Memphis: Pontiac Racing finals notes

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (October 8, 2000) - Final eliminations for the 13th annual AutoZone Nationals was completed today at Memphis Motorsports Park. PRO STOCK Bruce Allen (Reher-Morrison Pontiac Firebird) - "We'd rather of done better, but...

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (October 8, 2000) - Final eliminations for the 13th annual AutoZone Nationals was completed today at Memphis Motorsports Park.


Bruce Allen (Reher-Morrison Pontiac Firebird) - "We'd rather of done better, but when you start out the race in the bottom half of the field, and relinquish lane choice you have to be pleased to win the first round. That was a plus. We overcame our qualifying problems and managed to run a good race. The second run in the right lane was actually very good. First round we did as good as we could, second round was excellent and then in the semifinals we got way out of shape. All we're trying to do is win one round at a time, and do the best we can on the clutch setting and everything else it takes to get that done. Even though we made a good pass in the second round, you always want more but we did alright. We're back in the top 10 and looking forward to getting back to Dallas. It's a nice smooth track, and the Reher-Morrison Pontiac Firebird is actually performing pretty good right now. Our engines are running well and it will be nice to get on a nice sooth track to see exactly how well we are doing compared to other cars. It would be fun to go out at these next two races and run fast. You don't know what the weather goes to give you but you go there with the confidence of racing at a first-rate facility. Plus it's our home track. It'll be nice to go home every night when we're finished."

Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) - "We never came to grips with this racetrack. You look at the qualifying order and it was an absolute inverse of normal races. The people who were at the top of the ladder were the people who either don't qualify or are in the bottom half. This race went against normal thinking. We could've backed up 50 horsepower and still run 6.85 - if we made a nice run. But we were making ugly runs and running 6.80s. Based on the weather pattern we had here we could be facing similar conditions in Dallas. I think maybe we'll put a Crosley motor in the car and then we won't have to worry about overpowering the racetrack. There's nothing wrong with the racetrack - it was absolutely perfect. It's just that with the power level we had we couldn't come to grips with making smooth runs. The last time I was competing in conditions like this I was racing a snowmobile."

Richie Stevens (Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird) - "In the first round the Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird went straight down the track. Absolutely no problems. We left first and led the race all the way down the strip. But when we came back up and ran the second lap that thing was just spinning like crazy from third gear on. The car was moving from one side of the track to the other. I would coax it back into the groove but it just went right over to the other side. It just wouldn't hook up. I really wanted to go some rounds today. We got past the first round, which is always the toughest one, and I thought we'd be cruising. I even cut a great light in Round 2 but it just wasn't enough because the car wanted to skate all over the place. At least all of the guys ahead of me in the points didn't go anywhere. Nobody gained ground on me and I was able to put another round between me and the guy behind me. Still, I was hoping to close the gap a little because we're down to three races now. If not for Ron (Krisher), we would have really been in trouble. When you consider everything that happened this weekend, I'm very glad we were able to compete and hold our ground in the points race. We're actually very lucky to be here at all."

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) - "We're going to go get some work done on the clutch linkage and try get our clutches rebuilt, regroup and get everything back in order on this Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird. We ran really well here. We're going to take the motors back and get them completely rebuilt and get them ready for the last three races of the year. We're just going to try and get everything straightened out and get ready for Dallas. I'm really excited with the way the car ran this weekend. It's unfortunate that the weather got so far over center - it got so cold and the air got so good and the track was so cold that everybody was having difficulty getting down the track. The computer says we can run 6.73 to 6.75 and everybody's running 6.85. The track is so bad because it's so cold that nobody can get down the racetrack. Therefore it doesn't give us an opportunity to measure our true potential. We're running nowhere close to the elapsed times we should be running. Everybody's spinning the tire and whoever spins the tire the least is going to win. I think based on how we ran at the last race, and the speeds we ran here, I think that gives us an idea of the potential we have. Now we have to get to someplace like Dallas where we have a nice smooth racetrack and the weather is more like something we're used to running in. Here we're running in minus-400 feet of air and it's hard to get a handle on it. I'm pumped with the amount of power we have in this Pontiac. It's getting off the starting line, running good 60-foot times and running good speed. Now we need it to put in the winner's circle."

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) - "The Summit Racing Firebird made a really good run in the first round, and then we got a little aggressive in the second round. But Jeggie (Coughlin) is always tough and I didn't drive as well as I did in the previous session. The car shook badly, went to the right and made a terrible run. We can't seem to get our act together against him and maybe that's why he's world champion this year. It's frustrating on our part, not only because of the mail-order rivalry, but because I know we can beat him. We beat him at Bristol this year, but when it come to the points we can't seem to get around that yellow car. All in all, we went another couple of rounds, nobody gained any ground behind us and we made up a little bit in front of us. I'd like to finish fourth but it's going to be a fight just to stay in fifth. We'll keep working hard, keep making good runs and hopefully this will be a nice boost towards next year. We're working hard on new cars and new engine parts and no one on this Pawuk Racing team is satisfied with what we've done this year. If we can stay No. 5, I'm not going to complain because this is one of the best seasons I've had in a while. But we want the championship and that's what everyone on this team is working towards."


Bruce Sarver ( Pontiac Firebird) - "All of those little problems we've had since Topeka, we thought we had them fixed last night. Then it broke the mag wire and was running on only one mag during last night's final session. We went up there on the first run and ran well, but our problem is that the body is so old that it cracked again and broke the wing. We brought back our old body, which is about 70 pounds lighter and smoked the tires. We didn't change anything. It just didn't transfer the weight or wear the clutch like we're used to. What are you going to do? We'll take that body and repair it before the Dallas race. We're also in the process of getting our new Firebird body mounted, so we'll be ready for Dallas. Now we have enough clutch data and runs on the racecar so that we know what we're doing. When we make changes the car responds and we can make adjustment for specific situations and feel confident. Now we can stand on it and play hardball."

Jim Dunn (Mooneyes/Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird) - "We broke two motors and don't know why. So we changed fuel pumps, fuel tanks, blowers. At about four seconds, Al realized that he wasn't going to catch John, so he shut it off and that kept us from possibly oiling down the racetrack. If we weren't breaking parts we would have chased him all the way down the track, but we don't want to be paying any fines and we don't want to lose any points. We're hoping for things to turn around here soon. I keep telling people, this may be my 50th anniversary, but if this had been my first year there would've been no second year."

Tim Wilkerson (Levi, Ray & Shoup Pontiac Firebird) - "We had some problems with our slide valve. The cold weather was affecting how it works and we ended up beating a piston up pretty bad. We didn't have the right fuel delivery. We came back, thought we had that fixed and changed the blower because some of the piston got up inside the blower. It was kind of ugly looking. But that was mistake. It had more boost than the last one. The driveshaft almost made the turn when I hit the gas, but it didn't quite make it. We were just a little too zipped up. We learned now to pay more attention to that stuff too. We don't have enough runs under our belt to make good decisions but we're learning. As soon as I started the car I was shaking my head because I knew we had a problem. My biggest problem driving the car is that I know how it runs too. Listening to it I could tell that something wasn't right. I almost had them dump alcohol in it while I was sitting there idling and I wish I would have because that probably would've made the difference. With the extra boost in this kind of air that was all she wrote. We hadn't knocked the tire off all weekend and I had no inkling that it would. I learned a lesson today. We'll race out the remainder of the season. We'll be in Dallas where we've run good before. We'll put all of our junk back in a pile and get ready to do it all over again. This Levi, Ray & Shoup Firebird is a good racecar, we have a lot of good people, some great sponsors and things are starting to come together."

Tommy Johnson Jr. (Sioux City Kenworth Pontiac Firebird) - "As cold as it is, the racetrack was better than we expected it to be and we just drove right through the clutch. It hooked up too good, drove through the clutch and dropped a hole. A 5.15 in the right lane wasn't bad, but he (Ron Capps) was there for the taking so that's disappointing. This is the first time all year that we've made four runs in a row without smoking the tires. There's a positive in there some where. I couldn't believe how good the track was. It's outstanding. I think a lot of people underestimated how good it was. With three races to go we keep learning how to run this racecar. The consistency is what we're trying to find and we're starting to do that on this Sioux City Kenworth Pontiac Firebird. We should be able to finish up the rest of the year, make all of the shows and run pretty good. We can't complain."

Gary Densham (NEC/AAA Southern California Pontiac Firebird) - "We ran pretty good in qualifying but unfortunately we broke a motor. Obviously we're disappointed and would've liked to have done better. The NEC Firebird is running pretty good at this point of the season, we just need to find some more consistency. We struggled during the summer and now that we seem to have a combination that will run good we need to make it run good more often. I think we had a chance to win today. This Pontiac is more than capable of running good and we proved that last weekend in Topeka. It's just really tough out here. There are a lot of good teams and any one of them can win on raceday. Now we're looking forward to getting down to Dallas. It's going to be very, very fast and possibly the first all four-second qualifying field in NHRA history. We'd like to do real well there. That's where NEC is based so it's going to be an important weekend for us."

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "I don't know. I'm tired of talking about not getting breaks. We dropped off a little, the car hit a bump out there and that unloaded the tires just a bit. When they started to spin and he (Scotty Cannon) was pulling away I knew it was over. We're still learning about this new body and what it wants. Like on that run, in hindsight I'd have put maximum wing in it, but our experience had us thinking we needed to take a little out. Four our first race with it, we did okay."

Tim Wilkerson (Levi, Ray & Shoup Pontiac Firebird) - "Just a nice clean lap and a win light, just what we wanted. We've got lane choice over Force, which is great, and I'm looking forward to running against him. You know, when you race a guy like Weis you just don't know what to expect. They made their career best runs here, and the guy had to have been wired at the starting line. I feel great that we were able to get by them."

Frank Pedregon (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "It put a cylinder out right at the hit of the throttle. That dropped the power curve and that caused enough tire shake to give me a real headache. It just rattled like crazy, got over on the centerline and that was it. It was lift or take out some cones. We have enough racecar to beat him. We've run that quick before like it was nothing, but we missed the call I guess. I don't know if the air got better or worse or what, but we didn't change much from the first round and the car acted differently."


Chuck Cheeseman (Cheeseman Racing Pontiac Firebird) - "It ended up being a good weekend but it didn't start out that way. We had some clutch problems and didn't get those straightened out until after first round of eliminations. After that it came together pretty quickly and then this Pontiac Firebird started running consistent numbers. The air was so good here this weekend that we struggled to find an effective combination. At one time the altitude was 500 feet below sea level and we couldn't find the right clutch combination for the track and the air. We definitely struggled but we came out of it okay. I'll race in Dallas and Houston and then probably call it a year. It's been a good season for us. We won Division Three and this is the second national event we've won this year. We haven't hurt too many parts and the car sort of paid for itself this year."


Dan Fletcher (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) - "This wan an outstanding weekend. To tell you the truth, I struggled quite a bit with this car this summer. I finally made the correct changes to the car and it flawless all weekend. I'm actually thrilled with it because I've finally got it figured out and I believe from now on this Summit Racing Firebird is going to be hard to beat. My log book this weekend was flawless, I mean this car was perfect and there's nothing to tell me that's going to change. I'll go to Bristol next week for a points meet, and then either race in Dallas and Houston, or maybe a points meet that was rained out and then Houston. I've still got a shot at sneaking this Firebird into the top 10 and my Camaro in Super Stock. To get that done I'll have to race at the two divisional meets."

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , Gary Densham , Scotty Cannon , Bruce Allen , Tim Wilkerson , Chuck Cheeseman , Dan Fletcher , Tommy Johnson Jr.