Houston Pontiac Monday Notes & Quotes

PONTIAC NOTES & QUOTES SECOND ANNUAL MATCO TOOLS SUPERNATIONALS MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 1998 HOUSTON, TEXAS FUNNY CAR CHAMPION - CRUZ PEDREGON (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) I just hope MBNA doesn't deduct the national record bonus from ...

PONTIAC NOTES & QUOTES SECOND ANNUAL MATCO TOOLS SUPERNATIONALS MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 1998 HOUSTON, TEXAS

FUNNY CAR CHAMPION - CRUZ PEDREGON (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) I just hope MBNA doesn't deduct the national record bonus from the sponsorship package that we have next year at Joe Gibbs Racing. Bonuses like that are nice, but the biggest thing for us is that we were out there trying to win a race. I've said that over and over again. It was a big, big boost for the Interstate Batteries Pontiac team. And the way we won, we pretty much came back from the dead. We've even nicknamed our car Frankenstein because of the way it's bolted together, it looks like Frankenstein's neck. She's a wounded Firebird, but she can still fly. The escape hatch where I climb out on top of the roof blew off in both the semi-finals against Force and in the final against Bazemore. Jason McCulloch, one of my crews guys told me that if the car becomes a convertible, don't lift because it means it's just the hatch blowing off. They put duck tape on it, but they need to rename the 200 mph tape 300 mph tape now. It didn't hold up so we need to get some better tape.

The win was what we were after, the record was just a bonus. That's icing on the cake. I can't tell you how ecstatic everyone is. I give all of the credit to Wes Cerny and the entire team. He said that we were just going to run the car and not even think about the record. We were just going for the win and it still ran a 4.84. That's a sign of a confident crew chief. He doesn't make changes on emotion. A lot of people, when they race someone like John Force, get caught up emotionally in the situation and end up beating themselves Wes sticks to his game plan and I think that, aside from his knowledge of running these cars, is his greatest attribute -- not getting emotional and worrying about who's in the other lane. I really wish there were more races left in the season because I think we could give Force a run for his money. We left some races on the table this year, we have to accept that, and look towards next year. We have contract extensions with our sponsors that we're going to announce soon and hopefully, we can get the win in Pomona, come back next year and try and finish where we left off.

With the problems you had Saturday in qualifying, did you change anything to get ready for today? To be honest with you, the win against Tom Hoover was about as ugly as it gets. Not only did we smoke the tires, but we hurt the engine as well. I really don't know what happened, we changed two motors which is very unusual for us. Wes is very good on equipment. Even for as fast and as hard as we run, he's not a believer in throwing parts away. He's very efficient and has a philosophy that these engines don't need to destroy themselves to perform the way you'd like. It was a parts gobbling day yesterday, in fact we had a blower explosion in our first round win at the finish line. What I'm excited about is that we had adversity and we fought back from it. I've seen Force do that time and time again and that shows the depth of a team that refuses to give up. We were ready to go last night. I fell asleep in my fire suit in the van and thought I was dreaming. Again, to beat John Force in the semi-finals was a big win. I got kind of caught up in that. But because of the lessons I've learned this year, I refocused and realized that the reason we were out here was to win the race. Force doesn't get beat very often when we he runs down the track. It's gratifying for us. He went out and ran a 4.91 in the other lane and we did our thing. He's the guy you have to beat to win the championship and I have a lot of respect for John.

PRO STOCK

Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird) We spun the tires hard in the middle of the track. There's no traction in that left lane. I got loose in the middle, he got by me by a length and a half and I couldn't make it up on the end. Either there's something wrong with the lane, or it's been oiled down too many times this weekend. One or the other it's hard to say. There's just nothing there in third and fourth gear. We preferred not to run last night because all of the cars were suffering from an excessive amount of dew on their windshields. I can race any day of the week, so it doesn't make any difference to me. We'll be ready for Pomona. We would like to go in there and run strong because that would be a nice boost and a momentum builder towards next year. If there's one thing I've learned over the years, you can't rest on your laurels, so even though we have another championship wrapped up this year, our goal is to continue to be the best team in the class and win another one next season. We have an engine that's been in the GM Goodwrench Firebird for four races. It's getting pretty tired, so we'll ship it back and freshen it up for Pomona. We'll be all right. We were in the drivers seat to win this race. We just made the mistake of picking the wrong lane and that's basically all it amounted to. Sometimes you're just going to make those mistakes. Lost in round two to Tom Martino

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) It was just a matter of not having lane choice. The Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird made about as good a run as we can make in that left lane right now. I think a 6.94 is nothing to be ashamed of. Tom just had an advantage by getting a shot this morning and his car's running excellent. The middle of the track is as loose as anything I've ever raced on before. It was just spinning and shaking all the way through third and fourth gear. When I put it in fifth, it finally settled down until it got almost to the finish line. That's when it started free-wheeling the tires. There's a bunch of oil dry down by the finish line. When we went through it, it looked like we blew a motor because there was so much smoke, but it was actually just the oil dry. The car was straight though. This track has a very wide groove and it's just that when you get that oil dry on the track, you start spinning the tires every time you hit a bump. It spun a lot of ET off on the race track. We had the potential to run a 6.91 or a 6.92. The air was good enough. It was just a matter of getting the car down the track, and there wasn't enough for the horsepower that was available to us today. It was a good race though. I had a .438 reaction time and Tom had a .431. You can't get much closer than that. He's driving pretty well so maybe today's going to be his day. Lost in round three to Tom Martino

Steve Schmidt (Dynagear Pontiac Firebird) We had one of the best weekends that we've had in a while. Mark (Ingersoll) did a great job with this Dynagear Firebird and we came in here today thinking that we had a pretty good shot of winning this race. We're disappointed, because it looked like we had a little luck going our way for a change. We just didn't run as well as we should have. We should have run a 6.95 or a 6.96 and we just didn't do that when we had the opportunity. We'll go back to the shop, work on the engines a little bit, and the race car, and see if we can't be a little bit better prepared for the next race. If we can find a little more power, a little more luck and get things squared away, I think we'll be doing pretty well in Pomona. Lost in round three to Jeg Coughlin

Tom Martino (Jesel Valve Train Pontiac Firebird) Jim (Yates) almost had us there. He wasn't late, that's for sure. I had a .431 to his .438. I looked over in third gear and let me tell you, it was close. I think the starting line is about even. I think in the middle of the race track the right lane is better. I actually pulled away from Warren (Johnson) in the middle of the track. He was right there, and actually I thought he was having problems until he started coming back on. The only reason we lined up in the left lane was because the Jegs guys were confident that lane was the best. We figured we would wait and see what they did and when he went to the centerline, we knew that taking the right lane was the right thing to do. Advanced to final round

TOP FUEL

Cory McClenathan (McDonald's/Pontiac) From what we can tell, I dropped a cylinder and when I tried to pedal it and restart it, it split the motor right in half. It's the worst I've seen in a long time. It's probably a good thing though that I wasn't up to full speed. We'll be back, ready to go next year with a new sponsor and Pontiac will be in our corner once again. We're looking forward to that. Right now, even though Scelzi has the championship locked up, we would like nothing more than to win the Big Bud Shootout, get that seventh win in Pomona and make history by winning the most races in a season by a Top Fuel team. If we could go out winning that race, that would definitely end the season on a good note.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Warren Johnson , John Force , Cory McClenathan , Tom Martino , Steve Schmidt
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing