Pomona II: Mopar Saturday summary

Wilson leads three Mopar's into 2003 NHRA finale. POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 8, 2003) -- Mopar's Gene Wilson vaulted solidly into the field during the last day of qualifying for this weekend's Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Nationals ...

Wilson leads three Mopar's into 2003 NHRA finale.

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 8, 2003) -- Mopar's Gene Wilson vaulted solidly into the field during the last day of qualifying for this weekend's Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Nationals at Pomona Raceway.

Wilson, who will take on Warren Johnson in round one, grabbed the 10th-qualified position during the morning session with a 6.780-second elapsed time at 204.23 mph.

"My crew gave me a great car this weekend," said the 2002 NHRA rookie of the year. "We have been making calls ourselves this weekend, which is a little change from the ordinary with us. I feel like we've done a good job as a team. It's really nice to come out here and run like we have. A 6.78 on this race track is pretty good today. I'm happy with the performance of the car today. I think we even have a little bit left in it because I had a line lock failure during that last run and it cost us a couple of hundredths."

Factory teammate Larry Morgan slotted right behind Wilson in 11th. The Newark, Ohio, resident logged a 6.782-second lap at 204.35 mph, setting up a first round match with Mike Edwards tomorrow.

"Had I not made a mistake this morning, and get all over the track, I would have qualified in the top four or five cars," Morgan said. "We staged the car wrong. Overall, we have had a great weekend though.

My intentions are to win the race tomorrow," Morgan added. "The lanes are pretty equal and I feel real good about the race."

Allen Johnson squeezed his Mopar Parts Dodge Stratus into the 16th position with a 6.803-second elapsed time at 203.86 mph. He will face off against Greg Anderson in round one action.

"I'm not real happy with how we qualified this weekend," Johnson said. "We'll have three months to go back, regroup, and find some more horsepower. You never know what might happen tomorrow. We need a little luck, even though we haven't had any all year."

Three-time Pro Stock World Champion Darrell Alderman missed making the final race of the season after posting a 6.819-second elapsed time at 203.28 mph. Alderman suffered mechanical woes in his third session of qualifying.

Bazemore Third....

Whit Bazemore continued his streak of solid qualifying runs for the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals today, with at 4.774/322.34 lap in today's third session and a 4.768/324.90 in the final round, driving his Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus into the No. 3 spot for tomorrow's final eliminations.

"It's been great," said a pleased Bazemore, who is expected to leave Pomona as the runner-up in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car championship. "Even though we're third we've run well every session in the Matco Tools Dodge.

"We've gone down the race track every time and that's what qualifying is all about - to develop performance and develop a baseline and prepare the Matco Tools team and the car for Sunday's race. I think right now we've done that."

Bazemore lost his chance to claim the Funny Car championship to Tony Pedregon at the penultimate race in Las Vegas, in a dramatic tire-smoking contest to the finish line in the final round. John Force, 122 points behind Bazemore in third, mathematically still has a chance to move past Bazemore for second depending on tomorrow's results in final eliminations. With Force on the other side of the ladder, the pair would not meet until the final round.

The Indianapolis resident and two-time U.S. Nationals champion will face Bob Gilbertson in tomorrow's first round.

Trying the new parts the Oakley Dodge team had been waiting for and the combination that crew chief Mike Neff and the team came up with while testing in Las Vegas last week, Gary Scelzi established his sixth track record of the season (for the time being) with his Oakley Dodge Stratus Funny Car - a 328.38-mph pass (4.846 E.T.) in today's third qualifying round. He backed that up with a 327.27-mph run in the final qualifying session, while posting a 4.769-second lap, placing him fourth in the field.

Before today's two runs, Scelzi was not in the field after smoking the tires in the first two qualifying sessions of the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA finals.

"Good things are worth waiting for," said the Fresno, Calif., native who holds the Funny Car national top-speed record of 329.18 mph. "I was a little bit down because I know what we've got a hold of and I didn't want to go back to our old combination (in today's rounds) just because of the two runs in which we had problems. Neither did Mike Neff. And (team owner) Don Schumacher allowed us to take the chance of not qualifying and not going backwards. He said if you guys believe in it, I believe in it. You guys go for it. If it takes one run or two more runs, and I understand what could happen, go for it.

"So when we got his blessing - and we know we're not going to get fired -- we went for it. Instant results, just like we knew was possible. It's running so well and so smooth. It's something that we haven't had. So we're going to refine it. We're going to try to go some rounds tomorrow, hopefully win the race, and put this Oakley Dodge in the winner's circle.

"No matter what, we've got an advantage on next year," he added. "Because we've actually been able to try this combination under race conditions. That's pretty incredible, to qualify No. 4, with a completely new combination with four runs basically on it if you count Vegas."

Scelzi will face Ron Capps in the first round tomorrow in final eliminations, the man he's aiming to pass for sixth in the 2003 POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings.

Scotty Cannon experienced engine problems in the final two rounds of Funny Car qualifying for the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals but still managed to reach the finish line, first in 5.101 seconds at 236.13 mph, and then in 4.921 seconds at 305.15 mph in the final run.

This dropped his Oakley Time Bomb Dodge Stratus Funny Car down to No. 13 in the field, based on his solid 4.872/314.31 pass on Thursday.

"We threw a rod out of it the last two runs," he said. "We don't know what happened. We had a strong run on Thursday, but, although we ran some decent times today, we couldn't improve on those results.

"We'll work on it tonight and see if we can figure it out and be ready for tomorrow's final eliminations. We know this car is good and capable of running high .70s or low .80s, so that's what we're aiming for."

Cannon will meet Del Worsham in the first round of final eliminations tomorrow.

-mopar.com-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Darrell Alderman , Warren Johnson , Bob Gilbertson , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Greg Anderson , Larry Morgan , Scotty Cannon , Gene Wilson , Allen Johnson , Don Schumacher , Mike Edwards , Mike Neff