Pomona Pontiac Racing Saturday Report

POMONA, Calif. (November 13, 1999) - Qualifying was completed today for the 35th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway. In Pro Stock, Tom Martino jumped to the No. 2 qualifying position in the Century 21 Firebird. Martino covered the...

POMONA, Calif. (November 13, 1999) - Qualifying was completed today for the 35th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway. In Pro Stock, Tom Martino jumped to the No. 2 qualifying position in the Century 21 Firebird. Martino covered the quarter mile in 6.904 seconds at 199.82 mph and is the highest qualified Pontiac going into Sunday eliminations. Warren Johnson's GM Goodwrench Service Plus Firebird is qualified third with an elapsed time of 6.908 seconds at 201.07 mph. Jim Yates improves to fourth with a 6.910-second run, Mark Pawuk is qualified sixth, Richie Stevens is eighth, Mike Thomas is ninth, Bruce Allen is 10th, Steve Schmidt is 11th and George Marnell was 27th. The No. 1 qualifier was Troy Coughlin in an Oldsmobile with an elapsed time of 6.901 seconds at 198.99 mph.

In Funny Car, Ron Capps was the No. 1 qualifier in a Camaro with an elapsed time of 4.853 seconds at 307.72 mph. Jim Epler was second in the WWF Firebird covering the quarter mile in 4.908 seconds at 307.72 mph. John Force qualified third in a Mustang, Tony Pedregon was fourth in a Mustang and Jerry Toliver was fifth. Frank Pedregon qualified eighth in a Firebird, Dale Creasy Jr. is ninth, Del Worsham is 12th, Tommy Johnson Jr. is 13th, Tim Wilkerson is 14th, Al Hofmann is 16th, Cruz Pedregon was 18th and Gary Densham was 20th.

In Top Fuel, MBNA/Pontiac driver Cory McClenathan is qualified in the No. 6 position with an elapsed time of 4.597 seconds at 317.34 mph. The No. 1 qualifier, and winner of the Big Bud Shootout is Gary Scelzi. Scelzi's qualifying run was 4.570 seconds at 322.11 mph. Tony Schumacher qualified second and locked up the Winston Top Fuel title. Mike Dunn is qualified third and Joe Amato is fourth.


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) "That was a matter of being in the wrong lane at the wrong time - or maybe I should say the right lane at the wrong time. There was a disparity between the two lanes, maybe a couple of hundredths. Troy (Coughlin) had two hundredths on me in the first 60 feet. I made the quickest run in the right-hand lane if I'm not mistaken. This difference between the lanes is just something you have to deal with; sometimes it's worked in my favor, and this time it didn't. This chassis change I made last week has done exactly as I predicted, so it gives us a bigger window to operate in the future. I'm pleased about that. The track temperature dropped 18 degrees between the first and second runs today. If there is cloud cover on the track tomorrow, we'll be all right. We'll put our 'Old Reliable' engine for race day. It's been around since 1995, so we know what to expect." No. 3 qualifier - 6.908ET/201.07MPH

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) "Since Jerry (Bickel) worked on the Splitfire Pontiac Firebird last week and we took it to test, the car has done just about everything right. Once the car starts performing correctly and producing the e.t. you expect, then it's a lot easier to tune the engine. Bob (Ingles) has worked with the engine quite a bit this weekend and has found a combination that would run better with the fuel that we're using -- I think it's helped to bring everything around. The car went straight down the racetrack getting everything out of it that we could, and when we get a chance to see progressive results in the changes we've made, it obviously helps the program. The car and engine have to compliment each other - you can't run fast with just one or the other working correctly, and this weekend they're working in sync. We wrote off the run we made this morning. The graph didn't look that bad, but the car spun all the way down the racetrack. We were in the first pair out, the car got out of the groove and spun, and just produced terrible numbers all the way down the track. But we didn't panic and start changing things. Instead, we left it alone. This afternoon we ran it just like we did this morning with just a little more clutch to compensate for the weather and it went right down the racetrack. That's from being patient, letting the track come to us, and realizing that every now and then we're going to make a bad run. We were successful in building on every run this weekend and that's what you have to do if you want to run fast out here. I like our chances tomorrow. Any time you qualify within a hundredth of a second of the fastest car, then it all comes down to a driver's game and we'll just have to run it the best that we know how. The track's really good, we have lane choice first round and we'll just take it one round at a time. No. 4 qualifier - 6.910ET/198.44MPH

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) "The day didn't start out well but the Summit Racing Firebird made a good run this afternoon. We were second fastest in the right lane behind Warren (Johnson), and the lane looks like it's come around some, but I still have to believe that the left lane is better. We slid a couple of spots down, but we also showed that we can run well out of either lane, so I think we're ready for tomorrow. It's going to be tough out there - but to stay in the top half of the field and run a 6.92, I feel pretty good about our chances. There are a lot of good racers and cars out here and I'd like to think of us as being in that elite group. Most of the cars made decent runs in both lanes, but we've been working on a lot of different areas in both the car and the motor tune up, and we think maybe we're beginning to head back in the right direction. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, and to racing well and as soon as it's over, I'm looking forward to a little R & R. But the first thing we're going to do is win this race." No. 6 qualifier - 6.920ET/198.09MPH

Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) "In the morning session it was on a pretty good run until it broke the transmission. But since the failure occurred in fourth gear, we still got plenty of useful data, so we go into the evening session blind. I moved the four-link for tonight and the Century 21 Firebird obviously liked it. It was a great run but it could have been better. I went up and looked at the track, and it was so good, I put a couple of grams of counterweight on it, and raised the rpm. Ironically, the weakest part of the run was the starting line - we were eight to 60 feet. We ran a 1.031, where the other strong runs in that session were in the 1.02's. If I had run anything in that range, I would have been on the pole. But I'll take number two any day. We had a little tune-up change, and I was the second fastest car in the back half, even faster than Troy, even though he outran me. I'm really pumped for tomorrow. We set some goals for ourselves at the start of the season and we have an opportunity to attain them tomorrow. It won't be easy, but it's in our hands." No. 2 qualifier - 6.904ET/199.82MPH

Steve Schmidt (Dynagear Pontiac Firebird) "After the weekends we've been having, Terry Adams (crew chief) did a great job getting this car in the field. Our engine is hurt, we don't have anything else to put in and we just absolutely got everything out of it that we could. We'll probably just run the same thing tomorrow because it's not going to get any worse. We tried some new gasoline that we weren't familiar with and it absolutely killed it. We've got a chance though because we were able to run pretty well, and the Dynagear Firebird ran as fast as a lot of cars that will be racing tomorrow. When you look at the results over the last couple of months, there's no question that our engine program has the capability of winning races, and we have three engines competing out here this weekend. Terry's just been handicapped with this car, but it's something we've struggled with all year. We made some improvements towards the end of the year like at Memphis when we were No. 4, but the car has been too inconsistent. We can win here tomorrow though. If everything goes our way, I do the job I'm supposed to do, and someone leaves us a window to charge through, then we can definitely bring it all home tomorrow night. I've won races like that before - but I've also lost races when I was the fastest car on the property." No. 11 qualifier - 6.943ET/197.83MPH

Bruce Allen (Outlaw Fuel Additives Pontiac Firebird) "The lane situation had a lot to do with the fact that we weren't able to improve our qualifying position. The left lane is definitely quicker and it turned out that the last session was the quickest session. We were in the right lane and were second quickest in that lane. That's good, and we wanted to run better than that, but it's not the end of the world. The Outlaw Pontiac Firebird got down the track every time and made decent runs, all we have to do is step up for tomorrow and then who knows. We'll be in that lane tomorrow but we were able to make a pretty good run there. We were a little light on the clutch. The conditions got quite a bit better as we sat there, nonetheless we can beat anybody if we're on time and the car runs good. We'll just have to see." No. 10 qualifier - 6.937ET/198.79MPH

Richie Stevens (Valspar Pontiac Firebird) "I'm glad we stayed above the cutoff point. Lane choice is always good to have and it really means a lot at this track. I know Mike (Thomas) will be going after me. He's fighting for points just like we are and this is a last-chance deal for all of us. It should be an exciting first round. The whole day will be like that. The fans will get their money's worth tomorrow. The air bottles that control the shocks were leaking that time. And there was some fire coming in the cockpit too, but if a 6.9 is your worst lap of the weekend it's hard to complain. The Valspar Firebird will be ready for action tomorrow and I'm excited about defending my championship. This is my race until some one takes it away. In my opinion, Tommy Utt should win Crew Chief of the Race right now. He has nailed the clutch set-up every lap and that's awesome. I know we have a car that can go down either lane in a competitive time and that takes a lot of pressure off me as a driver."

Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) "It helps a bunch when you don't have the brakes on. Believe it or not, it felt like there was a lot more in that run. It's great to get in. I wish we could have done it sooner but it's the finals and it just became an all-out deal. Richie and I are both fighting for spots in the points standings so it'll be a war from the word go. We need to win one round to get into the top 10 in the points so I don't plan on holding anything back. My hats off to my crew and my family. Everyone has been pumping me up all day and we pulled through this together. This is a great feeling right now but the real work starts tomorrow. The right rear brake was totally locked up on the Pennzoil Firebird. I don't know if that was what had been hurting us all weekend but I'm glad we were able to get it fixed in time for Round 4."


Frank Pedregon (Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird) "Jim (Dunn) got us out of a hole. That's why he's one of the best and that's why I hate to leave him. But he's been awesome, he knew what would happen tonight and that's why we didn't run. We got the Red Line Oil Firebird in the field on our first pass today and since then we've just been getting ready for race day. Jim said, 'kid, I want to make you a winner before we leave here.' So we're planning on going some rounds tomorrow. I owe it all to Jim and this great team that I've been a part of. I like our chances tomorrow. I shut it off at 1100 feet, and it's 1320, but it started to eat itself up from a problem that we've already fixed. We'll need to run mid-4.90s to win here. Capps has run in the 4.80s, but consistent 4.90s will win this. Going into tomorrow we feel like we did at Indy and with a little consistency we'll do just that - plus some good driving." No. 8 qualifier - 5.055ET/291.70MPH

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) "It's making big power, that's the second 5.0 we've been on but we still don't have it to the finish line cleanly yet. This time the Checker Schuck's Kragen Firebird was running just great and it spun the tires way down there, just enough to slow us down again. We're going to change motors now, we nicked that one up a bit down there when the tire spin got the revs up. It ran a 5.25 at only 267 miles per hour, but I had my foot in it the whole way, end to end. It had two holes out, spinning the tires, legging it on through. No wonder we have to change motors, huh? Well, that was a long day, a long wait, and a lot of build-up for not much action. It hasn't been easy out here all week, a lot of good teams have struggled. We watched some real good cars go straight up in tire smoke right in front of us and did some quick adjustments right before we ran, but there's only so much you can do. I knew we didn't have a real good chance. But, it got off the line and that's better than 90% of them did out there, and I pedaled it pretty well when it started to bust loose. We haven't had a lot of luck pedaling lately, it's blown up a few times on me, but I caught it real early and it hooked right back up. Then it let loose again way down track and I had to just lift and be over it. I'd be kidding if I said we weren't worried about this whole deal today. Last year this exact scenario kept us out of the show. By the time we ran everything that had been so good out there was way too tough to handle and hardly anybody went down the track. Last year we were one of the cars trying to get in from outside the field and there was just no way to do it. This year, being in going into the session, we were counting the cars behind us on the qualifying sheet as they ran, literally clicking them off one by one until we were assured of a spot in the field. I knew it was going to be a real long shot for us to move up, but it all worked out OK, and now we've got Jerry Toliver tomorrow in Round 1. Let's get it on." No. 12 qualifier - 5.220ET/252.14MPH

Al Hofmann (Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird) "Anything's possible tomorrow. We're going to try something tonight to get our Firebird ready for Sunday because I've got nothing to lose tomorrow and Capps has everything to lose. We'll go up there, take a shot at it and if it sticks, it'll be fast. If it doesn't stick, the year's over and this car is somebody else's problem next season. I'll go drive Jim Dunn's car, Ronnie Swearingen will be over here and I'll start enjoying racing again. The conditions tonight weren't the best to be running in. As you noticed, there were only two cars that made decent passes, but we were sitting close to the bubble and had no choice." No. 16 qualifier - 5.251ET/288.27MPH

Tommy Johnson Jr. (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) "We've got a long ways to go, but the Interstate Batteries Firebird is headed in the right direction after getting qualified. If that's any indication then maybe we'll be all right tomorrow. Anything can happen on Sunday and at least we'll get to take our shot. Being in the top 10 in points depends a lot on where you qualify, and if we wouldn't have done that then things wouldn't have looked very good for us. Now we're qualified, and as long as we can maintain the pace and keep it going for four rounds, then who knows, maybe we can win this race. As long as we don't give it away tomorrow, we'll finish in the top 10, walk away from it and call it a success." No. 13 qualifier - 5.227ET/293.79MPH

Tim Wilkerson (Sioux City Kenworth Pontiac Firebird) "We're racing the big dog (John Force) first thing and we might as well get him out of the way right off the bat. We're just happy for everybody that stuck with us all year through thick and thin. That's why we came out to California, just to prove that we can still race and that maybe there is someone who wants to go racing right along with us. The people at Pontiac, Sioux City Kenworth, and my friend Mark Wiler from Rydin Decal, for them this is a good day. We know we can go as fast as the best cars, we just need to figure out how to do it. The car was going along pretty good and it just barely shuttered the tire. Since we were already in I wanted to see if it would make it through that spot we were having trouble with. If we wouldn't have been in, I would have pedaled it. I don't know if it cut the tire before it shuttered, or what happened, but it was cooking right along and was way out there when I got in trouble. I don't know what to think of it yet, but I'll go back, take a look at it and figure it out. My friend Ronnie Swearingen has been helping me out this weekend and we may have something for old Force tomorrow. You never know." No. 14 qualifier - 5.237ET/262.33MPH

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Mike Thomas , Mike Dunn , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Jim Epler , Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Dale Creasy Jr. , Gary Densham , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Terry Adams , Steve Schmidt , Jerry Toliver , Tommy Johnson Jr.