Denver Pontiac Saturday Notes

PONTIAC NOTES & QUOTES 1998 MILE-HIGH NATIONALS SATURDAY, JULY 18, 1998 DENVER, COLORADO Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird) When you have a one session qualifying deal like we had here this weekend, with the extremes we had ...


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird) When you have a one session qualifying deal like we had here this weekend, with the extremes we had in temperatures, everybody knew the field was pretty well set last night. If you didn’t make it last night, it was over. We didn’t accomplish what we set out to do today because we didn’t get down the race track very successfully on either run. It shut off on both runs so we have to find out why. As soon as the relative altitude gets over about 8900 feet, then it starts shutting off and not running very well. When it drops below 8900 feet, the GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird flies. You can make a logical tune-up for the changes in altitude, it just doesn’t respond. Obviously, there’s something in there that we haven’t put our finger on yet. We’ll work on it tonight and see if we can’t come up with a solution. Tomorrow’s going to be a real challenge, and who ever comes up with the best guess will probably be in the best shape. Because no one really ran exceedingly well today. All we can do is go out there with our best shot. I don’t think our problem is engine related. I think it’s something electrical or fuel related. Although we haven’t seen anything unusual with fuel pressures so we can probably rule that out. No. 1 qualifier—7.346ET/187.46MPH

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) Our performance is back on track but were not exactly sure why. We’re running basically the same stuff we ran Friday night when we barely qualified, and today we were the second fastest car out here. There’s an element in the car that’s giving us a glitch, but I don’t think we’re the only ones with it out there. Right now, were just glad that the car is running good in this kind of air. This is what we’re going to race in tomorrow, and I think we have a pretty good chance. The Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird is putting big numbers on the board, we just have to wait until tomorrow and see how things work out. No. 15 qualifier—7.443ET/183.82MPH

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) We knew that today wouldn’t be as fast as last night so we went into test mode to try and open up a window on how to run our Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird. We’re just trying to get it more consistent and decided to roll the dice this morning. Really, it wasn’t that bad of a run in low gear. The car went right real close to the groove, and started shaking and bouncing a little bit. That’s when I shut it off. We’re going to work on it some more this afternoon and hopefully we’ll find a setup that will keep us consistent and competitive tomorrow. We made about 15 runs when we tested here last week so we learned a lot. The difference is that is wasn’t as hot as it is now until the last day we were here. Even though we learned a lot about running the car here, we still need to expand our knowledge base so that we can run even better. That’s what we will be working on today. No. 5 qualifier—7.404ET/184.69MPH

Bruce Allen (Outlaw Pontiac Firebird) Everybody out here works really hard. Sometimes your results on the track don’t show all of that hard work. We have been working extremely hard to get this Outlaw Pontiac Firebird where it needs to be, so running a good time like this is very gratifying. We still don’t know why the car shut down earlier and we’ll work on that tomorrow. I don’t think the track will be very fast so we’ll be able to maintain our position and do some testing.

Basically, we’re trying to find out what’s making our car shut off. It did that yesterday during the 4 o’clock session and it did that same exact thing this morning. The car went into low gear and the engine just shut off and quit running. It’s a trial and error process where you change the ignition, switches, anything electrical, anything loose that might be a bad connection. We were trying to get a combination on the Outlaw Pontiac Firebird for these type of conditions that we could come in tomorrow and feel good about.

It’s disappointing and it’s frustrating. We wanted to use these runs to sort out a few things and now we can’t even get down the track. Hopefully we’ll be able to get some information that we can actually use during this final session.

We needed this. It finally looks as though we fixed our shut-off problem. This is a big step for us. We still plan on checking out the parts we changed to pinpoint what was wrong, but if we’ve put this problem behind for good, then we would really be pleased. We are definitely capable of winning tomorrow! No. 7 qualifier—7.410ET/184.72MPH

Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) This is somewhat of a setback because we’ll have to start the elimination rounds with an engine that’s never been down the track. I guess I could complain, but the truth is this hasn’t happened to us very often. So really, we’ve been lucky over the years. I think we’ll be okay. The guys at the shop say the engine we’re having flown in is ready to go. I suppose we’ll see. I’m certainly not going to hold anything back. No. 8 qualifier—7.414ET/184.69MPH

Tom Martino (Six Flags Pontiac Firebird) We definitely went the wrong way with the motor and ran worse down the back. We’re still having a hard time getting this Six Flags Pontiac Firebird off the starting line. We’re making a four-link change and we’re going the opposite direction with the motor now. We played it safe this morning and it was slower. We got our fingers crossed, and you can bet we’ll be testing up here next year. We’re lucky enough to be in, and if we can pick up two hundredths, we’ll be within striking distance of anybody with the exception of Warren (Johnson). We just need to make sure we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot on race day. On Sunday morning, the slate is clean and anything can happen.


Cruz Pedregon (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) We had a cylinder out that on first run and when that happens, it cuts back on car speed and smokes the tires. Wes is creeping up on it and we’re hoping this last run will give us a good setup on our Interstate Batteries Pontiac for tomorrow. The game plan was to get it down there and that’s just something you have to do. That was a race day deal there and the time wasn’t hat bad when you consider everybody’s a half second off anyway. The crowd seems to have liked it pretty well but I know that Wes would rather see the tires hook up instead.

Randy Anderson (Parts America Pontiac Firebird) The Parts America Pontiac Firebird probably would have run a lot better that last run. But I felt it vibrate a little bit, and when it did that, I stepped on and off the throttle as fast as I could. It started putting cylinders out and mixing it up pretty bad. We ended up No. 10 qualifier but I think the tune-up’s a lot better than that. I was trying to be conservative, just trying to get it down the track. We’re in, and with every run we make, Jim Dunn is going to get this car figured out. We’re going to be tough tomorrow. No. 11 qualifier—5.655ET/231.48MPH

Al Hofmann (GM Performance Parts Pontiac Firebird) We’ve learned quite a bit here today. We put everything new in the GM Performance Parts Pontiac Firebird for today. We had a fuel pump that went bad last night so we wanted to make sure that everything was right to keep from putting cylinders out. In the heat of the day it was running okay. We weren’t going to set the world on fire, but it would have run a 5.30 if it would have gone all the way. We don’t feel that pedaling it would have improved on the 5.57 we ran yesterday. We’ll be in the left lane tonight, and with a little shade, we might be able to run a mid 5.20 or a high 5-teen. The more laps we put on this car the better we’re going to be. Since we changed the balance all around, the clutch is coming back to where it needs to be. We could throw a lot more at it, but we’ve decided to just sneak up on it. Our 60-foot was a little quicker that time and we’ll try to make it even quicker this time. Tim Wilkerson (JCIT Pontiac Firebird) We kind of tried something new on the JCIT Pontiac Firebird that first session just to see what the track would give us. We made two pretty nice runs to the 330 yesterday so I think Gary (Kennedy) did a little experimenting. It looks like he learned what he needed to know. We’re going up there this afternoon pretending like it’s race day to see if we can get down the track. I have a lot of confidence in these guys. I just want to get it to the end all day tomorrow. If the good Lord’s willing, we’ll be there. We’re assuming that the next two races are going to be just as hot as this one, so anything we can learn this weekend will help us the rest of the summer. Gary makes the decision on whether I drive it all the way through, shut it off, pull the brake, whatever. We’ve been doing that at the last couple of races and it’s helped our performance considerably.

Del Worsham (Checker-Schucks-Kragen Pontiac Firebird) What can you say about running a 5.78, pedaling the car about five times, fishtailing it down the track, and then getting back to the pit area and high-fiving each other like we’d won a race. Right now, on this track, in this heat, anything that starts with a "5" is a good lap. I pedaled our it three or four times, and then in the last 400 or so, I actually feathered the throttle about four times to keep it from smoking the tires. Then I punched it again in the last 100 feet to give it a goose across the line. It’s no fun to be the No. 17 car when there are 17 cars here. I mean, the pressure gets pretty intense. Now, we can try to work on a race day tune-up, and maybe step up a hundredth or so in the next run.

On that pass, our Pontiac Firebird Funny Car was actually running better than a 5.50. There’s no telling how high we could have qualified if the driver hadn’t forgotten one of the things he was planning on doing out there. I wanted to get on the brake at a certain point to help it through that rough spot, but I was a little late doing it, and it chewed some parts up out there. Oh well… No. 7 qualifier—5.504ET/256.33MPH

Top Fuel

Cory McClenathan (McDonald’s/Pontiac) It’s very warm and the track is very tricky. We’re just trying to save parts and be smart about things. We know the McDonald’s Pontiac will get down the track so that wasn’t an issue at all. We want to get the guys out of here so that they can get some rest. We’re hoping tomorrow is going to be a long day. I’m more than happy with the performance of our new car. Realistically, I’d just be happy to come in here tomorrow and go a few rounds. If we can make it to the finals by some chance, and win the race, then that would be great. I’m not by any means trying to go out and win five in a row, although we would like to do that ourselves. We’re just trying to take it one round at a time. The No. 1 qualifying position is always good to have, although I’d rather start race day qualified No. 5 or 6. It seems like it put a lot of pressure on you starting from the top spot. I’ve seen my partner Cruz go through that quite a few times this year. We’ll just try to keep an even keel and go into tomorrow doing the best we can. The 4.96 wasn’t a bad run today considering how hot it was. That’s awful warm. But the tires weren’t spinning and everything looked really good. No. 1 qualifier—4.868ET/289.57MPH

# # # #

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson