Memphis Friday Pontiac Notes & Quotes

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9, 1998 PRO STOCK Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird) The barometer is up, and with our engines being naturally aspirated, they depend on Mother Nature to make power. The cooler the air gets, the higher the...


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird) The barometer is up, and with our engines being naturally aspirated, they depend on Mother Nature to make power. The cooler the air gets, the higher the barometer, and the less humidity, the more power you're going to make. One thing that happens late in the year is that the humidity starts creeping up which really hurts these engines. What we do is factor all three of them and look at what we call relative altitude. That's the air that the engine is actually running in. That run was about 900 feet, which is about the best air we've had since Richmond or Houston (March and April). Denver is almost 11,000 feet so that gives you an idea of how wide the spectrum is.

They reconditioned the track last year, ground it and really made it pretty decent. We felt that with a year running on it, the track would be better. We thought we could run a 6.89 so the 6.88 was actually better than we expected. That's about as good as the GM Goodwrench Firebird can run given the conditions. I don't think the times will be as good tomorrow morning but I think they will be close. The track will be warmer so that will be a plus, but I don't think the air will be as good. I would say we'll probably be two-hundredths slower tomorrow morning. There could be some shuffling around in the bottom spots from No. 12 qualifier on down. No. 1 qualifier - 6.881ET(track record) / 199.55MPH (track record)

Tom Martino (Martino Racing/Jesel Valve Train Pontiac Firebird) This Pontiac Firebird has a lot bigger sweet spot than our previous car. We were pretty close on the clutch and got lucky. The track came to us a little bit and she went right down through there. We have some room for improvement though. We were a little heavy in the middle and were moving around some. The track has that bump in it and it upsets these cars when we drive over it. Now we have something we can tune from. I don't think that 6.98 will stand up. With the bump at Topeka around 7-flat, I don't think 6.98 is going to stay in. I know we probably could have run a 6.96 that time. If we stay where we are, pick up with the weather and make the same run, we'll be all right. Our computer didn't work on the first run so we're making changes by the seat of our pants to get ready for tonight. No. 14 qualifier - 6.987ET / 197.31MPH

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) The car started shaking real hard, so when I tried to put it in fourth gear, it jumped straight to fifth. The track has a long way to go to catch up with these air conditions. The Splitfire/Peak Firebird is making a ton of horsepower and I think tomorrow morning's session will actually be better than tonight's session. After we get a few more fuel cars on the track, we'll see better ET if the air conditions remain the same. No. 8 qualifier - 6.946ET / 197.57MPH

Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) We're having a real rough time getting the Pennzoil Firebird dialed-in right for this track and these conditions. Being the first pair out in the evening round probably hurt us a little as well. The times got progressively quicker as the session went along because people were adjusting their cars off of what we showed them. We really have some work to do to get set for tomorrow. The weather will allow us to go fast, but we have to be ready to take advantage of it.

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) We're definitely going to have to make a better run if we plan on staying in the show. We were kind of heavy in the clutch and the car shook the tires right off the starting line. The car veered left, and I would've normally gotten out of it, but after all the rain in Topeka, I wanted to make a complete pass to make sure the motor was okay. We also wanted to get a good baseline for tonight to see where we were with our clutch and the gear changes down track. I have to feel that our Summit Racing Firebird needs to step up tonight, or we won't be racing on Sunday. Tonight could be the main session because it's supposed to warm up a couple of degrees tomorrow. We did get some excellent data from that run. What we felt on the run is exactly what we saw on the computer. No. 5 qualifier - 6.941ET / 197.57MPH

George Marnell (Tenneco Pontiac Firebird) The car got out of the groove to the right, and discretion being the better part of valor, we decided to shut it off. The run would have been good enough for the top half of the field if we would have been able to stay in it. We have plenty of data for tonight's session so the Tenneco Firebird will be ready. No. 4 qualifier - 6.937ET / 197.31MPH

Bruce Allen (Outlaw Pontiac Firebird) We got some information on that first run and at least got down through there. It spun and shook a little bit in third gear, but the track was pretty loose out there and a lot of people had trouble. At least we got some data and we can adjust for tonight. Unfortunately, we're going to be in the right lane, which doesn't seem too good. It never has been, but that puts us back in the left lane for tomorrow. Normally the transition between the concrete and the asphalt is a little rougher in the right lane. Once our car gets upset going over bumps, it has a hard time recovering, and grabbing hold and hooking. We're changing some shocks and some other things to try and learn something about that right lane. I think the Outlaw Firebird will be good in low and second, and if we can get through third, we'll be just fine. The conditions are going to be great and I can't wait to run. No. 13 qualifier - 6.978ET / 196.62MPH


Cruz Pedregon (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) We just over powered the track a little bit. The Interstate Batteries Firebird went .889 at 60-feet which for us, is quicker than most of our 60 foot times all year. It seemed to make it through the area on the racetrack where a lot of teams were having trouble. We got out to about the 330 and it just came loose with no warning at all. I was kind of surprised, but Wes (Cerny) will come back and make the necessary adjustments. There's no doubt in my mind that we'll get this car down the track. He has a good handle on things, and at this time of the year, we're trying to make the car more consistent. I've always said that when your car is a rocket ship, your window of error is very small. I'm just tickled that the car runs as good as it does and as frequently as it does. No. 2 qualifier - 4.933ET / 302.82MPH

Tim Wilkerson (JCIT Pontiac Firebird) The JCIT Firebird did exactly what we thought it would do. It was a little sluggish at the end of the run, but that was kind of our Memphis tune up. The track was a little better than what we considered. It looked like a couple of those guys were going for the throat and Capps and Etchells went right down through there. A 4.98 is pretty darn good, but I think we can also run that well. The guys are over there fixing it, so that the next round should be pretty good. We're not to keen about these night sessions, but tomorrow should be just as good. We're trying to learn to adapt to every racetrack. We don't have the logbook that everyone else has, but we're learning. We're doing better and better on every run as the year moves along. We're just trying to make this racecar as consistent as we can. No. 8 qualifier - 5.179ET / 281.83MPH

Al Hofmann (GM Performance Parts Pontiac Firebird) We got some new clutch disks, stuck them in there and boy are they aggressive. We're going to put some old stuff we have in there tonight just so we can get the GM Performance Parts Firebird down the track. Obviously we're going to play with it some more. The barometer here is really high and it's creating a lot of horsepower. We slowed everything way down and we were still way up on power. We made some physical changes to the clutch, the flywheel and the pressure plate. It feels a little more rigid, but the good news is that it didn't hurt the rear main when it spun the back tires. We did somewhat what we wanted to do with the exception that we didn't make a complete run. Oh well, we have three more shots and that's all you can look at. No. 21 qualifier - 10.564ET / 82.30MPH

Del Worsham (Checker's/Schucks/Kragen Pontiac Firebird) When was the last time a Funny Car team in the Winston top-10 got excited about running a 5.29 in the first session, with the tires smoking at the launch and pistons disintegrating at the top end? How about right now, and it's us. A 5.29 is absolutely nothing to get excited about, but we've smoked the tires right at the starting line for three races in a row, and haven't had a full pass in the first session since maybe Dallas back in May. I mean, we've been struggling in qualifying and making things real hard on ourselves all year by not getting a good baseline early. So even though it was pretty ugly, the 5.29 gives us that all important data. We can tune this Firebird from there. There's nothing to tune from when you smoke the tires at the 10-foot mark. I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do here. Even with all the trouble, we've been a top half qualifier at five of the last seven races. We want to keep that up here.

Two races ago in Reading, we put a new 5-disc clutch set up in the Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Firebird and put three of the four qualifying laps on it. We were the first Funny Car to try this deal, and we're still the only ones. We also stayed and tested some on Monday in Reading and we learned a lot, but we left Reading without getting it down the track. Then in Topeka, with all the bad weather and bad track conditions, we left the standard 4-disc in. We decided to go ahead and put the 5-disc clutch back in the car for this night session to see what it would do. Well, we missed the tune up, the car wasn't running all that great, but the clutch got us down through there. So even though we kind of labored with the car on the track, we at least saw this new clutch actually move the car from A to B. I shut off early because of an electrical gremlin. We've got a dashboard light in our car wired to the oil pan, and when the pan pressure builds to a dangerous point, that light comes on and I can lift off the throttle. The light came on just past mid track and I lifted, but the wiring shorted and turned it on. There wasn't anything wrong with the motor. I think we're figuring this stuff out though. I can't wait until tomorrow. No. 11 qualifier - 5.298ET / 268.44MPH

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Cruz Pedregon , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell