Pomona Friday Pontiac Racing Notes

POMONA, Calif. (November 12, 1999) - The second round of qualifying for the 35th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals was completed today at Pomona Raceway. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson held onto the No. 1 qualifying spot in the GM Goodwrench Service...

POMONA, Calif. (November 12, 1999) - The second round of qualifying for the 35th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals was completed today at Pomona Raceway. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson held onto the No. 1 qualifying spot in the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Firebird. Troy Coughlin is qualified second in an Oldsmobile, Mark Pawuk is third in a Firebird, Richie Stevens is fourth in a Firebird and Tom Martino moves up to fifth in a Firebird. Bruce Allen is qualified sixth, Jim Yates is seventh, Mike Thomas is 20th and George Marnell is 28.

In Funny Car, Ron Capps is the No. 1 qualifier in a Camaro with an event-record elapsed time of 4.853 seconds at 307.72 mph. John Force is qualified second in a Mustang, Tony Pedregon is third in a Mustang, Jim Epler is fourth in a Firebird, Whit Bazemore is fifth in a Camaro and Dale Creasy Jr., is sixth in the Mad Magazine Firebird. Del Worsham is qualified eighth, Tim Wilkerson is ninth, Al Hofmann is 11th, Tommy Johnson Jr., is 20th, Cruz Pedregon is 21st, Gary Densham is 23rd and Frank Pedregon is 24th.

In Top Fuel, MBNA/Pontiac driver Cory McClenathan is qualified fifth with an elapsed time of 4.597 seconds at 317.34 mph. The No. 1 qualifier is Gary Scelzi with an elapsed time of 4.570 seconds at 322.11 mph. Tony Schumacher is qualified second, Doug Kalitta is third and Joe Amato is fourth.

First-round television coverage of the NHRA Finals can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, November 14, beginning at 3 p.m. Eastern. Final-round coverage can be seen beginning at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) "We tried a new engine today that we're trying to bring into our rotation. It makes more power at every rpm point on the dyno than the engine that ran 6.90 yesterday, so it should be faster - but it's a matter of getting the gearing and clutch right to take advantage of the power. The car didn't move in the first 60 feet because we basically blew the tires off. We lost two hundredths from yesterday right off the bat, but ran well in the last half of the track. The left lane is absolutely the lane to run in. I think the qualifying session on Saturday morning will be the session that sets the field." No. 1 qualifier - 6.908ET/201.07MPH

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) "The left lane is definitely faster than the right. I was pretty happy with the 6.93 in the left lane in that session, but the car was still a little heavy on the clutch. I think the weather got a little worse and the track got a little slicker and we ended up spinning the tire like yesterday when we took a lot of clutch out of it. Tomorrow morning will be a good session, but unfortunately we're first pair out in that right lane so we're going to have to shoot in the dark to get down there. Based on the fact that some other cars went faster in the right lane today, we should be all right. Realistically, the condition of the racetrack was about the same as it was yesterday, maybe a little worse and the air conditions were a little worse. So I was pretty happy with the 6.93, plus we were third fastest of the session. A lot of cars went slower than that. Even though we are currently qualified seventh, we were the third quickest car out there today, so that tells us that the track and the air were worse today. We were able to step up and hopefully we can continue that tomorrow. There may be a hundredth or two left in that run, we'll just try and find it and move up to a 6.92. This is like playing chess because you never know what's going to happen with the weather - that's one thing we can't control. But looking at the weather, tomorrow morning looks to be about the same as what we ran in today, but tomorrow afternoon there's a good chance that we may run in the early evening. If that happens, then we're last pair and we'll get the best shot at the racetrack. We're just confident because we feel that the program is coming around. The Splitfire Pontiac Firebird is working magnificently, the engine's making pretty good power and it gives a chance to tune on the engine now that the car is making consistent runs. We have a couple of things to do to step up with the engine program - we had a good pass down the track and now we can step it up. If we can stay in the top three or four cars, then we'll be happy." No. 7 qualifier - 6.939ET/198.55MPH

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) "We would have liked to have made a better run today, but the Summit Racing Firebird shook in first and second. We didn't run a lot of speed either and that has us a little concerned, but if it takes us all night we'll get it figured out. It's been a long year and it's good to see the end in sight. We think this car will go fast tomorrow morning, but they're saying that it may be hotter tomorrow so you never know. It looks like the left lane is the one to run in and we have it tomorrow morning. Hopefully we'll put the right tune up in it and make a fast run. All in all, it's been a pretty decent year, but I'm kind of disappointed of where we are in the points standings. I struggled with my driving in the first part of the year; the performance has been there, but we haven't had the breaks we needed to go more rounds. A lot of things happened that were out of our control, but we've qualified well, and although we struggled at a few races, our record has been pretty decent. Obviously, in this business, as competitive as it is, the reason we're here is to be No. 1. Anything less than that and you're going to be disappointed. I was hoping we were gojng to make the top five this year, and we had a shot after Reading, but we broke a transmission at Topeka first round, and didn't qualify at Memphis and that kind of threw out chances right out the window. I've got a good group of guys together that are all coming back next year and when you build an organization to where it excels like ours does, you have to believe more good things are going to happen. I'm looking forward to next year, but first of all I'm looking forward to Sunday and seeing if we can't win race here." No. 3 qualifier - 6.924ET/198.70MPH

Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) "That was an excellent run for the Century 21 Firebird. It was very good on the bottom, and strong all the way through fourth gear when it started to move around and shake the tires. In fact, the way it reacted in fourth today reminded me of the final in Houston. We'll make some more adjustments to the suspension for tomorrow to see if we can get through that part of the track a little smoother. Even so, it wasn't going to run a lot faster, maybe a middle 92, which would have made us the quickest car in the session. We'll keep fine-tuning it tomorrow." No. 5 qualifier - 6.933ET/199.40MPH

Bruce Allen (Outlaw Fuel Additives Pontiac Firebird) "We underestimated the track - it was a little better than we thought it was going to be, we were soft on the starting line, and then the car went left and got out of the groove. We were actually kind of looking at a direction for tomorrow morning. We changed more than we would have if we hadn't made a good run the first time. We know that there are differences in the lanes - tomorrow we go back into the left, and the Outlaw Fuel Additives Firebird will definitely go straighter in that lane with the way we have it set up. When we run in the afternoon we'll make some adjustments based on what the car did today. The track was surprisingly good. We were soft and drove through the clutch some. I feel like tomorrow morning we'll make a good run, and I think both sessions tomorrow will be better than either of the two previous qualifying rounds. We'll need to make a good run to stay in the top half, but we have the capability of being a top-five car here, so we're certainly not comfortable with running like we did this afternoon. But on the other hand, and taking into consideration the changes we made, I'm not surprised." No. 6 qualifier - 6.937ET/198.79MPH

Richie Stevens (Valspar Pontiac Firebird) "The main thing today's lap told me was that lane choice at this track is very, very important. The run was actually a lot better than the first one when you look at it on the computer but the conditions just wouldn't let us go any quicker than we did. We were the quickest car in that lane and that's a nice boost for me mentally just in case I end up on that side at some point Sunday. At least I know we can get down the lane under full power and that the Valspar Firebird will put a decent number on the board. We're feeling pretty good right now in the pit. We have a couple of quick laps under our belt and we can really start tuning for Race Day conditions." No. 4 qualifier - 6.928ET/198.00MPH

Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) "We're getting closer but we've still got a way to go. The Pennzoil Firebird felt extremely loose and it was spinning the tires most of the way down that time. We need to get our set-up right and we should be fine. Tomorrow morning will be the session when the field is set. The conditions will be the best they'll be all weekend and we're lucky enough to be in the left lane, which is the one everybody is running their best times in. We'll be changing motors and swapping out the tires tonight to get this car set to go. Saturday's been our time to shine this year so I hope that continues tomorrow." No. 20 qualifier - 6.993ET/196.82MPH


Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) "The fact we only had a 5.22 on the board, smoked the tires here, and only got nudged back to 8th tells you the conditions were giving people fits out there. Kudos to the couple of teams that went fast. We knew what we needed to do after last night's run, but most people found out the track had changed. We did have a little mechanical thing, but more than that it came down to the fact it was a lot easier to smoke the tires out there than not. We'll come out here tomorrow to make a nice solid pass, with no gremlins, in the first session. Then we can push the Checker Schuck's Kragen Firebird in the second session. That's the plan and I'm sure we can do it." No. 8 qualifier - 5.220ET/252.14MPH

Tim Wilkerson (Sioux City Kenworth Pontiac Firebird) "We've been fighting these new clutch discs ever since we got them back at Topeka. Really, we just didn't have all the knowledge we needed to have to know what to do with them. Terry Manzer and Ronnie Swearingen have both visited the pits this weekend to try and brainstorm on this thing. Everyone has different opinions on what we should do with it. But everyone has also come to the same conclusion that all we needed was for me to keep heading in the direction I was going. Without those two guys we probably wouldn't have been able to run what we did. We're just trying to prove to everybody that we still know how to run a racecar, and that we can go rounds and win a race -- just one run at a time. Tomorrow we'll see if this Firebird can go a little faster. You have to crawl before you can walk and that's what we're trying to do now. I think we can at least repeat those numbers. It looked real safe early and the car did what it was supposed to do. I pedaled it on instinct because I haven't qualified now for three or four races, and my foot and my brain are just accustomed to hitting the gas pedal seven or eight times. I probably didn't need to do that, but I did it anyway. When I got close to the end, it started to spin the tire and I shut it off early. We're going to go out there tomorrow and I think you'll see us do a little bit better." No. 9 qualifier - 5.237ET/252.14MPH

Jim Dunn - crew chief/car owner (Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird) "You hate blaming the racetrack, but when you watch everybody go down the right side and smoke the tires it becomes obvious where the problem lies. We had Wes Cerny right behind us and he did it as well. We can't really change much because it will shake. I think this time it was more track conditions than tune up. Last night we overpowered it. We put a new blower on, and we'll make everything as fresh as we can, go up there tomorrow and see what this Red Line Oil Firebird will run. I was just looking at the book and only one person improved today in the right lane. We'll load it up tomorrow and let it go. There was an oil down right in front of us, and we stuck pretty good in the powder, but as soon as we came out of that it smoked the tires and was all over. We may have shook the tires loose while Cerny looked liked he powered them loose - but both cars in the same spot. When I see three or four good cars that I watch do the same thing in the same place, then I say it's the track." No. 24 qualifier

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Mike Thomas , Troy Coughlin , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Gary Densham , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell