Las Vegas Pontiac - GMC Race Notes & Quotes

LAS VEGAS (April 9, 2000) - The odds were against John Lingenfelter this morning when he arrived at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Summitracing.com Nationals. After breaking his best engine during qualifying on Friday, the Summit Racing...

LAS VEGAS (April 9, 2000) - The odds were against John Lingenfelter this morning when he arrived at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Summitracing.com Nationals. After breaking his best engine during qualifying on Friday, the Summit Racing Sonoma driver felt lucky just to have qualified for final eliminations. But today Lingenfelter took advantage of a pair of opportunities to advance to the semi-final round before losing to Randy Daniels. The 54 year-old Pro Stock Truck competitor came into today's race qualified in the No. 14 position, and played the spoiler defeating heavily favored Jerry Haas in round one and GMC Sonoma teammate Rick Jones in round two. "We broke our good engine on Friday so we felt very fortunate to do as well as we did today," said Lingenfelter. "This was an important race for this team with Summit Racing being the title sponsor. We always want to do well for all of our sponsors. We were on the verge yesterday of not making the field, so we're tickled to make it as far as we did. "Today things kind of evened up. At Gainesville we had a great truck to win the race, had a good light against David Spitzer in the first round and then the transmission gave out. Eventually the breaks will go your way, but we've been waiting for about a year and a half for that to happen. We just hope this is the beginning." Lingenfelter's performance today moves him into seventh place in the Winston points standings with an inventory of momentum heading into next weekend's contest in Houston. "Houston is going to be a better racetrack, but where we're weak is in the suspension department," Lingenfelter said. "The track there should be more forgiving to us because the starting line is much better. "We'll ship our broken engine back to Indiana tonight air freight and hope that we have it back in Houston on Friday. Without it we're about 15 to 20 horsepower down from the best teams. We have some new stuff coming together that hopefully will help this GMC Sonoma run at the front, but we can definitely win in Houston. The only race you can't win is the one you don't show up for." Despite losing in round two to Lingenfelter, Rick Jones continued his torrid pace with a strong performance this weekend at Las Vegas. The Country Motors Trailer Sales GMC driver qualified his Pro Stock Sonoma in the No. 6 position, turning in four consistent laps during two days of time trials on an unpredictable surface, under extremely harsh weather conditions. He leaves Las Vegas fifth in the Winston Pro Stock standings. "This whole Pro Stock Truck deal is real tough," Jones said. "I'm not disappointed at all because just to have qualified here says something about this team. The Country Motors Trailer Sales Sonoma is running better and better at each race, and then of course when you do that you expect to win. We're doing that - we're going more and more rounds, staying up there in the points and I'm happy. John's (Lingenfelter) a good friend of mine and it was an off day on my part. My crew did a great job giving me a good truck for the right lane, but this GMC will be back and ready to go in Houston." After three races on the 14-event Pro Stock Truck tour, three GMC Sonoma drivers are in the top 10 of the points standings. Rick Jones holds down fifth place with 161 points just one point out of fourth. John Lingenfelter is in seventh place with 157 points, and Sunnen/Dynagear Sonoma driver David Spitzer, who did not make today's race, is in 10th place with 116 points. Race winner Bob Panella is in first place in an S-10 with 292 points, Greg Stanfield is second with 241, Randy Daniels is third with 225 and Steve Johns is fourth with 162. The next stop on the Pro Stock Truck tour is the 13th annual O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown, Tex., on April 13 -16. It is the fourth race on the 14-event NHRA Winston championship tour. Television coverage can be seen on TNN on Sunday, April 16, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.

PRO STOCK

Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) - "The car got loose in the final. We may have been a little too greedy because we thought the track would cool off more than it did. I had my best 60-foot time in the last round, but when I shifted into second gear, it just spun the tires. The heat contributed to the problem because traction goes down as the temperature increases. The solution is to back down the power you're putting to the pavement while still running quick enough to win. We felt that if the Hoosier tires were going to work, they'd work on a hot race track like this. I feel very optimistic going into the race in Houston next weekend. We could spin the tires at will here, but we won't have that problem on a well seasoned track."

Ron Krisher (Eagle One Pontiac Firebird) - "We were No. 1 in both rounds today. The Eagle One Pontiac Firebird was No. 1 on speed in the first round and No. 1 period in the second round. Those younger guys will get you sometimes on reaction time and that's something we'll keep working on. I've been practicing on it between races, but youth does have it's advantages. It's funny how that works. The golf ball doesn't fly as far as it used to, you can't throw a baseball as fast as you'd like and that's just the way it is. What we'll do is work on the car and see what we can do to pick up the reaction time there. That car of ours is one fast son-of-a-gun though. I'm driving better every race and getting a lot of laps in. Compared to where I started with this deal, everything is starting to pick up. These guys are getting better preparing the racecar, I'm getting better at my driving and we're in the hunt in the points chase. We feel absolutely terrific about how things are going. We set top speed this morning and that wasn't exactly the time of day to do that. We put a little more timing in the motor and it perked way up. Even on our second run we outran everybody by a hundredth of a second on the back half of the racetrack. Now we'll focus on Houston. I want to go 200 mph - we definitely have enough power to do that. If we don't get it that's okay. We're not going to make or break our career with it but it would be a nice feather in the cap."

Richie Stevens (Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird) - "This was a good weekend for the Valspar Pontiac Firebird. We had our best qualifying session of the year, which will help us a bunch in the (qualifying) points standings. We went a round, which is what you need to do at every race if you want to contend for the championship. And we solidified our spot in the standings. I'm happy. Against Warren (Johnson), I made it all the way to high gear and I still didn't see him. Then he inched in there and got me at the finish line. That's 11 times in a row he's beaten me. I guess there is no shame in losing to Warren because he's one of the best drivers of all time. I'll get him one day. We ran pretty quick against him considering it was a total shot in the dark with that motor. We hadn't run it here and with the altitude of this track we didn't know how to jet the carburetors or set the clutch. Tommy (Utt, crew chief) did a heck of a job getting it to run as quick as it did. I think we would have won that lap if it were at any other track."

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing/Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird) - "Our program is really coming together. This is the best start I've ever had. After four races we're third in the points standings but it's disappointing to get beat by those other Ohio cars. I thought today might be our day in front of the Summit Racing people, but going to the semifinals is much better than going out in the first round. We qualified real well, have a young energetic team and hopefully you'll see this Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird in the winner's circle in the near future. This is a very tough class. We've been on the right side of the ladder a couple of times this year, my driving's been a lot better, and with a couple of breaks we would be in second place right now. We just have to keep focussed and continue working on our program. We need a little more power but we're making good runs. With the team we have together right now, we can march right to the championship. I've always had good luck in Houston, and obviously we're going to be starting over after racing here in Las Vegas. I'd love nothing more to bring a win home for Summit Racing and Pontiac in Houston. Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) - "The left lane was definitely better than the right, but that had nothing to do with the outcome of the race. To be brutally honest, it was a case of driver error. The Century 21 Firebird made by far the best run in the right hand lane of anyone in the round. He (Stevens) outran us, but didn't have a very good light, so there is no reason why I shouldn't have been racing Warren Johnson in the second round."

Jamie Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) - "It was a great weekend for us. We were able to fix our car and that will help us to be competitive. I was really happy. We qualified the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird solid and my driving continues to improve even though I need to work on my reaction times. But I've come a long way and feel much more comfortable in the car - much more so than I was in Phoenix. I'm just ready to get to Houston, get a few more runs under my belt and hopefully we can qualify well there. I really like the Houston facility. The track's really smooth, the air is usually good and it should be very fast. I'm getting more and more comfortable with every race. As far as driving, I did a good job shifting, but overall I was able to improve - even from last week when we tested here."

FUNNY CAR

Al Hofmann (Mooneyes/Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird) - "I know we had a good racecar today and it's disappointing. I think maybe the track started to go away. The temperature got to it; there's been an awful lot of oil put down in that lane -- I mean John Force is pretty good at picking lanes and he did the same thing in that lane. It's tough to say for sure what happened, but I know this Mooneyes Firebird is a fast racecar. We were low e.t. of the first round and had a car that could have won the race. It's coming together though -- every race it's getting better. A few of these races have our names on them, it's just a matter of getting to them. Houston's going to be a fast track and I can really see us doing well there. The new 2000 Firebird is awesome. I don't believe there's another body on the planet anywhere this good. It's just a real good car for the downforce and the aerodynamics are superior. We haven't even leaned on it yet, and it's running 246 mph in the middle so it's still got a lot left in it."

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "On Friday our Checkers Schuck's Kragen Firebird was dialed in. It was still a bit soft though, so we stepped it up a little on Saturday and tried to find where the limits were on this track. Through all that, we were proud to qualify 9th. This was a very tough field. When Tony Pedregon finished qualifying in the 8th spot, I wasn't too happy about it but I was absolutely confident we would knock him off. Then we went out there and blew the tires off right at the hit and lost to his 5.41. When you smoke the tires and the other guy runs a 4.89 or something, you just shrug your shoulders and get ready for next week. But when you do it and he runs a 5.41, you just want to cry. The tire smoker was the result of a clutch malfunction which occurred on the burnout. "During the burnout the clutch pedal got past the stop that holds it, so the whole way back from the burnout the car was dragging the clutch and heating it up. By the time we got staged, the clutch was so heated up it just locked up and we didn't have a chance. These are the little things that happen to everyone, but I still can't help believing they're not supposed to happen to us. I'm just upside-down about this. We flat out let a round get away, and we can't do that."

Todd Paton (Nitrofish Pontiac Firebird) - "All in all, we made a pretty good showing this weekend. If we wouldn't have dropped a cylinder we the Nitrofish Pontiac Firebird would have been more in the fight than what we were. We gave up a little on the start and Tony (Pedregon) started to put some distance on us. He had dropped a cylinder in the round before and we haven't had that problem out here. That's just one of those things. We didn't see it coming, it came along and this time the big fish got bit. We're looking forward to Houston and we're pleased with what we've been able to learn in the last two races. At Gainesville we performed well on a proven racetrack. This weekend our performance level was high on an unproven racetrack. We know what to run in Houston. Dupuy has a pretty big logbook on that track and we're looking for some big things out of the Nitrofish Firebird."

Tim Wilkerson (Sioux City Kenworth Pontiac Firebird) - "All we're trying to do is be consistent and do the best we can. Tony (Pedregon) was there for the taking and the Sioux City Kenworth machine ran about as good as you can run out there. But he made a perfect run so our hats are off to those guys. We were side-by-side with him at the eighth mile, and would have been okay if the pulley would have stayed on. What's fun to watch is how hard they think they have to run to beat this Pontiac Firebird. That's what we like - they know they have to run their best or they're going home. We'll go to Houston and see what happens. The crew has really worked well together. We were able to meet the 75 minute time limit okay, although we were a little late in the semi finals because we hurt the motor. There were a bunch of guys from Al Hofmann's team and Dale Creasy's team helping us out. They knew we needed the assistance. We just had too many things go wrong where we don't have a pile of readily available parts. We hurt the blower, hurt the motor, hurt the heads - we had the motor fixed, but we didn't have the heads ready to go. That's all right though. This is something we're all learning. This is a great bunch of guys - a group of friends who just want to go racing. Now it's turning into a profession because we're going rounds and looking good. Hopefully we can attract some more sponsorship to keep this program going. We need to make sure that everyone in corporate America knows that a first-class quality program is available. If something like that happens, you'll see us going full time."

TOP FUEL

Cory McClenathan (MBNA/Pontiac) - "That was just a matter of driver error. I left a little bit late and I paid the toll. In the second round, the driver did everything he could to get us the win and in the third round, I was a little lax on the starting line. Getting beat on a holeshot is the worst thing for a driver -- you hate that. But I have to say how proud I am of the guys. They did a great job - the car's really starting to turn around. Wes (Cerny) tells me we can go to any track now and run right down the strip. I feel confident that our cards are back on the table and that we're good to go from here on out. In only a few short days we'll be right back at it again. I think we should be able to go into Houston and run some high 4.50s, maybe some low 4.60s. At least now we know that we can get this car down the track and I think we'll be able to show a little bit more in Texas - throw the trailer at it so to speak. We also found some horsepower here so we're pretty happy. It would have been nice to go to the finals but we're leaving Las Vegas on a good night."

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Panella , Mark Pawuk , Jamie Yates , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , John Force , Ron Krisher , Randy Daniels , John Lingenfelter , Todd Paton , Cory McClenathan , Greg Stanfield , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , Jerry Haas , Steve J