Gainesville Hill report

Pennzoil's Hill survives first round GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 21) -- The first elimination race of the day at the 30th Annual Mac Tools Nationals featured a Battle of the Ages between Pennzoil Top Fuel driver Eddie Hill, 63, and Connie Kalitta,...

Pennzoil's Hill survives first round

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 21) -- The first elimination race of the day at the 30th Annual Mac Tools Nationals featured a Battle of the Ages between Pennzoil Top Fuel driver Eddie Hill, 63, and Connie Kalitta, 61. While Hill came away with the win, it turned out to be a forgettable lap for both seasoned veterans.

After an hour-long rain delay, both cars struggled to find traction on the freshly washed course. Both drivers smoked their tires just off the starting line and again at the 330-foot mark. Then each man realized that the other car was idle and a mad sprint to the finish line ensued. The timing lights showed Hill crossing the finish line in 6.323 seconds at 276.63 mph to Kalitta's 6.413-second, 154.99-mph lap.

"That's what you call the Texas three-step," Hill said, referring to the three times he accelerated during the lap. "She just wouldn't hook up to the track. I could see Connie up ahead of me and he was struggling too so I just kept after it and we ended up getting the win. I've been on the other side of races like that before so I'll take this one and run.

"I thought we kept up with the weather changes pretty well. Then we got up there to stage and Connie lit both lights right away. I thought he was ready to go so I put her in high valve and started inching in. Then Connie just backed out of the lights. At that point, I thought he had problems and was giving up the run and I got ready to go.

"Then Connie reentered the lights and started staging all over again. I didn't think that was allowed but Rick (Stewart, chief starter) didn't wave him off. The end result is that I had the car at high valve for about 10 seconds, way more than normal. My clutch and engine were way too hot when we left and that's why I smoked the tires.

"It makes it very hard on us for Round 2 because we don't have any usable data now. We'll just have to race the track and hope for the best. We don't have lane choice, but they both seem about the same to me so we'll just do the best we can."

Hill will face top qualifier Larry Dixon in the quarterfinal round. Dixon posted a first-round lap of 4.699 seconds at 299.77 mph to beat Paul Romine.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Paul Romine , Larry Dixon , Connie Kalitta