Hill's heroics top great weekend ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 23) - Heavy rain showers delayed the official start of Sunday's elimination racing at the 30th Annual Mopar Parts Nationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. But three-and-a-half-hours...
Hill's heroics top great weekend
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 23) - Heavy rain showers delayed the official start of Sunday's elimination racing at the 30th Annual Mopar Parts Nationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. But three-and-a-half-hours later, the historic racetrack roared to life and the fans that braved the wet weather were rewarded with several exciting races.
Team Pennzoil started the action with three drivers battling for the event's title. Eddie Hill carded a first round win and then followed it up with a career-best speed in a narrow quarterfinal loss. Teammates Bruce Allen and Mike Thomas both struggled early and bowed out in Round 1. Here's a look at each lap that involved a Pennzoil-sponsored driver.
Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Dragster, took an easy first round win when his opponent Tony Schumacher smoked the tires of his car just off the starting line. Hill went on to post a 4.820-second, 257.92-mph lap against Schumacher's 11.632-second, 76.55-mph pass. Hill's time was slightly off pace due to an engine explosion near the finish line.
In Round 2 Hill recorded the fastest speed of his 43-year career when he blasted down the strip in 4.595 seconds at 322.19 mph (his previous best was 316.38 mph.) But rival Kenny Bernstein managed to nip Hill at the finish line with a 4.588-second pass at 318.69 mph.
"I hate to lose but it's awfully hard to be upset when you run a lap like that," Hill said. "For the first time in my life I was wishing the track was three-eighths of a mile long instead of just a quarter mile. I was having so much fun in there and the car was pulling harder than it ever has before. It turns out that we had the car set up a little conservative at the starting line. If we had tightened it up just a tad, that would have been an all-time hero run.
"It's been such a great weekend. We ran six awesome laps and never showed any signs of smoking the tires. I must have made 100 little tune-up adjustments and every single one worked. I feel that this Pennzoil car is a true contender now and we're all as pleased as we can be with how its running. It feels like it's just a matter of time before we win a race.
"In the first round race against Tony the fuel pump broke internally at about 2.5 seconds. But I kept my foot in it any ways and that's why we had the big explosion at the end. It was great to get the win and the car felt awesome up until the fuel pump let go."
Hill has qualified for seven races and has carded seven elimination round wins in 1999. After seven races he had earned enough points for 10th place in the Winston standings.
Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, suffered a first round loss to Jeg Coughlin after posting a shut-off 8.895-second lap at 108.78 mph to Coughlin's 6.998-second pass at 197.68 mph.
"I'm not very happy with the way I'm driving right now," Thomas said. "The fact that we have such a great car with all the power in the world just makes it that much more frustrating when you have an off weekend. I never felt right at this race.
"I know we gained a little ground in the points standings, which is good. But I'm so upset with myself right now that it doesn't seem to matter. I've already planned some extensive testing to be done before the next race. I need to get re-focused on racing."
Thomas has successfully qualified for six of eight races in 1999 and has logged three elimination round wins. He entered this event in 14th place in the Winston points standings.
Bruce Allen, the pilot of The Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, discovered a broken wheelie bar just before his opening round race against Mark Pawuk and knew he had no chance of launching under full power for risk of an accident. Still, Allen went through his pre-race burnout routine and staged his car hoping that Pawuk would somehow disqualify himself. Unfortunately the strategy didn't work and Allen watched Pawuk post a very competitive 6.954-second, 197.59-mph lap to take the win uncontested.
"We were looking for a red light or hoping he would cross the center line but it just didn't happen," Allen said. "It's a real shame to end a positive weekend this way but this is just one of those fluke deals that you never would expect to happen. If I had tried to launch the broken wheelie bar would have turned me immediately sideways and I probably would have hit the wall. It just wasn't worth risking injury to the car or me.
"It just goes to show you that you should check every single individual part before every single individual run. I've never had this happen in 14 years of pro racing but that doesn't prevent it from happening.
"We were pleased to have qualified and run so well here. We were the quickest car in the one session when everyone else struggled so that was a real positive step. We're definitely making progress."
This event marked the third race that Allen has qualified for this season. He has recorded one elimination round win and is currently in 19th place in the points standings.