Pennzoil pros to fulfill goals in Phoenix PHOENIX (Feb. 12) -- Over the years of drag racing in the state of Arizona, the pros of Team Pennzoil have become very familiar with setting records and winning races in the desert. They hope to ...
Pennzoil pros to fulfill goals in Phoenix
PHOENIX (Feb. 12) -- Over the years of drag racing in the state of Arizona, the pros of Team Pennzoil have become very familiar with setting records and winning races in the desert. They hope to add several more pieces to their trophy case on Feb. 25-28 at Firebird International Raceway during the running of the National Hot Rod Association's 15th Annual Checker Schucks Kragen Nationals presented by Pennzoil.
The way 1999 has started there is every reason to think that each of the Pennzoil-sponsored drivers have a legitimate chance of contending for the various class titles up for grabs. The following information about each driver might explain the team's optimism.
Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, has several reasons to be excited about his return to Firebird International Raceway. He has won twice at the track (in 1993 and '88) and came in second in 1987. But on this trip, Hill's enthusiasm stems from the success he has already enjoyed in 1999. Earlier this month at the season opener in Pomona, Calif., Hill posted the best elapsed time of his 43-year racing career -- a stunning 4.535-second blast -- which ranked as the fourth quickest time in NHRA history.
Good fortune also found Hill in January at Firebird International Raceway when he managed to place his Screaming Eagle machine at the front of the PRO National Time Trials field. In fact, with the exception of a small malfunction that prematurely eliminated him from the Pomona race in the second round, 1999 has been close to perfect for Hill.
"The best part is that by the time we get to Phoenix the car will be running even better than it already has," Hill said. "It's early in the year and we're still dialing her in and learning the finer points of these new five-disc clutch systems. I have yet to make a full pass with all the candles lit (all cylinders firing.) It's exciting to ponder what we will run when everything is set just right.
"This car is such a sweetheart. It runs so smooth and that just builds my confidence every time we go down the track. That 4.535-second lap in California felt wonderful. The car made it seem routine, which is a great sign. The way she responds to these super-quick times makes me feel safer than I ever have in the past.
"If the weather is just right, we could see some incredibly quick laps in Phoenix. I was the first driver in the four's (four-second range) and they started calling me the 'Four Father.' Now I'd like to be the first in the 4.4's and be the 'Four-Four Father.' It could happen in Phoenix."
Bruce Allen, the driver of The Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, plans on unveiling a brand-new car at the CSK Nationals. It's a move the entire Reher-Morrison Team thinks will return them to the prominence they enjoyed during their unprecedented four-in-a-row Pro Stock championship run in the 1980's.
"We won't put all of our hopes in this new car," Allen said. "But having it will definitely help. The car isn't the only thing we're changing. There are some aspects of our program that need to be adjusted so we can return to being competitive at every race. Otherwise, it's not worth being out here. I don't know how much time we'll have, if any, between getting the new car and the start of the race. Hopefully it will be enough to get a baseline down so that we can have some success. Still, if we leave Phoenix with a positive attitude and feel like we are moving in the right direction, then we'll be real happy."
Allen, who resides in Arlington, Texas, recorded the fastest speed of his 14-year career in January when he registered a 199.07-mph lap during a testing session in Houston. The speed capped a week of testing filled with passes in the low 6.9-second range.
Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, has already experienced the full range of emotions a driver usually encounters during the course of a full season. First, he hit a career high point in January when he ran the quickest elapsed time ever recorded in a Pro Stock car, a stunning 6.845-second lap at 200.17 mph, during the Pro Stock Superbowl Challenge in Houston. Because the run did not take place during an NHRA national event, it didn't count as an official record. Still, Thomas was excited to start the real season in Pomona.
Then the unthinkable happened. Plagued by on-board computer glitches and strange clutch problems, Thomas failed to qualify for the Pomona event, breaking a streak of 15 straight elimination round appearances.
"It sure wasn't the start we were expecting," Thomas said from his home in Knoxville, Tenn. "We just had an abundance of problems out there. Since then, we have gone through everything on this car. We'll have a new computer, a refreshed engine and several more broken-in clutch discs by the time we get to Phoenix. I plan on getting some extra testing done in Darlington, S.C. before we head West. This car is just way too quick to be loaded in the truck on Sunday. Hopefully, that won't happen again."
Mike Ferderer, the sportsman-class driver of both the Pennzoil Super Gas Pontiac Grand Prix and the Gumout Super Comp Dragster, recorded a near-perfect preseason mark in 1999 all in the state of Arizona. Ferderer notched two Super Comp wins and two Super Gas semifinal appearances in the two January events he entered in Phoenix and Tucson.
Bill Kent, the sportsman-class driver of the Pennzoil Competition Dragster, opens his 1999 campaign at this event. No stranger to racing in the desert, Kent still holds the national C-Dragster top mph mark of 188.19 mph, which he set in 1997 in Chandler, Ariz.