PONTIAC FIREBIRD RACING NOTES & QUOTES 14th ANNUAL O'REILLY FALLNATIONALS TEXAS MOTORPLEX ENNIS, TEXAS ENNIS, Tex. (October 24, 1999) - Final eliminations were completed today for the 14th annual O'Reilly Fallnationals at Texas Motorplex. The...
PONTIAC FIREBIRD RACING NOTES & QUOTES 14th ANNUAL O'REILLY FALLNATIONALS TEXAS MOTORPLEX ENNIS, TEXAS
ENNIS, Tex. (October 24, 1999) - Final eliminations were completed today for the 14th annual O'Reilly Fallnationals at Texas Motorplex. The next stop on the schedule is the Third annual Matco Tools Supernationals on October 28- 31 at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown, Tex. It is the 21st race on the 22-event Winston championship tour.
Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) "It's been tougher and tougher all year long. I'm happy for our team and happy for our sponsors and most of all for the fans - I appreciate them all. I tell you, the car was awesome on the final run. I stuck it in second gear and it just hiked up the front end and marched right to the finish line. It trembled a little in first gear so the 60-foot time wasn't the best. It went in second gear and took off - we ran the quickest e.t. of eliminations on the last run."
"I'm happy for the whole team because they worked so hard all year long. We wore out that dyno; it ran seven days a week when were back at the shop. It's sometimes a 24-hour-a-day deal, and the dedication my guys have is what got the success we had here."
"I knew it was going to be fast all day long, and that was going to help anyone who had a marginal setup. The track was going to be good enough to cover up for it. I knew it was going to be tough out there every round. There were 16 cars within nine hundredths of a second, and that's the blink of an eye. I had Edwards first round, and he's the consummate holeshot artist. Once I got by that round I felt we had a good chance of winning based on what everyone else was running. We were competitive and that's all we really needed, just so we didn't shoot ourselves in the foot. That was the biggest thing. With the air conditions we had out here, you could make enough power that if you make a real error in clutch, chassis, or gearing, you'll have to abort the run."
"The object is to win every round you can and hopefully win races. We just did the best job that we could possibly do, and fortunately it came out in our favor. I'll enjoy the championship for about half and hour and then I have to get back to work. It's one of those things you work all year long for, and you enjoy it when it's there. We all did our jobs well enough to win the championship; if we did an excellent job every weekend, we'd win more than seven races." RACE WINNER - WINSTON CHAMPION
Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) "I felt really comfortable in the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird this weekend. I was comfortable with my lights, the car was going good and straight, and we have the chassis where it's doing everything right on the first half of the race track. But from the eighth mile on, it was just loose and out of control. I don't know if it was the racetrack or this car, but I felt like we should have been able to run faster in the final than we ran all day. I figured if we could have run a 6.87, or 6.88, we could have beat Warren (Johnson). I had a good jump on him at the starting line, but he's running real strong, he took the national record and set low e.t. of every round, so it's hard to beat him. We had him right where we wanted him, but he just slipped through our fingers."
Were you confident going into the final round? "I felt like I knew the win was within our grasp from the first round on. We were within two hundredths of the fastest car in the first round, and we stayed that way with everybody else but Warren. He pulled away and got three hundredths faster than us, but I thought three hundredths was well within range. We ran over in the right lane earlier in the day, made a pretty good run with a 6.88, and I thought we could go up there in the finals and do the job. to be honest though, we didn't take into account how good the track got in the final round. The sun sets behind the tower and shades the first 150 feet of racetrack and it makes the track awesome. The reason we didn't run a 6.86 was our fault. We just missed the tune up. He earned it, he's running fast and realistically, we haven't been in too many late rounds recently. That's hurts us."
"The team did a great job all weekend. We're working together and we have confidence again. With the fuel issue out of the way, and the fact that we're racing on a level playing field again, we feel like we can run back at the front. Now we're racing with more energy, working with more confidence on the car, and with more dedication and it's paying off."
What's the game plan for Houston? "We think we're building on some momentum here. With the late rounds we got today, we were able to work on the fuel tune up a little more. We still don't have it right yet and I think we still have some work to do in that area. I feel confident that with a couple of more runs, we may stay here and test tomorrow, we'll see if we can't close the gap with Warren and a couple of the faster cars." RUNNER UP TO WARREN JOHNSON FUNNY CAR
Tommy Johnson Jr. (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) "I was worried when the weekend started with all of the distractions that we've had, but as it turned out, I have a lot of confidence that something's going to come about. This Interstate Batteries team is such a good group of guys that it just can't sit still. Hopefully something will happen. Everyone says that you can get another job driving for somebody else, and that's okay, but I really like the chemistry of everyone here. I've made my main focus just to keep this going.'
From a performance standpoint it wasn't a bad weekend. "No, it was a great weekend. Force snuck in there and took that No. 1 qualifying spot and then he snuck in there and took the race away from us. He's getting to be a real thorn in my side, but we have something for him. It's just going to take some time to work it out and we'll be all right. It was a great race in the final round. It doesn't get much better than that -- I really enjoyed that. To run 320 mph in the semi-finals and then to go out in the finals and run 4.84 to his 4.82 with both us at 319 - that was pretty special for everyone who saw it. You can't ask for a better drag race. I'm disappointed but not too disappointed. You can't be when you're running like that. He just seems to be able to step it up when he needs to against us. I must bring out the best in him because every time I've watched him, it seems that his best lights are against me in the final or whenever he races us. At least he knows that Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird is over there. Next weekend we race in Houston and I love that. Back-to-back races is great. That week off after Memphis it seemed like it took me forever to get back into the rhythm of things."
Your qualifying concerned you coming into today's eliminations. "Wes (Cerny) came to me this morning right before first round, and told me that we were done experimenting and that the race setup was back in it. He may have been doing something that he wasn't letting me know about, but I felt a lot better going into first round when he told me that. They're still experimenting, and even though the deal doesn't look good right now, they're still trying and that's what counts. He put the setup back to basically like it was, and in the first round I let it get out of the groove and it smoked the tires. The red light got me messed up, but from there on we ran good numbers every round. Wes was right, the race setup was back in it and away we went."
Did you know that you were the third Funny Car driver to go 320 mph? Somebody mentioned that to me a little while ago and that felt pretty good. On that run I kept asking on the radio what we ran and nobody responded. I got out of the car and Alan Rhinehart let me know that the car ran 320.05. I knew this Firebird was flying. You can tell because it had me nailed back in the seat, and I had the wheels turned all the way to the right to keep from getting out of the groove because it was pushing so hard."
RUNNER UP TO JOHN FORCE