Pomona: GM Racing Saturday summary

Warren Johnson's Grand Am sets Pomona Speed Record. POMONA, Calif., Feb. 8, 2003 - Qualifying for the 43rd annual NHRA Winternationals was completed today at Pomona Raceway. GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver Warren Johnson made a move to the...

Warren Johnson's Grand Am sets Pomona Speed Record.

POMONA, Calif., Feb. 8, 2003 - Qualifying for the 43rd annual NHRA Winternationals was completed today at Pomona Raceway. GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver Warren Johnson made a move to the front of the Pro Stock pack during the morning session placing his SC/T Grand Am in the No. 2 starting spot with a career-best elapsed time and speed of 6.775 seconds at 204.54 mph (track record). Tomorrow, the six-time NHRA champion (1992-93, '95, '98-99 and 2001) will be looking to win his fifth Winternationals from a starting field that was the quickest in NHRA history.

"The elapsed time somewhat surprised me," said Johnson. "I know our GM Performance Parts Grand Am is fully capable, but it really rattled the tires in second gear, which hurt the e.t. In addition, it got off to the right a little bit, which also didn't help. If we had made a nice clean pass, it could have certainly gone a 6.75 or 6.76. Tomorrow, we'll have no choice but to get it back down to where we'll be on the safe side. We certainly have enough power to drive around anyone out here so we'll just have to use a conservative approach."

Jeg Coughlin Jr. has the quickest Chevy Cavalier going into the Sunday eliminator. Coughlin came into the final day of time trials qualified in the No. 1 spot and improved his e.t. with a 6.779-second run. But that number will only be good enough for the fourth starting position.

"We got both Chevy Cavaliers solidly qualified in the field and that's a good way to start this new season," said Coughlin. "The left lane seems to be the favored lane, without a question, and Troy (Coughlin) and I both have made good runs down that side of the race track. As a team, to have the fastest cars in three of the four sessions is pretty exciting. I think our winter program and preparation has us ready to go.

"About a week before the season starts you begin to wonder if you've made all the right decisions and pushed all the right buttons, and so far it looks like we have. The track was a little trickier and a little slicker tonight than what it's been all weekend, and to run as quick as we did in that final session is nice boost heading into tomorrow."

In Funny Car, Tim Wilkerson drove a Pontiac Firebird to the No. 1 qualifying spot with a 4.759 e.t. at 318.32 mph. It's the first time Wilkerson's earned top qualifying honors since the 1999 Mile-High Nationals in Denver, Colo. He was the runner-up for this event back in 1998.

"Being the No. 1 qualifier for the Winternationals is something you only dream about," said Wilkerson. "I have the confidence that we can qualify this Pontiac in the top five anywhere we race. I missed three events last year so we're trying to make up some ground to qualify for the Big Bud Shootout. You're going to see me take a stab at it every place we go. I'm going to be throwing everything I know at this race car and hope that it flies. If it doesn't, we'll come back on Saturday, back it down and get this thing in the show.

"We're pretty confident this Pontiac has something for them tomorrow - you just never know. We're going to try and be as consistent as we can be and hopefully that will give us the numbers to win this race. We're trying out a lot of parts this weekend to see what works and what doesn't and so far we've had an enlightening experience. We made a nice run this morning and that shows us what we can do in the morning. It was a bit conservative, but it was the third fastest run of the day and it still had some left in it. We've got a pretty good idea what to do the first three rounds, if we're that lucky. Now we need to look at our notes and see if we can find that 4.76 for the finals."

Bruce Allen (Speedco Pontiac SC/T Grand Am) - "Both of the runs we made today would have qualified under the 6.80 bump, and our first pass on Thursday was very good given the conditions and the lane we were running in. If we can adjust accordingly tomorrow then we have a good shot at going some rounds. It would have been nice to put this Pontiac Grand Am in the top half of the field but we're happy just to be in. There are a lot of good cars that didn't make it in this weekend and we're going to see a lot of that this year. The car is running great down low all the way to the 330. We were just too soft and didn't have enough gear or clutch to keep the car moving forward. It fell off in the middle and didn't run the backhalf like we would have wanted." No. 11 qualifier - 6.802ET/202.12MPH

Ron Krisher (Valvoline Chevy Cavalier) - "We started out with the wrong ratios in the transmission and things that normally work didn't work out here. We've been chasing the track, it's been improving every run and that can keep you guessing on ratios. You get over in that right lane and it's about .02 to .04 slower depending on how you set up. We were about a hundredth off the fastest car in that last session because we didn't have enough clutch. We changed the whole package in the car and we were fast that round. Tomorrow who knows but having lane choice will definitely help." No. 6 qualifier - 6.791ET/203.00MPH

Kurt Johnson (ACDelco Chevy Cavalier) - "The complexion of the starting line has completely changed since we raced here last November and it's unfortunate because we had a winning setup. We brought the same combination of race car and motor back for this race, and we've been fighting to get off the starting line all weekend. We made several changes throughout the day and although it improved, it wasn't enough. We'll throw the farm at it tomorrow and hopefully get the tires to stick. We know this ACDelco Chevy Cavalier is fully capable of running 6.76 or 6.77 - it's just a matter of doing it." No. 10 qualifier - 6.800ET/204.11MPH

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac SC/T Grand Am) - "The way this Summit Racing Pontiac has performed so far has been encouraging. We still need a little more power, and we know that, but we were able to use the power that we had to its fullest. Marcus Bowen has done a heck of a job and Bob (Glidden) coming on board has brought a different element to this team. We're real pleased with our performance. Obviously, we want to be the No. 1 qualifier, and we want to win races, but hey, it's our own power, we qualified in the top half of the field and anything can happen on race day. I'm just glad I'll be here tomorrow. If you look at the list of guys that didn't qualify, it's astounding how tough it is out here. There are guys that ran low 6.81s in Pomona, Calif., and didn't make the show. We're happy were racing, we're happy we have lane choice and we're just going to do the best we can. If everything goes right I'll be able to win my first round in over a year. I've got a tough opponent though, but just to have the chance to race out here for Summit Racing and Pontiac is a great opportunity." No. 9 qualifier - 6.797ET/202.36MPH

Greg Anderson (Vegas General Construction Pontiac SC/T Grand Am) - "We were inching up on it and really thought we had something going until that last round. Our Grand Am was the quickest car in the right lane this morning - the only car to run in the 6.70s in that lane, so we really thought we were inching up on it. We started out a little behind the eight-ball, shook the first couple of laps, just like a lot of cars did, but still felt we had a handle on it. We were shaking the tires again tonight and saw some other cars slip. It's a tricky surface, and just when you think you have it conquered, it'll come back and bite you. We're going to have to be more cautious tomorrow since the track isn't quite where we'd like it to be, but it's going to be the same thing for everybody so there are no excuses. We just have to take a good look at our notes and fix the car. Other than Warren's (Johnson) car, our SC/T Grand Am is the fastest Pontiac here so we know we have a lot to work with. The first race out with the new car, we're pretty pleased, but at the same time, we'll have some growing pains before we see the true potential of this race car." No. 9 qualifier - 6.799ET/202.94MPH

FUNNY CAR

Ron Capps (Skoal Racing Chevy Camaro) - "We had the first run thrown out and had to regroup from there. On Friday we had to back it down to get down the track and it shook the tires. Saturday morning, we had two runs to get it qualified, and with a lot of good cars out here in the class, it wasn't easy.

We're running the new Chevrolet Camaro body and we're really excited about what it's done. We've run 319 mph now with a 4.86 and that was nice. You can't look at the ladder though and see any easy races. I have Gary Scelzi first round and it's going to be a battle. We're happy with where we are, and we've tested well, but come Sunday it's anybody's ballgame. We went down the race track in the heat of the day today, which is what we'll see tomorrow, and that tells us we have a good setup for Sunday. With this team, and I've said it before, I always feel like I have as good of a chance as anybody of winning when I show up on Sunday. And you can't really ask for anything else when you're driving a Funny Car.

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Ron Capps , Gary Scelzi , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Bruce Allen , Tim Wilkerson