Team Pennzoil to turn up heat in Florida GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 8) -- The National Hot Rod Association's return to historic Gainesville Raceway for the 30th Annual Mac Tools Gatornationals presents the drivers of Team Pennzoil with an ...
Team Pennzoil to turn up heat in Florida
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 8) -- The National Hot Rod Association's return to historic Gainesville Raceway for the 30th Annual Mac Tools Gatornationals presents the drivers of Team Pennzoil with an opportunity to build on their early 1999 successes. Certainly, the anticipation of victory is extremely high in the Pennzoil stable as the various pros turn their attention to one of the quickest strips on the circuit.
The legendary Eddie Hill leads the charge with personal ambitions to go where no Top Fueler has gone before. Pro Stock pilot Bruce Allen hopes a win will help him move to the top of the Winston points standings. Fellow Pro Stocker Mike Thomas is anxious for a breakout race that will open the eyes of his competition. And sportsman driver extraordinaire Mike Ferderer is looking to perpetuate an incredible streak of wins.
Here's a look at each driver's championship gameplan.
Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, enters the weekend as one of the most decorated drivers in the history of Gainesville Raceway. Hill won the Gatornationals in 1993, '92 and '88. He also took runner-up honors in 1990 and '89. This time around Hill hopes to make history en route to his fourth Gainesville title.
"There are several of us knocking on the door of a 4.4-second lap," the 63-year-old Hill said. "It's the next major step. For our team to do it 11 years after breaking the four-second barrier would be the best thing to happen to us in a long time. Plus, it would get us that much closer to our goal of being the fastest and quickest car in the world.
"Gainesville is definitely a track that can produce big numbers. You can really let it all hang out there. I just love that track. Of course, any track where you've had success in the past is fun to go back to, but Gainesville really is one of my favorites. I'm really looking forward to getting back there. Especially when you look at the times we've been running already this year. We had a 4.535-second pass on seven cylinders in Pomona (Calif.) and then had incremental times in Phoenix that we're even better than the numbers we posted in Pomona. All the pieces are in place for us to make history."
Bruce Allen, the driver of The Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, is a former winner of the Gatornationals having captured the race's crown in 1988. Allen, who is currently just five points out of the top 10 of the Winston Championship points standings, hopes to make a big move towards the top of the class in Florida.
"If we can get a couple of rounds under our belt then we'll be right there," Allen said. "Winning the race is always your goal and when you do win then you don't even have to think about collecting points because all of that just takes care of itself. But your season-long plan is to win the points championship so you're really just collecting points at every race. We have a nice chance to jump up the standings in Florida so we're excited.
"As we saw last year, things can change in a hurry in Gainesville. To win there, you have to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws at you. It is an awesome track that is very smooth and very, very quick. I can't wait to get there."
Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, hopes to turn on the win light for the first time in 1999 at Gainesville Raceway. Thomas started 1999 with more promise than anyone. He ran the quickest elapsed time ever recorded - 6.845 seconds -- in January at Houston Raceway Park's Superbowl Challenge. The stunning, albeit unofficial mark had the Knoxville, Tenn. resident anxious to prove himself at the national level, a feat that mechanical gremlins have kept him from accomplishing so far.
"We're going to change all this bad luck in Gainesville," Thomas said. "We should have made several more runs like the (6.845-second) one in Houston by now. The power we're producing should give us a chance to win every race we go to. But, you have to get the right breaks every once in awhile. So far we haven't gotten any breaks.
"I see everything turning our way in Florida. If the weather is just right that track can be the quickest one on the circuit. If that's the case, then it would be a perfect time for us to make a statement to the rest of the Pro Stock class. My engines have all been freshened and everything is set for us to be extremely quick."
Mike Ferderer, the sportsman-class driver of the Pennzoil Super Gas Pontiac and the Gumout Super Comp Dragster, enters Florida with an unbelievable 1999 record of three wins in four events. Ferderer, who was last year's Car Craft Super Gas Driver of the Year, has become almost unbeatable in the Super Comp class, recording one national event win and two preseason victories in his dragster, all in the state of Arizona.
"So far, so good," Ferderer said. "What's encouraging is that I've been fighting hard to get these wins. I've had a bunch of problems at every race but I've been able to overcome them. Once things are set up the way I want them to be, I might really have a nice pair of racecars on my hands. Right now, it appears that the sky is the limit."