Gainesville: Jerry Toliver preview

It's a Topsy-turvy Season for Jerry Toliver after Just Two Races Funny Car Driver Wins Winternationals, Doesn't Qualify at Next Event GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 11, 2004 -- It took Jerry Toliver six days to experience the highs and lows of NHRA ...

It's a Topsy-turvy Season for Jerry Toliver after Just Two Races Funny Car Driver Wins Winternationals, Doesn't Qualify at Next Event

GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 11, 2004 -- It took Jerry Toliver six days to experience the highs and lows of NHRA racing.

On February 29, Toliver was at the peak of elation and excitement. He stunned the Funny Car field, winning the Winternationals in his first race back driving a Funny Car after an 18-month hiatus. Not only that, when his Schick Quattro Toyota Celica got the win light, it produced Toyota's first drag racing victory. Toliver also set career bests for elapsed time (4.738 seconds) and speed (328.22 mph, the fourth fastest at the time).

"To win one of these races, you have to be lucky and you have to be good," Toliver said at the time. "We were good and we were lucky at Pomona."

Saturday afternoon, March 6, Toliver's team was stunned . . . this time because they did not qualify for the CSK Nationals at Phoenix.

There was no helmet throwing, no mini or major shows of frustration from Toliver or the team.

"We are a team. We win and lose as a team," Toliver said. "I like positive reinforcement. To me, the glass is always half full. We did lose two qualifying rounds due to mechanical things, but there is no excuse for what happened. We can't give up qualifying rounds and expect to keep up with the other drivers. We are disappointed, but we will be ready when we get to Gainesville (Fla., site of the Mac Tools Gatornationals, March 19-21)."

The Schick Quattro crew has worked virtually non-stop from early December, preparing the Alan Johnson Performance Engineering Toyota Celica for competition and testing. The weather was cool during two test sessions and the Winternationals. At Phoenix, the temperatures went from pleasant to hot and the racing surface turned slippery and became very tricky.

"We really didn't have time to work on a tune-up for hot weather and slippery racetracks," said Toliver. "We stayed at Phoenix and tested the day after the race, working specifically to develop a hot weather tune-up. We need to find a tune-up that will run 4.90 (seconds) for those conditions. We made four laps - and it was really hot - and the tune-up is getting close.

"Nonetheless, we are looking forward to going to Gainesville," added Toliver, who won the 2000 Gatornationals at the controls of his WWF-backed Funny Car. "That track is usually good, but it depends on the heat. Keith Adams, our crew chief, is working hard on the tune-up. I think it's very important for us to make a good run and get solidly in the field on our first qualifying run. Then Keith can tune it up from there. We just need to make more runs."

The Schick crew took advantage of the extra week between races - a rainout forced the Winternationals and CSK Nationals onto successive weekends - returning to its Santa Maria, Calif., shop.

"They needed that," Toliver pointed out. "They've been working with no days off since December 1, and they went back to regroup and get things ready for the long trip to Gainesville."

Despite not qualifying, Toliver is in a three-way tie for fifth place in the early POWERade Series standings. He has 111 points, as do Whit Bazemore and Eric Medlen. Del Worsham, the Phoenix winner, is first with 186, followed by Gary Densham, 151; and Gary Scelzi (129).

"I keep a close eye on the points all during the season," said Toliver. "I consider every round win monumental and we want to collect as many as we can. As far as I'm concerned, you can never win by too many points."

He resumes that search during Gatornationals qualifying sessions at noon and 3:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Sunday's eliminations get underway at 11 a.m.

-jtr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , Gary Scelzi , Gary Densham , Jerry Toliver , Eric Medlen