ENNIS, Tex. (October 23, 1999) - The field is set for tomorrow's running of the 14th annual O'Reilly Fallnationals at Texas Motorplex. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson took the No. 1 qualifying position setting both ends of the national record in...
ENNIS, Tex. (October 23, 1999) - The field is set for tomorrow's running of the 14th annual O'Reilly Fallnationals at Texas Motorplex. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson took the No. 1 qualifying position setting both ends of the national record in one of the quickest qualifying fields in NHRA history. Capitalizing on near-perfect atmospheric conditions, Johnson's GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird streaked down the race track in the second qualifying session today at a record-setting 6.822 seconds at 202.15 mph. His top speed in the second session backed up the 202.33 mph he ran in the first session to establish the national record. Tom Martino continued on his torrid pace in the Century 21 Firebird qualifying in the No. 3 position with an elapsed time of 6.843 seconds at 201.43 mph gaining him access to the Speed Pro 200 mph Club. Bruce Allen is qualified fifth, Jim Yates is sixth and George Marnell also cracked into the elite Speed Pro 200 mph Club with a run in the Dynomax Firebird at 200.08 mph. Richie Stevens is qualified ninth, Mike Thomas is 11th and Mark Pawuk is 14th. Steve Schmidt finished the weekend qualified 20th.
In Funny Car, Tommy Johnson Jr. and the Interstate Batteries Firebird will enter Sunday eliminations qualified in the No. 2 position with an elapsed time of 4.857 seconds at 316.45 mph. Gary Densham is qualified seventh, Frank Pedregon is 10th, Cruz Pedregon is 12th, Dale Creasy Jr. is 13th and Al Hofmann is 16th. John Force was the No. 1 qualifier in a Mustang with an elapsed time of 4.844 seconds at 317.12 mph. Whit Bazemore is qualified third, Ron Capps is fourth and Dean Skuza is fifth.
In Top Fuel, MBNA/Pontiac driver Cory McClenathan is qualified in the No. 5 position with an elapsed time of 4.580 seconds at 311.74 mph. Scott Kalitta is the No. 1 qualifier posting a performance number of 4.546 seconds at 318.92 mph. Tony Schumacher is qualified second, Joe Amato is third and Mike Dunn is fifth.
Three hours of television coverage of the O'Reilly Fallnationals can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, October 24, beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern.
Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) "We knew going in that the weather conditions would be better this morning, probably in the vicinity of 1000 feet lower relative altitude than yesterday. That's worth three or four hundredths by itself. We didn't want to get real aggressive at the starting line because we saw a number of cars shake yesterday. Down track we were able to compensate for that with gear ratio. We ran the best speed at the eighth mile we've ever run, 160.94 mph. We left a little on the table. You make the adjustments you deem necessary based on the atmospheric conditions and your best guess at the track. Sometimes you hit it spot on, sometimes you're a little off. It left the starting line pretty decently. Mike Stryker (crew chief) said it paddled the tires just a little in low gear and got out of the groove to the right, but not too badly. We've got a run tonight and tomorrow to work on that. The speed record doesn't pay any bonus or any championship points, so it's an intellectual accomplishment. I really don't want to set the elapsed time national record here. Based on a realistic look at the points race, if we just maintain we'll be all right for the championship. I'd rather save those points for next year if it's possible. Tomorrow could conceivably be even faster than today if the temperature continues to cool. All we want to do is make four successful runs on Sunday. If we're fortunate enough to win the race, that would all but lock up the championship."
Second Session: "We really didn't want the record going into that session. Then I saw how fast the cars were going in the left-hand lane, which appears to be a little quicker because it's smoother down track. As the session got later and it started cooling off, I knew there were cars that could possibly hit the record. We decided to load it up and let it rip. I really shouldn't need the bonus points to win the championship, but setting it to 6.82 makes it harder to set the record next year for the points. It gives me about a $3000 thrill if I qualify No. 1; so far this year I've won $45,000 from Holley for qualifying No. 1. That all helps -- these things run on money, not gasoline. Setting the record means that everybody on the crew has done their homework. I drive them nuts a lot of times when we're testing on the dyno. We pull the heads off, put them on the CNC mill, put 'em back on two hours later. We about wear out the head studs on these motors. They realize that there's a method to my madness, but at the same time I'm sure it gets frustrating. When we're at the shop, the dyno runs 7 days a week."
"Our eighth mile e.t. and speed were the best we've ever run. I predicted at the beginning of the year that the record would be 6.82 at 202-plus, so I guess we're pretty much on course. If the car hadn't hit the bumps in the left lane, the record would be over 203 mph. It unloaded the tires just a little, but still went right down the track." No. 1 qualifier - 6.822ET(national record)/202.33MPH (national record)
Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) "I'm a little disappointed that we didn't run better in that last session. The Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird seemed to get a little loose down track in that right lane. I think for the conditions of the race track, we made a pretty good run. When we look at the graph, we have a hundredth or two left in it so we'll just step it up in the first round tomorrow. We'll have lane choice so we'll take that good left lane and that will give us a chance to run with the big dogs. We'll take our shot and hopefully move to the second round. I'm confident we have a good tune up for the left lane, but I think the right lane is inherently slower than the left lane. This morning we ran a 6.86 and the air was two hundredths faster this evening and we only ran a 6.86 in the right lane. It's hard to be too disappointed in that though. You take a look at the starting line and you look at some of the tune up changes we made and I think we had a 6.85 left in it. Tomorrow morning we'll go out and see if we can't improve in the first round. No. 6 qualifier - 6.868ET/199.77MPH
Bruce Allen (Outlaw Fuel Additives Pontiac Firebird) "When you run a career best in both elapsed time and speed, you can't be too disappointed. We were sitting in the staging lanes with that little delay and George Polonis (crewmember) and I were talking about it. I told him that I would like to get into the 6.80s because I knew the conditions were getting a little bit worse, but I didn't think a 6.88 was out of the question. I was pleased when the Outlaw Pontiac Firebird ran the 6.86, but like everybody else, that wasn't all that was in it. There isn't anybody who ever made a run though who wouldn't say that. The 6.90 run we made last night was probably a better run than today's morning session. I feel good about that because we now know we can improve on that tonight; not necessarily from an elapsed time standpoint, but just in making a better run. Then we can get tuned up for tomorrow. I think we're in a spot this weekend where we can do some good. When some other cars started running in the 6.80s we had a pretty good idea that we might be able to run a career best. That's pretty much what happened. This is an awesome track and when you have these kind of conditions the performance can be outstanding. If you can get off the line, and you're not shaking the tires in second gear, then you're going to get down the track. No. 5 qualifier - 6.860ET/200.49MPH
Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) "After (Mike) Edwards oiled the lane down, we didn't' know if we'd have a shot at it (200 mph). It shook all through second gear - our time from 60 feet to 330 was junk. I put it in third and it got better, and it improved even more when I put it in fourth. When I shifted into fifth, the horsepower took over and took us over 200. I believe if we had run at the beginning of the session, the Century 21 Firebird would have gone 6.85 at 201. Although we're fairly low-key here, being in the Speed-Pro 200 mph Club will look nice on our resume, especially when you build your own motors. We've struggled this year, but we knew it wasn't due to a lack of power. We just needed a car that would show it. We're very seldom out of the top five in speed, and we're just a tick behind Kurt (Johnson) on that run. All in all, it's pretty gratifying."
Session: "We made a good run every time, which is all you can ask for. Actually, that last pass might have been our worst one of qualifying. It just went fast. We had found and corrected a problem with our motor just before the last session, which probably gave us some additional horsepower. But on the run, it carried the wheels, moved out of the groove and moved around. Basically, it went dead left and then took off. That was not a pretty 6.84, and if it had gone straight, I know I could have run a 6.83. Still, it feels good to run that well. I believe we have a very good package right now with this Century 21 Firebird. I'm looking forward to going four rounds tomorrow." No. 3 qualifier - 6.843ET/201.43MPH
Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) "I'm just happy we got this Summit Racing Firebird in the show. We still haven't made a good run so we just thank God for our power. We made a marginal run when we knew we had to make it down the track. It wasn't pretty, but it was enough to get us in. I just hope we can tune on it, and run better tomorrow because the competition's going to be tough out there. We made some changes to our clutch that made the car real aggressive and we can't get through second gear. The car ran fast in the back half of the track, but when it doesn't run quick to the eighth mile then it makes it pretty difficult to make that up. We had way too much wheel speed in low gear, the car's out of control and I can't seem to get it back. It blows the tires off and starts shaking in second gear. I know we can win a couple of rounds tomorrow if we can get down the track. We run Tommy (Martino) in the first round and he's run real consistent this weekend; the most consistent he's run all year. He's a good driver as well, but hopefully we can come out on the winning end." No. 14 qualifier - 6.898ET/200.08MPH
George Marnell (Dynomax Pontiac Firebird) "We struggled yesterday in the first qualifying session and when the Dynomax Firebird shook in second gear I shut it off. Last night we made a decent pass but we didn't get a computer reading on the run so today Bob Cave was tuning the car without a lot of information. I guess he managed to turn the right screws because this car made a tremendous pass putting us in the Speed Pro 200 MPH Club. There's still a little left in it and the key to making an even better run tonight will be to fix a little glitch we have in first gear. We should pick up but it will all depend on the time we run and the conditions that are presented to us." No. 7 qualifier - 6.872ET/200.08MPH
Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) "Last night we broke the transmission on the Pennzoil Firebird, and we were No. 2 or 3 at sixty foot, so we knew we were on a good run. I figured with the front moving through that it wouldn't mean much anyway. So we stayed here until 11 p.m. last night working on the car because we really tore up the transmission and we made sure everything was in good shape. Rick Hickman's back with me now as full-time crew chief and he had the car really prepared very well. This morning the car was perfectly straight, although we had a little too much clutch and we shook downtrack a little bit. We feel like we can go out this afternoon and improve. Last weekend, Rick found that the car was a half inch out of line. When we ran in Memphis we were running 6.94 and we were all over the track. This morning was the first pass that we've made in this car since Indy where it's felt like it should. We feel good about it now and it helps because now I can really concentrate on what I have to do when I know the car is going to go straight."
Second Session: "We tried some things in the final session that didn't quite work the way we had hoped. But we had already run quick enough to keep up with everyone. Obviously, most of the teams posted their best times in round four when the conditions were near perfect and we were shooting for a record run ourselves. I actually was surprised that we weren't quicker in the final run because the Firebird felt like it was really flying. We did learn some things and I can't wait for tomorrow. I really think we're closer to where we need to be with this car right now than we've been since before the wreck at Indy. We're very optimistic right now." No. 11 qualifier - 6.888ET/199.64MPH
Richie Stevens (Valspar Pontiac Firebird) "I admit it, I was nervous and for a number of reasons. I was watching everyone run killer laps and I knew the conditions were good. Plus, I knew everyone was running their best laps, I knew I wasn't in, and I knew that I would be able to get in if I didn't mess up. The pressure was on for sure. I almost wanted to sit there at the line a minute and make certain I did everything by the book. Luckily, even though we still blew the tires off a little bit at the starting line, we were able top get in the field. But hey, the Valspar Firebird is in and that's saying a lot with this record group." No. 9 qualifier - 6.876ET/198.45MPH FUNNY CAR
Tommy Johnson Jr. (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) "We were trying to run this Interstate Batteries Firebird in the high 4.70s and the lane wouldn't take it. Unfortunately the other lane did. That's two times in a row that John's (Force) picked our pockets. Tony (Pedregon) did it in Memphis and he did it here. But actually it seems that we run better on race day when we're not the No. 1 qualifier and the guys on the team seem to sense that. That's what we've done at the last two or three races, messed up the last qualifying run and then come back strong on race day. So maybe that's a good sign after all. It's better that you get all of those bad runs out of the way today, but what does concern me is that we only made one good run down the track during four sessions of qualifying. We'll be ready to go tomorrow." No. 2 qualifier - 4.857ET/316.45MPH
Del Worsham (Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Pontiac Firebird) "I had a bad feeling about this yesterday when we were on that great run and the car shut off. There are some weekends you don't have a clue about how to get down the track and you DNQ because you're lost. Sometimes, and this happens to everybody, you have a weekend where your car's running great but all the little stuff that can mess you up goes wrong. After the run last night I'm thinking that we had the tune up figured out and that we'd be okay today. In the first pass today, I hit the throttle and the burst panel decided that was the moment it would let go. Tonight, I pedaled the Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Firebird around 100 feet. It hooked up okay, and was making a decent lap but then around 900 feet it blew the head gaskets out of each side and that was the end of that. I coasted the last couple of hundred feet and knew it wasn't enough. I'm pretty sick about this. We made it in each race for 19 consecutive races and I wanted to make into every race this season. We'll go on though because that's all we can do." No. 18 qualifier - 5.250ET/228.36MPH
Gary Densham (NEC/AAA Southern California Pontiac Firebird) "The NEC Pontiac Firebird ran pretty good last night and we thought we had some more in it. In the first round today we smoked the tires, so we made some changes and it flat out flew in the evening session. That made us pretty happy. This is the headquarters for NEC and AAA of Texas. They're all up in the suites watching us run our career best so we can't ask for much more than that. Our last three races will be important for us because our primary sponsor has suites here, and at Houston and then we get to race in front of our AAA supporters at Pomona. It's a tough field out here. We're getting a lot of good cars in this class so that just being able to make the program is tough, let alone qualify in the lower half of the field running our career best. The car kind of nosed over on the other end. We had a cylinder that had been dropping so we leaned it down and burned that cylinder up at about a thousand feet. It didn't run the speed that we would have liked, but drag racing is all e.t. so we're happy." No. 7 qualifier - 4.954ET/299.40MPH
Cory McClenathan (MBNA/Pontiac) "We haven't done too badly this weekend. We started out running 4.70 at 317, turned around and ran the 4.58, and that would have been a better deal but I shut the MBNA/Pontiac off early. Today, we kind of went after it, but maybe we shouldn't have been so aggressive. We had some really good numbers in the first pass this afternoon, but were a little bit lean and threw the blower off. That hurt us a little bit. Then we went back out tonight with a fresh blower, and fresh tires and it smoked the tires. We'll have to be more careful in the first session tomorrow, but we'll take each round one at a time and see how this dragster does. I think we have a pretty good race car for tomorrow. It seems to be pretty consistent and knows how to get down the racetrack. We've done well here before and we're hungry. If some people go out in the first round and we can take advantage of that, then maybe we can make a move up the points ladder. I definitely want to finish better than eighth place so we need to go to no less than the semi-finals tomorrow." No. 5 qualifier - 4.580ET/311.74MPH