Las Vegas Saturday Chevrolet/Pontiac Summary

LAS VEGAS (April 8, 2000) - The professional fields are set for tomorrow's running of the inaugural Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In Pro Stock, Ron Krisher is the No. 1 qualifier in the Eagle One Pontiac Firebird. Mark...

LAS VEGAS (April 8, 2000) - The professional fields are set for tomorrow's running of the inaugural Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In Pro Stock, Ron Krisher is the No. 1 qualifier in the Eagle One Pontiac Firebird. Mark Pawuk will start eliminations qualified second, Warren Johnson is fourth, Richie Stevens is fifth and Jamie Yates is sixth. Jim Yates is qualified ninth, Bruce Allen is 11th, Tom Martino is 12th and Greg Anderson is 15th.

In Funny Car, Todd Paton in the Nitrofish Pontiac Firebird won his first career Funny Car pole position. Tim Wilkerson is qualified fourth, Al Hofmann is seventh, Del Worsham is ninth, Bruce Sarver is 11th, Frank Pedregon is 13th and Cristen Powell is 15th. Dale Creasy Jr. qualified 18th, Gary Densham was 19th, and Cruz Pedregon was 20th.

In Top Fuel, Team Pontiac driver Cory McClenathan qualified the MBNA dragster in the No. 3 position. The No. 1 qualifier was Kenny Bernstein with an elapsed time of 4.630 seconds at 314.09 mph. Joe Amato is qualified second, Gary Scelzi is fourth and Melanie Troxel is fifth.


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) - "We can get off the starting line just fine, but we can't keep a grip on the track in the middle of the run. We had the quickest time in the first 60 feet in the Saturday morning session, but when I shifted into second gear it broke the tires loose and they spun all the way to the finish line. Some of that was self-inflicted; we may have just put a little too much bite in the setup. The heat contributes 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 - and get down the race track every time. I don't think this race is necessarily going to be won by the quickest car, but rather by the team that can adapt to the conditions. You can't just make one good run tomorrow - you'll have to do it four times." No. 4 qualifier - 7.075ET/196.33MPH (track record)

Ron Krisher (Eagle One Pontiac Firebird) "Being the No. 1 qualifier tonight is pretty exciting and I guess it's just as exciting for my crew chief, Mike Edwards who was part of the John Kite team. John was from Las Vegas and it to do as well as we have so far this weekend means a lot to everybody. We've been sneaking up on this and we finally did it. I wouldn't say we had a good handle in the beginning. We made a horrible run on the first pass, did some things differently on the second pass and then the Eagle One Pontiac Firebird came around and went real fast. This morning we struggled again but got a pretty good handle on this track in the heat of the day this afternoon. I'm sure we do. We'd like to win tomorrow, but it's going to be a tough race. The field seems to be jammed up in a little pile. You have a tenth of a second from top to bottom, which is kind of a wide field for Pro Stock. It's unusual because most of our fields are separated by just four to six hundredth's of a second. That's just a racetrack phenomenon which goes to show you that this is anybody's race tomorrow because this is a difficult track to get down. Our second run today is the baseline for tomorrow, and as such it was very, very important. We knew if we didn't get knocked off this morning we 'd be safe going into tonight's session. But we had to know we could go into Sunday with some control over our destiny and I feel real confident that we have a good handle on tomorrow." No 1 qualifier - 7.048ET (track record)/195.42MPH

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) "This weekend, we saw the advantages of having a two-car team. We went out with a combination in both cars that we thought were alike. It worked well in Jamie's Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird and I struggled with it in my car. That's because of a difference in the chassis. I changed my car around from Gainesville and it didn't seem to like what we had done. We were able to keep tuning on Jamie's, trying some of that stuff on my car and we really never found something that worked as well. We have a good baseline going into Sunday off of Jamie's car, we just have to try and adapt it to my car to see if we can't get it to run a little better. We've struggled with his car all year - it won't run speed, it won't run the back half and now we know that the motor in his car has some potential. We also know that we have two good racecars that can be contenders. We just have to go out tomorrow, work hard and batlle it out for some round wins.

Richie Stevens (Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird) -- "It's great to qualify so well. It helps us in the Winston points and in the Holley Dominator points also. The Valspar Pontiac really likes this track. The facility here is awesome and every lap made the track better and better. I like our chances. It'll be tough on us because we're at altitude here and the tune-up for Woody will be different here then it normally is. We'll do what we can. Woody ran well in testing last week so maybe we can pull one out of the bag. I'm not even going to worry about it now because I need to be thinking about Tommy. He is one of the best drivers on the circuit with one of the best cars so I'll be lucky to get by him in Round 1. Hopefully, I'll continue the good reaction times I had in Gainesville and give this Valspar car a chance to win. That's all we can ask for." No. 5 qualifier - 7.077ET/192.85MPH

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing/Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird) - "The track started going away at the tail end of the session and the bald spots were more prominent by the time we ran. The car was out of control in low gear but we still went down the racetrack. When you make good runs and have consistency that usually equates into winning rounds on raceday. The Summit Racing/Matco Tools Pontiac has been moving forward and obviously we'd like to be the No. 1 qualifier but No. 2 is not too bad either. We'll do some more testing this afternoon and hopefully get a good gameplan for tomorrow."

Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) - "The Century 21 Firebird made a pretty good run this morning. We knocked the clutch clean out of it, which made us pretty happy, because believe it or not, that's what we were looking to do. Even so, it was the fifth quickest pass with the fastest top speed of the session, which renewed our confidence in our power. Tonight, since we knew the conditions (a relative altitude of 5000 feet, with an ambient track temperature of 94 degrees and a track temperature of 129 degrees) would prevent anyone in the top 16 from improving, we decided to experiment with an eye on tomorrow. Unfortunately, it didn't work. The car shook almost out of control, and I had to pedal it. However, unlike Funny Car, you can't pedal a Pro Stock Car. But the result doesn't really bother me, because we were trying something different. For tomorrow morning, we'll plug our setup in from this morning and adjust from there, depending on how the track looks." No. 12 qualifier - 7.099ET/196.10MPH

Jamie Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) - "Our Splitfire Pontiac Firebird has really come around at this race. We've done a lot of testing and it definitely seems to show it on this track. We have one car running well and now our goal is to get dad's car running back at the head of the pack. We ran very well in the last session in the heat. We'll just tune it up a little bit and hopefully we'll have a good race with Bruce (Allen). He's a tough driver with a lot of experience so it ought to be good." No. 6 qualifier - 7.079ET/194.83MPH


Al Hofmann (Mooneyes/Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird) - I can see this Mooneyes Firebird coming around more and more every weekend. You're not going to get a better tuner on a racecar than Jim Dunn, especially with the kind of experience he has on so many different racetracks. We're getting into that time of year where Jim's expertise will really start to show. You're going to see a big improvement in this program the closer we get towards the summer months. We weren't too concerned coming into today's session even though we weren't qualified. I was pretty confident going up there today. If it rattled the tires I was ready to do my job to try and save it, but that wasn't necessary. If Jim does his job and I do mine, we should be right there at the front in a position to win some races. But all in all it was a nice smooth pass. We changed the injectors and went up there trying something we hadn't done before, and it was perfect - right on the money. I think we can pick up a couple of hundredth's tonight and run around a five-flat, but other than that we have a real good racecar for tomorrow. This new 2000 Firebird body is making a big, big difference on these difficult racetracks with its downforce. We couldn't ask for a better car." No. 7 qualifier - 5.028ET/263.51MPH

Dale Creasy Jr. (Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird) - "I don't know exactly what happened. I hit the gas and was trucking along pretty good and it didn't even blow up. Instead it just lit up and there was instant fire in the car. I knew I was in trouble but I knew I had to stop it. I hit the parachutes, but didn't feel them catch and then I knew I had to take it over myself. It wasn't going to stop itself. I started hitting the brakes and the car was skidding around everywhere. I couldn't breathe, and I couldn't see but I didn't want to hit anything. I had already wrecked the body and I didn't want to wreck the chassis. I got out but the car is a total loss. We'll probably have to take a race off because we need to recuperate. That has the to be the worst fire I've ever gone through. That's the hottest I've ever been. I thought the fire we had at the U.S. Nationals last year was bad but the body was off. With the shield we have inside the compartment of these cars, the fire was coming right in my face. I don't know if that's good or bad because my hands never got hot. Right now I'm just glad it didn't turn out any worse than it could have. I'm fine - I'm disappointed but I'm fine." No. 18 qualifier - 5.178ET/281.01MPH

Todd Paton (Nitrofish Pontiac Firebird) - "We're real please with the Nitrofish Firebird so far, especially coming into a new track where we don't have any data. It's been touch and go, but at the same time we were the first car to break 300 mph on this surface yesterday so we have a pretty good feel for it. We had a 4.90 combination running last night before a blower belt decided to let go at about a thousand feet. We went out today and were happy to at least duplicate it, or even improve for that matter considering it was in the heat of the day. We have a real good raceday combination and if I do my job on the starting line this Firebird should be in the winner's circle. Wayne's (Dupuy) been doing this for quite some time. He's pretty smart when it comes to tuning a racecar. We haven't had to abort any runs on this car so far. It's a pretty solid combination and he's pretty good at adjusting to these different track conditions. This track is changing at an incredible rate and the more rubber we put on it, the better it gets."

Second Session: "We're getting spoiled in a hurry. The Nitrofish team was already well established. I came in after running a Pontiac Firebird body in the Federal Mogul ranks and carried that experience into the nitro class. The car kind of 'fishtailed' a little bit, swung around and we held on to the No. 1 spot. We sat out the final session of qualifying. We have a pretty good budget but we're not the highest funded team out here. It just came down to dollars and sense -- we didn't want to spend $5000 to make $4000. We sat it out, got lucky, dodged a couple of bullets and here we are, No. 1. The car I'm running now is very similar to the Firebird I ran in Federal Mogul. The only difference is that I don't have any shifter buttons which you have with the three speeds in the Federal Mogul class. Sometimes it feels like I've been doing this forever and at other times, when I'm spinning the tires, it seems like it's an all new experience. We're learning, and as time goes by, we hope to put this car in the winner's circle soon." No. 1 qualifier - 4.945ET(track record)/307.09MPH

Tim Wilkerson (Sioux City Kenworth Pontiac Firebird) - "All we're trying to do is keep this Sioux City Kenworth Pontiac Firebird consistent. That's our goal. We tried a little something in the middle of the racetrack that made the car do exactly what we thought it would do in the heat of the day. That's okay really. We've left the starting line hard three runs in-a-row with all three runs having the potential of being four-second passes. Once we get the back half of the racetrack fixed we'll be a car to be reckoned with on Sunday. We're going to be the team that you have to run at least five-flat against or we're going to whoop you. That's our gameplan for 2000. Hopefully that sort of thinking will carry us into a final round tomorrow. We're not going to be the fastest car out there ever - that's not our objective. These are the kind of racing conditions for guys that don't have the power that Toliver, Force and Capps have. The little I've learned over the years working with Ronnie Swearingen, and Terry Manzer and Fred Mandolini is that it's difficult to make these cars fast, but at the same time, it's just as difficult to slow them down. When you're at Houston or Dallas or Topeka, some of these guys can run 4.80s like they're falling out of trees. But when you're at a place where you need to run five-ohs, you think you're backing it up but you're not even close to backing it up. You get a guy like me that runs 4.90 with his tongue hanging out, he comes to a track like this, goes five-flat and looks like a hero. That's okay. We'll take days like this when we can get 'em, because in Houston next week and we may struggle. But then again maybe not. We have a plan for Houston and hopefully it'll work out." No. 4 qualifier - 4.996ET/292.52MPH

Cristen Powell (Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird) -- "Our season has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start and I think that's because we're a new team. We qualified at Phoenix, and had things going well for us at Gainesville but this weekend it finally came together. Ronnie's (Swearingen) been creeping up on the tune up, and with all of the different gremlins being thrown at him, he's done a remarkable job. We may be 15th, but we're 15th with an awesome number. It's great to be in a field that was this competitive. The run felt great, our Pontiac Firebird charged right to the finish line, we didn't drop any cylinders or anything like that, and it was just a great pass." No. 15 qualifier - 5.067ET/306.19MPH


Cory McClenathan (MBNA/Pontiac) - "I think the testing we did in Gainesville after the Gatornationals has really helped us. We stayed Monday, Wes (Cerny) changed the car around, it started running a little bit differently and began to show some promise. We got here and on the first pass the car was pretty good. We got a little bit greedy last night and smoked the hoops. We came back today, carefully made the right adjustments and sure enough, right there in the heat of the day she runs a 4.67 at 305 -- that's after shutting it off a little bit early. Now we're going to tune it up a little bit more and see what happens. I'm pretty happy though. This MBNA dragster is doing a great job for Pontiac and the rest of our sponsors. It's always nicer coming to the racetrack on Sunday knowing that you can go a few rounds and that's what we're here for. We can win this race tomorrow. I know the odds are 20-1 against us, but that's a bet I wouldn't hesitate to make." No. 3 qualifier - 4.660ET/314.97MPH

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Kenny Bernstein , Mark Pawuk , Jamie Yates , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Dale Creasy Jr. , Gary Densham , Cruz Pedregon , Todd Paton , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , Melanie Troxel , Mike Edwards , Cristen Powell