Memphis: Pontiac-GMC Racing Friday notes

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (October 6, 2000) -- Qualifying for the 13th annual AutoZone Nationals got underway today at Memphis Motorsports Park. In Pro Stock, Richie Stevens Jr. ran a career-best elapsed time in the Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird...

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (October 6, 2000) -- Qualifying for the 13th annual AutoZone Nationals got underway today at Memphis Motorsports Park. In Pro Stock, Richie Stevens Jr. ran a career-best elapsed time in the Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird and took the No. 1 qualifying spot with a run of 6.836 seconds at 198.96 mph. Jim Yates also ran a career-best elapsed time in the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird and took the No. 2 qualifying position with a lap of 6.838 seconds at 200.98 mph (career best). Rickie Smith is qualified third, Jeg Coughlin Jr. is fourth and Warren Johnson is qualified fifth. Mark Osborne is qualified seventh, Bruce Allen is eighth, Mark Pawuk is ninth, Tom Martino is 13th and Ron Krisher is 15th.

In Funny Car, Jerry Toliver took the No. 1 qualifying spot in the WWF Pontiac Firebird with a track-record elapsed time of 4.896 seconds at 302.28 mph. Scotty Cannon is qualified second and Whit Bazemore is third. Frank Pedregon qualified fourth in the Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird with an elapsed time of 4.936 seconds at 267.27 mph. Ron Capps is qualified fifth, Tim Wilkerson is ninth, Bruce Sarver is 10th, Gary Densham is 12th and Al Hofmann is 14th. Tommy Johnson Jr., is qualified 17th, Del Worsham is 19th and Dale Creasy Jr. is 22nd.

In Top Fuel, MBNA/Pontiac driver Cory McClenathan took the No. 9 qualifying position with an elapsed time of 4.735 seconds at 296.96 mph. Tony Schumacher is the No. 1 qualifier with an run of 4.593 seconds at 315.19 mph. David Grubnic is second, Gary Scelzi is third, Joe Amato is fourth and Doug Kalitta is fifth.

The 13th annual AutoZone Nationals presented by Pennzoil is the 20th race on the 23-event NHRA Winston championship tour. Television coverage of qualifying highlights can be seen on Speedvision on Saturday, October 7, starting at 8 p.m. Eastern. Final eliminations can be seen on Sunday, October 8, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

PRO STOCK

Richie Stevens (Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird) - "We broke a lifter in the motor in Round 1 and then found out our back-up engine had a problem also. We were in a big-time bind and time was running out. I went over to Ron Krisher's pit and asked him if we could borrow a motor because his are a lot like ours. He said they had a test motor we could use and we went to work putting it in. We barely got done in time and when I did my burnout before the run it was making a weird noise. Man, I was thinking we were in trouble. But when I hit the throttle that thing felt like one of the (800-cubic inch) mountain motors I used to run in the IHRA. It was pulling so hard all the way down the track. It's unbelievable that I was getting power like that out of a 500-inch motor. I can't thank Ron and his crew enough. His engine builders Rocky Roberts and Jimmy Oliver are making some awesome horsepower. I'm not even sure if we can keep this engine in there for the rest of the weekend; I haven't talked to him about that yet. But just to do this tonight is awesome. That actually felt like a career-best run. I wish my dad (Richie Stevens Sr.) was here tonight. He's never missed a race since I've been driving but he wasn't feeling well on the way to the airport and he decided to stay home. I talked to him before the run and he seemed fine. Maybe this will help him feel better." No. 1 qualifier - 6.836ET(career best)/198.96MPH

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) - "I don't know if I'm more excited about our performance or our consistency. Since we rolled into the last race at Topeka, we've been one of the top two or three cars every time down the racetrack. We get to the point where we look at the run and say 'boy if we could have picked it up a little we could have been No. 1.' The last couple of weekends for us it's been a matter of just two thousandths. We have a good combination on the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird, but it's a little difficult to tune when the track gets really good like it is tonight. It wants to stand up and spin the tire on the wheelie bar pretty hard. But it's hard to go away from the combination because it is running so consistently and that's what wins races. I don't know if I'm more excited about the 200.98 MPH speed we ran tonight or the 6.83 elapsed time. I'm pretty pumped right now about our program, with what Terry's (Adams) done with the car, with how much power we have and how we're running. I think we figured out the key to our success was letting Terry call all of the shots from working on the car to setting up the clutch. I've put it all in his hands and he's done a great job. He's got his finger on the pulse and he seems to be able to get the car to run down the track run after run. The more I put on his plate the better we do." No. 2 qualifier - 6.838ET(career best)/200.98MPH(career best)

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) - "The conditions out here today are awesome. The track's a little rough in the middle, but the Summit Racing Firebird made an okay run. I was actually surprised it ran as fast as it did because it shook pretty good in first and second, and then went left. After the way we struggled here last year I'm just happy to get a good one in here at the beginning. Hopefully we can tune on that and run faster tonight. I think with the way the weather looks, conditions are going to be good all weekend. We just want to keep our consistency and be racing out here on Sunday like we have at every event this year. I won here in 1995 and failed to qualify here in '99 - those are the highs and lows of racing. We've been very consistent this year, and you never know, anything can happen. There's a lot of good racecars out here. but at least we got a decent run in and now we can tune it up and run a little faster tonight. We're due to lay a good one down. The air was about 250 to 300 feet this morning which was stout. I think the only place that has been better this year was Englishtown last May. The track is good, but we're making so much power because of the air that I don't think the starting line is as good as it was at Englishtown. There are a lot of cars capable of running in the 6.80s here so it's going to be a free-for-all."

Bruce Allen (Reher-Morrison Pontiac Firebird) - "That was a good start. That's something we haven't been doing lately, getting off to a good start. That will give us a lot to adjust from and this track has typically been a track that's gotten better as you run on it. If we make the right decisions we'll run quicker and that's all you do from here - try to run quicker and get ready for Sunday. We just need to do our own deal and improve our Reher-Morrison Firebird. We'll work on what we were doing the worst, and in this case we didn't ride the bump there in the right lane very well in third gear. We could probably stand a little more in the bell housing, and maybe a little more gear, but I like the fact that we made a good run in the first session and now we can go on from there." FUNNY CAR

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "That was the first lap for our newest 2000 Firebird body, and we're going to have to learn how it acts, even that early in the run. It's a great design, but like any body out here you still have to learn what it wants. We may have just missed on that run in a couple of ways, so we'll have to analyze the data and see what we're up against. Basically we went out there a little too soft, it was shaking from the hit."

Second session: ""We thought we stood all over it. I was more worried about smoking the tires right at the hit than shaking, but it shook like crazy. I've got nice headache to remind me. Man it shook hard, I tried to stay with it but it was so rough I couldn't tell where I was and that's not worth the risk. We tuned it up, but I think it put a cylinder out immediately, and that brought the power down and caused the shake. Tomorrow we'll come out here in the daylight and put a good number up, then we'll do it again, then we'll come out Sunday and do it some more."

Tim Wilkerson (Levi, Ray & Shoup Pontiac Firebird) - That's really what we were trying to do, go down the racetrack and try not to make any mistakes. After last weekend, we need to figure out how to go a little faster. It's very evident that first round can be pretty brutal and we need to figure out how to go low 4.90s all the time. We have the potential, but we've been concentrating on being consistent instead of being fast and now we need to focus on being fast. We tried some things in Topeka in qualifying, and it did just what we told it to do, which was the wrong thing. Hopefully we can get this Pontiac Firebird to where it acts right all the time. It's really promising."

Frank Pedregon (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "Just a little too much, I guess. Not really too much for the race track, but too much for the clutch set-up we had or some particular piece of our tuneup. On the computer everything matches up really well with our recent low 4.90 runs, but the tires get to spinning just a little too much and it blows them off. We need to let it settle a little, get rolling off the line, and then it will leg right down there. As long as it doesn't get too cold tonight, that will be the key factor."

Second Session: "I'm not exactly sure what it was running, but it was a heck of a lot better than a 4.93. It was dark and rocking and rolling down there, and I felt it in the seat of my pants drifting left on me, but I wasn't exactly sure where the wall was or the center line. So I lifted to make sure we had a race car for the rest of the weekend. That was just a case of being more safe than aggressive. I knew we had a great run going, but I didn't want to do something dumb by being greedy for some monster ET."

Dale Creasy Jr. (MAD Magazine Pontiac Firebird) - "We're trying some new stuff on this Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird. We put a new clutch in it, we're trying a new fuel system and we're basically trying to get the car ready for next year. We have four more races and all the tracks are good. This track seems to be very good compared to what it's been in the past. Hopefully we can get this thing dialed in and get in the show. We working with a new five-disc clutch and a new slide-valve fuel system that we're trying to see if we can make it work. That seems to be the way this sport is going, the five-disc for sure and this slide valve, some other teams are using it successfully. It has a lot less working parts and that reduces your chances of having a failure. We're hoping that helps."

Pro Stock Truck qualifying got underway today for the 13th annual AutoZone Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park. In the first round of time trials, David Spitzer recorded the quickest elapsed time ever by a GMC Sonoma when he clocked a run of 7.498 seconds at 177.49 mph. That was good enough for the No. 7 starting position. John Lingenfelter's Summit Racing Sonoma fell in right behind Spitzer in the No. 8 spot with an elapsed time of 7.499 seconds at 179.06 mph. Rick Jones is qualified 16th with an elapsed time of 7.540 seconds at 178.12. The No. 1 qualifier is Randy Daniels in an S-10 clocking in at 7.476 seconds at 179.68 mph. Jeff Gracia is qualified second, Bart Price is third, Todd Patterson is fourth and Mike Coughlin is fifth. This is the quickest field in NHRA Pro Stock Truck history.

The 13th annual AutoZone Nationals presented by Pennzoil is the 12th race on the 14-event NHRA Winston Pro Stock Truck schedule. Television coverage of qualifying highlights can be seen on Speedvision on Saturday, October 7, starting at 8 p.m. Eastern. Final eliminations can be seen on Sunday, October 8, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

PRO STOCK TRUCK

Rick Jones (Country Motors Trailer Sales GMC Sonoma) - "We're trying. I think this Country Motors Trailer Sales Sonoma can run in the low 7.50s, it's just one of those deals where the wheelie bars were up awful high and the truck went left on me. The truck really went up and to the left and before I could see where I was, I was way out of the groove. I was glad to see my GMC teammate David Spitzer make such a good run. He was in the other lane and my hat goes off to them. I think we'll be okay. We've been fighting all kinds of problems but we'll get this truck straightened out. It's going to take a few more runs but I'm confident that we were able to make the changes we needed to make. This motor runs well in good air and this air is about the best we've had in a long time. These are mine shaft conditions we're running in here today and we're not going to get much better than this." No. 16 qualifier - 7.540ET/178.12MPH

David Spitzer (Sunnen/Dynagear GMC Sonoma) - "I think there's a little bit left in this Dynagear Sonoma, but if you look at the numbers, it's going to be tough to beat what we ran down low. It was a little loose in fourth gear and I think that's why it fell off the page a little bit. We might be able to scrape a hundredth out of it, or something like that, but we're tickled to death. There's three more sessions to go and I hope we can hold on to that No. 1 spot. We might even be able to pick it up. This is a good feeling to be at the top of the page, at least for one session anyway. We felt like we were on a roll last weekend at Topeka and to be able to come in here and keep with it really gives us some confidence. This is two weekends in a row where we feel like we have a chance to win the race, go rounds and be competitive. We've just tried to make everything on the truck as good as it can be. We have a new set of carburetors that are working great for us. I put everything back on the truck to the way Ed Quay had it at the beginning of the season, the clutch is happy and we're starting to pick up. Just a bunch of little stuff that kind of comes around. You don't have to be off very far to have a big impact on your performance." No. 7 qualifier - 7.498ET/177.49MPH

John Lingenfelter (Summit Racing GMC Sonoma) - "We had a problem with the carburetor flooding over in the first session. That started the run and then the Summit Racing Sonoma went left, so between the two, we didn't accomplish much. We were eighth in speed even though we did so poorly don low. These kind of conditions are going to better for everybody. That way everybody has plenty of opportunity to make a good run and get into the show and one session doesn't make the show." No. 8 qualifier - 7.499ET/179.06MPH

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Richie Stevens Jr. , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Ron Krisher , Todd Patterson , Jeff Gracia , Randy Daniels , Mike Coughlin , John Lingenfelter , Dale Creasy Jr. , David Grubnic , Gary Densham , Scotty Cannon , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , Rickie Smith , Jerry Toliver , Tommy Johnson Jr.