Denver: Pontiac Racing Friday qualifying report

DENVER, Colo. (July 14, 2000) - Qualifying got underway today for the 22nd annual NHRA Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson is the No. 1 qualifier in the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird with an ...

DENVER, Colo. (July 14, 2000) - Qualifying got underway today for the 22nd annual NHRA Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson is the No. 1 qualifier in the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird with an elapsed time of 7.351 seconds at 187.11 mph. Larry Morgan is qualified second, Ron Krisher is third in the Eagle One Firebird, Darrell Alderman is fourth and Allen Johnson is fifth. Jim Yates is qualified 10th, Tom Martino is 12th, Brad Jeter is 14th, Mark Pawuk is 18th, Richie Stevens is 20th and Bruce Allen is 22nd.

In Funny Car, Bruce Sarver is the No. 1 qualifier in the Pontiac Firebird with an elapsed time of 5.040 seconds at 301.81 mph. Jim Epler is qualified second in a Camaro, Dean Skuza is third in a Dodge, John Force is fourth in a Mustang and Del Worsham is fifth in the Checkers Schuck's Kragen Firebird. Jerry Toliver is qualified sixth, Frank Pedregon is seventh, Tim Wilkerson is ninth, Al Hofmann is 11th, Dale Creasy Jr. is 12th, Gary Densham is 15th and Tommy Johnson Jr. is 18th.

In Top Fuel, Gary Scelzi is the No. 1 qualifier with an elapsed time of 4.697 seconds at 308.21 mph. Joe Amato is qualified second, Larry Dixon is third, Tony Schumacher is fourth and Rhonda Hartman-Smith is fifth. Cory McClenathan is qualified sixth in the MBNA/Pontiac dragster with an elapsed time of 4.863 seconds at 307.86 mph.

Qualifying highlights of the Mile-High Nationals can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, July 15, beginning at 10 p.m. Eastern. One hour of early-round coverage of final eliminations can be seen on Sunday, July 16, beginning at 4:30 p.m. with two hours of final-round coverage beginning at 11:30 p.m.


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) - "We'll take it. The track is extremely loose in fourth gear. I don't know if it has been oiled down but everybody in the right-hand lane was loose there. We were going to put some more spoiler in the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Firebird to get through it, but I figured I had a steering wheel and that I could handle it. I looked at the track this morning and it was pretty good from start to finish. Our cars are kind of an anomaly anyway because we have any downforce while the Fuel cars have five to ten thousand pounds of downforce. They don't worry about oil. They could run across a grease pit with them. Traditionally the Friday night session pretty much determines the field, but then the weather can change so drastically here with sunshine one minute and five minutes later it can be raining. There can also be extreme temperature changes. If the track gets a little cleaner and we get anything like we had tonight, it was still 85 degrees out there, then tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. could conceivably be the session. We're just happy where we are from the standpoint that it's pretty unlikely we'll get bumped out, and if we do there will be an awful lot of cars over at tech."

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) - "We're anxious to see what happens tomorrow. The weather fluctuates a bunch with the cloud cover and if the sun stays out all day it will be very hot and the track will be marginally passable in the late afternoon. If we get cloud cover like we have everyday this week, then we should be able to pick up and run pretty good. That's what happened today, the track got up to about 130 degrees and as it got closer to five, six o'clock, the sun got behind the clouds, and the air cooled down but the track got cooler. That's when we got the big elapsed times. We found out today that you don't learn everything from testing like you do from coming up here and racing. The track conditions are just so different right now. We'll probably have to make a bar change on the four-link tomorrow to get this Splitfire Pontiac Firebird off the starting line and get a better 60-foot time out of it. That's where we were short today. The motor bogged and the air was a lot worse than the track. The track was pretty awesome in the first 70 feet and pulled the motor back really hard. The car couldn't get up on the tire. We'll change the four-link and the chassis around, maybe the transmission and the gear ratio so that we can get on the tire tomorrow. We made 14 runs here during testing and we'd be a lot worse off than we are now if we didn't test. The trouble is, the bulk of the field is catching up. There's a very fast learning curve up here and all you have to do is make one good run."

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing/Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird) - "We wanted to run better but the Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird got down the racetrack. The way I've been driving lately, if we can get in the show you never know what may happen. That's a positive contrast to where we've been the last couple of years. We didn't come here and test this year like we normally do. The schedule didn't cooperate with us to let us do that. It's been so crazy, and these guys have their families to think about so we decided not to come here. I'm sure the ones that did come to test have an advantage, but we have a pretty good notebook on this place and we'll just have to see what happens tonight. At least we got one down that we can tune from."

Ron Krisher (Eagle One Pontiac Firebird) - "I don't know what kind of runs the rest of the field made but our run was terrible. The Eagle One Firebird settled down in fourth and fifth gear and then it was out of here. It ran the backhalf like a bear - really from the 330 on it started picking up. It was slow to the 330 and after that it was okay. Mike's (Edwards) a little disappointed that we didn't come and test because he knows he could be way ahead of the ballgame right now. But it was kind of hard with the Bristol showdown to get it done. But I'd rather go to Bristol. My arm's doing much better this week. The antibiotics made me sick, but other than that the doctor says I'm fine." FUNNY CAR

Bruce Sarver ( Pontiac Firebird) - "We got up there and Alan (Johnson) thought it was going to run an 5.05 and we ran a 5.04. It was good run. We could have run a little bit quicker but we spun the tires from about half track on. We figured a 4.99 or a five-flat was definitely possible. We're excited about going into tomorrow and running in the heat. It was so safe that we think we can do that again in the heat of the day. If we can do that then we'll have a bad hot rod for race day. The tune up on the Funny Car is so close to the dragster right now and that's made a difference. Richard's (Hogan) been working with Alan for quite some time and in a nutshell the tune up is so close that we can relate to each other. Also, with the new Pontiac Firebird body, the downforce on our car is very close to the downforce on the dragster. Before the old Firebirds had about 3000 pounds of downforce and these cars have about 6000 pounds. The dragster has around 8000. We have to run the car a lot harder and it's taken us awhile to get to where we want to be. We want to be aggressive and consistent during the backhalf of the season and it's starting to pay off. If we can run well here over the next few months we could be a five, sixth or seventh-place car. That's our goal."

Tim Wilkerson (Sioux City Kenworth Pontiac Firebird) - "That first run's kind of what we wanted to do. This thing put a hole out when it left the line and that's exactly what we didn't want to do. That means I don't have near enough motor in it and tells me I was too conservative. I didn't think I was, so we'll get after it some more tonight. If we can keep all eight holes lit then this Sioux City Kenworth Firebird should be able to run a 5.15 or so. That's our goal. The combination of the thin air and the 90-percent rule is giving me fits. I just need to spin the blower up a little higher. Outside of that everything looks real nice - which means it's weak. Figuring out how to make these cars run fast when it's 100 degrees outside will be the big question. That's okay. This ol' Pontiac went down the racetrack that session and I'm real happy with that. Now we have something we can work with. It's kind of hard not to have anything to go by - that puts you behind the gun. We'll carry on this afternoon and try to keep all eight cylinders lit."

Del Worsham (Checkers Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "It was just the first session, and things will be a lot better tonight when it cools down, but it's still neat to compare yourself to the rest of the class, and our two cars handled this lap as well as any. We were hanging in there as #1 and #2 going into the last pair, and that was pretty cool. With Force and Toliver as the last pair, I thought we might get knocked to #3 and #4, so it's an honor to be second and fourth. Rob Flynn has joined us starting this weekend, and he already has shown what kind of knowledge he has. He's a great addition to our team. Tonight, conditions should be a lot more stout and we'll try to stay ahead of it the best we can. We can run quicker, there's no doubt about that. I really think we can run low teens here pretty safely if the weather cooperates."

Second Session: "We tried something different there, to try to take advantage of some pretty rare conditions here for this track. We were just a little soft off the line, more or less by design, to make sure we got it up and running. Then we poured the mag advance to it out there and brought more clutch to it out there than we ever really do. It just couldn't handle it, I guess. It felt nice and safe, but it got out there and spun the tires enough for them to finally let loose. Tomorrow we'll be back to Denver in the daytime and I think we can move up a little from where we are now. I really don't think we'll see anymore 5.0's now, that was a one shot opportunity."

Frank Pedregon (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) -- "When all those cars ahead of us had trouble I just kept telling myself that this car has Dave Fletcher tuning it, with Chuck Worsham, Del Worsham, and now Rob Flynn adding their input. I knew we'd go down the track. It did put a cylinder out way way down there, and that might have cost us a hundredth, but other than that it was a sweet run. A great way to start. There will be a lot of regional people from Checker Auto Parts here this weekend, at our first race back in front of our sponsor since Phoenix, so it's even better to come right off the trailer and put two good laps on the scoreboard. We'll try to go quicker tonight."

Second Session: "We were like triple-lucky there. It broke loose a valve seat when we started it. We were lucky because it happened right there, sitting still and idling. We were lucky again because usually when that happens it just moves the seat or dislodges it inside the motor and you don't know it until you blow up. And we were lucky again because Chuck Worsham was up there to watch us run and he saw it fly out of the header pipe and land right next to the car on the ground. It's too bad, because we wanted a chance to run in these conditions, but this stuff happens and usually you blow your stuff up down track. Maybe this is going to be our weekend when we're this lucky to do it right there at the starting line and have a chance to shut off and not hurt anything."


Cory McClenathan (MBNA/Pontiac) - "We're trying to do one thing and that's go a little bit quicker on each run. Up here on the mountain you have to be careful and walk before you run. There're a couple of guys that are a whole lot quicker than the rest of us right now. We're happy with our car -- it's going down the track every time and you have to do that on Sunday. Wes (Cerny) has proven that we can go a little bit quicker each time and come Sunday we'll be right there at the front of the pack. We proved that last weekend. If we can put this MBNA/Pontiac Top Fuel dragster in the winner's circle again this weekend, it will show that we have what it takes to win races again and be consistent."

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Larry Dixon , Darrell Alderman , Brad Jeter , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Jim Epler , Al Hofmann , Dean Skuza , Del Worsham , John Force , Rhonda Hartman-Smith , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Ron Krisher , Larry Morgan , Dale Creasy Jr. , Gary Densham , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , Allen Johnson , Chuck Worsham , Jerry Toliver , Tommy Johnson Jr.