Englishtown: Pontiac Racing report

Stevens Drives Grand Am To Victory At Old Bridge Pawuk Sets New National Record ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., May 20, 2001 - Richie Stevens combined flawless driving with a fast Pontiac Grand Am to win his first race of the year at the Matco Tools ...

Stevens Drives Grand Am To Victory At Old Bridge
Pawuk Sets New National Record

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., May 20, 2001 - Richie Stevens combined flawless driving with a fast Pontiac Grand Am to win his first race of the year at the Matco Tools SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. It is the second time that Stevens has captured victory at this event. He did it the hard way by defeating top qualifier, and new national record holder Mark Pawuk in the final round of eliminations.

"We've had a string of bad luck the last couple of races," said Stevens. "We've been trying to figure out this new Grand Am since the beginning of the season. A lot of the other teams got a jump on us with the car, got chances to test when our testing ground was racing at national events at Pomona and Phoenix. We're finally getting a handle on it."

Stevens came into eliminations qualified in the No. 15 position and eliminated No. 2 qualifier Mike Edwards in round one, Rickie Smith in round two and Warren Johnson in round three before squaring off against Pawuk in an all Grand Am championship round.

"We qualified 15th and it's real hard to come from that spot and win," said Stevens. "But today Tommy Utt, my crew chief, gave me a great car. It was very consistent and went down the racetrack every run. No matter what lane we raced out of it, that Grand Am went right down the track. I did a good job of driving finally and we came away with the win."

The 22-year-old Stevens cut a perfect .400 light in the final round and out ran Pawuk to the finish line in 6.892 seconds at 200.14 mph. Pawuk got loose in the middle of the racetrack and slowed to an 8.504 elapsed time at 113.81 mph.

"I knew I was going to need it," said Stevens of the perfect reaction time. "Mark had been running good all day long. He ran 6.81 and 6.80, and I knew that I would need a good light, I just didn't think it would be perfect. I'd been doing pretty good today but I almost cut it too close."

It was the fourth career victory for Stevens, and the fourth time this season that a Grand Am has won a Pro Stock national event in its inaugural season on the NHRA tour. Stevens also moved into ninth place in the Winston Pro Stock standings.

"We've had two bad races at Bristol and Atlanta and we needed a change of luck," said Stevens. "I think we got it here this weekend. Now we're headed to Topeka where I've qualified No. 1 before. Hopefully we can come close to duplicating that and keep this string going. "

For Pawuk, it was the second time in two days that he'd battled to a runner-up finish. He won $10,000 by placing second in yesterday's Holley Dominator Duel.

In round two today against Jeg Coughlin Jr., the Summit Racing Grand Am driver set a new national elapsed-time record at 6.806 seconds. "The Cowboy" also ran a career-best top speed of 201.43 mph in the third round against Larry Morgan. Pawuk's effort today moves him all the way up to second place in the Pro Stock standings with 534 points, just seven behind first-place Warren Johnson.

"The record's nice, but the win is what we came here for," said Pawuk. "This is a tough field and you have to take advantage of these opportunities when you get them. This entire Summit Racing Pontiac team did a great job all weekend and I feel that I let them down today. Nobody's going to walk away with this championship and the good thing is that we're continuing to win rounds. That's what you have to do to be a competitive."

In Funny Car, Del Worsham drove the Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird to the quickest elapsed time in NHRA history at 4.779 seconds in his first round win over Tony Bartone. Worsham lost in round two to John Force. His teammate, Frank Pedregon advanced to round three before losing to Force. The race was won by Tony Pedregon.

"We were actually soft at the hit of the throttle," said Worsham, "only a .902 60-foot time. Rob (Flynn) was afraid of doing what Skuza and Bazemore did, smoking the tires right at the starting line, so he wanted to make sure our Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac got up and rolling first. Then we laid the coals to it, and in this track, in this weather, that's what happened. A 4.77! It's kind of unbelievable, but we've been close to this sort of stuff all year."

In the Sportsman categories, Arnie Martel Jr. of Tewksbury, Mass., won in Competition Eliminator in a Pontiac Grand Am.

The next stop on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing tour is the 13th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kan., on May 24 - 27.

-Pontiac Racing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Jeff Romack GM Racing Communications (317) 843-5447 jfromack@cs.com

PONTIAC RACING NOTES & QUOTES NHRA ENGLISHTOWN

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., May 20, 2001 - Final eliminations for the Matco SuperNationals were completed today at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.

PRO STOCK

Richie Stevens Jr. (Valspar Refinish Pontiac Grand Am) - " The car's been very consistent, Tommy's (Utt) been doing a great job setting this Grand Am up all weekend and I'm just on a roll today with the lights. Hopefully we can keep it up and take the Valspar Pontiac to the winner's circle. It's been a long time since we won a race and we need it. We need the points, we could use the money and it would help us with a lot of things. Everybody on the team's been doing a good job and like I said, we could use the win. Englishtown's been good to me. I guess I just have good luck here. We won this race in 1999, and last year we ran decent although we didn't win it. They've always treated us nice here. As a matter of fact it was Vinnie Napp who sold me my first junior dragster when I was 13 years old. The track's real good, we've made good runs out of both lanes and whatever lane Mark (Pawuk) puts us in, we're ready."

Post-race: "It started out as a slow weekend. Yesterday I messed up badly in the Duel, redlit and threw it away. I thought then that the weekend was over with. We qualified 15th and it's real hard to come from that spot and win. But today Tommy Utt, my crew chief, gave me a great car. It was very consistent and went down the racetrack every run. No matter what lane we raced out of it, that Grand Am went down the track. I did a good job of driving finally and we came away with the win. We went 6.85 twice, a 6.86 and a 6.89 and I don't think you can get anymore consistent than that. To win it here again is great. This track has always been good to me. We've always done really good here, we went to the semi's once, won here twice now and it's been a really good track to us."

You needed this too. "We've had a string of bad luck the last couple of races and we've been trying to figure out this new Grand Am since the beginning of the season. A lot of the other teams got a jump on us with the car, got chances to test their new cars and our testing ground was racing at national events at Pomona and Phoenix. We're finally getting a handle on it. We've had two bad races at Bristol and Atlanta and we needed a change of luck. I think we got it here this weekend. Now we're headed to Topeka where I've qualified No. 1 before. Hopefully we can come close to duplicating that and keep this string of luck going. "

Does Tommy (Utt) feel that he's finally found what this car likes? "He's gaining ground on it. We just had two mishaps at the last two events, but at the same time I think we've been really gaining on it. It's tested everyone's patience but he's done a great job and I think it's coming around to where we're getting a handle on it. We have good power from Ron Krisher and his team, they keep my motors fresh, and Rocky and Jimmy give me the power I need."

What about the perfect light? "I knew I was going to need it. Mark's been running good all day long. He's been running 6.81 and 6.80 and I knew that I would need a good light, I didn't think it would be perfect. I've been doing pretty good today and I almost cut it too close. But it fell my way and that's how my luck went today. When I put it in second gear, it kind of got out of shape but not near as bad as Mark's did. I think that's why my time fell off a little bit. We got the win and that's all that counts. I saw him for a little bit and back out of sight and that's when I knew it was mine."

FUNNY CAR

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "I really don't know what to say except at home everyone is following the race on the internet and by the time I got back to the trailer everyone there was on the phone crying. We were actually soft at the hit of the throttle, only a .902 60-foot time. Rob (Flynn) was afraid of doing what Skuza and Bazemore did, smoking the tires right at the starting line, so he wanted to make sure our Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac got up and rolling first. Then we laid the coals to it and in this track, in this weather, that's what happened. A 4.77! It's kind of unbelievable, but we've been close to this sort of stuff all year. We ran 4.81 in Houston and have been running right with everyone just about every race. But I'm still kind of stunned." Following the quickest pass in the history of NHRA Funny Car racing with a 4.779 elapsed time in his first round win over Tony Bartone.

Frank Pedregon (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "I think when it's all said and done we'll figure out this all started in the rear end of the car. These rear ends are so bullet proof now that you don't pay attention to them, but I could tell it was dragging on the burnout, it felt funny. But you're not goingto shut it off before running John Force in the semifinals because it feel a little funny. It was hauling down through there, got out of the groove on me and over-revved just a bit. Just as I was bringing it back to the middle it exploded. It blew the windshield out and lifted the dash board enough that I really couldn't see where I was going. I was getting it stopped and it spun out and hit the wall. There's no doubt about it now, our other car will be coming out of the trailer for Topeka and Chicago."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Richie Stevens Jr. , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Tony Bartone , Del Worsham , John Force , Ron Krisher , Larry Morgan , Rickie Smith , Mike Edwards