Dallas Pontiac Racing Notes

NOTES & QUOTES THIRD ANNUAL CASTROL NATIONALS DALLAS (April 23, 1999) After the first day of qualifying for the Third Annual Castrol Nationals at the Texas Motorplex, Warren Johnson's GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird holds down the...

NOTES & QUOTES THIRD ANNUAL CASTROL NATIONALS

DALLAS (April 23, 1999) After the first day of qualifying for the Third Annual Castrol Nationals at the Texas Motorplex, Warren Johnson's GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird holds down the No. 1 qualifying position in the Pro Stock division with an elapsed time of 6.989 seconds at 198.28 mph. Mike Thomas is qualified fourth, Mark Pawuk is fifth, George Marnell is eighth, Jim Yates is ninth, Bruce Allen is No. 13, Steve Schmidt is 14th and Tom Martino is 15th.

In Funny Car, Cruz Pedregon is the highest qualified Firebird in the No. 2 position with a run of 4.936 seconds at 310.34 mph. Tim Wilkerson is qualified fifth, Del Worsham is sixth, Al Hofmann is eighth and Dale Creasy Jr., is 20th. Whit Bazemore is the No. 1 qualifier in a Camaro with an elapsed time of 4.921 seconds at 304.15 mph.

In Top Fuel, Cory McClenathan's MBNA/Pontiac is qualified seventh with an elapsed time of 4.650 seconds at 306.85 mph. The No. 1 qualifier is Larry Dixon who had a qualifying pass of 4.545 seconds at 316.12 mph.

PRO STOCK

Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) Our first run wouldn't win any beauty contests. By our standards it was pretty ugly, but apparently it wasn't too bad because it was quicker than everyone else's run. The track was a little different. I noticed after Kurt (Johnson) ran that cars were shaking the tires at the top of low gear, so we weren't really expecting to get down that lane in any kind of fashion. We were a little overly aggressive but fortunately we were able to get away with it.

Second Session: A lot of our success has to do with having a crew intact from last year and having a lot of data - obviously I've been racing a long time and we've accumulated a considerable amount of information on different racetracks over the course of a few race seasons. That certainly helps if you can keep your crew together, maintain your power level and keep your parts supply constant. It's pretty hard for us to over power the track. The fuel cars don't have a problem with it, but if we have a real good race track then we can throw everything we have at it as far as gear ratio and so forth. We basically don't have enough power to overpower it unless we really mess up with the gear ratio. The track is consistent from one end to the other and though there are tracks just as good if not better on the starting line, they may not be as smooth or have as good of traction in the middle of the track. Barring any damage to the surface, this track is consistent all the way down.

The weather really affects these naturally aspirated gas burners. We're looking at a relative altitude where the engine is taking in air equal to an altitude calculated at about 3600 feet. This track is only four of five hundred feet above sea level but because of the humidity and lack of barometric pressure, we're down about three percent of horsepower for every 1000 feet of relative altitude. The fuel cars can basically make as much power as they want because of the superchargers and nitromethane. They're not as affected by altitude as much as we are. We can go to Denver where the relative altitude can be 11,000 feet and they still run in the 4.80s. If the cloud cover stays, the track doesn't get oiled down and it doesn't get too hot, you'll see some phenomenal performance from the fuel cars. Because of the relative altitude, a 6.96 is probably as quick as we can go. No. 1 qualifier - 6.989ET/198.28MPH

Steve Schmidt (Dynagear Pontiac Firebird) This racetrack always presents a challenge getting your car glued to the track - especially if the sun is out and it's hot. It can be very fast but at the same time it can be tremendously slow. Typically the guys that can adapt to the various conditions and get down the track every time are usually the ones that end up in the late rounds on race day. We struggled at Houston, and in the first session we were sixth and in the last session we were fifth quickest. The Dynagear Pontiac Firebird didn't make a very good run that time, but we do have this race car back to where it's going down the racetrack every time. If we do our job and make a nice run we'll be in good shape. It's hard to say which session will be the best. I don't see tonight being much better than today although the cloud cover could help the racetrack some. No. 14 qualifier - 7.077ET/95.65MPH

Bruce Allen (Outlaw Pontiac Firebird) Getting that far out of shape really caught me by surprise. We've been testing this Outlaw Firebird a lot over the last few weeks and the car has had bouts of minor tire shake I've been able to drive through. I thought that's what was happening here and then just like that, we were sideways. There's transmission fluid all over the track from a Comp car that ran before us. It also didn't help that we were the first pair out. It's still pathetic they didn't clean up better.

Second Session: We over-adjusted after the final run and probably left some in it in round two. It certainly wasn't the best we could have done. But that's great news for us. It's nice to have a not-so-good run and still be part of the field. We're improving as a team and this was the first step in the right direction. We'll make some adjustments and be ready to go in the morning. No. 13 qualifier - 7.073ET/195.52MPH

George Marnell (Dynomax Pontiac Firebird) We had a little unfortunate luck in the first session. We broke a valve at the top of first gear. I went ahead and shut it off, and coasted on through, but at least we got enough information for the starting line. We had a pretty good clutch setup and I think it would have run about 7-flat. Luckily we have a new motor that just got flown in - I mean it just arrived. The new motor's going in and we're pretty optimistic. It looks really good on the dyno so let's just hope it looks just as good on the racetrack. If things work the way we have it planned, we'll have the Dynomax Pontiac Firebird right where it belongs. We kind of expected to be facing these kind of conditions. It's starting to warm up now this time of year and the humidity seems to be the biggest variable we have to deal with. These naturally aspirated motors just don't want to charge real hard in this kind of weather. No. 8 qualifier - 7.060ET/195.14MPH

Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) I feel like we made as good a run as possible under these conditions. Our incremental times up until the car let go were some of the best of the session. There was a sever oil-down problem in the middle of the track and no one has made an attempt to clean it up. Our Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird is ready to rock and tonight should be a perfect time to post a quick time.

Second Session: I really feel as though we're just getting started. That was a nice run but I believe this Pennzoil Firebird has the ability to go a lot faster. I'd like to see the temperature drop 20 degrees or so and then we'd be able to fly in the morning. We've still got a lot of racing left to do this weekend but I'm very pleased with the position we're in right now. No. 4 qualifier - 7.041ET/196.42MPH

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) If the weather stays as it is, the competitive cars will be the ones that can get down the racetrack. It was pretty marginal in the first session and I think it was evident by looking at the cars that struggled. We didn't make a great run but the Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird made a decent run. It was a good way to start but the Johnsons were awfully strong out there. Compared to the rest of the field though we were right up there. We fell off the back half and the car kind of got out of control in third gear. It started shaking and bouncing and spinning the tires pretty bad. We just didn't have enough downforce on the rear of the car. We could have run quicker but there's no way we could have gone a 6.98. If you get a good hit off like that and have an opportunity to run better tonight, I would have to say that our best shot will be tomorrow morning. This class is always so competitive and there are so many good cars that all you have to do is make one good qualifying session and you're in. No. 5 qualifier - 7.048ET/196.07MPH

FUNNY CAR

Cruz Pedregon (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) That was right what we were looking for during that second session. We were concerned about the weather so what little bit we left on the table there in the middle of the course, the Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird was doing exactly what it was supposed to do with the setup that Wes (Cerny) gave it. Going up to the line I was pretty confident that we would make it, but I was ready to do what I needed to do if for some reason Wes had missed a little bit. As it turns out, he was right on it and all I had to do was keep it in the groove. Ending Friday night the No. 2 qualifier was a good way to end this day. It gives us a good baseline to work with tomorrow. We'll throw the first run out and chalk it up to experience, but we needed to do that to run the 4.93. It's a narrow groove here and if you're car's doing what it's supposed to do, it's not that difficult to keep the car where it should be. When the car's doing funny things it can be difficult. It's not very forgiving and you can't let the car wander around. If you fire out of the groove you're either going to smoke the tires or go for a wild ride. We ran speed of 310 and that's good for us because we haven't been running like we would like. But this Firebird had all eight cylinders lit on the run and that's important because even though elapsed time is important, good speed can win a lot of races for you. We're right where we need to be right now. No. 2 qualifier - 4.936ET/310.34MPH

Al Hofmann (Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird) We put a cylinder out at about 1.7 seconds and it really wasn't moving too good before that. We really got after the engine and it seems like it's getting through the clutch a lot better. That means that when we go out there tonight, we'll spruce the motor up a little bit, put a little more clutch in it, hopefully we won't put that cylinder out, and we'll go out and run a 4.97 or something close to that. The air is just phenomenally bad and you have to twist this motors tail to get it to run anything. We're tired of saving parts so we're going to go out there and turn the wick up. No. 8 qualifier - 5.045ET/283.37MPH

Tim Wilkerson (JCIT Pontiac Firebird) I think the 5-flat we ran this afternoon will be competitive if the weather doesn't change, although I think you'll see some 4.80s tonight when the track gets better. It just wasn't very good out there today. We saw a lot of cars smoking the tires about three to four hundred feet out, but our JCIT Pontiac Firebird did exactly what it was supposed to do. We dropped a cylinder right at the end, but it wasn't enough to scrub off any elapsed time. It still went over 300 mph and if it would have run in the fours it would have been a 4.98 or something like that. The potential for rain has us a little bit conservative so Terry's (Manzer) pretty pleased that the car performed the way it did. If we can run that well all weekend with the temperature expected to be as high as it is, that should put us into the later rounds. It's definitely not all this Firebird has in it and I think you'll definitely see us run in the 4.90s tonight. No. 5 qualifier - 5.001ET/301.40MPH

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) It just shut itself off and I didn't do it. The Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird was cruising down through there pretty good. It wanted to smoke the tires like a lot of guys did, but it managed to hook up and it was running OK, just like you want to run on your first pass. At about 1,100 feet, it started chewing stuff up including a valve which got knocked down into the No. 1 piston, chewed that piston up, and the crank then punched the valve right through the block. When the car stopped, there was the intake valve sitting next to the motor. That was not the way we wanted the run to end. We were all ready with a lot of time to spare in the pits and started to warm the car up around 12:30. As soon as we fired it, it blew oil out of the oil filter bracket and covered all of us and most of our trailer in Valvoline. We fixed it, spent about an hour cleaning everything, and fired it again around 1:45 for the 2:30 session. It did it again. Same deal, oil everywhere.

We found the problem in the oil pump, fixed it and got up there with about 10 minutes to spare. If we weren't scheduled as the second-to-last pair I doubt we would have made it for the session. But this crew works well together and we got the problems sorted out.

Second Session: That right there is a pretty good example of chickening out on the tune up a little too much. We hurt a motor pretty badly in the first session and didn't really have time between the two runs to sit down and analyze it. We thought we had a pretty good idea what happened, but my dad (crew chief Chuck Worsham) and I weren't 100% sure. So in the staging lanes, we added a little more alcohol to the fuel, then a little more again. Kind of like erring on the side of safety I guess. All we did was detune it too much. It went out there and shook and was lazy and smoked the tires.

This weather is throwing a lot of people for a loop. Usually here in Dallas in the spring and in the fall, we're here when the conditions are awesome and you can throw everything at the track that you have. We can look back through our Dallas log books and just see stout tune-up after stout tune-up. You can disregard that with this heat and humidity. There are a lot of cylinders getting dropped out there, and a lot of cars getting loose and smoking the tires. I'd say the teams that figure out a whole new approach to Dallas are the ones that will do well. No. 6 qualifier - 5.019ET/289.66MPH

Dale Creasy Jr. (Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird) When things go as well as they have for the Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird, you get spoiled. When things don't go right you get disappointed. I'm not disappointed in the race car, I'm disappointed in us. We should have known better. The air is just not here and we didn't make enough adjustments for it. I'm not making any excuses, we just didn't make the right calls today. We aren't making enough power. The way we have the clutch set up it should go down the return road. The motor's not using the clutch like it should. Our fuel pump kept feeling like it was going to seize up so we sent it back. When we got it back the chart said it was two gallons better. Being the brain surgeons that we are we didn't read the chart when we should have paid more attention.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Dale Creasy Jr. , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Steve Schmidt , Chuck Worsham