Houston Team Pennzoil Saturday Afternoon Report

Hill to lead Pennzoil's charge on race day HOUSTON (Oct. 31) -- At the start of the four-day Matco Tools SuperNationals race weekend, anticipation of a record-shattering event was at a season high. After all, national records were falling by ...

Hill to lead Pennzoil's charge on race day

HOUSTON (Oct. 31) -- At the start of the four-day Matco Tools SuperNationals race weekend, anticipation of a record-shattering event was at a season high. After all, national records were falling by the wayside on seemingly every pass down the strip at the National Hot Rod Association's last stop in Dallas and Houston is historically a faster track. A record weekend seemed inevitable.

But, as Saturday evening's final qualifying session came to an end, it was apparent that the NHRA's national record book was safe for at least a few more races. High humidity and hot temperatures throughout the event's first three days kept speeds and elapsed times a click slower than the pace set in Dallas. Still, the near-capacity crowd was treated to some exciting racing that was peppered with several track, event and personal records.

Pennzoil managed to place two of its top three teams into the pool of cars that will compete for a title on Sunday. Top Fuel legend Eddie Hill will be battling for his first victory in over two years while Pro Stock upstart Mike Thomas searches for win No. 2 of the 1998 season. Meanwhile, Arlington resident Bruce Allen will sit out Sunday's racing after missing the ultra-competitive Pro Stock cut-off time.

Here's a recap of each driver's qualifying performance.

Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, had the best qualifying session of his career, resetting both his personal-best elapsed time and top mph marks Friday night in Round 2. Hill's 4.574-second pass at 313.91 mph placed him in the top half of the qualifying field in the No. 4 spot. He has qualified for every race this year, extending his current streak to 39 straight races. Additionally, Hill has placed his car in the top half of the field on 14 occasions this season.

"This is the best we've looked all year heading into the elimination rounds," Hill said. "It feels great to be setting career marks and to be qualifying in the top half of the top half of the field. We gathered a lot of crucial data and the car continues to be exceptionally consistent and strong.

"Winning in Houston in front of our loyal fans, Pennzoil friends and at (associate sponsor) Matco Tools big race would be a dream come true for us. I'm going to do everything in my power to make it happen."

Hill will face Bob Vandergriff in the first round of eliminations. Vandergriff qualified in the 13th position with a run of 4.672 seconds at 318.02 mph. The two men have raced one time this year with Hill taking the win.

Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, had four strong runs during qualifying, the best of which was a 6.977-second lap at 197.58 mph. Thomas finished in the No. 10 spot and will open Sunday's elimination racing against No. 7 qualifier Tom Martino. Thomas has already beaten Martino twice this year.

"We appear to be in pretty good shape," Thomas said. "We've been tweaking the clutch each round in an attempt to find the set-up we'll use on Sunday and I think we've accomplished that. We're all happy and proud to have run four competitive times. Consistency is key to success in this class and we've been consistent at this race so far."

Bruce Allen, the driver of the Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, was slightly slower than the lead group of drivers throughout qualifying. His best run was a 7.023-second pass at 195.77 mph, which left him out of contention.

"We got a little closer to the field each run but there is something that's keeping us from joining the elite teams at this race," Allen said. "We just haven't found whatever the problem is. You can only do so much at a time. We're all working as hard as possible to get this car better. It's very tough to struggle like this. We feel bad for our sponsors and embarrassed for ourselves. All we can do is keep working at it and hopefully things will improve."

Allen has qualified for 10 races this year and has recorded 11 elimination round wins.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Bob Vandergriff