Indianapolis Pennzoil Eliminations Preview

Pennzoil prepared for extended work weekend INDIANAPOLIS -- The majority of the drivers in the Pennzoil paddock will spend the Labor Day holiday hard at work as they continue their individual quests to claim a share of the championship of ...

Pennzoil prepared for extended work weekend

INDIANAPOLIS -- The majority of the drivers in the Pennzoil paddock will spend the Labor Day holiday hard at work as they continue their individual quests to claim a share of the championship of the prestigious 44th annual U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park. At the conclusion of the fifth and final session of professional qualifying, four of the six Pennzoil drivers entered in the National Hot Rod Association's largest event remain in contention for their respective class titles.

Here's a closer look at each Pennzoil pilot heading into the do-or-die elimination rounds.

Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, kept his multitude of fans in suspense until Sunday when he finally posted back-to-back, super-competitive times, the best of which was a final round 4.632-second run at 312.06 mph. The lightening-quick pass moved Hill up to sixth place in the qualifying field.

"This is the best possible time to be running at your best," Hill said. "The starting line continued to get better and that was the difference in our success today. This is an outstanding feeling, especially since we finished qualifying in the top half of the field. I feel like Eddie Hill again.

"Another real neat feeling was the thrill of the standing ovation we got coming back down the return road. The fans here are unbelievable. I didn't see one soul sitting down when we drove by. Everyone was screaming and yelling, it was quite a sight. It's pretty humbling when people are so kind to you after all these years. I'm at a loss for words."

Hill remains as one of only five Top Fuel pilots that has qualified for every race this year and he also perpetuated his streak of 33 consecutive elimination round appearances. He will now face Pat Dakin (4.701 seconds at 303.84 mph) in Monday's opening round. Dakin has beaten Hill twice this year.

Mike Thomas, the pilot of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac, spent the day preparing for his 15th elimination session of the year. As one of only six drivers still alive in the race for the season-long Pro Stock points title, Thomas was confident that the 7.018-second, 195.90-mph pass he recorded on Friday would not be bettered during either of Sunday's sessions. His faith was rewarded with a ninth place qualifying performance.

"We had the car set-up with too much clutch and not enough clutch today so it really feels like we have a narrow window defined on how we need to be," Thomas said.

"It's exciting to be in the field. We're very fortunate. There were 47 cars here all trying to reach Monday's eliminations and we ended up being one of the few who made it. It's a great day for us and for Pennzoil. Now we start over and aim for a win. It'll be a real battle. Everyone in the field is great. We'll have to be close to perfect to win."

Thomas will open Monday's action against John Nobile, who qualified with an identical 7.018-second pass on Saturday morning. Nobile will have the advantage of lane choice due to his fractional advantage in the top speed category (196.80-mph). The two men have never raced each other.

Bruce Allen, the driver of the Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac, began the day by posting the second quickest lap (7.046 seconds at 195.52 mph) of Round 4. The mark, however, was six-thousandths of a second slower than the time already posted for the final qualifying spot in the 16-car field and left Allen outside the group of qualified drivers in 17th place.

In his final pass of the day, Allen changed his suspension in a last ditch effort to reach the elimination round but was forced to shut down his motor and coast through the lights when his car bogged down at the starting line. The disappointing early exit from the event leaves Allen with a 1998 record of 10 elimination round wins in eight sessions.

"It's a tremendous letdown for our team," Allen said. "We've been working so hard and to not qualify for this race is a real disappointment. Whenever you fail to qualify, it hurts. But it's all magnified and multiplied at this race because it's such a huge event. One of our primary goals on this team is to be consistent and then we come here with all the fans, media and our sponsors watching and we stumble. I'm extremely flustered.

"We just have to remember that it's just one race and we need to remain positive and move on. We have a capable car and we made some great runs here. We need to take all that momentum and win in Reading (Penn., the next stop on the NHRA circuit)."

Pennzoil's sportsman-class drivers Mike Ferderer, Amanda Harbin and Bill Kent also raced on Sunday. Ferderer and Harbin both advanced through the second round of Super Comp eliminations and were scheduled to continue racing on Sunday night. Kent, meanwhile, lost in the opening round of the Competition-class eliminations.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , John Nobile , Bruce Allen , Pat Dakin