Columbus Team Pennzoil Sunday Round 1 Report

Thomas moves into quarterfinals COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 13) -- A picture-perfect day greeted the world's fastest drivers as the sudden-death elimination rounds of the 35th Annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals began Sunday morning at National Trail...

Thomas moves into quarterfinals

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 13) -- A picture-perfect day greeted the world's fastest drivers as the sudden-death elimination rounds of the 35th Annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals began Sunday morning at National Trail Raceway.

Team Pennzoil started the quest for the championship of this historic race with two of their top guns ready for action. Mike Thomas accepted the challenge and beat Tom Martino in Round 1 to advance to the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Top Fuel driver Eddie Hill had victory snatched away at the finish line by good friend and birthday boy Joe Amato.

Here's a recap of each driver's Round 1 pass.

Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, won a tight first-round race against Tom Martino. The two men were side-by-side from start to finish with Thomas taking the win in 7.051 seconds at 196.36 mph to Martino's 7.073 seconds at 195.90.

"The clutch set up Rick (Hickman, crew chief) put on the car was perfect," Thomas said. "And we needed it to be. Tom's a tough guy to beat and we're glad to get the win. The starting line is terrible but we'll have to get used to it because it isn't going to change. The Pennzoil car spun a lot at the launch and I had to shift into second earlier than normal but then we just took off. I saw Tom for most of the way down until right near the end when we pulled away. It's great to get the win. We need the points and the moral boost."

Thomas will face Mike Trumble Jr. in the quarterfinals. Trumble beat Kurt Johnson in the opening session with a pass of 7.052 seconds at 196.47 mph. Thomas will have lane choice over Trumble because of his 0.001-second superior elapsed time in Round 1.

Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, drilled his first round opponent Joe Amato off the starting line - 0.495 second start to Amato's 0.539 second launch - and led for most of the race before puffing his tires near the finish line and losing by 0.054 seconds (or about 23 feet). The final numbers saw Hill post a 4.788-second lap at 288.95 mph against Amato's 4.690-second pass at 313.29 mph.

"I hate to run right after a massive clean-up and we had one in our lane," Hill said, referring to a 10-minute delay caused by Bob Vandergriff's machine losing a tire and blowing its engine. "The car let go right about the same area where they were working on the track. It just kind of quit pulling right there and Joe streaked by. I guess that's my birthday present to him.

"That was a maximum effort deal for the Pennzoil crew. We knew the left lane was a little questionable and the guys did everything they could to get us down that side. They did a great job. This thing continues to be a good consistent car and that helps me tremendously when I mentally prepare for a run. I also give the credit to the car for that great reaction time. This baby launched hard. It was a gorgeous run all the way around until the tires let go."

Hill has qualified for nine events this season and has logged seven elimination round wins. He entered this race in 11th place in the Winston championship points standings.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Kurt Johnson , Joe Amato , Tom Martino , Mike Trumble