Englishtown Pontiac Racing Friday Notes

30th ANNUAL MOPAR NATIONALS OLD BRIDGE TOWNSHIP RACEWAY PARK ENGLISHTOWN N.J. (May 21, 1999) After the first day of qualifying for the 30th annual Mopar Nationals, Warren Johnson's GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird is the No. 1 ...


ENGLISHTOWN N.J. (May 21, 1999) After the first day of qualifying for the 30th annual Mopar Nationals, Warren Johnson's GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird is the No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock with a track record elapsed time of 6.875 seconds at 201.58 mph (track record). Richie Stevens is second, Steve Schmidt is fourth, Tom Martino is sixth, Mark Pawuk is seventh, Mike Thomas is ninth, Jim Yates is 10th, George Marnell is 19th and Bruce Allen is 30th.

In Funny Car, Tim Wilkerson is the highest qualified Firebird in the No. 2 position with an elapsed time of 4.938 seconds at 306.40 mph. Al Hofmann's Firebird is fourth, Del Worsham is ninth, Dale Creasy Jr. is 10th, Gary Densham is 12th and Cruz Pedregon is 16th. The No. 1 qualifier is Tony Pedregon with an elapsed time of 4.904 seconds at 316.08 mph.

In Top Fuel, Cory McClenathan is qualified No. 8 with an elapsed time of 4.607 seconds at 310.84 mph. The No. 1 qualifier is Gary Sclezi who posted a lap of 4.550 seconds at 321.73 mph.

ESPN2 will televise two hours of first-round coverage on Sunday, May 23, beginning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern, and two hours of final-round coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m.


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) At least we're No. 1 temporarily because we're never certain what's in store for tomorrow. There are lot of cars that are running very well. Stevens ran a 6.89 and there were some 6.90's and some 6.91's so there are certainly enough cars out there than could possibly exceed the 6.87 that I ran. But we didn't make a picture perfect run either. We got a little bit out of the groove, but everybody's having a little trouble in the right-hand lane.

When we got out of the groove we probably gave up maybe a hundredth or a hundredth-and-a-half. Tomorrow the track will probably be better. They'll scrape it tonight, and clean it up and unless the surface gets real hot, it should be slightly better. I don't think we'll have better air conditions, so one should offset the other. We'll probably slow down a couple of hundredths or five hundredths at the most. We're happy where we are right now but that's not to say that someone could jump up with a good run tomorrow afternoon. We run around 5:30 p.m., so we could conceivably have just as good, if not better conditions tomorrow. With a switch in lanes, the cars that ran good in the right hand lane, which is not the lane of choice here, could easily exceed that 6.87 that we ran. We'll take it for now and just hope for the best. No. 1 qualifier - 6.875ET (track record)/201.58MPH (track record)

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) The car and the clutch are making absolutely perfect runs. We obviously have a bugaboo in the carburetor or the electrical system somewhere. It just loses performance when it goes down the race track. We'll stay tonight and do the drill on the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird - replace the batteries, the wiring, all of the switches and everything we can find, go out tomorrow morning and hope we have our stuff together. If we don't pick up some performance we're going to be hurting. Mark (Pawuk) ran real good tonight and we have him in the first round of the shoot out. Our intention is to go out and win that thing, but if we intend to do that, our performance is going to have to come around in a hurry. No. 10 qualifier - 6.940ET/197.86MPH

Steve Schmidt (Dynagear Pontiac Firebird) As I've said at the last couple of races, there's been a certain learning curve for Terry (Adams) since he's come on board as crew chief this year on the Dynagear Firebird. I think he's starting to get a lot more comfortable with the race car, and what the race car wants on these different race tracks. I'm certainly comfortable with the work he's doing, and I have confidence every time I get in this car that it's going to go to the finish line. We've been working very hard over the last 30 days on the engine program, we've significantly improved it and it's shown over the last few races in our performance. We're certainly not where we want to be yet, but the guys at the shop, and myself included, are committed to this program and I have confidence that we'll be where we need to be before too long. We really felt coming in here this weekend that we're capable of being one of the top four or five cars. When you have cars the caliber of Kurt Johnson, George Marnell and Bruce Allen, who have the potential to go around you at anytime, you never feel entirely comfortable with your qualifying position.

I feel confident that we probably won't get bumped out of the show though, so we would really like to use tomorrow to test some different things that may or may not work on Sunday. We'll take a look at the weather when we get here and make that decision then. No. 4 qualifier - 6.912ET/199.20MPH

George Marnell (Dynomax Pontiac Firebird) We were a little heavy initially, and down track we started spinning the tires in fourth gear real bad. After that it never regained traction all the way through to the finish line. But at least it went straight and the Dynomax Firebird did what we expected it to do in the right hand lane. We think in the left lane tonight that we'll do much better. With the air getting better and the track cooling down we look to make a move to the top of the pack. Our goal in the first session was to just get down the race track. The problem is that if you get it too heavy going in initially, you can't tell how heavy you are. If you're light, then you know how much to add to correct the problem. To be honest though, we would like to have been higher than ninth after the first run, but we're not disappointed because we know there's a lot left in the car and we know where to go with it. With the right setup, we should be in pretty good shape. No. 19 qualifier - 6.991ET/197.59MPH

Bruce Allen (Outlaw Fuel Additives Pontiac Firebird) We installed a new set of clutch discs on the Outlaw Firebird and we just didn't know how aggressive they would be. Now we do. You have to start somewhere and obviously we would have liked to have started better but the main objective was just to break in the discs and get set for tonight and tomorrow morning. Those will be the two sessions that matter.

Second Session: We need a change in the chassis. We're so frustrated right now that we're going to put the car up and come back early tomorrow when we've had a chance to cool down. It seems like every adjustment we make the car doesn't react the way we think it will. That time we had absolutely no clutch and the car just shook like crazy.

Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) We were soft on the clutch and the car spun a lot in low gear. But once the car hooked up, it really flew down the track. We had the third fastest speed and I'm pretty happy the car went down through there after such a heavy start. Tonight should be great if it cools down enough. Hopefully, the Pennzoil Firebird will be on top by the end of the day.

Second Session: We're switching back to our No. 1 engine. We were trying to see what this other motor could do and it looks as though we found its limits. I don't think there was more than a hundredth of a second or two left in the run. We know our other motor is at least five hundredths of a second quicker and we've been saving it for tomorrow's first round. No. 9 qualifier - 6.934ET/198.88MPH

Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) In tonight's session we made a good run, but we benefited from a "weather" tune-up. If I could only make runs like that all weekend, I'd be happy. It's just that this morning's run was simply awesome. So far our Century 21 Firebird is behaving, but I had thought this track would come to us. I was happy to run as well as we did tonight, because I think we're fairly safe with that 6.92. The advantage to qualifying so well today is that I won't be worried about fast I run tomorrow. We'll definitely set up the car and I will drive it differently than if we were simply making a qualifying run. My main concern will be that I make it to the stripe first. No. 6 qualifier - 6.923ET/199.02MPH


Dale Creasy, Jr. (Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird) The Mad Magazine Firebird kind of laid over at about the 330-foot mark; not too bad, but it was starting to drive through the clutch. I gave it about another hundred feet and it took off again. It was dying out there and I thought I was going to have to shut it off. We ran 290 which is good mph but the ET was week. When it laid over is when we lost our ET. We just didn't have it set up strong enough for that session. We made it down the racetrack and compared to the rest of the field that session, it wasn't too bad of a run. Tonight we're going to hop this Pontiac up. We're not going to get carried away, but we're going to a tune up that we feel is reliable and hopefully it will run as quick as it has in the past. There are a lot of cars outside right now looking in, and if we don't run at least in the five-ohs, then we're going to be in trouble. No. 10 qualifier - 5.202ET/290.88MPH

Al Hofmann (Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird) We set this Firebird up identical to the way we had it the last two weekends. We felt we had been on marginal racetracks and the car was running okay to the 330 foot mark. So we just left it alone expecting to run okay to the 330, rack up a good number and we would be in. But there just wasn't much racetrack out there. We had more shaft speed at a half-a-second here than we've had at the last two races. We'll get some more rubber on the track and I believe the track will be just fine. When the sun goes down and the track temperature goes down, it may be real good. Our strategy is to leave this Pontiac Firebird alone and take it right back up there. No. 4 qualifier - 5.014ET/293.54MPH

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) We don't really have time to do a full analysis of what went wrong, what was the cause and what were the effects, because we've got to put a new motor in it and get back out here for tonight's run. Just taking a quick look at the parts and computer, it looks like there might have been a valve problem, and it also looks like there's a spike on the drive train graph after I lifted when it smoked the tires. All I can figure is that after I lifted, the negative g's caused my foot to push down on the throttle again for just a split second and that's when it blew up. It lifted the blower off the manifold, tossed two rods out of the block and mangled everything else. We just finished two days of repair on the body after we banged the blower in Atlanta last weekend. The painter was still buffing it out as we got ready to go up there for that run. This time we didn't hurt it nearly as badly as when we cracked it in Atlanta, but I mean the guy was literally wiping off wax as we towed the Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac to the starting line. We sanded it and put Bondo on it yesterday, then painted and clear coated it late last night. Today they worked on it right up until the run.

The new "Firebird" sticker went on just as we rolled the car from under our canopy.

Second Session: That was a ton of work and effort to get a run like that out of it. After we blew up the blower in the first session, we changed motors and then had the new blower seize up on us during the warm up. So we were swapping out blowers again 15 minutes before the session started and thrashed until we got up there. That was a testimony to having a lot of crew guys with different talents. We were repairing the body again, welding, doing fiberglass work, swapping motors, and prepping blowers all at once. It went out and shook like a maniac, shook the tires loose and I pedaled it just to get it down the track. I'm happy it hooked up and went, but we'll need to improve a bunch tomorrow. We hurt it again at the top end. I thought I knocked a rod or two out but now it looks like it just chewed up some pistons. Still, we're hurting way too many parts. We need to get a smooth lap under our belts again. No. 9 qualifier - 5.191ET/266.90MPH

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Dale Creasy Jr. , Gary Densham , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Steve Schmidt