Houston: Chevrolet Saturday notes

FUNNY CAR: SIX CAMAROS QUALIFY IN QUICKEST FUNNY CAR FIELD EVER JIM EPLER, WWF RACING 'STONE COLD' CAMARO Z28, was No. 1 qualifier going into today's final session, but ended up third at the end of the day, with a 4.892-second elapsed time at...


JIM EPLER, WWF RACING 'STONE COLD' CAMARO Z28, was No. 1 qualifier going into today's final session, but ended up third at the end of the day, with a 4.892-second elapsed time at 309.91 mph, set in last night's qualifying round. Epler leads a cadre of six Camaros that qualified for the 16-car field of nine entered.

Bruce Sarver's No. 1 qualifying 4.876/310.55 effort down to Johnny Gray's No. 16 qualifying run of 5.022/297.42, makes this the quickest Funny Car field in NHRA history.

WHIT BAZEMORE, KENDALL OIL/MATCO TOOLS CAMARO Z28, was not qualified as he entered the final qualifying session, experiencing tire shake and traction problems in the first three rounds. He and crew chief Terry Manzer put together an outstanding run when it counted, placing Whit in fifth with a 4.919-second pass at 313.00 mph, the fastest speed of the weekend.

BOB GILBERTSON, STEWART & STEVENSON/TRICK TANK CAMARO Z28, posted his career best elapsed time today of 4.934 seconds and career-best top speed of 308.28 mph, placing him sixth on the grid. Bob arrived at this event with a new sponsor and a very visible camouflage-painted tow truck.

PHIL BURKART, TEAM GERONIMO CAMARO Z28, is No. 13, 4.993/311.41.

RON CAPPS debuted a new U.S. TOBACCO CO. CAMARO Z28 body and chassis this weekend. The crew put the car together so quickly that the body was still in primer with the appropriate decals applied. This gave the Camaro an eerie, velvety look on the track and on the t.v. monitor. Ron's outstanding passes in Dallas this week during testing gave the team hope for a good weekend here. His only good run this weekend was in the first qualifying session, 5.007/275.00, which held throughout qualifying to earn him the No. 14 spot.

CRISTEN POWELL, BAZEMORE RACING'S NITROFISH/MATCO TOOLS CAMARO Z28, didn't qualify in the last race in Memphis, but squeaked out a No. 15 in the final qualifying session here with a 5.010/294.75 pass.

EPLER: "Tomorrow we get to take on Capps in the first round for Jerry (Toliver, who is in a points battle for second place with Capps) and he's 16 points behind going into the event. If things go right we meet Jerry in the second round. But you can never underestimate Ron Capps. It doesn't matter where he qualifies, he can always step up."

ON THE LAST SESSION, ATTEMPTING TO RECLAIM NO. 1 QUALIFYING SPOT: "The numbers were fantastic, and then about half-track the Camaro got a loose feeling and I shut it off."

BAZEMORE: "It felt good. We were definitely behind the 8-ball. The car is just inconsistent and it makes it hard for Terry (Manzer, crew chief). It makes it hard for the whole team to get a handle on it because you don't know what it's going to do. So it's been a frustrating weekend in that aspect. We knew after the run this morning (5.134/271.79) that if we could repeat that run and get the Camaro hooked up to the finish line -- actually from 400 feet on -- it would run pretty good. Terry made the right call, got a handle on it and it ran a .91."

WERE YOU NERVOUS GOING IN TO THE LAST SESSION? "I wasn't nervous. I was concerned for the NitroFish/Matco Tools Camaro because it wasn't in, but once I got into this car I totally forgot that they ran two pairs in front of us. (Crew member) Chris Forton said Cristen did an .01 so I knew they got in. This final session was real stellar. Guys did their career best, like Gilbertson. They ran really well; that was exciting. It made it nerve-wracking for the Cristen's car because they could have gotten bumped out. You just have to be ready to pedal it. You can't make a mistake. You're just a little more focused than normal. I was so focused on what I had to do. It's a big thing financially for the NitroFish car to qualify; it needs to qualify."

ON THE QUICKEST FUNNY CAR FIELD IN HISTORY: "(With rumors of more Funny Car teams coming in) you are looking at Funny Car being really, really stout next year as a class. We might have 16 or 17 well-funded cars and the sport has never had that before. It might be the kind of thing that if you qualify 13th or 14th -- that's not bad -- you have every chance of winning. Same as if you qualify second, third or fourth. It's going to be exciting."

ON FACING TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (who replaces Whit at Etchells Racing in 2001)

IN THE FIRST ROUND: "We're friends. He's a good driver. Next year I know that Terry and this crew will have a very, very good team and Tommy is going to do a lot for this team, in my opinion. He's a good driver and I look forward to racing him. But tomorrow I expect us to win just like next year I expect us to win. We will have to be on our game next year, especially because he's going to be in a good car and he's a good driver."

CAPPS: "I think we are just going through teething pains. We have some really weird things happening here. Of course the test session went great with the new Murf McKinney car. The crew had to thrash to put this new Camaro body together. The guys put this car together in just a few days. We found a couple of leaks here and there and a couple of things you go through with a new car. I don't worry about the first round. Once we're in the show, that's all I need to know. Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) and the guys have a habit of going out and running well on Sunday. We're going to have a tough first round with Jim Epler. That's what we get for qualifying so far down in the field. It's about having faith. You have to have faith in everyone around you."

ON HAVING A TOUGH TIME HERE: "In the first qualifying run we were on a low .90 or high .80 run and it spun the tires at the top end. It was the first qualifying session and there was not enough rubber on the track. Since then we did some things, made some changes here and there. We're just trying to get through the teething pains with a new car. It's a great car and it will be very good for us in the future. I feel very confident. I really have no apprehensions at all and even about running Epler (in the first round). Anybody in the top 16 is tough. We knew we would run somebody good. We're going to have to take ourselves out of that position. In Memphis we didn't qualify the best, but we won the race. We just have to keep that attitude."

GILBERTSON: "That was fun. The old Camaro pulled through for us, didn't she? This car has been trying to do this since Maple Grove. This is the first actual time I got to drive it to the finish line. We have been quicker than that a couple of times until half-track. We're happy."

WHAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE, THE NEW PAINT JOB? "Maybe. Actually it had eight cylinders for 1300 feet. We haven't done anything different. Paul Smith (crew chief) had this thing on the verge of doing this at Maple Grove. It helps everybody when you have a little more money sitting around. My budget ran out in July. Stewart & Stevenson is a big company that makes trucks. It's a business connection with my company Trick Tank and they want to put that truck commercially on the market. Instead of just selling it to the military they're selling it to everybody. They've never been to the drag races before and they think it's really neat. FMTV on the car stands for Family Medium Tactical Vehicle. They have different arrangements for the back end of the truck; from a missile launcher to a dump truck to a wrecker, or to tow another car. There are a lot of different versions of it. It costs about the same as one of the Hummers."

POWELL: "At Memphis and in the first two passes here we had a clutch problem. The disc or floaters in the clutch were wearing too much. At the same point every run the clutch would grab and it would smoke the tires. The crew would back it down and back it down, but it would still smoke. Friday night we figured it out, we dialed it in, but we were on the outside looking in going into the final session. We managed to get it in; we feel confident for tomorrow." ON FACING JOHN FORCE IN THE FIRST ROUND: "He's beaten me twice; I owe him. Everyone I told that I'm racing him in the first round said 'oh.' It's going to feel really good to beat him. I like racing him; hopefully our Camaro will prevail. Before the last round I was sitting in the car worried. We didn't want to be in the top half of the field; we just wanted to get in. I didn't want to be too greedy."


KURT JOHNSON, ACDELCO CAMARO Z28, who didn't qualify at the last event in Memphis, qualified No. 1 for the fourth time season with a 6.902-second elapsed time at 199.55 mph in the final qualifying session.

KURT: "It was the best run, obviously, that we made all weekend because of the e.t. and I was just sitting in the seat. It was definitely smooth. We made some major changes on the clutch, because we just couldn't get a hold of the race track in second gear. Second gear was a problem the first three runs. It obviously paid off, because it picked up from 60 foot to 330 foot; that was a big difference in the run."

ON BOUNCING BACK AFTER DNQing IN MEMPHIS: "Memphis was just kind of a glitch. The motor wasn't right. The car wasn't right. We found some problems with some of the suspension. It was just one of those things. We went out and tested. We made 19 runs and here we are today. Hard work pays off. We just brought a barrel of gas and a bag of sandwiches and went testing."

The only other Camaro to qualify in the Pro Stock field was RICKIE SMITH, in the BUCKS COUNTY KAWASAKI CAMARO Z28. He's No. 9, 6.947/198.61.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Jim Epler , Ron Capps , Johnny Gray , Paul Smith