Denver Pontiac Racing Saturday Notes

DENVER, Colo. (July 17, 1999) - Qualifying was completed today for the 21st annual Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Denver, Colo. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson took the No. 1 qualifying position in the GM Goodwrench Service Plus...

DENVER, Colo. (July 17, 1999) - Qualifying was completed today for the 21st annual Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Denver, Colo. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson took the No. 1 qualifying position in the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird with a track record elapsed time of 7.285 seconds at 189.50MPH (track record). Jim Yates is qualified sixth, George Marnell is eighth, Steve Schmidt is 10th, Mark Pawuk is 11th, Bruce Allen is 13th, and Richie Stevens is 14th.

In Funny Car, Tim Wilkerson took the No. 1 qualifying position in the JCIT Pontiac Firebird with a track-record elapsed time of 5.034 seconds at 283.75 mph. Tommy Johnson Jr., qualified third, Gary Densham is sixth, Del Worsham is 12th, Dale Creasy Jr., is 13th, and Al Hofmann is 14th.

In Top Fuel, MBNA/Pontiac driver Cory McClenathan will start Sunday eliminations in the No. 6 position. The No. 1 qualifier is Joe Amato with a track-record elapsed time of 4.584 seconds at 318.54 mph (track record).

ESPN2 will televise one hour of qualifying highlights on Saturday, July 17, beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern. ESPN2 will also televise two hours of first-round coverage on Sunday, July 18, beginning at 12:30 p.m. Eastern, and one hour of final-round coverage beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern.


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) The conditions came together about as good as they could given the altitude that we have to race at here. We know we're only going to go so fast, so it's just a matter of making the best use of your available power and available racetrack. We were able to squeeze out another No. 1 qualifier and that pays $3000 so it's definitely worth going after. I would rather have had another car in the other lane because there is a certain amount of affect from drafting with these cars. If you leave a little bit behind the other car, there is in the back half of the track a slight advantage to be gained by being next to another car. I lost that advantage, but at the same time, I gained another advantage by the fact that the sun was behind the mountains and it cooled off by just a shade. One kind of offset the other. We felt coming into the last session that if conditions were at all acceptable like we had in the first run that the GM Goodwrench Firebird should be able to run somewhere between a 7.26 and a 7.28.

Given the conditions, was that about as good as this race car is going to run? I just had a chance to look at the data off that run, and if there is anything there, I can't find it. It would definitely be in the thousandths and not in the hundredths. I'm happy that we got as good of a run out of it as we did at that particular time. Like I said, there wasn't that much to be had so we'll take it.

You were No. 1 qualifier here last year. What kind of challenges do you face at this racetrack? It always throws you a curve because the relative altitude can range so greatly here. I think it was something like 8600 feet relative altitude, and that is what the engine is looking at for air at that particular time. That's what the engine thinks it's breathing. It can vary anywhere from 8000 to 11,000 feet here. This track has more of a range than most any other track we race at, and at the same time, there was a big swing in humidity here which is unusual for this place. Usually it's in the thirties, and this weekend it varied between 30 and 97 percent, so we've never seen a swing that big. With the humidity down for that last run, we felt like we could run some pretty good speed, and 189.50 mph is pretty good here. No. 1 qualifier - 7.285ET(track record)/189.50MPH (track record)

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) The problem we've had to deal with is that we've been working on one end of the horse and the other end of the horse gets messed up. Every time we get the Splitfire/Peak Firebird to go good to the 60 foot, we drop off in the back, and when we pick up in the back, we drop off in the middle. There are so many parts to a new car to get it to run right. That last run was about as good of a run that we've made so far with this car just trying to get it down the racetrack. We're finally zeroing in on the baseline, and we've got a little left to tune on the engine, but I think the car may have had a 7.35 or a 7.36 in it -- but that's about it. I don't know where those 7.28s are coming from but a high 7.34 is about as quick as we're going to run. We're just going to keep tweaking. I know there's some more left in it, so we need to see if we can find another hundredth for eliminations tomorrow. Tomorrow we'll take it one round at a time. We've got Mark (Pawuk) in the first round and he's run really good up here testing. I think he's struggled a little bit in qualifying so far but we know he has the potential to go out and run a 7.35. He's going to be a tough opponent in the first round and then we'll take it one round at a time. No. 6 qualifier - 7.375ET/186.02MPH

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) We're really missing it. We should be running faster than what we are. By running as well as we did during testing, it's kind of thrown us a curve in that we were expecting to run better than what we are now. We just have to figure out where we go from here. We'll get a little more aggressive during the last session and try to put our Summit Racing Firebird higher up in the field. This morning we shook really bad, and had so much clutch in it that the motor wouldn't accelerate. We can't run 7.32 but we should be able to run in the high 7.30s in the heat.

We did when we were here testing, and if we can figure this track out, then we should be able to do it again. So far we've just missed on our tune up. No. 11 qualifier - 7.398ET/185.28MPH

George Marnell (Dynomax Pontiac Firebird) We were able to come up here a week-and-a-half ago and do a little testing. Running up here on the mountain is unique to anything else we do on the entire circuit. We use a completely different setup with gear ratios and having the right combination means an awfully lot up here. Combine that with good horsepower and an excellent setup that Bob (Cave) came up with, and we have a competitive race car that was able to put some pretty good numbers down. What I'm especially pleased with is the fact that we were able to put together two good runs in a row. Last night, I think we gave up a little bit in fourth gear when we spun the tires hard. Today was a pretty decent run, but we gave up a little bit in our 60-foot time. I think those two strong consistent runs will make us a tough team to beat on Sunday. Everyone on the team feels good about coming to this racetrack and our chances for tomorrow. We're going to give it everything we have to put the Dynomax Firebird in the winner's circle. No. 8 qualifier - 7.384ET/185.54MPH


Tim Wilkerson (JCIT Pontiac Firebird) Our JCIT Pontiac Firebird was trucking right on down through there. When I got close to the end, I felt it drop a hole (cylinder) so I don't think I drove it to the end. I remember thinking that it was sounding kind of ugly, so I stepped off of it, threw the parachute out, and the first thing that came to my mind was that I only had one chute out. Then it went WHOOF!, and all I could see was orange. The darn thing only had one fire bottle that went off so it didn't take very long for the fire to really spread. We were happy with the run but we were unhappy with the ending. We're going to put our other Firebird body on it and just try to do our best. I think we'll be okay. I don't know what the difference in downforce will be so we'll just have to work our way through it.

Second Session: After some of the damage we've inflicted on our race car over the past two weeks, I'd have to say that John's (Costanza) been a very good owner. If you look at the history of this team over the last year, we've hardly hurt anything. I know that we've used up fewer parts than most of the teams out here, so for us to use up two bodies in two weekends is a devastating blow to our ego. At the same time, we're pretty happy to be able to run that fast here. Right now we're just taking our time to make sure that the car is correctly prepared for tomorrow. You don't want to rush into that, so we're checking every nut and bolt, and every line and fitting. The first run we made on Friday, our JCIT Firebird was moving right on through there. After we got in solid, Terry (Manzer) really decided to go after it. I hit the gas today and it went straight down the track. What happened to it is that it dropped a cylinder at 2.5 seconds and when it did that it sawed the rod in half. When I stepped off the throttle, it broke the rod and rammed it through the side. That's when it caught on fire. I didn't see anything until I got to the end. As far as I was concerned it was as clean as a whistle. No. 1 qualifier - 5.034ET (track record)/283.73MPH

Tommy Johnson Jr. (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) It's funny because I love this racetrack. It's been really good to me in the past, but the crew hates it because they say that they've struggled every time they've come here. It was good to see this Interstate Batteries Firebird get on track because I've won three different races in three different classes here. I told the guys that they may not like this place but we're going to the finals. It's been a little tricky but we're finally getting a handle on it. Tomorrow it's going to be hot like it was today, but tonight we started catching up with the tune up. If we can combine what we did today with tomorrow's weather then we'll be okay. I'm pretty confident we can put this car in the winner's circle and I'm ready to go. No. 3 qualifier - 5.104ET/275.84MPH

Al Hofmann (Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird) We had a cylinder out all the way down the racetrack. I don't know if that helped us or hurt us, but if we can keep all eight lit tonight it should step up a little bit. We need to get this thing to go to the end. We've made some big changes this weekend. We've brought in Jim Dunn to help us out some and we're going to see if we can't make this Firebird competitive again. I knew the run was nothing stellar. I figured it was either a 5.40 or a 5.35. It should run at least a 5.20 tonight. Right now, our priority is to get qualified and go some rounds.

No. 14 qualifier - 5.363ET/270.75MPH

Dale Creasy Jr. (Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird) I made my first run down this racetrack today and I couldn't be happier. The Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird made it to halftrack and that's when I knew we would be okay. It ran a 5.30, what can I say? For Denver that's not too bad and we'll take it.

It's in the show and we'll be ready for tomorrow. The car was running pretty good, but early in the pass it was feeling a little bit lazy, which had me concerned. On the top end it really started running strong and that's when I knew it would be good enough to qualify. We had a magneto go bad and hurt the motor a little bit, so we'll replace the motor and get ready to race tomorrow. No. 13 qualifier - 5.310ET/274.66MPH

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) We have a new blower on the car and I guess the dimensions of it are slightly different because when we lowered the body on it the edge of the windshield area pinched the fuel lines that run into the back of the blower. The CSK Pontiac Firebird was on a good pass. Nothing earth shattering, but it would have been in the top half of the field. Those fuel lines started to spray nitro around so I had no choice but to shut it off. We had a good tune-up in it for the conditions, so I'm happy about that. We just need to fix this little problem, get it to run to the end and we'll be in good shape.

Second Session: It's not where we want to be or are supposed to be I can tell you that. We moved up to the No. 9 spot this afternoon and were very confident we could be right in the middle of the top half of the field after tonight. But we've been plagued by a series of ignition bugs lately. They just keep cropping up and I'm pretty sure we weren't at full power that time.

We've just got to go out there tomorrow and win round one. After that, I'll worry about round two. Right now, all I'm thinking about is beating Jerry Toliver. No. 12 qualifier - 5.247ET/284.15MPH

Gary Densham (NEC/AAA Southern California Pontiac Firebird) We were pretty happy with our first run. Obviously it put us seventh after that session, but I think we can step up, everything looks good, and I don't see any reason why we can't run better. It's tricky running up here. The mountain throws everybody for a loop. Some of the bigger dollar teams have a little more experience and can buy special parts to run in these conditions, but they still have some things they have to figure out. We've matched race here since the 1970s and even though we haven't brought any special parts up here to race with this weekend, we do have a few tricks that will help us out. We've raised the compression, we spin the blower faster, we give it more nitro, we increase the mag timing, and we change almost everything we do. I'd hate to start this engine at sea level because I'd be afraid it would blow up while it was idling. John Bandimere has a beautiful facility here. How many other places can you go to where you have a beautiful view of the city. No. 6 qualifier - 5.146ET/286.13MPH

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Joe Amato , Dale Creasy Jr. , Gary Densham , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Steve Schmidt , Jerry Toliver , Tommy Johnson Jr.