Houston Pontiac Racing Friday Report

3rd ANNUAL MATCO TOOLS SUPERNATIONALS HOUSTON RACEWAY PARK BAYTOWN, TEXAS BAYTOWN, Tex. (October 29, 1999) - Professional qualifying began today for the Third annual Matco Tools SuperNationals at Houston Raceway Park. In Pro Stock, Tom ...


BAYTOWN, Tex. (October 29, 1999) - Professional qualifying began today for the Third annual Matco Tools SuperNationals at Houston Raceway Park. In Pro Stock, Tom Martino's Century 21 Pontiac Firebird is qualified in the No. 1 position with a track-record elapsed time of 6.892 seconds at 200.38 mph. Mark Pawuk is qualified second. The Summit Racing Firebird covered the quarter mile in 6.903 seconds at 199.79 mph. V. Gaines is qualified third in a Camaro, Allen Johnson is fourth in a Dodge and Rickie Smith is fifth in a Firebird. Warren Johnson's GM Goodwrench Service Plus Firebird is qualified seventh, Steve Schmidt is 10th, Richie Stevens is 11th, Jim Yates is 14th, Mike Thomas is 15th, Bruce Allen is 17th and George Marnell is 34th.

In Funny Car, Tommy Johnson Jr., is qualified in the No. 3 position in the Interstate Batteries Firebird with an elapsed time of 4.935 seconds at 314.46 mph. Frank Pedregon is qualified fourth, Al Hofmann is fifth, Del Worsham is eighth, Gary Densham is 15th, Tim Wilkerson is 17th and Dale Creasy Jr., is 20th. The No. 1 qualifier is John Force in a Mustang with an elapsed time of 4.811 seconds at 321.12 mph. Whit Bazemore is qualified second in a Camaro.

In Top Fuel, MBNA/Pontiac driver Cory McClenathan is the No. 5 qualifier with an elapsed time of 4.604 seconds at 323.27 mph. The No. 1 qualifier is Mike Dunn with an elapsed time of 4.561 seconds at 319.60 mph. Larry Dixon is qualified second, Gary Scelzi is third, and Eddie Hill is fourth.

ESPN2 will televise two hours of first-round coverage beginning at 12:00 p.m., on Sunday, October 31. One hour of final-round coverage will be televised beginning at 8 p.m.


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) "The track appeared to go away and we just got a little loose. Actually we were on about a 6.85 run judging by the early incremental numbers. It got loose and there's nothing you can do about it. The nature of the track when you qualify is all that matters. We're working on some things that we needed to be working on in the middle of the year, and we'll try to get all of that ironed out during the next two events. There were some things that we wanted to try but never had the opportunity. When you have different pieces that you're looking to test, ideally you can do that a national event track because the surface is completely different than when you go to a facility you rent for two or three days. Each is prepared differently. We have to test when we can and now we have the opportunity to do that. If it doesn't pan out as well as we anticipate then it's not going to hurt us. I feel tomorrow we can step it up, it's just a matter of adapting to the racetrack. We just didn't do that tonight. It cost us a few qualifying session but we can overcome that." No. 7 qualifier - 6.922ET/200.77MPH (track record)

Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) "The best part about making a strong run on the first pass is that you can start fine-tuning your set up. In fact, we're going to change the motor on the Century 21 Firebird before tonight's session to see if we can go even faster. There are a lot of hungry racers behind us and we want to make sure we keep as many of them behind us that we can."

Second Session: "I don't know if our combination likes this track or what it is, it doesn't matter what car we bring here, we seem to do well. Last year we were runner up, and the year before we were runner up, so whatever it is, we like it. Hopefully I'll be here tomorrow night talking to you. Last week we were No. 1 qualifier on Friday and by the time Saturday rolled around we were bumped down to No. 3. We've struggled terribly all year and seventy percent seems to be self inflicted. I knew I could fix the car and it would get better, but it bit us every time out. At the same time, Tom (Kling) and I were working really hard on our new DRCE engines and making more and more power. That's when we knew we had to get rid of the car. We got a new Don Ness Firebird and qualified No. 6 at our first race with it at Reading and really never made a good run. Finally after Memphis we had time to test the car, came home, made the changes, made some more runs at Englishtown and it paid off at Dallas. I made a mistake setting up the car in round two of eliminations and it bit me. We stayed on Monday, worked on the chassis and we made two outstanding runs right down the middle of the track with the track being less than perfect. We came here, ran a brand new motor in the first session and then put the motor in we used last weekend. We'll leave that one in there for tomorrow morning and then put the other new one in tomorrow afternoon. Tonight's run was far from perfect. The Century 21 Firebird moved all around, carried the wheels way too long and still ran fast. We're going to try tuning it up just a little bit tomorrow to see if we can make it run straighter. But it still looks pretty good when you look across the page and see your name at the top." No. 1 qualifier - 6.892ET (track record)/200.38MPH

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) "We're finally back on track -- I hope. We didn't make a good run tonight, but me made a pretty good one this morning. I'll leave the track qualified No. 2 any day of the week. It's a lot better than being 17th. I was surprised that the 6.90 held up tonight. I was confident that it would keep us in but I didn't think we'd stay second. Tom (Martino) made an awesome run in the left lane considering how bad it was. Our Summit Racing Firebird seems to be picking up, but we'd like to finish up the season strong, maybe win one of these last two races. We tested Monday in Dallas to figure out what was wrong there. We think we found it. Some parts we had threw us for a loop and we found some old, reliable stuff on the trailer that pulled us through. Even for as bad as we ran in round two, we still went 6.92. Hopefully we can tune on that and make a good run tomorrow morning." No. 2 qualifier - 6.903ET/199.79MPH

Richie Stevens (Valspar Pontiac Firebird) "That was one heck of a squirrelly run. If I had just gone straight we'd be right in the thick of things. Obviously, there was something goofy about the lane because everyone was all over the place on that side. When you see every single car have trouble then you know it's not your fault. I stayed with it because it I wanted to put a competitive up on the board. I think the Valspar Pontiac Firebird faster tomorrow but you never know what the weather is going to do. The good news is that I know we have the power to run with anybody here." No. 11 qualifier - 6.930ET/198.20MPH

Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) "To be honest, I was surprised that run was good enough to get us in the field. There has been a miss we've been chasing with the old motor. Plus it started leaking a little that run so we decided to switch motors right away and quit fooling with it. We'd changed everything we could think of to get rid of the miss and nothing worked. It was just time to change it out. I knew there wasn't a big difference between our No. 1 engine and the back-up one so it seemed like the right decision to make. We've got more gremlins than the Gremlin movie. We switched motors and still had a miss. I'm shocked that the Pennzoil Firebird ran that quick with the engine practically shutting off in the middle of the run. If we get this thing figured out, the rest of the guys out there better watch out because we might just set the world on fire." No. 15 qualifier - 6.946ET/198.17MPH FUNNY CAR

Tommy Johnson Jr. (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) "Not too bad. Force kind of made us look bad, but he had an unfair advantage - we tested the track for him. We backed the Interstate Batteries Firebird off so that we could get down the track. We were cautious after that first session and it would have been a lot better if it would have stayed tuned up. But going into that session we were qualified 16th, on the bump, and with rain in the forecast tomorrow, we just wanted to get it in the show. The guys told me to do whatever I had to do to get to the lights. It was a pretty nice run considering how far we backed it off. It has a lot more left. After passing through the lights, I threw the rods out of it and there's no definite reason why. A lot of times when you back it off trying to get it down the racetrack, you tune up the clutch. It probably threw the fuel curve off a little, and burnt the rod right there at the finish line, so when I let off, the deceleration threw the rod out. Actually it didn't hurt it too bad. It made a pretty good hole, but it's a lot better than the final round last weekend in Dallas. It was serious enough, but not too serious." No. 3 qualifier - 4.935ET/304.32MPH

Al Hofmann (Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird) I was pretty pleased with our performance tonight. Our Firebird had good numbers early but it put a cylinder out at about three seconds and that's why the speed was down. We're starting to get the fuel system right in the car and the guys have worked real hard towards getting us to where we need to be. To go out and run a 5.13 after pedaling it and not hurt a part makes me feel pretty good. I mean the motor looks like brand new - we could run these spark plugs again if we wanted to. With everything that's gone on this year, it's nice to be qualified fifth after the Friday qualifying sessions. The track didn't have much rubber on it early today so it wasn't very good. The conditions are actually pretty good, but the track wasn't ready for it. By the second round it was starting to come around. If it doesn't rain, I thin you'll see some even better numbers tomorrow." No. 5 qualifier - 5.136ET/287.72MPH

Frank Pedregon (Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird) "It's been an excellent weekend so far. It definitely helps having a crew chief like Jim Dunn to get this Red Line Oil Firebird down the track. It ran down the track well and actually did what we wanted it to do. I shut it off early and it would have been better than that. But we're qualified solid, in a good position to be competitive on race day, and that's what we're here for. Jim was in there brainstorming between sessions, and I knew when I got in the car it would be solid. Other cars will probably run better than that tomorrow, but so we'll we. We'll make one run tomorrow in the afternoon, try to improve to a 4.99 and whatever happens, happens. We're out here to win and hopefully we can get that done on Sunday." No. 4 qualifier - 5.083ET/288.03MPH

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) ""We called our sponsor people and told them we did OK. We're #9, and we ran a ".10"… That was all good, until we had to 'fess up and tell them it wasn't a 5.10, it was a 7.10 that has us 9th. It's a little tough out there right now, from the transition area where it goes from concrete to asphalt, all the way to the finish line it looks a little loose. Coming from Dallas, it looks like almost nobody was ready for it. Our team is usually pretty good about coping with things like this. The tracks we spend the summer on are a lot like this, loose at the top end, and we've always been able to adjust to that. That will be the plan here. That wasn't really anything to write home about, but it's a big improvement over the first pass and over last weekend. We DNQ'd for the only time this year last weekend in Dallas, and we stayed and tested there for two days. Testing went pretty well, but we really needed to get down the track in front of people, with some pressure on us."

Second Session: "It was touchy out there, there were teams overpowering the track, and teams that were under powered and shaking. Then there was that small group of the usual suspects running incredible numbers. For us, we were a little under powered, kind of scared to push it too hard because of what we've been through lately. I'll admit we're being a bit defensive, trying not to mess up again rather than trying to be heroes, but there's so much on the line right now it's really hard not to be that way. The Checker Schuck's Kragen Firebird should have run about a 5.08 on that run, but it popped the burst panel a few hundred feet short of the finish line so it slowed way down. When you pedal it like I did, it puts a lot of stress on that little pressure relief panel in the manifold, both in and out, and it let loose. We haven't had a burst panel give out on us in years, now we've had it happen on two straight weekends. Go figure. We'll be ready to be a lot more aggressive tomorrow, we need to pick up another tenth or two to be happy." No. 8 qualifier - 5.153ET/275.73MPH

Dale Creasy Jr. (Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird) "We smoked the tires just like we did in Dallas. We changed some head gaskets and some other things to calm down this Mad Magazine Firebird. We found the problem and it was my stupidity. I didn't check the clutch-arms close enough and I found some flat-leave arms. They just don't work right when they're like that. That's what happens when you don't race full time. At the end of last weekend, we rushed to get the car done, I didn't take the time to do it properly, and it's my fault. Tonight it should go. We haven't changed anything from the 5.02 run so the we know the combination is there. This track seems to be a little loose so it's going to be anybody's game."

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Mike Thomas , Mike Dunn , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Dale Creasy Jr. , Gary Densham , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Allen Johnson , Steve Schmidt , Tommy Johnson Jr.