Houston Pontiac Racing Saturday Notes & Quotes

BAYTOWN, Tex. (April 15, 2000) - Qualifying was completed today for the 13th annual O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park. In Pro Stock, Jim Yates held onto the No. 1 qualifying position in the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird with last ...

BAYTOWN, Tex. (April 15, 2000) - Qualifying was completed today for the 13th annual O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park. In Pro Stock, Jim Yates held onto the No. 1 qualifying position in the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird with last night's elapsed time of 6.888 seconds at 199.58 mph. It is the second time this season that Yates will start from the pole position. Jeg Coughlin is qualified second in an Oldsmobile, Rickie Smith is third in a Camaro, Richie Stevens is fourth in the Valspar Pontiac Firebird and Mark Pawuk is fifth in the Summit Racing Firebird. Ron Krisher in the Eagle One Pontiac Firebird became the 16th and final member of the SpeedPro 200 mph Pro Stock Club with a lap in the first session this morning of 6.906 seconds at 200.17 mph. Bruce Allen is qualified 10th, Tom Martino is 12th, Warren Johnson is 13th, Brad Jeter is 14th, Mike Thomas is 15th and Jamie Yates is 16th. Only 45-thousandth's of a second separated this field from top to bottom.

In Funny Car, Del Worsham ran a career-best elapsed time of 4.894 seconds in the first session this morning to move the Checkers Schuck's Kragen Firebird up to the No. 4 qualifying position. Al Hofmann is qualified sixth in the Mooneyes Pontiac Firebird, Worsham's teammate Frank Pedregon is qualified seventh, Todd Paton is ninth, Gary Densham is 12th and Cristen Powell is 15th. Tim Wilkerson was 17th and Bruce Sarver was 18th. The No. 1 qualifier is John Force in a Mustang with an elapsed time of 4.839 seconds at 319.98 mph. Jerry Toliver is qualified second in a Camaro, Whit Bazemore is third in a Camaro and Dean Skuza is fifth in an Avenger.

In Top Fuel, Team Pontiac driver Cory McCenathan qualified the MBNA dragster in the No. 3 position with the quickest run of the final qualifying session at 4.611 seconds at 315.71 mph. Kenny Bernstein is the No. 1 qualifier with an elapsed time of 4.566 seconds at 318.17 mph. Gary Scelzi is qualified second, Larry Dixon is fourth and Joe Amato is fifth.

Final eliminations for the 13th annual O'Reilly Nationals begin at 10 a.m. Central time. Television coverage can be seen on TNN on Sunday, April 16, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) - "We can't find anything broken, but the car isn't accelerating in the middle of the track. That's been a problem for us all weekend. We've tried everything that would usually fix that phenomenon. It hasn't had any affect on it so we haven't pushed the right button yet. We'll just have to see what we can do to get through tomorrow and we'll work on it from there. You have to look at the big picture though and the bright spot is that we're not 17th. We'll burn the midnight oil and figure out what's wrong, but that's just standard operating procedure for us anyway." No. 13 qualifier - 6.919ET/200.68MPH

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) - At least one of us, Jamie or myself, is going to be racing in the second round tomorrow. I hope it's me but I think he's going to have a say in the matter. He had a lot left in his Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird this morning. We just missed it with his car last night and tonight he was one of the top-five cars. He was in the top eight this morning, but unfortunately the guy he's going to run tomorrow is going to put him in the bad lane. The track became pretty good this afternoon towards the end of the session. Our Firebird stood up really hard and I think that may have hurt our e.t. a little bit. It tried to get up on the wheelie bars and shake the tires at the top of low gear, but it seems like a 6.930 in that lane wasn't too bad, but we're going to need all of it tomorrow. I think the left lane is the lane of choice right now and it's probably a hundredth to a hundredth and half quicker than the right to the 60 and 330 foot. After that they're pretty equal. But it will be tough tomorrow morning with 16 cars within forty-five thousandth's of a second of each other. That will bring the driver out in everybody. Jamie's going to be out there tomorrow racing all out - Jamie understands that and our sponsors, Split fire and Pontiac understand that. He's the future of this program and I want him to drive as hard as he can. We'll race flat out and the best car will win - the good news is that one of us will advance to the second round."

No. 1 qualifier - 6.888ET/199.58MPH

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing/Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird) - "The car was lined up crooked and went right to the wall. I fought it all the way down the track. When there's just a hundredth of a second between the top five cars it just goes to show you how darn competitive it is. When you make the perfect run in the right session you're fast. Our advantage this year is that we've had consistency. We'll do a little testing this afternoon and try to get ready for tomorrow. Maybe we'll go in the right direction, you just never know. When you're not No. 1 there is always room for improvement. The Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird is the last car down the racetrack so you never know." No. 5 qualifier - 6.898ET/199.02MPH

Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) - "This weekend has been a good news, bad news situation for us. On the down side, we have yet to make what I would call a good run. Even so, we were still able to put the Century 21 Firebird in the show for Sunday, which we are happy about. However, tomorrow will be a different story. For us to have a realistic chance of winning rounds, we will have to find the right combination to run as well in the early part of the run as we do down track. If we do, I think we will have as good a shot as anyone. We have a lot of notes to go over before the first round tomorrow, and some big decisions to make. How we do against Mark (Pawuk) will show us if we made the right choices." No. 12 qualifier - 6.916ET/199.49MPH

Bruce Allen (Reher-Morrison Pontiac Firebird) - "We're behind the curve but we've been on the safe side on every run we've made. We've slowly tried to sneak up on the right combination and we haven't caught up yet. But that's good for tomorrow - that's a better position to be in than backing down and being on the other side. I feel like we can get to where we need to be from here. We'll make a few adjustments on the Reher-Morrison Pontiac Firebird in the morning and I think we'll have a good car to race with. Typically we go up in the first round and try to be more conservative because we're usually on the edge. This weekend we haven't been - we've been on the other side for a change and that tells us we can run good tomorrow morning when we have to."

No. 10 qualifier - 6.913ET/199.02MPH

Richie Stevens (Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird) - "We made three good laps in a row this weekend in the Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird, one of which was our quickest pass of the year, so we're very pumped up here in the Valspar pit. It feels good to do this at my home track with all my friends here from New Orleans. It also helps a bunch getting your mind set for racing after you've run your best lap of the year. This is the second race in a row where I have to race Warren with our. It's not the best situation, but we ran quick here with other motors in the past so maybe this will be the time I get him. I know it won't be easy but it'll sure be sweet if we get it done. The field is so tight that anyone can win this race. If I can get by Warren we might have a day to remember. Of course, if I get by Warren that'll be enough to make it a day to remember. I feel good about our chances. Tommy (Utt, crew chief) knows this track better than most people out here so I know he'll have us ready to go." No. 4 qualifier - 6.897ET/197.59MPH

Ron Krisher (Eagle One Pontiac Firebird) - "It feels real good to join the SpeedPro 200 MPH Club. We've been waiting a long time and I was afraid we were going to get in some awesome air somewhere and a whole flock of people were going to be capable of doing it. We were hoping that when we came out here in 1600 feet of air that there would only be three or four cars that could run 200 mph and they're already in. We knew with what the air was that it was just a matter if we could make a good run this morning. We really weren't looking for it this morning. We'd been shaking, and having all kinds of problems and we were just wanting to get into the top half of the field. We were the No. 1 car this morning, but the session and the track was a lot slower than last night. The track wasn't as good as we thought it would be and I think it was probably that way for everybody. We have a real good racecar for tomorrow. The Eagle One Pontiac Firebird has made some decent runs, we've been changing right along and I think we have something we can tune from. We shook so bad the first time and ran a 6.98. The second time when we ran the 6.92 it was shaking real bad last night. This morning we took a lot of clutch out of it and it worked." No. 8 qualifier - 6.906ET/200.17MPH


Al Hofmann (Jim Dunn's Mooneyes/Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird) "We dropped a cylinder at the hit of the throttle. We put that new fuel pump on the Mooneyes Pontiac Firebird and ran a 4.91. Last night it must have seeded itself because it went down two gallons. For today we were just guessing, gave it too much fuel and it dropped the cylinder. We'll take a half gallon out for the hit of the throttle, put her back in line and see what happens. After this next run we'll be able to tell if we have a good racecar for tomorrow. We're close though, but we could also use four more runs. Today has been our test session. Instead of staying Monday we're using these rounds today to try some new combinations, but it feels great to be qualified."

Cristen Powell (Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird) - "It dropped a cylinder and was a little bit squirrelly at the top end, but we have a good baseline run now. The first two runs we went from one extreme to the other. They were just trial runs trying to get this car figured out. Ronnie (Swearingen) got us down to a 5.12 and from there we're hoping to step it up and place this Pontiac Firebird higher in the field. But it's great that we were able to make a full pass after the slow start we've had this weekend. You can see that this program is beginning to gel. After our last pass in Las Vegas when we lost to Jim Epler by four-thousandth's of a second, that let us know we could run with the best cars and that you'd better run your best to beat us. I'm hoping for similar results this weekend with the only exception that we win this time. We didn't have an opportunity to test at the beginning of the year so we were at a disadvantage when the season began. Now that we've had an opportunity to get some runs in we're beginning to see an improvement. We just got off to a late start and it's only now that things are coming together. We're also a new team that hasn't had the opportunity to work together before, plus we completely gutted the racecar and we aren't able to test as much because of the fact that I'm still going to school. We're definitely working through it and at this race and the next you'll definitely see us stepping up."

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "Wow. Pretty cool deal, not only for us but for our teammates as well. As soon as we came up the return road, the blue Firebird was staging up and I was hoping they'd run a nice 5.0 or something. Boom, they run a 4.92 and we all got to go crazy again. Both of these cars had been running so consistently, right up to about half-way through the Las Vegas race last weekend. We just weren't quite going quick enough, so on Saturday in Vegas we played around a little and lost our consistency. We weren't lost, but we were off our plan. Yesterday, we messed up again and it felt like we were a long way from getting down the track again. So, we took a deep breath and got all our heads together and took a golf approach for this first run. You know, you have to relax and take an easy swing, and then it flies right down the fairway. If you try too hard to muscle it, you mess up. So we actually just relaxed the tune-up a little, and the two Checker-Schuck's-Kragen Pontiacs loved it. By being less aggressive, it freed them up and they flew. Now we know we can do this, we need to just keep on doing it." No. 4 qualifier - 4.894ET (career best)/301.00MPH

Second Session: "Well, we really wanted to just go out there and put another solid lap on the board, we weren't trying to go any quicker than the 4.89. But we ended up being a bit too conservative and it was underpowered enough to shake like crazy. It didn't blow the tires off, it shook them until they lost traction. So we learn another lesson, we can't get shy out here. If you want to run with these guys, you've got to go for it. We did try something new on the blue car this lap, and apparently it worked because they just plowed right down there for their second consecutive 4-second pass. There you go again with the two-car theory. We never had to try it out on the red Firebird, but we know it works so both cars are better off for it. We just have to come out here tomorrow and race the race track. We can't even look in the other lane, we just have to do our deal and race the track. "

Frank Pedregon (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) -- "I was two cars behind Del, and watched his 4.89 come up on the board. I was screaming in the car, both teams were yelling and screaming. A few seconds later I caught my breath and thought, 'Geez, we better do some good here too.' This is why we have two cars, to learn from each other and get more data, and boy did it show there. It just trucked right down the track like it was out for a Sunday drive. It was so smooth I really wasn't sure we'd run a 4 or not, it wouldn't have surprised me if they told me it was a 5.01. A nice clean 4.92, no tire smoke, no dropped cylinders, no parts damage. We've been working hard for this, now we have to capitalize on our hard work. And man, a major high- five to Del for his 4.89. Awesome."

Second Session: "That's exactly what this blue team needed going in to race day. We need to have the confidence we can not only go down the track, but do it quickly. We've been getting into the show at each race, but we've been getting in as a bottom half car and going out in the first round. It feels great to earn a top-half slot in such a stout field, because you couldn't luck into this one. We can go into tomorrow with confidence and with a good game plan. I'm really looking forward to it." No. 7 qualifier - 4.922ET/311.05MPH

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Mike Thomas , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Brad Jeter , Mark Pawuk , Jamie Yates , Warren Johnson , Jim Epler , Al Hofmann , Dean Skuza , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Ron Krisher , Gary Densham , Todd Paton , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , Jerry Toliver , Cristen Powell