PONTIAC NOTES & QUOTES 1998 SEARS CRAFTSMAN NATIONALS SATURDAY, JUNE 27, 1998 MADISON, ILLINOIS PRO STOCK Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird) We went out there feeling that the No. 1 qualifying spot was secure so we tried...
PONTIAC NOTES & QUOTES 1998 SEARS CRAFTSMAN NATIONALS SATURDAY, JUNE 27, 1998 MADISON, ILLINOIS
Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird) We went out there feeling that the No. 1 qualifying spot was secure so we tried something different on the GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird to see if it would work out there and how far we could go with a particular setup. Obviously it didn't work and we won't venture off in that direction tomorrow. Basically it was a throwaway run where we had nothing else to look at and nothing to lose so that gave us the opportunity to try something new. I don't think lane choice tomorrow is going to be a life or death situation. I think we're going to be able to make the appropriate changes for each lane. Obviously, if you're running in the left lane you're going to have to make some gear ratio changes so you're not changing gears on the bumps. The bumps aren't that severe where you can't negotiate them, it's just a matter of making the proper selections and adjustments for each particular lane. No. 1 qualifier 7.012ET/197.06MPH (track record)
Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) We were real happy with the way the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird ran that time considering the changes we made. That's one of the first opportunities we've had this year to make a run and see how it would react to the changes without sacrificing a qualifying spot. We felt pretty confident that our qualifying spot was safe so we made some wholesale changes to the carburetors and the tune-up on the car. Some of them paid off and some of them didn't. We're going to go back this afternoon and back track a little bit to see if we can pick it up a little bit from there. The only way to get ahead is to try different things. Now we're able to do that and on that run it actually hurt us by about a hundredth. It also helped us in certain areas of where we're trying to eliminate specific things that are hurting us. There were a lot of 7.06s out there today, and yesterday we out ran those guys by about a couple of hundredths, so I think we left a little something on the table. The car shook pretty good in first and second gear and then down track it was a little off on performance. It's going to be a tough race tomorrow and the track will be extremely tricky. The guy who figures out how to get down this track when its hot and slick like it is right now is the guy who's going to win this race. No. 3 qualifier 7.047ET/194.46MPH
Tom Martino (Six Flags Pontiac Firebird) The Six Flags Pontiac Firebird was running pretty good in Chicago, we re-built the engine and hurt it a little bit on the dyno before we left for Columbus. We ran OK in Columbus, but not as good as we could have with a healthy motor. We fixed it for here and went back to the way we were running in Chicago. I'm not saying we're a No. 4 car but we're definitely a top-half car and it all depends on that little shuffle as to who makes a better run. We just happened to make a better run than some of the other guys. My first goal is to qualify on the pole. If I can't do that I want to be in the top-half and if I can't do that I just want to be above the line. So today, I'm ecstatic. Right now, we can make little changes to the car and it goes right along with those adjustments. Last year, one of the reasons we were so competitive was we could make a run, do pretty decent, come back, move a little of this and a little of that, go out and improve. Or, not run quite as good and go the other way a little bit. All year this car has been fighting us. If we had to change the clutch 50 pounds in the older car, in this car we have to change it 100 pounds. That's not right and we've needed to work the car around so that it's reacting to those changes. We've finally done that, and I say that under my breath because I don't want Christine (Martino's nickname for his race car) to hear me, but I think we finally got a bead on it. T-Rex is a pretty good motor but we put Spike-Tail on the dyno on Monday and he's even better! Spike-Tail will be in the car for Denver. We are positively thrilled that we ran as well as we did, and hopefully we can carry four good runs into tomorrow. We had an electronic malfunction in the last session that shut the car off in second gear, but other than that, we improved each time down the track. In fact, before it shut off, our last run looked pretty solid as well. We'll take tomorrow one round at a time. Naturally, we're looking to have our Six Flags Thrill Machine Firebird run well enough to advance and keep lane choice. I'm pretty confident that if we run as well as we did in qualifying, we're going to do well tomorrow. No. 4 qualifier 7.058ET/195.35MPH
Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) We're trying to make sure that the car makes it over the bump in that lane but the Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird made a real nice run. We made some changes and ran a better back half this morning than we did last night, which is very encouraging. We just had too much clutch in it, it shook real bad in low and did a wheel stand when I threw it in second. We were tied for second fastest in speed and we ran a good back half, so now if we get the front half straightened out, we're going to be in good shape. The first run today wasn't bad, but if we didn't make that run last night we wouldn't be in right now. We should have been able to run faster this morning but we just missed the tune-up a little bit. The way we've been running lately, it really puts some electricity into this team when we can make two good back-to-back passes. We've struggled to make consistent runs and I think we finally have a grip on our problem. It went right down both lanes, the car glided right over the bumps and that is very encouraging. No. 6 qualifier 7.067ET/195.05MPH
Bruce Allen (Outlaw Pontiac Firebird) We're searching for answers. The car spun straight up the second I let out the clutch. Something's wrong with the clutch but we don't know what it is. We need to turn things around in a hurry and get ready for this afternoon. It's going to be tough to qualify. At this point, I'd be happy with a clean run.
Second Session: Obviously we are disappointed. We plan on staying here in St. Louis and making some test runs on Monday and we have also scheduled an extra week in Denver to prepare for the next event. There are a lot of things we need to look at and we should be very busy over the next three weeks.
Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) I was more nervous about this run and getting in this race than I was when I raced against W.J. (Warren Johnson) in the finals in Chicago. I really felt like we had to qualify in this run or we weren't going to make it. We're now in and the pressure's off. Now we can switch from qualifying-mode to race-mode.
Second Session: We had two great runs today. That last one was real nice. At every point on the track our times were at or near the top of the list and we finished in a tie with Kurt Johnson for the best ET of that round. This is the best setup we've had all weekend and our confidence level is high. No. 7 qualifier 7.069ET/193.63MPH
Cruz Pedregon (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) Everyone was pretty relieved after that first run. We were confident, but at the same time we had to look at it as though we only had two more opportunities to make a good pass. We had a good game plan as far as what we would do if the car smoked the tires and I was prepared to do a few things depending on what happened. But as it turns out, we didn't have to do anything. The Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird performed great. This car never ceases to amaze me. I think back to a couple of races ago in Chicago where in the first session we were able to adjust and run in the 5.00s when the track was very similar to this. I really felt that if we didn't have any problems, like dropping a cylinder or what have you, we would be right down there. I'm not saying it surprised me, but I was relieved to get it in there. To jump up to No. 2 after missing the night session just shows you that we can do what it takes to make this car run great under any condition and it gives us a lot of confidence going into tomorrow. We're just going to race them one at a time and I'm just happy that the team has been able to maintain that high level of performance either qualifying in the No. 1 or No. 2 position. We're doing that every single week and eventually we're going to turn that into wins on the race track. But don't forget, we know how to win and we've been able to do that three times already this year. No. 2 qualifier 5.085ET/290.22MPH
Dale Creasy, Jr. (Creasy Racing Pontiac Firebird) That pass wasn't good to say the least. We tried to lean on the Creasy Pontiac Firebird to give it a little bit more power and it just wasn't there. We're going to try something else to get back into the show. We're out now, we're 17th, so we're going to jump on it and see what happens. It looks like the entire field made a move as far as the elapsed times dropping, but we knew that was going to happen and we just didn't make a good enough run to stay with the pack. You can't give these guys three or four runs and not expect them to learn the race track. That's what happened. The track doesn't get any better, it stays the same. You just need to stay smarter than the track. This morning it beat us and this afternoon we'll beat it. No. 17 qualifier 5.330ET/274.64MPH
Al Hofmann (GM Performance Parts Pontiac Firebird) It seems to be a one lane track, although some guys have got down the right lane. That time we got up there and lined up a little crooked. The GM Performance Parts Pontiac Firebird got out of the groove and spun the tires. It's no big deal. Last night, the car ran really good in the other lane, and we got off the throttle a little early thinking something was wrong with the motor. She should have run a 5.14, but right now we're waiting for another shot at that left lane because it seems to be little bit better. We're moving along pretty much according to plan. It's really hot and it's really tricky. Some of the guys have it figured out though. Cruz really jumped up with the 5.08 but the most impressive was Capps running that 5.13 in the right lane. That's a pretty tall order there. We're going to try and step it up so that we can get lane choice. If we do that we have as good of a chance as anybody. No. 11 qualifier 5.225ET/247.25MPH
Tim Wilkerson (JCIT Pontiac Firebird) We thought the JCIT Pontiac Firebird would run the 5.09 this morning. We actually broke the crankshaft during the first run and it wasn't supposed to do that. I got yelled at for pedaling it so I decided I wasn't going to do that this time. The conditions are really not as bad as they might appear. Like I said yesterday, the track isn't really that bad. You can see that the problems are out there at about 600 feet. We've devised a way to get through that and if we keep our heads on our shoulders tomorrow, we'll do the same thing. The motor is running great so that isn't a problem. The crank had 17 runs on it so we were asking a little too much from it. I don't know where our number compares to the rest of the field, but I know that Force ran a 5.19 and whenever you're a tenth better than the Winston champion, that makes you feel pretty good. I don't even think I can get left on by a tenth. This is really exciting. When I got back to the pit area, there were about 150 people waiting. Last year was just bad luck, and when we got to Denver we actually had things figured out. This year, we've been very consistent and have been able to get down the track as well as anybody. Our win will come. We just have to get there. I knew we would do better this year. I know the car and I know the team. That Pontiac Firebird is such a good car and those guys are from all around. We've got that Butterfield kid who worked for John Force's team and John Stewart's done a great job everywhere he's been. We got a bunch of winners there and I've told everybody that I'm the weakest link in that group. In actuality, I'm probably the guy with the least experience. As I continue to get better, you're going to see us win some races. Once we start winning, I think we'll be like Whit (Bazemore) was where we'll climb the ladder faster than anyone expects. It's also much better being a driver than a car owner. When the car shudders and shakes you don't worry about 50 bucks here and there. I get paid whether it blows up or not and it's a situation I like being in. I hope things continue to go along as well as they are. As far as I can tell, John Costanza's very happy with our program and what he's getting out of it. No. 1 qualifier 5.064ET (track record)/293.54MPH (track record)
Del Worsham (Checker-Schucks-Kragen Pontiac Firebird) Well, first of all, let me say that I'm glad and very relieved that we stayed in the show. We looked at the qualifying sheet long and hard and knew there were some good cars that could bump us if we didn't improve. Unfortunately, we were stuck in the right lane this time, and it just hasn't been able to support anything stout. I pedaled it once, but it smoked them again. We were the second pair, with all the cars behind us in the standings behind us in line, so that we had to sweat it out, and that pun is absolutely intended. With guys like Randy Anderson and Dale Creasy after us, it was not comfortable. I just look at that as we must have done something right just to get this Pontiac Firebird in the show, there were a few good cars that didn't. Tomorrow's a different day and we'll be out here to win. No. 15 qualifier 5.307ET/263.46MPH
Cory McClenathan (McDonald's/Pontiac) Progress-wise we're a little bit behind the eight-ball so to speak. We changed the combination on the motor a few weeks back and we haven't gotten a handle on it yet. First, it was smoking the tires and we tried to remedy that in a certain area it looks like everyone's at least hazing their tires at the transition. We changed the fuel system around now and we're just trying to get a handle on that. The fuse might be a little bit shorter than we would like it to be but we're not hurting anything too bad except for our feelings. We'd like to get back on track with the way the point standings are tightening up, but there's still a half season to go so we're not too worried about that. The McDonald's Pontiac has run so well this year that it's hard to get too upset. You start getting into a little slump, but we're working towards the future and when the combination comes around, it's going to be that much better with everyone chasing us. We need to stick with it and see what we come up with. No. 9 qualifier 4.787ET/294.40MPH
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