Second half surge on Pennzoil driver's minds DENVER (July 12) -- The first half of the 22-event National Hot Rod Association season is a time when drivers like to position themselves for a run at the Winston Championship. The second half of the...
Second half surge on Pennzoil driver's minds
DENVER (July 12) -- The first half of the 22-event National Hot Rod Association season is a time when drivers like to position themselves for a run at the Winston Championship. The second half of the year -- which begins Thursday-Sunday with the 21st Annual Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway -- is the time when the drivers begin to implement their championship gameplan.
Here's a look at how each Pennzoil-sponsored driver plans to attack the last 11 races.
Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, returns to Bandimere Speedway anxious to reset one of his most prominent records -- that of being the oldest driver in history to win a NHRA national event. Hill set the mark at this track in 1996 when he won the Mile High Nationals at the age of 60. Now, three years later, he's looking to raise the bar to 63-years-old, while hoping that the feat itself will begin a surge of second-half successes.
"The first thought I have whenever I hear 'Denver' is the joy we experienced when we won in '96," Hill said. "Then my thoughts immediately shift to the fact that we haven't won since then. Three years is a long time to go without a win. It's time to put an end to this dry spell.
"It would be sweet to take another title at Bandimere. I feel like we have a real good Denver tune-up and our results here over the past few years have been very encouraging. I'd love nothing more than to relive that day in 1996 with another win this year. If we could put a few victories together, we'd be right in the thick of the points race. Then anything could happen."
Hill has qualified for 10 events this season and has logged seven elimination round wins. He is currently in 11th place in the Winston championship points standings.
Bruce Allen, the driver of The Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac, is exceptionally excited about racing at Bandimere after a successful testing session there earlier this month.
"We came here right after St. Louis and ended up posting the best numbers we ever have at this track," Allen said. "I think we found out how to go fast here. Obviously, that has us very, very anxious to get back on the track and see how we stack up against everyone else.
"Denver is the most unique race the NHRA has on its schedule. It's the only place we go that's considerably different from every other track we race on. Racing at altitude is a real challenge for all of us. You can always change the transmission, the clutch, the rear end, and the chassis; but you can't escape the fact that your motor's horsepower is the same.
"Because we're using the same motors as we use everywhere else, our times here are slower. In your mind, that seems to go against everything you're trying to do. But you don't mind because it's such a beautiful city and a great facility. This is definitely a one-of-a-kind race."
To date, Allen's best finish at Bandimere Speedway came in 1987 when he finished second to Bob Glidden. He is currently in 19th place in the points standings.
Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, has been patiently waiting for his return to the Mile-High City and a chance to finally bury last year's debacle at this track. Thomas was riding high when he entered the Mopar Nationals a year ago but an unforeseen engine explosion turned his weekend of racing into a frenzied affair that ended with a disappointing red-light violation in the first round of eliminations. This time around, Thomas hopes things will be considerably different.
"I've thought of a great way to get over last year's race," Thomas said. "And that's to win this year's event. We're just 26 points out of the top 10 in the points standings and a win here could lift us as high as seventh. (Thomas is currently in 11th place.) We started in a hole this year and had to switch crew chiefs in mid-stream. But now we've been moving in the right direction for several events in a row and I'm anxious to continue this string of success in Denver.
"My wife Hope is from Denver and I'd love to show her family and friends a win. It's always fun racing here because we have so much support. I'd love to really give the gang something to cheer about. We have loads of data on this track and I hope to translate that into a win. This team is capable of being a front runner in this class. We just need to take it one step at a time."
Bill Kent, the driver of the Pennzoil Competition Eliminator Dragster, resumes racing after his usual two-month summer break. This race marks Kent's first national event since early April.
"I'm more than ready," Kent said, en route to a divisional race in Douglas, Wyo. "You get to the point where you miss it. I try to keep focused with a practice tree, but it's just not the same as racing. Thankfully, the first lap back always brings me back around to race mode.
"The car was so fast and consistent earlier this season that I'm excited to be back behind the wheel. We have a history of running very fast in Denver. We've been the top qualifier there several times and we were No. 2 a year ago so I expect that trend to continue. We seem to have a real good combo for running on that hill."
Mike Ferderer, the pilot of the Pennzoil Super Gas Pontiac Grand Prix and the Gumout Super Comp Dragster, is looking to add win No. 7 to his 1999 scorecard. Ferderer has been nearly untouchable this year, winning four races in his Gumout Dragster and two more events in his Super Gas car. He is currently the No. 1 Super Gas driver in the country and is in sixth place in the Super Comp category.
"The track looks to be in the best shape that I've ever seen it," Ferderer said. "Winning or losing here will probably come down to my driving ability because both of my cars are running flawlessly. I'm certainly not holding anything back. This could be a career year for me."