Denver: Pontiac Racing final eliminations report

DENVER, Colo. (July 16, 2000) - Final eliminations for the 22nd annual NHRA Mile-High Nationals were completed today at Bandimere Speedway. The next stop on the schedule is the 13th annual Prolong Northwest Nationals on July 28 - 30 at Seattle...

DENVER, Colo. (July 16, 2000) - Final eliminations for the 22nd annual NHRA Mile-High Nationals were completed today at Bandimere Speedway.

The next stop on the schedule is the 13th annual Prolong Northwest Nationals on July 28 - 30 at Seattle International Raceway in Kent, Wash. It is the15th race on the 23-event NHRA Winston championship tour. Qualifying highlights of the Northwest Nationals can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, July 29, beginning at 10:30 p.m. Eastern. Same-day coverage of final eliminations can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, July 30, beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern.


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) - "Performance-wise I think we're back on the right track. You have to remember that the Mopar cars came up here and tested for about seven or eight days straight. They obviously had a good tune up and ran relatively well. We certainly outperformed what they had, but got caught on one light and that stuff happens. From a performance standpoint, both Kurt (Johnson) and I are pleased with where we are right now. It's something we've been trying to get back to since the beginning of the season. I'm not saying that we're 100 percent back, but at least we're able to be competitive and that's what we're looking at. Between the two of us, we have low e.t. and top speed and no one's even close. From that standpoint we're enthused, and looking at the balance of the season, we didn't make up any points on Jeggie (Coughlin) this weekend but we didn't lose any either. Overall we're pleased with where we are. Kurt's going to make a nice move in the points and that's good. I think you'd have to say we had a plus weekend. I'm looking forward to getting to Seattle because I'm curious to see if the Mopar cars are going to run as good as they did at their own sponsored race. If they continue to perform as well as they did here, then that means they've stepped their program up and that's good because we need more cars out there. We don't need all Pontiacs and we don't need all Chevrolets. We need some Fords, we need some Dodges, we need as many nameplates as we can get out here. If we can get a good mix at every race it makes it more interesting for the fans. If they aren't satisfied with the performance level or the show we're presenting, if it's a one-sided or lob-sided show, that's not good. They're not all Ford fans, they're not all GM fans and they're not all Chrysler fans. We need every nameplate we can possibly get out there." Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) - "All weekend long we fought that right lane. Everybody had problems getting down through there, and for us we were over in that lane for both good qualifying sessions. Somehow they got the qualifying procedure out of whack and we ended up in the bad lane for both good sessions. Thank goodness we made a decent enough run in the Friday night session that we were able to qualify. Last night, the track was virtually impossible and we could barely get down it. The NHRA worked on the track all night to get that lane ready, and then this morning, right before Pro Stock eliminations the last pair of Funny Cars oiled it down from 60 feet out all the way to the finish line. They put a lot of rice haul ash down and they put a lot of VHT down to try and cover it up but the lane wasn't what it should have been. As fast as Warren (Johnson) is running, and as well as he's driving, that's a tough combination to beat. I'm real comfortable with the car and feel that the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird is ready to make a good run to the front. I feel confident that we have the power and the combination back. Our mph looked pretty good, the backhalf looked pretty good, the e.t. looked good for that lane, and now I'm ready to move on to Seattle and sea-level conditions. We made some major changes on the car this weekend and I think a lot of things that we've done to the chassis will apply. We've recognized some areas where we had some concern, so we'll head back to sea level with that combination in the car. Compared to the rest of the field, our engines definitely perform better at sea level than they do at any kind of altitude above 3000 feet. We seem to have a combination that doesn't react well in thin air situations. We ran at 1500-feet corrected altitude in Chicago and ran very well in the Shootout and we think going to Seattle we're going to be in that same range. In those conditions we should be able to run with the fastest cars in the pack."

Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) - "I was just talking some tune up stuff with David (Reher) and we obviously have the same thought process as they do. We just don't run very good up here. I don't know if it's our engine combination, or if we haven't found a set of carburetors that are happy up here or what it is. We made a bunch of tune up changes and nothing we did seemed to matter. We should've just concentrated on making better car runs. We made an okay run in the first round but it could have been better. We easily could have made a good enough run to win the round -- not good enough to scare anybody but we only needed a hundredth of a second. We're happy to be getting off the mountain and I'm hoping that the backhalf performance of the Century 21 Pontiac Firebird improves when we get to Seattle."

Ron Krisher (Eagle One Pontiac Firebird) - "That right lane looked terrible when Jeter went down it so I knew I had to do something. Getting in deep probably hurt me by a hundredth and a half. I just got in a hair more than I wanted. The Eagle One Pontiac Firebird made a credible showing this weekend for not coming and testing. My guys did a super job. They get me down the racetrack on raceday and this weekend they did a fantastic job. When we came in here we wanted to pick up in the points race and I go that one round I needed to make up some ground. It's under 200 points now. I moved a little further away from Warren (Johnson) and a little closer to Jeggie (Coughlin). You have to push yourself and there are times when you push too hard. I rolled in deep and that threw me for a loop. We had a real good day and my guys made it a real good day."

Brad Jeter (Dynagear Pontiac Firebird) - "I was glad to get that monkey off my back. The Dynagear Pontiac Firebird did a great job for us this weekend, and the crew, I can't say enough about what a great job they did. Terry Adams was awesome and gave us a consistent racecar. Steve's (Schmidt) doing all he can do right now, he's been a little under the weather with his shoulder operation and the guys at the shop have stepped up. We hope to have some more power before Seattle, but I was just glad to go a couple of rounds. Now we can take that momentum and go into the next race. It's good to know I can let the clutch out and win a few rounds, but we're going to do whatever it takes to put this Firebird in the winner's circle."


Bruce Sarver ( Pontiac Firebird) - "We put a new blower on the car and left everything else the same as it was the run before. It was a little weak and that's as bad as having too much power. It's a bummer because the Pontiac Firebird was running so good. We had a good weekend and when we get to sea level we can play hardball. All the guys worked real well together -- we had motors changed in 25 minutes. It was a good weekend but it's unfortunate that the car smoked the tires especially when Scotty (Cannon) broke the belt off. They knew we were here though. We've been pretty consistent since St. Louis. We've been running more like the dragster instead of a Funny Car. We need to get a little more aggressive down low and when we get down to sea level we'll be able to do that. We feel like this is the first race of a new season for us and we want to work our way up the points ladder." Jerry Toliver (WWF Pontiac Firebird) - "We missed a golden opportunity today. It's unfortunate, but this track is not easy to negotiate. We had a great chance to pad our points' lead even further than we had going into this race. The positive side of the note is we did stretch our lead a little more and that means something."

Al Hofmann (Mooneyes/Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird) - "This team did a tremendous job coming back from that fire yesterday. They worked until 4 o'clock this morning getting this Firebird ready to race today and I feel terrible that I dropped the ball on them. Jim (Dunn) won the first round by getting this Mooneyes Pontiac down the racetrack and I can't say enough about the job this team did this weekend. If Jim had told me he was going to give me such a fast car for the second round I probably wouldn't have red lighted. But in all seriousness, we're looking forward to going up to Seattle and Sonoma. We feel that we can win at least one of those races. I owe these guys that much for what happened today. I'm not taking anything less. I would like nothing more than to get a win in Seattle for our sponsors, Pontiac, Mooneyes, and for as hard as my guys worked here this weekend, my teammates and Jim Dunn."

Tim Wilkerson (Sioux City Kenworth Pontiac Firebird) - "We worked all weekend trying to make power. It was much more of a struggle than I ever dreamed it would be. When we come here next year you can bet we'll have a different motor program. The last run, the weather finally came around and the Sioux City Kenworth Pontiac finally had a little bit of power. It was close to making a nice lap, but close doesn't win you any races. That pretty much sums it up. We couldn't believe that the nitro percentage would make such a difference but it was significant. You could turn the blower up and the car wouldn't respond. Brainerd will be our next race. We'll be sporting a new paint job with a new sponsor and we're real excited about that. We'll swap sponsors on the car and put Sioux City Kenworth on the back quarter of our Firebird, and Levi, Ray & Shoup Consultants will be the main sponsor. Maybe that will bring us a little luck. We're looking forward to it."

Del Worsham (Checkers Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "We knew we had a lot in reserve after the final session yesterday. We had smoked the tires a couple of times and wanted to just get a nice safe lap in to end qualifying, but we knew we had to go quicker. My dad (Chuck Worsham) and Rob Flynn and I thought our Checker Schuck's Kragen Firebird could run a high 5.0, and that's what we were shooting for. The truth is, we still have a lot left. It actually shook pretty hard at the hit because we were under powered. But the conditions are already changing out here, so we''l have to put our heads together to come up with a plan for Gilbertson. His crew chief, Paul Smith usually gets that car down the track with a good enough number to win. We have to be safe but we have to push it enough to beat him down there."

Semifinal Session: "The Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac reacted just like we thought it would. It was staying right with him, and then, just before the finish line it must of finally dropped a cylinder because I was real close to the center line. The CSK Firebird made a hard move to the right and that's all he needed. He went around me as we went through the speed traps. We had a good weekend, a good day and we feel pretty darn good going into Seattle. It's a heartbreaker to lose in the semis but at least we did it competitively. It's a lot worse to smoke the tires or blow up and lose to a guy who puts up the slowest number of the week or something. This was a good race, a hard fought race and someone has to win and someone has to lose. We'll get him next time."

Frank Pedregon (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "We were right with him (Jerry Toliver), a little out in front I think because I never saw him out the window . Then around 60-feet from the finish line the motor gave up, banged the blower, shut off and probably put a rod or two out of the block. That's all he needed. He came around me in the last 50 feet. We did just like Del. We picked up a bunch from qualifying, ran a personal best time for the mountain here, but just came up short. It would have been great for our two Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiacs to take out Tony (Pedregon) and Toliver, but that's how close the racing is here. It's awfully tough to win these rounds."


Cory McClenathan (MBNA/Pontiac) - "The MBNA/Pontiac dragster ran really well again this weekend. We had a good qualifying spot, and the car ran well in the first two rounds but we just knew that we had to give it a little bit more to get past Joe (Amato) in the semifinals. I thought we had him there for a little while because at halftrack I could hear him, but it seemed like it was going away a little bit. It spun the tire and blew the blower off - it backfired the blower but we'll get 'em next time. This race definitely helped us. We're in sixth place now with half the season to go."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Brad Jeter , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Ron Krisher , Cory McClenathan , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , Terry Adams , Chuck Worsham , Jerry Toliver , Paul Smith