Gainesville Pontiac Racing Saturday Notes

PONTIAC NOTES & QUOTES 30th ANNUAL MAC TOOLS GATORNATIONALS SATURDAY, MARCH 20, 1999 GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 20, 1999) - Qualifying was completed today for the 30th Annual Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.

PONTIAC NOTES & QUOTES 30th ANNUAL MAC TOOLS GATORNATIONALS SATURDAY, MARCH 20, 1999 GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 20, 1999) - Qualifying was completed today for the 30th Annual Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. Warren Johnson took the No. 1 qualifying position in Pro Stock driving his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird to an elapsed time of 6.906 seconds at 200.47 mph. Mark Pawuk's Summit Racing Firebird jumped to the No. 3 qualifying spot during the morning session with a quarter-mile run of 6.914 seconds at 199.20 mph. Jim Yates is qualified fourth, George Marnell is seventh, Steve Schmidt is eighth and Tom Martino is 13th. In Funny Car, Cruz Pedregon's Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird took the No. 4 qualifying spot during the afternoon qualifying session with an elapsed time of 4.890 seconds at 307.51 mph. Tim Wilkerson is qualified sixth, Dale Creasy Jr., is 13th, Al Hofmann is 14th and Del Worsham is 16th. The No. 1 qualifier in Funny Car is Whit Bazemore. In Top Fuel, Cory McClenathan's MBNA/Pontiac Top Fuel dragster suffered a morning qualifying mishap that totaled the team's primary race car. McClenathan is qualified 13th and will race his back up car in the first round against Doug Herbert. The No. 1 qualifier is Larry Dixon.

PRO STOCK

Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) We changed the engine in my car for the final qualifying session. That was an engine we leased to Troy Coughlin last year. We've been beating up our race day engine on the dyno pretty hard recently, and we used it in the last two races, so we thought we'd give it a rest for the last qualifying run. Now we have the dilemma of deciding which engine to run tomorrow. Yesterday there seemed to be a discernable difference between the lanes, but today they evened out. I don't look for a significant difference tomorrow unless one of the lanes is subjected to a severe oil down. No. 1 qualifier - 6.906ET/200.47MPH

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) We just got a little behind the learning curve when we first arrived here and then today we tuned the engine up and ended up blowing a head gasket out of it during this afternoon's run. We'll fix that for tomorrow. This morning we ran the 6.92 and it looked like it still had a lot left in the clutch - we were really, really aggressive. This engine wants to run a real high rpm and that makes the clutch extremely aggressive with that kind of an rpm. So we had to detune the clutch quite a bit from the level we normally we run. But the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird responded when we changed the clutch around for this afternoon's session and we were a lot faster to the 60-foot, to the 330 and the eighth-mile but then from the eighth to the finish line it just ran over itself. We got back and found that we had blown the head gasket out of it.

We're still experimenting. We're doing too much broad tuning, changing big things and when you do that you're either going to be a hero or a zero. This Firebird ran good, but we overdid it really. We'll put new head gaskets on it and it will be ready in the morning. Now we just have to go back and figure out what we have to do to prevent that because when we accomplish that, this car will actually run faster. It's a tough field out there right now and tomorrow it's going to get even tougher. From a pure performance standpoint, this car can run with anybody. Warren (Johnson) and Kurt (Johnson) both have a little bit of an advantage, but we got plenty of tough racing to do before we need to start worrying about them. No. 4 qualifier - 6.921ET/198.82MPH

George Marnell (Dynomax Pontiac Firebird) What we've been doing today is working on race day setup. I don't know if the weather's going to be good enough for us to set low elapsed time and I don't even know if we have the horsepower to do it any way, but we're still going to try and make a better run. We're changing things around on the Dynomax Firebird to try and get a good race day set up, but I think if you run anywhere close to where you want to be it will be a good step in the right direction. Depending on what the weather does tomorrow of course, if it cools off tomorrow, we're going to be faster. We're just trying to get a good solid run in and get the car down the track in good fashion. If we can run anywhere in the 6.90s, we'll be in good shape. No. 7 qualifier - 6.935ET/198.35MPH

Steve Schmidt (Dynagear Pontiac Firebird) On the first run, the Dynagear Pontiac Firebird shook the tires a little bit and the second run it just wasn't good. We were off a little bit, I didn't do a good job of driving and those two factors worked against us. This morning Terry Adams (crew chief) did a real nice job getting this car ready and fortunately, the driver did his job and we made a pretty good run. The conditions probably won't be there to improve, but we certainly could have run better than we did. I think tomorrow when eliminations start, we'll be as fast and as competitive as anybody. Most of the guys out here think that left lane has been significantly better. Barring any unforeseen calamities to that lane, that's probably the one we would choose if we were racing right now. No. 8 qualifier - 6.936ET/198.52MPH

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) Today I don't think we could have made a better run. Everything went right this morning for the Summit Racing Firebird. Everybody has been working so hard. We've done some extensive testing, had some bad breaks and finally things just came together. We were a little heavy and it kind of spun the tires a little in first gear, but I'm not complaining. When I looked over I saw Warren (Johnson) just out in front of me in high gear and I thought maybe he had made a bad run. It's nice to know that we were that close to him. We're looking forward to fine tuning this Pontiac this afternoon and going some rounds on Sunday. The motor that we're running this weekend is still not 100 percent, but obviously it's not too bad. We had to ship another motor down here this week from Ohio and we still haven't been able to run two of our best motors. They're hurt in the trailer. But it's not just the engines. We've got this Summit Racing Firebird working a lot better. The guys at the engine shop have been working pretty hard and the crew has really been beating on this race car. We've made about 60 laps in the last month and right now, whatever we touched, it's got this car working in the first part of the race track. When you bump the number on the first half it's going to look good on the back half. We're up and we're ready to go. No. 3 qualifier - 6.914ET/199.20MPH

FUNNY CAR

Cruz Pedregon (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) The Interstate Batteries Firebird was definitely on a low elapsed time pass until the blower belt let go. It got a little loose upstairs so Wes (Cerny) is going to make the necessary adjustments and I don't see any reason why we can't be in the top three in qualifying. Obviously we would like to be No. 1 but we'll see what happens. It's definitely capable of being there. Everything's working good, it's just a matter of making the adjustments. We'd feel good if we were to go into race day right now, but at the same time, we would like to improve in the next qualifying session. The pass this morning felt great. It was really motoring down through there early but I did feel it come loose. I hung with it because I knew we had a chance to move up in the field. Overall, it had incremental times good for a 4.80 pass, but on the back half it slowed down because it was loose. That's a situation where Wes will make the necessary adjustments and make it happen. No. 4 qualifier - 4.890ET/307.51MPH

Tim Wilkerson (JCIT Pontiac Firebird) I think we just learned what it's going to take to go down the race track tomorrow. Terry (Manzer) has spent a lot of time getting acclimated to these new clutch discs and he's got it back to being good enough to where I can drive this JCIT Pontiac Firebird. We were just running the clutch fast trying to go quicker ourselves during that last pass. The 4.80s are falling out of the sky like rain but I think we're going to be just fine tomorrow. It's going to be a good day of racing. I'm real happy that our car is getting down the race track and doing it in fine fashion. The computer doesn't show that we're on the edge of disaster so the car seems to be pretty safe. All three of the runs that we cut short would have been in the 4.90s if I would have run them to the end. I put the nose up on that last past by about a foot and when it came back down, it kind of porpoised around and got over to the centerline. There was no sense in hitting the cones so I got out of it. Terry's got a handle on this Firebird though. We changed the blower for that run hoping that would take care of our cylinder dropping problem and that seemed to do the trick. It was strong - an easy 4.80 pass if I could have kept it in the center of the groove. We'll be good tomorrow and we'll race with anybody who wants to race. No. 6 qualifier - 4.929ET/294.75MPH

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) I am really frustrated right now, but there's a lot to be pumped about really. We made a mistake in the first session today, just overpowered the track at the starting line. Of course, it's not in your normal mindset to worry about qualifying when you've got a 5.09, but I think we all better get used to it. So we went out there pretty aggressive and it didn't hook up. The good news was we had a real good idea of what to do, and the Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird reacted juts like I thought it would. I just thought if it got off the line it would go all the way. So it really surprised me when it smoked the tires at half track. But, we're still kind of learning how to go this fast. It was on a mid-4.90 until half track, maybe better, then it plain overpowered the track. And another thing to be happy about is the motor looked beautiful after the run. We had been hurting parts up until today, but we seemed to have solved that. The good news is we learned a lot from both laps today, two laps that didn't look exactly pretty but sure took us to school. We didn't hurt anything and we now feel we can make it hook up and go. And when it dies, it will go! No. 16 qualifier - 5.095ET/257.28MPH

Al Hofmann (Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird) We went up there trying to run better and we can't keep the clutch in this Pontiac Firebird Funny Car. The motor gets ahead of the clutch and then the clutch tries to catch up, and then the tires get behind the clutch. It's been running good early and we consider ourselves pretty lucky to get down through there the first time with the 5.05. To be honest with you we probably could have run another five-oh if we wanted to but with this field, that's not going to get you very far. We're out there trying to run in the 4.80s and 4.90s. We certainly have the power to do that. We feel like we're just inches from being where we need to be and if we can figure it out, Force is in trouble tomorrow. We don't have an engine problem, it's a clutch disc problem. We had a handle on it late last year and we bought a couple of hundred more. We're getting close to it though. It's not like they're falling out of the car or anything, it's just that we're having problems in that one spot. We're going to keep beating on it though. Usually this Firebird knows when it's running Force and seems to rise to the occasion. We'll see what happens but don't be surprised if it's not a tire smoking battle all the way to the other end. No. 14 qualifier - 5.053ET/301.27

TOP FUEL

Cory McClenathan (MBNA/Pontiac) We have realized that we really need to step it up and be able to run 4.50s consistently to be competitive. Our problem is that we don't want to try and do it all at one time. It looks like you need to run in the mid 'fifties' to be successful at winning races so we're going to try and step it up. Even though we've been consistently running around 4.63 or 4.64, the good thing is that it gives me a chance to make it a drivers game. If you can make it down the track every single time, it kind of pushes the other guy to be able to do the same thing. Those guys running in the middle fifties don't seem to be able to do that every time. Only a couple of cars have been able to and in that respect I feel better that we have a good consistent car -- that puts me in a position where I have the opportunity to leave on the guy and be able to do my job driving. I would much rather get down the track every time than every once in a while.

After First Qualifying Session: When the crank broke, it took out the left rear tire. I saw the car was going to the right (guardrail), so I just let it go that way. When the car stopped, I saw something over my left shoulder. It was the magneto drive. I felt something hit me in the back when the engine let go. The force drove me into the cross-strap (on the safety harness, which is between his legs) pretty hard, and I had trouble getting my breath. That's why I got out of the car and was on the ground for a while. The car was on a good run. It was our quickest time to half-track, then the engine started nosing over. When the engine came out, it twisted the frame rails, so we'll be switching to our back-up car. No. 13 qualifier - 4.630ET/309.42MPH

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Troy Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Dale Creasy Jr. , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Terry Adams , Steve Schmidt