Columbus Team Pennzoil Preview

Team Pennzoil searches for summertime success COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 9) -- Summer has officially arrived on the National Hot Rod Association circuit. That fact, as always, will be solidified this Thursday through Sunday with the annual pilgrimage...

Team Pennzoil searches for summertime success

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 9) -- Summer has officially arrived on the National Hot Rod Association circuit. That fact, as always, will be solidified this Thursday through Sunday with the annual pilgrimage of the world's quickest driver's to historic National Trail Raceway.

While at Columbus' famous quarter-mile stretch, the professional drivers of Team Pennzoil are hoping to heat up their respective seasons by taking home the championship of the track's title race -- the 35th Annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit.

Here's each Pennzoil professional's plan of attack for this weekend's race.

Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, immediately brightens when he thinks of National Trail Raceway. Aside from a runner-up finish to Scott Kalitta in 1995, Hill was half of the NHRA's quickest side-by-side pass one year ago at the track when he posted a 4.595-second lap next to Joe Amato's 4.572-second pass.

"Being a part of the quickest side-by-side lap was really cool," Hill said. "I know that mark has been bettered since, but at the time it was really something. The good news for us now is that we can use the data from that lap to help us tune the car this year. This heatwave might slow us a little, but if we can combine last year's data with the info we gained in Chicago last weekend when it was really hot, then we could be on to something big.

"The Pennzoil machine is working flawlessly right now. All we need to do is match the car to the track and the weather conditions. When we do that correctly we are as fast and as quick as anybody out there. I've got some fond memories of National Trail Raceway. I'd like to add some more this weekend."

Hill, 63, is currently 11th in the Winston championship points standings. The Wichita Falls, Texas resident has won seven elimination rounds in eight races this year and has qualified in the top half of the field on six occasions.

Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, is still searching for his first win of the 1999 season. A semifinalist a year ago in the Buckeye State, Thomas hopes his Ohio-built horsepower will take him all the way to the Winner's Circle this time around.

"We had that track completely figured out last year," Thomas said. "And then that storm system moved through and completely changed the surface. We reached the semifinals and had a slight lead on Jeg (Coughlin, the eventual winner) until I hit fifth gear and the tires just started spinning. I guess the rain washed too much rubber off the track.

"I'd really like to win this race. Our engine-building plant, Finish Line Racing Engines, is just a few miles from this track in Norwalk, Ohio, and I know the guys from the shop would love to share a victory with their family and friends. I plan on doing everything I can to deliver."

As usual, Thomas will be racing against five Finish Line Racing Engine customers this weekend including: Richie "The Kid" Stevens, Mike Edwards, Mike Trumble Jr., Ron Krisher and NBA star Tom Hammonds. Finish Line powerplants have accounted for one national event win, four runner-up finishes and 32 elimination round wins in 1999.

Bruce Allen, the pilot of The Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, is a two-time runner-up at National Trail Raceway (1988 and '85) that is extremely anxious to restore his famed Reher-Morrison entry to its former glory days. Allen has struggled so far this season; qualifying for just three races and logging just one elimination round win. But he and crew chief David Reher are confident they can reverse that trend in Ohio.

"We've been making a lot of progress over the last few races," Allen said. "We faltered in Chicago's one good session and missed the cut, which was a slight step backwards. But in the other three sessions we were very pleased with how we ran in relation to the rest of the field. I really expect big things this weekend.

"I know we'll have plenty of support in Columbus. The fans there are always so enthusiastic that it pushes you to do better for their sake. It's time for this team to make a move. I'd love to start a long winning streak right here in Ohio."

Mike Ferderer, the driver of the Pennzoil Super Gas Pontiac Grand Prix and Gumout Super Comp Dragster, enters Columbus on a mission. The 1998 Super Gas Driver of the Year, who has already logged four wins this season, knows that this race represents his last opportunity to collect championship points at a national event.

"The pressure is on to win this deal or at least go very deep into the elimination rounds in both cars," Ferderer said. "Obviously, your main goal is to be No. 1 in the world. I still have a shot at that and a win here would help the cause tremendously. What would really be something is if I could put both cars into the top 10 nationally. There are over 4,300 drivers in each of the classes I race in. To be one of the 10 best in the country would be huge."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Joe Amato , Ron Krisher , Scott Kalitta , Bruce Allen , Tom Hammonds , Mike Trumble