Indianapolis Pontiac Friday Notes

CLERMONT, Ind. (Friday, September 3, 1999) - Qualifying began today for the 45th annual U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson is qualified in the No. 1 position. His GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac ...

CLERMONT, Ind. (Friday, September 3, 1999) - Qualifying began today for the 45th annual U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson is qualified in the No. 1 position. His GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird, which is flying the colors of Superman and Action Comics this weekend, ran a track-record elapsed time of 6.920 seconds at 196.67 mph. Mark Pawuk is qualified second in the Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird. Pawuk had an elapsed time of 6.966 seconds at 197.39 mph. Richie Stevens is fourth, Mike Thomas is seventh, Jim Yates is eighth, Bruce Allen is ninth, George Marnell is 10th, Steve Schmidt is 12th and Tom Martino is 35th. In Funny Car, Tommy Johnson 's Interstate Batteries Firebird is the No. 1 qualifier tonight with a track-record elapsed time of 4.885 seconds at 315.71 mph (track record). Frank Pedregon is qualified fifth, Gary Densham is sixth, Phil Burkhart is ninth, Dale Creasy is 12th, Cruz Pedregon is 13, Tim Wilkerson is 15th, Al Hofmann is 19th and Del Worsham is 21st.

In Top Fuel, MBNA/Pontiac driver Cory McClenathan is qualified in the No. 12 position with an elapsed time of 4.965 seconds at 203.92 mph. Joe Amato is the No. 1 qualifier with a track-record elapsed time 4.529 seconds at 324.20 mph (track record). Bob Vandergriff is qualified second, Jim Head is third, Randy Parks is fourth and Paul Romine is fifth.

TNN will carry the final round of eliminations of the U.S. Nationals on Monday, September 6, beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern. First-round coverage can be seen beginning at 12:00 Eastern. The Big Bud Shootout for Funny Cars will be telecast on TNN on Saturday, September 5, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) "The engine just shut off about 100 feet before the finish line. The engine definitely has a broken valve, but we won't know the extent of the internal damage until we get the cylinder head off. Judging by the speed at the 1/8 mile, it would have run right at 200 mph. The motor we hurt tonight wasn't a primary motor. We have a motor that won five races sitting under the bench. It's a little faster than the one we ran, so this is only a minor setback. We actually took the suspension out of the white Firebird and put it in this car. We had worked out a combination that had promise. We tested the black car at Atlanta Dragway with the setup we ran last year and then tried the new setup. We ran quicker to 60 feet and 330 feet with the new combination, so we decided to try it here." No. 1 qualifier - 6.920ET(track record)/196.67MPH

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) "Coming out of Brainerd we're a little gun shy right now so we were a little conservative on that run. Hopefully we'll be able to tune up the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird. It probably has a couple of hundredths left in it but we just have to see how the track goes. It should be quite a weekend trying to chase the track conditions. They are going to change considerably every session so we'll just have to wait and see what it gives us. The air tomorrow morning probably won't be as good as it was tonight. The weather this morning was really hot and humid and I'm not sure what's going to happen with the track. By the time the air slows us down by a hundredth or two, then we'll figure out how we can make the car run a hundredth or two faster, and then I think we can pick it up. Our key right now is to run third or fourth best of the session and we should be able to. We came here and tested really well and (continued) Pontiac Racing 3-3-3-3

obviously the conditions have changed since last week, but it's an ever changing situation and we have to be good enough to chase it down. We'll have the right lane again in the morning so we'll take a little clutch out of it in low gear and make it a little smoother out there. It was pretty aggressive, but we always start off that way and then try and back our way into it. We might even lean on the motor a little bit and see if we can tune her up some more." No. 8 qualifier - 6.991ET/196.24MPH

George Marnell (Dynomax Pontiac Firebird) "The first run at Indianapolis is also an education especially when you walk right into the hot dog session of the weekend. We felt pretty good about our first run and after our mishap at Brainerd, we just wanted to make a good run that we could work from. We got some good information, but everything from here on out will depend on what the track does. Typically, the starting line is real tricky and then it gets real, real good down track. We found that in the first three gears the Dynomax Firebird was pretty loose and then down track it got pretty good. If we can figure out the first three gears then we can be in the hunt. I feel that there's at least two or three hundredths left in this Pontiac." No. 10 qualifier - 6.996ET/197.22MPH

Bruce Allen (Outlaw Fuel Additives Pontiac Firebird) "That was the first time in a couple of years that we've been able to get down the racetrack in the first session. That tweaks the confidence a little when you make a decent run, but we were a little soft in that session. I don't want to imply that we knew we would be, but we did plan on being more conservative than we have been in the past. We wanted to make a decent run, and then be able to come back and tune on it and that's what we accomplished tonight. Tomorrow morning if the session's better, and everyone picks up then we will too. We didn't kill the track. We just made a normal run and the Outlaw Fuel Additives Firebird can run better than that. Now we'll try and run better, and if the conditions cooperate, then we'll pick up. At the very worse we'll stay where we are." No. 9 qualifier - 6.995ET/197.22MPH

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) "This was a great way to start the weekend. I remember last year that we ran terrible and this year we seem to be focussed on what we are doing. Tonight's run definitely takes some of the pressure off and now we can go into test mode to get this Summit Racing Firebird ready for race day. The run felt pretty good. You can see the scoreboard here if you look up in time, and I looked up and saw a 6.96 which obviously made me pretty happy. The testing that we did here last week has also helped us and the track this year seems to be better than it was last year. Tonight it was really good and coming here last week to prepare has helped us out. We ran some pretty good numbers here testing; a 6.96 and a 6.97 and the air was probably worse. So I think we can go back and run as good if not better tomorrow. We got a car in front of us that ran a 6.92 so we have a little work to do." No. 2 qualifier - 6.966ET/197.39MPH

Steve Schmidt (Dynagear Pontiac Firebird) "It was important to us being Friday night that we made a good run down the racetrack. We thought we were conservative but actually we were a little bit aggressive. We felt the Dynagear Firebird could've run a 6.97 or a 6.98. We're just tickled to be qualified and to have something we can tune from. It's pretty tough to come right off the trailer and make a good pass in such a fast session. We were scheduled to go at 6:30 p.m., and you just don't know whether you're going to be on schedule. This time of year the guys at the back of the pack have a definitive advantage. The sun was just about completely gone, the air was cooling down and was actually down about 400 feet in density altitude from the time we went up to the starting line to the time we came back to the trailer after the run. There was probably a hundredth-and-half between the front of the pack and the back of the pack just in weather conditions." No. 12 qualifier - 7.003ET/196.44MPH (continued) Pontiac Racing 3-3-3-3


Tommy Johnson Jr. (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) "That was one heck of a run until I went to shut it off and it wouldn't shut off. The throttle was wide open. We're gaining the experience I was talking about at the beginning of the year but that's not the kind I want. Other than that, it was a beautiful run for the Interstate Batteries Firebird. Probably one of the best runs we've made all year, but there's nothing like saving the best for the biggest race of the season. When the car blows up you don't have time to think about it, but when it won't shut off the car starts getting to the end of the track in a hurry. I would rather blow it up any day than have that happen. You don't get scared when it's happening because you're concentrating on doing what you have to do. But afterwards you take a deep breath and reflect a little bit. It was wide open when I shut the fuel off and that blew it up. Testing here last week had a lot to do with how we ran tonight. The track conditions and atmospheric conditions won't be as good for the rest of the weekend, so there's a good possibility that this run may hold up. The crew's been working extremely hard to make this car fast and my hat goes off to them. We're rolling now." No. 1 qualifier - 4.885ET(track record)/315.71MPH (track record)

Cruz Pedregon ( Pontiac Firebird) "It's good to be in Indy racing in front of this great crowd. We dropped a cylinder and that's why we ran as slow as we did. We've changed a lot on the Pontiac Firebird since the last time we competed. We made some big moves trying to get this car to run in the fours and in the front of the pack, but sometimes a racecar won't do exactly what you would like it to. We'll look at the computer and try to fix it. The conditions were awesome out here tonight as indicated by some of the runs so it's just a matter of getting this car to step up. When it drops a cylinder it loses 800 horsepower, so there's not a lot you can do to make that up. If we can keep all eight lit then this Firebird will run in the fours there's no doubt about that. Since we'll be racing during the middle of the day, our goal is to come out during tomorrow's two sessions and run in the top five or six for each particular session. Tonight will set the top positions for qualifying, but we're interested in getting ready to race and tomorrow we'll have that opportunity." No. 13 qualifier - 5.235ET/267.06MPH

Gary Densham (NEC/AAA Southern California Pontiac Firebird) "We were probably a little conservative because Indy can be so tricky because you have five qualifying runs to get in the field. Maybe we should have hit it a little harder, but we're tickled with that run. We ran good speed, and all the parts look great so we're ready to go for it. The run felt good from one end to the other. It pulled very hard on the top end. It was a little sluggish on the starting line, a little sluggish through the middle, but when the clutch locked up this Firebird started to fly." No. 6 qualifier - 5.033ET/305.15MPH

Dale Creasy Jr. (Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird) "We were a little disappointed with our run because we thought we had given this Mad Magazine Firebird more than we did. We were probably a little too cautious because we don't want to lose our combination, so we gave it a little in different areas and it just didn't work for us. We ran a 5.20 flat, and the 292 mph speed tells us we're starting to pick it up. We don't MPH very well. We're usually in the 280s, but the last few runs have been in the 290s and that's taking into consideration that our elapsed times haven't been that good. If we start picking up our times it's going to fly. We're just afraid to lose our combination, so we don't want to change a lot of things at once, but I think we're going to have to. We'll get more aggressive, but not too much because the track's going to go away with the heat. We were so soft to half track that I could feel it in the car. From half track it ran great. We made the clutch more aggressive but it wasn't enough. I think the motor's too happy now." No. 12 qualifier - 5.206ET/290.88MPH

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Paul Romine , Jim Head , Frank Pedregon , Mike Thomas , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Tommy Johnson , Dale Creasy Jr. , Gary Densham , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Steve Schmidt , Bob Vandergriff , Tommy Johnson Jr.