Pomona: Pontiac-GMC Racing final eliminations

POMONA, Calif. (February 4, 2001)- Final eliminations for the 41st annual AutoZone Winternationals concluded today at Pomona Raceway. PRO STOCK TRUCK Rick Jones (Motor Homes Unlimited GMC Sonoma) - "We hurt the motor and just tried to limp...

POMONA, Calif. (February 4, 2001)- Final eliminations for the 41st annual AutoZone Winternationals concluded today at Pomona Raceway.


Rick Jones (Motor Homes Unlimited GMC Sonoma) - "We hurt the motor and just tried to limp through without blowing it. We hurt it after first-round qualifying and replaced it, but the one we put in was just sluggish. We put the first motor back in and were able to get a round win out of it. We'll go into Gainesville top 10 in points with some data to work with - not a bad weekend."


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Grand Am) - "Overall I'm very pleased with the performance of this new Pontiac considering that it has relatively few runs on it. We got some data on the new chassis and had the opportunity to test under warm conditions, so we have a lot of things to work on before the next race. In the first round, we got a little aggressive on clutch - no, we got a lot aggressive. We haven't run this car on a hot racetrack before, but it seems to be pretty immune to tire shake. We went back to our qualifying engine for the second round and backed down the clutch, and the result was a nice, smooth pass. In the third round against Darrell (Alderman), the transmission came out of gear. We did a lot of testing on that transmission down in Florida, probably 35-40 runs. It just came out of gear for an instant, but that was enough. But a semifinal finish isn't a bad way to start the season. We're just going to get some more runs on the chassis, and we'll flog our new Haas car, too. We have two different approaches that we can explore. I'm optimistic about our prospects this season."

Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Grand Am) - "We're extremely happy to get out of here with a round win, and we're in the top 10 going into the next race. We started off here making terrible runs, but we found enough horsepower to qualify even though we weren't making real good runs. And then we went out and hurt the motor in the last session, but the motor we replaced it with was just as good. Today we went out and made an absolutely horrendous run in the first round and just got lucky when Ron (Krisher) red-lighted. We made some changes for the second round and didn't make such a good run, but it still ran pretty good so we're pretty pumped up going into Phoenix. I think we know how to get a little handle on the car and maybe run towards the top half again." Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Grand Am) - "We're really disappointed. I thought we had something for them. Lane choice definitely makes a difference today. We'll keep working at it - we're even working on the car now after the race. But I think we're heading in the right direction."

Richie Stevens (Valspar Refinish Pontiac Grand Am) -- "This is an excellent way for Team Valspar to kick off the year. I would have loved to have won this race but all things considered, I'm very happy to be leaving here in sixth place. We qualified in the top half, won an elimination round, and earned a bunch of championship points. It's hard to complain. We just need to get this Valspar Refinish Pontiac Grand Am sorted out a little better. We've only made 12 full passes down the track, including testing, and we still matched up real well against everyone at this race. If you look at the guys ahead of us in the points right now, they've all had their cars for at least a month. We just got ours two weeks ago. Tommy and John (Utt, crewmen) deserve a lot of credit.

"They've done an awesome job. I hate losing but Bruce is a classy guy who is running extremely well this year. He deserved to win the race. I congratulate him and I hope he has a great season and gets himself a new sponsor. We just need some more laps in our car and then we'll be able to keep up with guys like Bruce. But I'm not complaining. This has been a great weekend all the way around. I'm proud of what we accomplished." FUNNY CAR

Bruce Sarver (e.moola.com Pontiac Firebird) - "Coming here we felt like we had a pretty good hot rod, and it is so fun to drive. When we got a handle on the car, and then Alan's power, clutch management, and all that, it made it so easy to drive. It was actually making a fool out of me for awhile. Like in the second round today that computer fell off of my car and fell on the track and nobody saw it. It was right in the right-hand tire groove and I knew what I had to do. Alan (Johnson) thought I was heading for the wall, but I just drove around it like I was going around a corner and put it back in the lane and went right down there.

"You know, coming here we had good expectations. We went out last night and said we felt like everyone had to come to us. We tuned it up a little bit and just didn't want to beat ourselves. The run in the semis was actually a better run than a 4.90 flat since we had a cylinder go. Racing Tony in the finals felt just like racing John (Force). You look over there and see the Castrol car, then I actually see John and he's over there shooting me bullets before the race. But we went up there and Tony's car was out there on me a little ways and I could see about a car length, and then I caught up with him but it seemed like forever to get down there. Fortunately this time I drove around him instead of him driving around me. What was neat today, too, was when I won my race in Reading last year, Joe Amato won, Kurt Johnson won, and I won. So we did it all again, theoretically, even though Joe wasn't in the seat it was his car that won, Kurt Johnson and myself. I can't wait to see those guys again.

"It's going to be a long season, and there's a lot of hype here with the first race and the 50th anniversary season, so to win the first one is nice. But by no means am I going to go out there and run my mouth and say we're going to beat John Force. He's the 10-time World Champion for a reason, and it's a real pleasure to be chasing him, but I think we can honestly give him a run for his money. We just have to be consistent and stay focused." Whit Bazemore (Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird) - "Our Matco Tools Pontiac Funny Car team had a good day and it certainly is very satisfying to come out with the results we had. We are a new team and we didn't come here 100% prepared due to Lee Beard's late arrival. In light of that, what an awesome debut for this Don Schumacher-led team. Beating John Force in the first round is good, but this is a long year. It's no doubt that their team is one of the best and we still have a lot of work to do. It's also very good for this Funny Car class to leave Pomona and not have John Force leading the points, and we leave here knowing we are the ones that put him out. It's a long year and they are the team to beat.

"Our Matco Tools Pontiac repeated every lap and I have to thank Lee Beard, Dan Olson and the entire Schumacher Racing team. Going into the semifinals we were a little nervous about that right lane and were a little apprehensive about stepping it up. We knew Alan Johnson and Bruce Sarver had potential. It was a good run in the heat of the day, their run was just a little better." Frank Pedregon (Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - ""That was one of the best laps I've ever been on, from a driver's perspective. Last year, there were a couple of stout laps that felt like they were huge battles the whole way. I knew it was fast and it was a handful. This time, it was so smooth I actually drove it around a bit on the way down the track, just to get a feel for how this new car handles. It was awesome. Gary Densham owns this race. Seriously, the guy always runs great here at the Winternationals. And you know he's a great driver and he is going to get it to the other end. I hate running guys like that. I was confident our car would run great, but it wouldn't have bothered me to race someone else."

Del Worsham (Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "I thought we had the right combination ready, and it surprised me a lot when the tires started spinning down there. We had it calmed down and were trying to run a nice easy 4.95, just like Etchells did in the other lane. Somehow we missed on the deal and I don't know why. Bazemore showed you can run a good number in that lane, so I don't' think it was a lane-choice thing. We just missed on it, that's all I can say."

Jim Dunn (Mooneyes/Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird) - "It was a very good weekend. We didn't hurt any parts, everything's safe, so that means I can get after it again next race. This Pontiac's really responding the way we want it this year. For this week, anyway, we had a handle on the fuel and the blower, so I think we're going to do real well. I've got a tenth left if I want to run hard, which I don't come to a track to run easy, but first it's got to run good five times. We'll go to Phoenix and try and run 4.95s to 5 flats three or four times, and then we're going to turn up the wick." John Lawson (Lucas Oil Pontiac Firebird) - "We're extremely happy with the way we ran this weekend. We qualified for the fastest Funny Car field in NHRA history, and you can't get much closer than our first-round run. Unfortunately I think lane choice made the difference. Butwe're happy, the guys are really working hard, and this new Pontiac Firebird is just awesome. The downforce on that thing is unbelievable, so we're excited - we're looking forward to the rest of the year."


Mike Dunn (Gwynn/Steinbrenner Yankee Dragster) - "There's no greater winning tradition in sports than that shared by the Steinbrenner family and the New York Yankees. We're really excited to contribute to that legacy starting here at NHRA's 50th anniversary kick-off. This is our first race with the great folks at MBNA, and it's a fantastic way to start that relationship. Same for our other key partners, GMC, Winnebago, Mac Tools and The Miami Project. Just a little too soft of a combination. The car went out there and shook real hard, so I tried to grab the brake to save the run. I almost got the car to settle down, but by then, the tires just blew off the thing and it was over. I tried to peddle it down track, but give credit to Darrell (Russell), he ran his race and got the win light. We were trying to run a low 4.6-second run, but the motor came up a little softer than expected and it took us by surprise. We may have had a supercharger go bad on us, but that wasn't the reason why we didn't get down the track. We just got beat. We have worked hard trying to get the car to run in the 4.6 second range since we left Pomona last year. We know that we can run on the real good tracks and post a low 4.5-second pass. On the hot and greasy tracks like Pomona this weekend, we needed to find a combination that would get us from A-to-B consistently. We did that this weekend and accomplished a significant goal." -Pontiac Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Mike Dunn , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Joe Amato , Gary Densham , Tom Martino , Don Schumacher