Gateway: Mopar final qualifying

MADISON, Ill. (June 23, 2001) - The next-generation Dodge Motorsports Dakota R/T of Todd Patterson remained the number one qualifier for tomorrow's Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals Pro Stock Truck eliminator at Gateway International Raceway, just ...

MADISON, Ill. (June 23, 2001) - The next-generation Dodge Motorsports Dakota R/T of Todd Patterson remained the number one qualifier for tomorrow's Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals Pro Stock Truck eliminator at Gateway International Raceway, just outside St. Louis.

Hot-and-sticky weather created slower-qualifying conditions, allowing Patterson to maintain the first top qualifier of his Pro Stock Truck career and the first for Dodge since David Nickens qualified number one during the 1998 Mopar Parts Nationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J. Patterson ran a track record 7.452-second elapsed time at 180.81 mph during Friday's second session.

"The track is throwing everybody a curveball right now," said Patterson, who takes on Vinny Barone in the first round. "The track is a lot hotter and everybody's 60-foot times are reflecting that right now. That's why you saw the drop off in performances.

"We were pleased to be the quickest truck of the fourth session," Patterson continued. "We feel pretty fortunate to be able to do as well as we did. It looks like it's going to be pretty tight for tomorrow because everybody is bunched together."

Patterson talked about Sunday strategy.

"First of all, we're going to make a decision on which engine to run," Patterson said. "We took the number-one qualifying engine out last night and just wanted to get some laps on this new piece. We're going to evaluate and go through our notes to see what engine we feel like will be the strongest. We're going to set the truck up to try to go down a hot race track and hopefully make it from A to B better than everybody else. Ultimately, we'll put the number-one qualifying engine in the truck because we think it's the quicker of the two."

The Augusta, Kan., resident talked about the next-generation Dodge Dakota R/T and the revitalization of Dodge's Pro Stock Truck program.

"I think its great for Pro Stock Truck racing," Patterson commented. "I think it's exciting for all of the Dodge and Mopar fans across the country. It gives them somebody to root for. We do have a strong fan base at Gateway this weekend and we'd like nothing more than to put this Dodge Dakota R/T into the winner's circle tomorrow night."

Osborne Grabs Eighth Alderman Misses the Show

Mark Osborne, driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge R/T, will take lane choice in his first round match up with Mike Edwards, after grabbing the eighth-qualifying position with a 6.888-second elapsed time at 200.26 mph.

Osborne, from Abingdon, Va., will try to move up from his fifth-place Winston Pro Stock points position.

"We failed to get two cars in the show here again," Osborne commented. "But we qualified in the top half for the second race in a row and it's pretty lucky for me to do that. We're looking for a pretty good weekend. We're going to try to get dialed in a little better on the hot track and be on the go tomorrow.

Osborne also commented on the track conditions.

"The left lane seemed like it was the lane of choice before the last pass," Osborne said. "During the final session, it kind of flip-flopped a little bit. It's something we'll have to look at in the morning."

It was a disappointing weekend for three-time Winston Pro Stock World Champion Darrell Alderman. His Mopar Parts-sponsored Dodge R/T missed the show with a weekend best combination of 6.922/198.79.

"There just wasn't any track out there during that final session," Alderman noted. "It was just to hot. Oz and I both shook the tires right off the starting line. We changed a bunch of stuff on the car and thought we had a shot at getting in. When the track gets hot like that - it's all over."

Skuza Stays in Top Half

Dean Skuza took his Mopar Parts Dodge R/T Nitro Funny Car to the fifth position, after running a 4.867-second lap at 310.77 mph during Friday's cooler second qualifying session.

The Brecksville, Ohio resident will face Scotty Cannon in round one of eliminations.

"Even though the track deteriorated and we smoked the tires, we still learned something," said Skuza, on smoking the tires on his fourth qualifying pass. "In the late rounds tomorrow, we're going to have to back it down a little bit. We expect the track to get hotter as the day goes on tomorrow. It may actually be worse because it supposed to be warmer tomorrow."

Morgan Frustrated

Larry Morgan and his Dodge Motorsports R/T entry failed to make the top-16 qualifiers. The Pro Stock veteran clocked a 6.917-second lap at 198.09 mph, taking the 18th slot.

"You don't make your run in the right session - you're done," Morgan said. "We know we have problems with pistons. We're going to have new pistons this week. We were a little down on power, but we should have gotten in. I know we've got to fix our stuff and hopefully we'll have my new Pro Stock Neon by Denver.

"We know we can run with them," Morgan added. "But we just have to have our new cars. It's kind of hard to compete against those two-thirds scale cars with what we have right now."

Too Little, Too Late

The father and son duo of Dale and Craig Eaton missed the Pro Stock Truck field at this weekend's event.

Craig Eaton, who drives the Dodge Motorsports Pro Stock Truck entry, barely missed the field in the 17th-qualified slot with a 7.535-second lap at 177.60 mph. It was C. Eaton's last race with the older Dakota R/T.

"We made a really good run on that last one," C. Eaton said. "Unfortunately it was during the wrong session. We ended up 17th, which is not the first time this year. It was my last ride in this truck, and I'm looking real forward to getting the new truck in two weeks and start doing some testing."

The Mopar Parts Dodge Dakota R/T of Dale Eaton experienced the same fate as his son. D. Eaton clocked a 7.535/177.21 combination.

"This weekend was a learning experience," D. Eaton noted. "I've learned that we need new trucks. And we also need to go back and put some more power in these engines. I think that last run was indicative of what we can be capable of.

"We have suspension troubles on my truck and we don't know what it is - and don't care - because we're going to change that. That 7.56 run (fourth session) that Craig made had to have been in the top eight of the session, which means we were strong."


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Series NHRA
Drivers Darrell Alderman , Dean Skuza , Larry Morgan , Todd Patterson , Scotty Cannon , Mike Edwards