Jim Yates Drives Pontiac Grand Am To First Pole Since 2002- Tony Pedregon's Chevy Monte Carlo Earns Low Qualifying Honors POMONA, Calif., Feb. 12, 2005 - With the washout of Friday time trials any remaining hope of making the 16-car field for...
Jim Yates Drives Pontiac Grand Am To First Pole Since 2002- Tony Pedregon's Chevy Monte Carlo Earns Low Qualifying Honors
POMONA, Calif., Feb. 12, 2005 - With the washout of Friday time trials any remaining hope of making the 16-car field for the season-opening NHRA Winternationals rested on today's pressure-packed pair of Saturday sessions. In Pro Stock, Pontiac Grand Am driver Jim Yates rallied during the afternoon round of qualifying to capture his first raceday pole since the NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pa., in Sept. 2002, and in Funny Car, Tony Pedregon parked his nitro-powered Chevy Monte Carlo in the top slot of the eliminations' ladder with a stunning track-record performance .
"It's absolutely a great start to the year," said Yates. "We put together a lot of new equipment at the end of last season including a new Jerry Haas Pontiac Grand Am. We took delivery of our new car three weeks ago and we're running a motor from Steve Schmidt. Steve promised me that we would have horsepower, and when you run the way we did today it proves that he was right on the mark.
"We've had a lot of good years, we won the championship in '96 and '97, and we finished second in a couple of close points chases in 2001 and 2002, but the last two years we have truly struggled - I'll be the first one to tell you that. We put a lot of energy into our program over the winter, and to come back here to Pomona and have it all come to fruition just like we planned it is truly enjoyable."
Yates' Pontiac roared down the Pomona Raceway quarter mile to a track-record and career-best e.t. of 6.699 seconds at 205.10 mph. It marked the 29th career No. 1 qualifying effort for the two-time NHRA champion (1996-97) and a gratifying turnaround for the 51-year-old Virginian who failed to make the field at the two previous Winternationals.
"This new Grand Am only has about 20 runs on it," said Yates. "That's very unusual for us to race a car with so few runs on it, so we needed every lap we could muster out of the track this weekend. To go out in that last session and lay down a 6.69 is an incredible accomplishment for this team. As low as we've been, and as much as we've questioned ourselves during the last two-and-a-half years, it gives us a lot of confidence. I can't wait to come back tomorrow and race."
Kurt Johnson has the quickest Chevrolet in the lineup placing his ACDelco Cavalier behind Yates in the No. 2 position with a career-best e.t. of 6.708 seconds and a track-record top speed of 206.35 mph.
"We made a big suspension change on the ACDelco Chevrolet knowing that we had to get this thing hooked up because we just overpowered the racetrack on Thursday," said Johnson. "We came to find out over the weekend that the right lane isn't as good as the left lane, so we may have made it down the left lane on the first session, but we'll never know now. We made changes to the clutch suspension and worked together to come up with a plan that made it stick this morning with that 6.74. That was the first run down the track with this engine so we came back and got after the jetting on the second run and picked up big speed - over a mph. That just made it happy, plus the clutch was actually a little bit soft on that last run. We just wanted to get down the track and get a good baseline with this piece, the new GEN III (DRCE III) stuff, and get it to where we can make good calls.
"We're pretty pleased. We struggled last year at No. 12, and No. 11 and No. 15, just hanging on there for awhile. When I left here last November, we decided to change everything. There wasn't one thing I liked. We knew we had a good car so we just worked on motor stuff."
Dave Connolly is qualified in the No. 4 spot in a Chevy Cavalier and Warren Johnson positions his GM Performance Parts Pontiac in the No. 6 spot for Sunday's eliminator. Two-time defending champion (2003-04) Greg Anderson is qualified in the No. 7 spot in the Summit Racing Pontiac, and Mike Edwards, who was No. 1 coming into today's final two rounds, ends up in the No. 8 slot.
"That tells us we need to pay a little more attention to details," said Anderson. "Some of the stuff that's happened is freak and some of it is our own fault. Call it whatever you want, you have to make sure that stuff doesn't happen and preparation is what usually cures all of that. Obviously we've slipped a little bit so we need to get our concentration level back up to where it needs to be. Hopefully we can get it all rectified by tomorrow and we'll be fine.
"That last run the doggone throttle hung on the burnout. I had to let off the gas and when I did it still wouldn't come down. I was getting ready to shut the car off and it finally came down. When I rolled up to stage I had water still dripping on the tires. With Jason's (Line) car we had electrical problems. It wouldn't release from the low-side limiter and wouldn't come above 6000 rpm. They're both a couple of problems we can fix easy enough. We just have to make sure nothing else pops up."
Ron Krisher is qualified ninth in a Chevy Cavalier, Jason Line is 12th in a Grand Am, Greg Stanfield is 14th in a Chevrolet and Bruce Allen is 16th in a Pontiac.
Tony Pedregon drove the Quaker State Chevy Monte Carlo to the No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car with a track-record and career-best elapsed time of 4.681 seconds at 323.35 mph. It was the 29th career No. 1 qualifying award for Pedregon and his first since Chicago in June, 2004.
"We had optimum conditions and a good game plan going into the final session," said Pedregon. "It feels good that we have a car that will run 4.68. We did a lot of testing in the offseason and this year we're no longer a new team. We have some continuity and we're a much better prepared team than we were last year because the key people are still in place."
At the end of his final qualifying lap, Pedregon's Monte Carlo quickly blew through the short stretch of real estate on the Pomona Raceway runoff and ended up in the sand trap. Pedregon's crew will be working late into the night getting the Quaker State Chevrolet ready for Sunday's eliminator.
"It was unfortunate but we may luck out and be able to salvage the chassis," said Pedregon. "We may be in better shape than we thought, and just in case, we have a backup body. I was pretty disappointed at the end of the run until they told me what I had run. It was important for us to go that quick, and the rest of it, we're just going to have to work late, that's the way I look at it."
Qualifying highlights of the NHRA Winternationals will be telecast on ESPN2 on Saturday, Feb. 12, beginning at 10:30 p.m. Eastern. A three-hour broadcast of final eliminations will be telecast on ESPN2 on Sunday, Feb. 13, starting at 7 p.m. Eastern.