Gateway: Pontiac Racing final qualifying

ST. LOUIS, June 23, 2001 - Qualifying for the 5th annual Sears Craftsman Nationals was completed today at Gateway International Raceway. During the morning's first session, Warren Johnson drove the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Grand Am to...

ST. LOUIS, June 23, 2001 - Qualifying for the 5th annual Sears Craftsman Nationals was completed today at Gateway International Raceway. During the morning's first session, Warren Johnson drove the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Grand Am to the No. 1 qualifying position with a track-record elapsed time and speed of 6.865 seconds at 200.65 mph. It is the 124th time that the "Professor" of Pro Stock has achieved top qualifying honors at a national event, and with 697 career round wins going into Sunday eliminations, Johnson needs just three round wins tomorrow to reach 700.

"We're still trying to figure out the idiosyncrasies of this new racecar and what it likes under certain conditions," said Johnson. "But we probably made as good a run this morning that we could possibly make - I don't think we left too much on the table with that one. Last night we just missed it but today we were right on target.

"All you can hope to try and do out here is your best. We're all out here with the same purpose, to win the championship, and although everyone may approach the goal slightly differently, whoever does the best on any particular Sunday is going to leave that race with the most points. But really, the only time you need the points lead is after the last race."

With Warren Johnson taking top qualifying honors, that moved last night's lead performer, Reher-Morrison Grand Am pilot Bruce Allen down to the No. 2 starting position, and ACDelco Chevy Cavalier driver Kurt Johnson to No. 3.

Ron Krisher is qualified in the No. 4 spot in a Cavalier. Tom Martino is fifth in the Century 21 Grand Am with a 6.878 elapsed time at 200.26 mph, and Jim Yates is sixth in the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac with a 6.881 second run at 199.88 mph. John Nobile anchors the 16-car starting field with a 6.910 elapsed time at 199.11 mph.

Bruce Sarver drove the e-moola.com Pontiac Firebird to the No. 1 Funny Car qualifying spot. It is the second time this season that Sarver will start Sunday eliminations at the top of the ladder, and the first time that he, and Top Fuel dragster teammate Gary Scelzi have accomplished the feat at the same event.

"We wanted to run a little quicker tonight than what we did," said Sarver. "We spun the tires at about 900 feet and that slowed us down at the top end. If we can fix it down course just a tiny bit, this Pontiac Firebird will be a real good racecar tomorrow. That's going to be important because this track is going to be even trickier tomorrow.

"The transition here is at 500 feet where at a lot of tracks it's around 700 to 800 feet. The key tomorrow will be to get after it as hard as you can on the good part of the racetrack so that your momentum can carry you through the transition without spinning the tires."

Sarver took advantage of optimum track and air conditions on Friday night streaking to a track-record elapsed time of 4.851 seconds at 309.34 mph. With conditions deteriorating throughout the day, Sarver's performance numbers withstood the assault of two final rounds of time trials.

"The Funny Car class this year is just brutal," said Sarver. "It's almost getting to be like Pro Stock where if you didn't get in last night, you could be in trouble. Everyone knew it was going to be tough today and tomorrow it's going to be more of the same."

Tony Bartone's Friday night run of 4.853 seconds with a track-record top speed of 315.86 mph was good for the No. 2 starting spot. It is Bartone's best qualifying effort of the season. His 4.936 second run in the WWF Pontiac Firebird in the final qualifying round was the best lap of the session and makes Bartone one of the favorites to win on Sunday.

"We have a pretty good racecar for tomorrow," said Bartone. "We have a good hot weather tune up and we seem to be headed in the right direction. With our performance last night and the fact that we were the quickest here tonight, I think we have a pretty good shot."

Tony Pedregon and John Force are qualified third and fourth. Dean Skuza sits in the No. 5 position and Whit Bazemore is qualified sixth in the Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird. Bartone's WWF teammate Jerry Toliver holds down the 16th and final starting position in a Pontiac Firebird with a 4.978 elapsed time at 297.88 mph

Same-day coverage of final eliminations can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, June 24, beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern.

-GM Racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , John Nobile , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Tony Bartone , Dean Skuza , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Ron Krisher , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Jerry Toliver