Las Vegas II: Pontiac Racing final qualifying report

Yates' Grand Am Tops Qualifying Ladder At ACDelco Nationals - Bazemore's Firebird Sets Both Ends of LVMS Track Records LAS VEGAS, Oct. 27, 2001 - Qualifying for the inaugural ACDelco NHRA Nationals was completed today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Yates' Grand Am Tops Qualifying Ladder At ACDelco Nationals - Bazemore's Firebird Sets Both Ends of LVMS Track Records

LAS VEGAS, Oct. 27, 2001 - Qualifying for the inaugural ACDelco NHRA Nationals was completed today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In Pro Stock, Jim Yates jumped to the front of the qualifying order after driving the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am to an elapsed time of 6.949 seconds at 197.77 mph. Yates captured his third No. 1 qualifier of the year. The 48-year-old Virginian and two-time Winston champion was No. 1 qualifier at this venue last April and at last month's national event in Memphis, Tenn. Yates has one victory this season in five final rounds and won the $50,000 Holley Dominator Duel.

Mike Edwards is qualified second in a Chevy Cavalier, Ron Krisher is third in a Cavalier, Bruce Allen is fourth in a Grand Am and Tom Hammonds is fifth in a Grand Am. Hometown favorite George Marnell is qualified sixth, Mark Pawuk is seventh, Tom Martino is eighth, Warren Johnson is 15th (making the field during the last qualifying session of the weekend) and Kenny Koretsky is 16th - all in Pontiac Grand Ams.

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am) "We were No. 2 last night by a thousandth of a second behind Mike Edwards, but we were in the right lane. I thought today if the track would hold up, even though the air got worse, we'd be able to step up. That 6.94 was a pretty impressive run this morning. We keep tuning on this Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am - myself, Terry Adams and my son Jamie. Even when I was sick in the hospital they didn't lose faith. Every time I take this Pontiac to the starting line I know I've got a fast hot rod underneath me. We have a good history on this racetrack, we have good data and we continue to do better and better each time we make a pass down the track. You can never count Warren (Johnson) out. Everybody that's ever counted Warren out has gone home early. There's a lot of guys that ran fast enough to qualify this session. Warren's got the same amount of power, if not better, than we do. But he's just struggling, and when you're like that, it just takes a little while to find the right combination. He came over in the left lane, which is about a hundredth of a second faster than the right, and made a darn good run considering the circumstances. This new Grand Am is one of the best cars I've ever driven. It just constantly goes straight to the finish line. It's a combination of the aerodynamics and the longer wheelbase on the racecar - from 103 inches to 105 inches. That makes a huge difference when you have a racecar as fast as this Grand Am. It really makes it stable downtrack."

Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Grand Am) - "Doug Flutie made a career out of 'hail Mary' passes, so I guess hat's the drag racing equivalent of a last-second touchdown. I saw some of the track workers doing handstands at the finish line after my run. When you see grown people doing handstands and cartwheels, that's a pretty good indication that something good has happened. We're really three runs behind the rest of the field now. We got behind with electrical problems on the first two runs and the third session revealed another problem. We're still not where we need to be because we think there's another two hundredths left. We rarely race under these conditions and we've never tested this car under these conditions. We really had no information to fall back on. We're still hunting, but it's a lot easier now than it was before that last session. At least now we're in the show, and our performance was right there with the other fast cars. With the electrical problem, the car just flat shut off in the middle of low gear and then just laid down. After we fixed that, the third run revealed a chassis problem. Our solution worked, but I wouldn't want to try it again. If we'd missed by just thousandths of a second, we'd be spectators on Sunday. In retrospect, we probably had the same problems in Dallas, but conditions there were so good that our problems weren't apparent. In this thin air, if you don't have power it really shows up."

George Marnell (Marnell & Black Pontiac Grand Am) "This time we came into this race pretty confident, especially coming off the win in Memphis and then the strong performance we had last weekend in Dallas. I think we have our entire program tuned up pretty good right now. We haven't really hit the combination as much as we'd like on this Grand Am this weekend, but at least we're running consistent and fairly fast. We have a little bit of room, which is a positive way of looking at things. If everyone does their job tomorrow then I think this Pontiac will be right in the middle of the hunt and that's where we need to be. We need to do well this weekend for the hometown folks and all the loyal supporters that we've had. We're getting tremendous support from a lot of people around and I think they'd like to see us do well. We're going to give it everything we got and see what happens."

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Grand Am) "I'm just happy that we got back in the show. Everyone's been working real hard, and we're still not back where we were, but we're definitely making a positive move in the right direction. The car seemed to fall off a little bit today, but the way we've run the last two races it's been a stellar improvement for this team. I just commend everyone for getting our Summit Racing Pontiac Grand Am back into the top half of the field. We have a finger on the problem, but unfortunately, I thin it's going to take some time to get it fixed. I think we're headed back in the right direction. It's going to take awhile yet, but with two races to go we're going to be focussed on going some rounds tomorrow, getting qualified in Pomona and finishing up the season strong. We have the winter to fix the problem and hopefully get our R & D program back to where it needs to be."

In Funny Car, Whit Bazemore posted his eighth No. 1 qualifying spot in the last 11 races. Currently second in the points, Bazemore drove the Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird to track records in elapsed time and top speed with a run of 4.748 seconds at 323.04 mph. John Force is qualified in the No. 2 position, Tony Pedregon is third and Tim Wilkerson is fourth in a Pontiac Firebird.

Whit Bazemore (Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird) "It's a tremendous effort to come here to Las Vegas and run a 4.74. It says a lot about the track preparation and it says a lot about our team, that we were able to take advantage of those conditions. Quite honestly, we fully expected our competitor to take away that pole tonight and it didn't happen. We'll count ourselves fortunate to be able to grab eight out of the last 11 poles. For me it's just an unbelievable achievement, one that I never thought I'd ever approach. It's just a lot of fun that we're having and a tremendous job by Lee Beard and Mike Neff on this Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird. A lot's changed since were runner-up in April. Our team has a tremendous amount more confidence than we did when we were here last. Obviously we have the performance to back up that confidence and that's why we're doing as well as we are."

-Pontiac Racing-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Ron Krisher , Bruce Allen , Tom Hammonds , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Terry Adams , Mike Edwards , Mike Neff