POMONA, Calif. (November 14, 1999) - Final eliminations for the 35th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals were completed today at Pomona Raceway. PRO STOCK Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) "Our performance today pretty much summed up...
POMONA, Calif. (November 14, 1999) - Final eliminations for the 35th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals were completed today at Pomona Raceway.
Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) "Our performance today pretty much summed up our year. Unfortunately we had the wrong draw in the second round. Warren (Johnson) laid down a great number, but until the final round the Summit Racing Firebird was the fastest car in the right lane. It's just a matter of getting things to turn our way next year. We stepped up a couple of spots from where we were last season, our performance has dramatically improved, and qualifying has improved so I'm excited about next year. We're going to work harder over the winter and hopefully we can come out with a bang in 2000. Our plan is to test quite a bit in December and January, and I have to tend to things at work and at home. I'm going to spend a few days with my family next week and then after that it will be back to the grind getting ready for next season and getting business back in shape before I start travelling again."
Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) "The Century 21 Firebird was on a good run until the transmission went 1,2,4,5, never grabbing third gear. Some springs on the slider must have broken, so when I put it into third, it actually went into fourth. Looking at the computer, that run would probably have been somewhere in the 6.90 to 6.91 range, which would have been good enough for lane choice in the second round, but it just wasn't to be. The way our season went, today's events fit right in. But we can leave here knowing that we have a competitive, consistent car. We'll do some testing over the winter fine-tuning and gathering data to see if we can improve on what we have, so we can continue to perform at the level we have the last few races."
Bruce Allen (Outlaw Fuel Additives Pontiac Firebird) "We just didn't run good enough in the second round to secure lane choice. If we had made a good run, we couldn't have gone faster than Warren's (Johnson) 6.89, but we could have gotten more of a head start going into the semi finals. The track got pretty good after it cooled off. The Outlaw Fuel Additives Firebird stood up real hard in low gear, got on the wheelie bar and started shaking. I put it in second and it spun real hard. I know Richie (Stevens) did sort of the same thing in front of me, but I don't know if it was the lane or if the track got a little bit better than what we were ready for. Anytime you start doing well you're not satisfied until you win. But our performance today was about as good as we were. We didn't make that good of a run in the first round against Kurt (Johnson) either and we were lucky to win that race. You have to take the good with the bad, even it out and go on from there. We were probably lucky to get to the semi finals actually. We could have just as easily gone out in the first round. The performance of the car right now is good enough that we feel confident that next season things will turn around. Everyone on the outside looks at it like once you do get fast you should win. But you have Warren Johnson, Jeggie (Coughlin), Kurt (Johnson), a lot of good cars out here on Sunday and a lot of good cars that don't even qualify. Even though we're doing well right now, we have to step it up - we have a ways to go yet. If we wanted to, we could wait until the Winternationals before we unloaded the car again and probably run pretty decent. But in the long run; two races, three races, five races, you're going to be behind. We have to stay on top of it, get the engines running a little better, and we need to find a setup that we can adjust when the conditions warrant it. That's what we'll be trying to do between now and the start of next season."
Richie Stevens (Valspar Pontiac Firebird) "This has been a real good year for us. We were able to move up nicely in the standings and we won a bunch of rounds (23). Hopefully we can kkep moving next seaon. This is a great day for my dad and Valspar. I couldn't do this without either one of them. Also, my crew chief Tommy Utt was a big part of my success. I thank them all. The Valspar Firebird picked the front end up and drifted left. I corrected it real quick and I was still out front when the tires started spinning down track. It was all over at that point. In the round two win over Troy, I was feeling like this was my lucky day. Troy had been running so quick and I knew I would need a good light to beat him. I hit a .407 and that's pretty close to perfect. I needed that win to get him off my back in the points."
Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) "The Pennzoil Firebird got extremely loose in third gear. I'm not sure why. I was two car lengths ahead of him at that point and I knew a win in that round would put me in the top 10 in the points standings so I drove it as far as I could. But it just wasn't meant to be. If I had gone any more I would have been into the wall. I had to lift. Nothing is more frustrating then not completing a lap, especially under these circumstances. If you get all the way down at least you have a chance to win. I didn't even get that this time. It's hard not to be disappointed. Richie was in trouble that lap and he was there for the taking, but we couldn't take advantage. We had a career year in '98. We finished sixth in the points and got our first win. We all expected this year to be even better. But it didn't happen the way we hoped it would and now all we can do is gear up for next season. We make our own power over here and I know we'll be contending for the championship again very soon. I wish we could start things up right now. I'm ready to start fresh."
Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) "That was one of the bigger, and more bizarre explosions ever. Just when you think you've seen it all in the sport, along comes proof that you haven't. The Checker Schuck's Kragen Firebird was running down the track okay. I mean, it wasn't running 4.90 or anything but I'm pretty sure we had enough to beat him. All of a sudden it was like the whole left bank of the motor shut off at once, like dropping four cylinders all on the left side. Then, in the next split second, it exploded, caught on fire and demolished itself. The fire went out quick, that was no big deal. But man, it just demolished the left-side cylinder head. The motor was pretty much okay, too, it was all pretty much contained to the head. That was not a good way to end the season, but the truth is we battled our butts off all year; we had good races and bad, and in the end we improved over last year. We're already neck-deep working on next year with Frankie Pedregon and Dave Fletcher, so tomorrow starts the 2000 campaign. We can't wait."
Dale Creasy Jr. (Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird) "The Mad Magazine Firebird wasn't the fastest car out here but it got the job done for a couple of rounds. The track was to our liking, and on a good day we can beat the guys we took out today, although statistically they are a little bit better than we are. But today was a driver's race and I was happy with what I was able to do. All the bad runs we made this year, the tire smoke, the shaking, that's what got me through today because I didn't have to think about it. I knew it was coming because it's happened so much and that's just from experience - old fashioned seat time and learning. It was a wonderful weekend. We got into the show on one run, the car ran great today and it was a heck of a ride. In the last race, we broke the blower belt. It was only the fourth run on the belt. I went to pedal it after it smoked the tires right away, but I wasn't worried about it because I knew the track was touchy. I was hoping Toliver would have trouble with his car, but I never give up before it's over. It kind of took off but it just quit. I kept pushing the pedal down trying to figure out what the heck was wrong, and I was looking at the injector doors to make sure the pedal wasn't broken, and I got to the end and saw what had happened. I'm not disappointed at all. This is the best I've ever done and it came at the last race of the year. We had all of the Pontiac people here, all the Warner Brothers people were here and it was great way to end the year. Nobody's signed on the dotted line yet, but we'll be racing no matter what."
Al Hofmann (Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird) "I was real happy that our Firebird went to the end on all eight cylinders. I knew it would run pretty good once we did that and I'm really excited about. It will give Cristen (Powell) a 5-oh car to start out with and Ronnie (Swearingen) knows the combination. They'll do just fine. Even though we lost it was probably one of my best runs of thew year. It was good drag race. The car got down to the other end and spun the tire a little bit and that where he (Ron Capps) got by me. If he would have been off a hair, I would have had him." Jim Dunn (car owner/crew chief Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird) "The car dropped a cylinder, went to the right and we didn't get it corrected enough. It got a little too far over but that comes with experience. Hopefully next year Hofmann will have that experience. On an instant turn, no one can handle it, but when it takes it 150 to 200 feet on a drift, then that should be corrected. Next year we'll have the driver that can save my mistakes. When the car runs straight, anyone can drive it. The driver's job is to make me look good and fix my mistakes, and my job is to make him look good. It's a team effort - we all share in the wins and we all share in the defeats. Next year is going to be fun. Now we'll go home and get ready. We'll have a brand new chassis, a brand new body with the Mooneyes Firebird. We'll make sure everything latches and fits right. We'll also get Hofmann accustomed to our burnout procedures and we'll get accustomed to how he stages. Every driver takes a little bit different tune up on the way they stage. Even when I talk to Coil, he can take Tony (Pedregon) and put him in Force's car and he has to change the tune up a wee bit for each driver. We don't know. They just ride the clutch a little different, or beat the throttle a little more and it takes about three or four runs to get used to the driver."
Tim Wilkerson (Sioux City Kenworth Pontiac Firebird) "There's a transition out there in the middle of the race track that's been upsetting this Firebird all weekend long. Every run I made it did the same thing. I'm not sure if it's the car or the track, but I'm pretty sure it's the track. We had John (Force) right where we wanted him but he doesn't ever seem to make any mistakes for you. I guess that's why he's the champion. We look forward to being out here next year. We don't have any deals yet, but we'll be here someway and somehow. We're talking to a couple of potential sponsors, and I've had some conversations with people who may be looking for a driver and both show some promise."