Gainesville: Mopar Motorsports Saturday summary

Alderman & Johnson face off in round one. Bazemore collects Fourth in the Funny Car category. GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15, 2003) -- Three-time NHRA POWERade Pro Stock World Champion Darrell Alderman will face off against Mopar factory teammate...

Alderman & Johnson face off in round one.
Bazemore collects Fourth in the Funny Car category.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15, 2003) -- Three-time NHRA POWERade Pro Stock World Champion Darrell Alderman will face off against Mopar factory teammate Allen Johnson in the first round of eliminations for tomorrow's 34th running of the Mac Tools Gatornationals at historic Gainesville Raceway.

Alderman, who won his 28th career NHRA national event here last year, earned the eighth-qualifying slot with a 6.806-second elapsed time at 202.20 mph during today's first session.

"We made a nice run this morning," said the Morehead, Ky., resident. "We came back this afternoon and shook a little bit in second (gear). I have to run my teammate in the morning, which isn't my favorite thing to do unless it's in the final. But that's a lot better than not running at all. We'll just go out there and have a good, old-fashioned drag race.

"I'd say the lanes are pretty equal this weekend," Alderman continued. "At least that's what I thought about it today. Usually the left lane is the best, so we'll just have to see."

Johnson placed his Hemi-powered mount ninth, wrapping up a weekend best elapsed time of 6.808 seconds and 202.42 mph. The Greeneville, Tenn., resident is gunning for the third NHRA national event victory of his career.

"We really didn't make great runs this morning," Johnson said. "We've raced each other a bunch before -- so we'll just go up there and have some fun. At least we know we'll have a car in the second round.

"Conditions tomorrow will be about like our last run today," continued Johnson, on the hot-and-sticky weather conditions. "We made a decent run in those conditions, but it wasn't anything to brag about. I think we have a good baseline for tomorrow though."

Gene Wilson made some breakthroughs on his brand new Dodge Stratus R/T Pro Stocker this weekend. Despite missing the show by only a hundredth of a second, the Georgia resident's 6.836-second elapsed time at 201.83 mph made for an optimistic end to qualifying. The Stratus R/T Pro Stock machine made its competitive debut in the season-opening Winternationals at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway earlier this season.

"I'm really happy with the way things turned out for us this weekend," said Wilson, who made his NHRA Pro Stock debut during last years Gainesville round. "We showed a little bit of promise in Friday's runs -- so we went into today with a great deal of hope. We made major changes to the car last night and it responded very favorably. We're extremely excited about the new Stratus and the direction of this program.

"There's no secret that this is going to take time," Wilson continued. "We're still not where we want to be -- but the progress is there. My guys are really setting up the car well. It's all about making the car happy. When you don't have a lot of runs on a new car -- you don't know what it needs in every situation. And it takes making the right series of calls to get into these very competitive fields. I think we've finally hit somewhat of a sweet spot on the car and we're going to be able to build upon that.

"We changed everything from the transmission, clutch and four-link (suspension)," Wilson added. "The car is responding real well to the changes now. And we've finally got the car going straight. I believe we've got it figured out."

It was a frustrating weekend for Mopar's Larry Morgan, as the Newark, Ohio resident missed the show with a weekend best pass of 6.885 seconds at 200.04 mph.


Two more Dodge Stratus R/T's qualified on the Nitro Funny Car side. The Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus R/T of Whit Bazemore landed the fourth-qualifying slot with a 4.835-second lap at 321.88 mph.

Bazemore has a first round match with Cruz Pedregon.

"We've had a good weekend, but not outstanding," Bazemore said. "We come here to qualify number one. And we have the team; the tools and the car to accomplish that at every race. Anytime we're not number one, we're a little disappointed. If we had a little more experience with this new Dodge body, we might of have done better with it. It's much better aerodynamically than what we've had, but we don't have the weight balance right on the car.

"We were really trying to get after it on that last run," Bazemore added. "We were trying to run a seventy and it raised the nose up. We are in a good position and we're not here to be runner up."

Gary Scelzi wielded the Dodge Motorsports/Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car to the 10th-qualified slot. The California resident will take on 11-time POWERade Funny Car World Champion John Force in round one.

"Dodge says 'Grab Life By the Horns,' and we grabbed the race track by the throat," Scelzi said. "We've had such good luck with these new Dodge Stratus bodies. We're a lot better team than we're showing right now. We're consistent and we just don't smoke the tires. We made some changes in Phoenix -- and knew they worked on (teammate Whit) Bazemore's car. We gave that set up two shots on Friday and they just didn't work. It got us behind, but we're okay and we can race this car now.

"Right now I like the left lane," continued Scelzi, who relinquishes choice in round one tomorrow. "Mainly because the sun is on the right hand side of that tree. Even with the LED lights, it's awfully bright. If we have choice tomorrow, we're going to try and stay in the left lane. It's slippery and I was driving it. It's planted, so I don't have to wrestle it like the old car."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Darrell Alderman , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Larry Morgan , Gene Wilson , Cruz Pedregon , Allen Johnson