PHOENIX (February 27, 2000) - Final eliminations for the 16th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals were completed today at Firebird International Raceway. The next stop on the schedule is the 31st annual Mac Tools Gatornationals at...
PHOENIX (February 27, 2000) - Final eliminations for the 16th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals were completed today at Firebird International Raceway.
The next stop on the schedule is the 31st annual Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway on March 16 - 19. It is the third race on the 23-event NHRA Winston Championship tour. Television coverage of the final eliminations of the Gatornationals can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, March 19 beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern. Qualifying highlights can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, March 18, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern.
Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) "We had a good race this weekend, considering last year and not even qualifying here. It was a great comeback, but we just really wanted to win. The Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird slowed down in the semi-final round so we thought we had an engine problem. We thrashed and changed engines and barely made it in time. Obviously though, we have something else wrong because we shouldn't have run that slowly, either in the semi-final or the final round. I have to hand it to the Jeg's team though, they ran fast all day. Hey we're here, we got to a final round early in the year and you never know what could happen. It's a long year ahead of us. But for my crew and the guys at the engine shop, everyone is doing just a great job and I'm glad to be part of it."
What were some of the things that worked right for you this weekend? "We made really good clean runs on every pass and we were able to tune on them and learn things from them. More importantly, I drove really well. This is probably the best I've driven in several years. I led everyone I raced today, maybe not always by a lot, but it was there. Also, my driving was better because I seem to be more focused. When you get past that first round which is the jitters, and I had a tough one, its a confidence builder. That certainly helped me get my confidence in check to really do a good job behind the wheel."
Were you concerned with losing lane choice for the final round? "I wasn't that worried about it because we made our two fastest runs this weekend in the left lane. Obviously you always like to have lane choice, but I'm just disappointed the car slowed down and we don't know why. So we're going to be hard at it until we figure out the problem. We're planning on testing before Gainesville so hopefully we'll go out and qualify well and keep moving forward with our program. Phoenix is not the Godsend of drag racing, and Gainesville is a nice facility. It's a good racetrack. We'll get down to sea level and run real fast there I hope. I mean we ran fast here, so I know we can do it again. I'm looking forward to getting back to the East Coast. We've been out here a long time and it's time to go back closer to home."
Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) "Based on where we qualified we should have won the first round, which is what we did. We had the potential of winning the second round, but a wire broke in our data acquisition system so we got absolutely no information from the first run to make adjustments for the second run. We just took a guess at it. I would say that basically cost us the race. I left right with him reaction time wise, but slowed up about four-hundredths to the eighth and that was all she wrote. It's just one of those things where anything that can go wrong has gone wrong since the World Finals. We'll just weather the storm and the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Firebird will eventually come out on top. We won't be up to full power yet at Gainesville because I don't think we'll have all of the replacement parts for the things we damaged prior to Pomona. We'll probably be at the same power level, but we're running good enough to go rounds and qualify in the top half. If we can keep that momentum going until Las Vegas then we'll open up the performance. We're looking forward to going to Gainesville. It's one of the better attended events on the tour, it's usually a pretty decent track this time of year, and the conditions are usually pretty fast which goes hand in hand with our program. We'll definitely be competitive." Lost in round two
Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) "I think we have a lot of potential but that didn't get us very far this weekend. We won first round and that's a good thing. The Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird ran extremely fast yesterday but we just have to figure out how to adapt it to the Sunday racetrack. We were a little hesitant today in what we needed to do. Rickie (Smith) and I are struggling a little bit trying to figure out what to do with this car on these kind of racetracks. Every round we get on the track we learn something and we just keep on going. I think it's just a matter of trying to adapt this car to the conditions we're going to have. Before Gainesville, we have a lot of motors to go through. We're debating whether to go and do a couple of days of testing but we just have to figure out what will make these cars work better. We struggled with Jamie's car here, but my car looked pretty fast until today. We lost lane choice in the first round by six thousandth's of a second, got into the bad lane and made a worse run than we made before. We know what we have to do, it's just a matter of going out and getting it done. We need to get off our tails and get it happening."
Are you proud of what Jamie was able to accomplish today? "I couldn't be happier. He's done a great job of getting in the racecar and learning how to drive. It's a lot harder I think than he ever though it was going to be. But he's been patient, and he thinks a lot about what he has to do, but he may be too hard on himself right now. He has to get over that, but right now I'm as proud as I can be. I'd just as soon see him in the semi-final round than myself. I'd like to see him in the winner's circle before too long. I think it's just going to take some time. We thought we hurt the engine in his car in the second round. We had a lash cap come off -- a rocker arm came loose and beat up a lash cap. We just figured it was safer to make the change than to take the chance of breaking an engine."
Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) "I can't wait to get on that airplane and get out of here. We were coming off a semi-final round performance in Pomona where we felt confident and ran good. Jeggie (Coughlin) just ran better and beat us there. We came here to Phoenix, broke the motor on the first run, had an oil leak on the second run, made a horrible run during the third round of qualifying, tried to fix that and only made it worse. We went all the way back to square one and just made a bad call on raceday. We didn't make one run down this track where we could come back and get data off of. I just made bad calls. We overestimated the track - we didn't think it would go away that badly. If we would have known the track was going to be that bad, Mark Pawuk made a nice run, and we probably would have still lost it, but we could have run a 6.96 or 6.97. We just thought we needed to go 6.93 or 6.94 and that's what we were set up for. We thought it would be 6.91s and 6.90s in the right and 6.93s and 6.94s in the left. It was more like 6.94s in the right and seven-flats in the left. At the end of the year when you look back on your season, this isn't one of those races you look back on and say 'man we messed up in Phoenix.' Instead you say realize that this was one of the four or five that you just weren't on your game. Everything was fighting us. When you take away the two runs where we broke the motor and had the oil line leak, then that only left us two runs to try and get our game together. We never got caught up to where we needed to be. But you're going to have four or five races a year where you're lucky enough to qualify. Usually when that happens you don't qualify. We picked up 30 points we shouldn't have come out of here with. We'll focus on the positive, take the Century 21 Firebird to Gainesville and look at this event as getting 20 bonus points." Lost in round one Bruce Allen (Reher-Morrison Pontiac Firebird) "Before Gainesville we're going to be testing the Reher-Morrision Pontiac Firebird at least once. We'll go to Houston or the Motorplex, run some engine parts, and run some of these new tires. There are new tire compounds that might help a situation where you get a hot, greasy track. Basically we want to run some engine parts and make sure we're racing with the best set of parts we have. That will be our No. 1 goal. We'll move some things around on the car and the chassis to see if we can improve that as well. Usually when you have a lot of things that you plan on testing, you don't get to all of them. You kind of take what the session gives you. The main thing for us is to test some engine parts, run in some tires and see if using any of these new tires might be advantageous. There are several teams that have different tires right now and Goodyear's done a good job getting three or four different tires around. We need to get all our ducks in a row for Gainesville. We have some engine things we're working on that should help us when we get to Florida. It's one of the biggest races on the circuit. As big as the Winternationals are, Gainesville is the first race on the East Coast that we have. You get a lot more cars coming and people seem to flock to that event. Typically you get a couple of sessions where the conditions are just great where people can run really fast. It's a good track, a super facility and the fans there are terrific. This is the time of year when you're starting to get settled in. You go to three or four races and you begin to establish a trend. There are certain things that you need to keep track of, and stay on top of and Gainesville is a critical event. Because there are so many cars you take the chance of missing the field if you don't have everything in order. I think we're still in pretty good shape. Lost in round two
Jamie Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) - "I'm happy that we were able to go rounds. I just wish I could have done a better job from a driving standpoint, my reactions times suffered a little bit today and I know I'm capable of doing a lot better. I gained a lot experience in the car. The track conditions were horrible and it was tough to get down through there. I was able to take a couple of round wins out of the left lane and not too many people can say that today. It was a great learning experience - the pressure of raceday and everything that goes along with that and I just need to adjust better to those kind of conditions. It's great though racing with my dad. He's a terrific help in showing me what I need to do and he does a great job in helping me to calm down. It would have been nice to race him in the finals and maybe some day we can do that. I'm ecstatic about going to Gainesville but right now I have to get my homework finished that's due tomorrow." Lost in round three
FEDERAL MOGUL FUNNY CAR
Pat Austin (Valvoline Pontiac Firebird) "We had a lot of fun here in Phoenix this weekend. We had a lot of stiff competition since this was our first outing of the year. We knew we were one race behind because we didn't go to the Winternationals due to some circumstances that wouldn't let us be there. We came in and qualified No. 2 which was real good, and ran a 5.64 which was real good. In eliminations we were racing in the hottest temperatures of the weekend and as such, the track starting getting hotter and slicker. We started slowing down with some traction problems. I think the track was pretty good, I just think that we were missing the boat a little bit. That was probably due to this being our first race of the year. We feel lucky to be in the winner's circle but luck is a major factor out here. This was our 69th career win. If I were racing full time like I was five or six years ago, I think that we could be a real contender for Glidden's (Bob) record (85 wins). I'm sure that John (Force) and Warren (Johnson) are going to be the first ones to get there. I would like to be the first, but at the same time I'm younger than those guys and longevity could be a factor in the final outcome. Maybe someday I can surpass them if they surpass Glidden's record. I've been with General Motors for my entire racing career, 15 years to be exact, and I would like everyone who has supported us through the years to feel a part of our accomplishments in motorsports. We're going to a Dallas points race next weekend. The weekend after that is a Tucson points race and then we go to Gainesville. We're hitting it real hard because we're shooting for that Federal Mogul championship. We feel confident that we're capable of winning that fifth world championship."
Mike Ferderer (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) "Blind luck is how we won this race. We got a brand new car that ran very well. The track was coming and going and causing the Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird to spin so I don't know how we did it. Smoke and mirrors maybe. But in all seriousness our Pennzoil Firebird just kept driving down through there. Everybody else was having trouble, and I was having trouble, but just not quite as much as my competitors. The car ran absolutely flawlessly, the Hoosier tires put all that power to the ground and that was it. We tested last Monday down in Tucson prior to coming here. I flew in early, ran down to Tucson, tested, drove back here, got ready for this race and I think it paid off. Now it's on to Gainesville from here. I've got to make some changes in the car because it just wasn't completely right. I was actually pretty lucky to come out on top here, but that's about 90 percent of what helps you win races. I'm going to make this car a little bit better and I think it will be even more competitive at the Gators."