Indianapolis: Mopar Sunday qualifying notes

CLERMONT, Ind. (Sept. 2, 2001) - Mark Osborne led the Mopar brigade and the rest of the field by grabbing his first number-one qualifier of the season heading into eliminations for tomorrow's 47th annual U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway ...

CLERMONT, Ind. (Sept. 2, 2001) - Mark Osborne led the Mopar brigade and the rest of the field by grabbing his first number-one qualifier of the season heading into eliminations for tomorrow's 47th annual U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Osborne's pass also sets up a round one match up with teammate Darrell Alderman, who last met during the finals of the Prolong Super Lubricants NHRA Nationals at Seattle International Raceway earlier this year, when Osborne edged Alderman.

Osborne took advantage of the cooler morning track conditions and ripped off a track recrord 6.879-second elapsed time. Osborne's new Hemi-powered Dodge Neon R/T grabbed another track record by running a 200.74 mph top speed in the third round of qualifying. The Abingdon, Va. resident also ran the second fastest time of the weekend with a 200.68 mph run, set while taking the pole.

"The track temperature was down about 15 degrees and I was one of the first pair out," said Osborne, who captured his second-straight U.S. Nationals number-one qualifier. "I was glad we went out when we did because the conditions were perfect. The Hemi and Neon continues to impress and all the credit goes to (team owner) David Nickens and all the guys at the shop. It seems like it puts out a lot of horsepower and has a lot of low-end torque.

"Darrell is going to be gunning for me and I'm going to be gunning for him," said Osborne, who also took the pole in the Pro Stock Truck during the 1999 U.S. Nationals. "It's going to be a shootout, and whoever leaves the starting line first will be the one to win the race. It wasn't how we wanted to start it off, but you have to run somebody."

The aforementioned Alderman, a three-time Winston Pro Stock World Champion, squeaked into the 16-car field with a 6.920-second lap at 199.91 mph to nab the 16th slot.

"We changed carburetors and it just launched too hard and shook the tires," said Alderman, who shut off in his final pass. "All of our data on that run is no good, so we'll have to see for tomorrow. Here we are running each other tomorrow morning," Alderman continued. "The one good thing about it is that we don't think the team owner will be mad at the loser. He's real fast, so we'll just have to see."

Skuza Irons Out Problems

Dean Skuza, driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge R/T Nitro Funny Car, grabbed the 11th-qualifying position. Skuza posted a 4.880-second elapsed time at 311.14 mph during the first qualifying session on Friday evening, which held throughout the weekend.

After smoking the tires on three-consecutive passes, Skuza ran a solid 4.91-second elapsed time during the final session, preparing the Mopar driver for a first round match up with Budweiser Shootout winner Frank Pedregon.

"We were just trying to get down the track on that last run," Skuza said. "We probably left a little bit on the trailer, but we just didn't have a lot of data to work with. We debated too because the track temperature was dropping and we thought we could have run much quicker. Tomorrow is a whole new day and you just don't know what might happen."

Skuza lost in the first round of the Bud Shootot to Tony Pedregon after hazing the tires.

Patterson Moves Into Top Half

The next-generation Dodge Motorsports Dakota R/T of Todd Patterson moved into the top half of the field and garnered lane choice with a 7.499-second run at 179.95 mph. The Augusta, Kan., resident will start from the eighth slot and take on John Coughlin in round one.

"We're a little disappointed that we didn't back up the run that we made this morning," said Patterson, who lapped the suburban Indianapolis quarter mile at 7.52-seconds in the last session. "The left lane was about a hundredth slower and the weather also effected that a little as well. We just hated getting bumped back one spot, but at least were in the top half and that was one of our goals.

"To win this race tomorrow, we're going to see a lot of yellow," Patterson continued. "We have Coughlin's all stacked on our side and a Panella truck may be in there before it's over too. We did learn a little bit off that last run. We found out that we needed to be more aggressive at the starting line. We'll get it tuned up for tomorrow."

Dale Eaton Qualifies for First Race of the Season Craig Eaton Stays 14th

For the first time in two seasons, three factory-backed Dodge Pro Stock Trucks have qualified for a NHRA national event when the father and son duo of Dale and Craig Eaton each grabbed qualifying positions.

Mopar Parts driver Dale Eaton, who took deliver of his next-generation Dodge Dakota R/T just prior to the start of the U.S. Nationals, led a successful maiden voyage by taking the 13th- qualified position by running a 7.522-second elapsed time at a career best 179.90 mph. The Phoenix, Ariz., resident will have a round one match up with Taylor Lastor.

"It sure feels better than going home," Dale Eaton said. "It's why we wanted the new trucks.

"We're not sure what we want to do for tomorrow," added Eaton, who suffered mechanical woes on his final pass. "We have a gremlin somewhere because when I launched, the truck just died. It should be high noon when we run and I think we have a pretty good handle on what we want to do."

Craig Eaton and the other Dodge Motorsports Dakota R/T maintained the 14th-qualifying position. The veteran Pro Stock Truck campaigner picked up in the morning session with a 7.523-second lap at 179.88 mph, setting a round one race versus Jeff Gracia.

"Unfortunately we didn't have a lot of information on that last run," said Craig Eaton, who also suffered mechanical woes on his final lap. "We just didn't go into second gear on that run. We wanted to get a decent pass in because that was what we're going to run in tomorrow. We do think we can do some damage with this new Dodge tomorrow."

Morgan Close

Despite barely missing the field, Dodge Motorsports driver Larry Morgan was upbeat about finding the gremlins that has plagued the team as of late.

The Newark, Ohio resident drove to the 17th slot with a 6.925-second elapsed time, .005-seconds away from making the field.

"We'll I'm happy that Ward Burton won today," said a joking Morgan, commenting on Dodge's second NASCAR Winston Cup victory of the season in Darlington, S.C., earlier in the day. "I'm not so happy for us. We might of figured out what our problem has been though. There was a binding problem and (crew chief) Billy (Wagner) found the problem before the first session today. We had water in the engine. Apparently, we had a leak in the cylinder and had just hurt the engine. We think the car will be much better the rest if the year."

Nickens Misses

The Mopar-powered Dodge R/T of Bo Nickens ran a solid 6.964-second lap at 197.83 mph. It was Nicken's third attempt to qualify for a national event this season.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ward Burton , Tony Pedregon , Dean Skuza , Larry Morgan , Todd Patterson , Jeff Gracia