lining in this for the overall team is that his win moved Frankie into the top 10 and I'm happy about that."

Frank Pedregon (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "It's just no good having to face Del in the first round. I don't like facing my brothers in the first round and now Del feels like part of the family and I don't like this either. We have a commitment to each other to run hard and win. But it takes about 90 percent of the joy out of it to beat him in round one. Now we have to tune it up and take on Epler. I need to do my job in the car, Dave Fletcher and both of these teams will do the job tuning it."

TOP FUEL

Cory McClenathan (MBNA/Pontiac) - "The weekend wasn't to bad. Going to the Dave Gill Pontiac Autograph session and then going to the Children's Hospital was a great start to the Pontiac Excitement Nationals. We ran a 4.62 first round and we thought we had something to show these guys. In the second round we were passing Tony Schumacher early and the car broke a push rod. We have found all different kinds of ways to lose this year. We just keep chasing weak parts and once we make something stronger then something else goes weak. We are going to have to get this MBNA/Pontiac Dragster in the winner circle before long. It's driving me crazy. The car is more consistent now. I keep thinking the same thing every race that we are going to be there at the end. So we are just going to have to keep at it and hopefully be there in the end at St. Louis. I think we are going to be good from here on out. I don't want to jinx it but that's what we're hoping. There are plenty of races left and if I can't win a championship I am going to be the worst spoiler you ever saw. The bottom line is that we need to get this car in the winner circle a few times for MBNA and Pontiac and everybody involved. The fun is still to come I think."

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Brad Jeter , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Jim Epler , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Tony Schumacher , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson