GM Racing Phoenix Friday notes

PHOENIX, February 16, 2001 - Qualifying for the 17th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals got underway today at Firebird International Raceway. In Pro Stock, Mike Edwards drove the Young Life Pontiac Firebird to the No. 1 qualifying spot...

PHOENIX, February 16, 2001 - Qualifying for the 17th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals got underway today at Firebird International Raceway. In Pro Stock, Mike Edwards drove the Young Life Pontiac Firebird to the No. 1 qualifying spot with a run of 6.886 seconds at 199.88 mph. Warren Johnson's GM Goodwrench Service Plus Grand Am turned the best lap of the afternoon qualifying session with a 6.892 elapsed time at 200.29 mph. That was good enough for the No. 2 starting spot. Ron Krisher is third in a Firebird, Mark Pawuk is fourth in a Grand Am and Jim Yates is fifth in a Grand Am. Kurt Johnson's ACDelco Cavalier is qualified 14th.

Whit Bazemore's Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird stands atop the first all-four second field Funny Car field in NHRA history with a lap in the second qualifying session of 4.848 seconds at 312.06 mph. Chuck Etchells is qualified second in the Kendall Camaro, Ron Capps is third in a Camaro, Bruce Sarver is fourth in a Firebird and Tommy Johnson Jr. is fifth in a Camaro.

In Top Fuel Mike Dunn's Gwynn/Steinbrenner/GMC Yankee Dragster ran the quickest quarter mile under the 90-percent rules, and the second fastest top speed in NHRA history with a pass in the second qualifying session of 4.521 seconds at 328.22 mph.

The 17th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals on February 16 - 18 is the second of 24 events on the NHRA championship tour. Two hours of qualifying coverage will be broadcast on ESPN2 on February 17th beginning at 11 p.m. Eastern followed by one round of early-round eliminations on ESPN on February 18th beginning at 2 p.m. Two hours of eliminations coverage will be broadcast on ESPN2 on February 18th starting at 6 p.m. Eastern.

PRO STOCK

Mike Edwards (Young Life Pontiac Firebird) -
"Just looking at the way Kurt's (Johnson) Cavalier runs, it appears that they're considerably better on the back half of the track. We haven't made a run with Ron's car (Cavalier) yet, so he has the potential of stepping way on up. We're anxious to get the new Cavalier, but at the same time, this Pontiac Firebird continues to do the job for us. You hate to park a car that runs so good - even better than it did last year. We have to make that change, we're going to do it and we're excited about the possibility of it making things that much better. Ron (Krisher) was really fast at Pomona. He had some malfunctions in the first round, but once we get it dialed in to this track I think it will be fast again. We have had two great races since we've started this two-car team deal and it's really turned out good for me. I'd like to thank all the people at Young Life and all the foundations that support Young Life. It's a win-win situation for me because I get to race and tell people about Christ.

Explain the increase in your workload since going to the two-car team.
"It's a lot of work especially when the qualifying sessions are back-to-back like that. I don't know how the Fuel Cars are doing it. For us, we're getting everybody in place to get the job done, but it keeps us busy. Things have gone pretty good for the first two races and that makes it easier."

Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Grand Am) -
"That second run was just indicative of what we should've done earlier today. We just came out and second guessed the track a little bit because we're playing with some new combinations on this new Grand Am. We just missed it and didn't make a good run in the first session. We made the necessary adjustments and it was obviously a better run. That's part and parcel to what GM's invested in these new Grand Ams and Cavaliers. They wanted a better envelope, something more up-to-date and the result is a better racecar. I have the same exact engine we used last year. In fact, that engine hasn't really been apart--we've been concentrating on the car. There's that much performance difference between the Firebird, which was a good racecar, and the Grand Am, which is that much better."

Kurt Johnson (ACDelco Chevy Cavalier Z24) -
"The Cavalier shows a good balance in the wind tunnel as far as frontal weight to rear weight. We took it down to Florida for testing and made some consistent runs the last few days we were there. We went out to Pomona with the only Cavalier there and made eight great passes in a row. We're kind of in awe with the way the season has started. We ran good this morning with the 6.88. We weighed before the run and we were fine. We weighed after the run and were 10 pounds light. There were five other cars light so there was obviously a problem with the scales. We're making our living out here. Either get it fixed or show some leniency. We ran 6.95 on that last run. The track definitely needs some more rubber out there. It's only slick because it's not flat, but it will gradually get better as the weekend wears on. We're happy though with the way things are going with this new car. The driver has to get used to it, the crew has to get used to working on it - it's a whole new learning curve figuring out what the car likes. It's temperamental but we've just scratched the surface. Every run we learn something new on it. We'll know more five months from now."

FUNNY CAR

Whit Bazemore (Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird) -
"Knowing what Lee (Beard) did to the car on the tune up for that run, I knew that if it made it down the track it would be an excellent time. This Firebird is so smooth and easy to drive that it actually feels slow. But the potential for a good lap was there and that's what we were able to accomplish. The Funny Car class right now is so strong with Prudhomme having two cars, and Etchells with two cars that are running well. The depth of talent and resources has made the Funny Car class ultra competitive right now and it's exciting to be a part of it and it's exciting to be a part of a good team. Our car was soft and easy which tells us the Matco Pontiac has a lot of room to improve. Right now I don't feel like we're pushing the envelope at all and that's a good sign. We're taking very small steps. This season is going to be brutal. At Pomona, we were fortunate to get by Force in the first round. No one's giving this team any credit so it feels good right now to be sitting on top. We're working hard and we'll let our hot rod do our talking for us."

Chuck Etchells (Kendall/Matco Tools Chevrolet Camaro) --
"That run was a mess. Our Camaro left really well, and was running strong. But when it got to half-track, it picked the front end about a foot and a half in the air and started heading towards the centerline. I corrected it, but it wasn't coming back, and probably got within a foot of crossing the center line, to the point that I was about to shut it off. I had the wheels cut way down, and it finally came back, but went too far. Even so, it was a great run, and almost ended up No. 1. If it didn't do what it did, I'm guessing it would have been a 4.80 flat. I was real confident going in, because I watched Jim's car right in front of us, which was the first time I ever saw one of my cars run in front of me. (2001 marks the first year of Etchells Racing's 2-car effort.) Knowing our cars were basically the same, it made me feel pretty sure of getting down the racetrack and run as least as well as he did. It's a great feeling to have the Kendall/Matco Camaro in the second spot right now with Jim's car sixth. Obviously tomorrow we're going to work on keeping him in the top half of the field, although I don't think lane choice here is a factor. A lot of people are saying the right lane is better, but both our cars went down the left. The good thing is Terry Manzer, Larry Meyer, Mark Conyers and the entire Etchells Racing team can now focus on getting a good race day combination that will let us go up and down this racetrack. If we do that tomorrow, we should have a good day on Sunday."

Ron Capps (Skoal Racing Chevrolet Camaro) -
"The first lap was great. We put this Camaro body back together that we blew up in Pomona. It's kind of our primary body so it was important for us to get it fixed. We were No. 1 qualifier after first lap and we tried to get after it second lap. It got out there and shook a little bit, but we knew that we were solid in the field. That's the luxury of getting in the field early. You can really get after it because you're not sweating it out trying to get in the field in the last session. The car ran right on the number we tested here with. We ran two 4.87s in testing so we know this car has a lot more in it. It's not even hiking the front end up like it did last year when we ran hard, so that just tells me there's a lot left."

Tommy Johnson Jr. (Skoal Racing Chevrolet Camaro) -
"It's been a pretty good day. We started off No. 1 and 2 and then ending up three and five's not too bad. You always hope to do better. You get spoiled in a hurry here. You run a 4.91 in the second session and ask, 'is that all?' But being consistent with a 4.89 and a 4.91, we can build on that tomorrow. We'll use what we learned on those two runs - this Skoal Racing Camaro will definitely run better. It was actually kind of soft on both runs. We tried to get a little more aggressive on the second run but it didn't seem to react. We'll find out why, make some changes and go quicker."

TOP FUEL

Mike Dunn (Gwynn/Steinbrenner/GMC Yankee Dragster) -
"We ran those kinds of laps last year but the car has so much potential. We could've run those kind of numbers at Pomona, but it was unseasonably hot so we were just trying to get down the track. We'd never run in those greasy conditions so I feel the crew did a great job just getting this car to run three laps on Sunday, we just missed it in the finals. Now we're at a good track - Charlie Allen's guys have done a great job adding to the concrete and the track is nice and smooth. These cars used to shake a lot but now you can tell the effect of the new concrete by the number of cars that are getting down the track. Our car didn't' shake the first two runs -- we were very aggressive on the very first run. We just missed on the tune up a little bit. We backed it down, ran her soft out in the middle and it still went 328 mph. I knew it was fast because it pulled all the way down. But I can't tell the difference between 320 and 328, you just know it's going to be fast."

-NHRA-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Dunn , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , Ron Krisher , Chuck Etchells , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr.