PONTIAC DRIVERS ANTICIPATE RETURN TO THE HEARTLAND TOPEKA, Kan. (October 7, 1998) - Rain may have forced postponement of the 10th Annual Parts America Nationals at Heartland Park until October 16, but it will take more than a few showers to ...
PONTIAC DRIVERS ANTICIPATE RETURN TO THE HEARTLAND
TOPEKA, Kan. (October 7, 1998) - Rain may have forced postponement of the 10th Annual Parts America Nationals at Heartland Park until October 16, but it will take more than a few showers to quench Team Pontiac's momentum when the NHRA returns to the Sunflower State.
After three rounds of qualifying, Firebird drivers dominate the Pro Stock field nailing down 11 of the 16 starting spots including No. 1 qualifier Mark Osborne. Osborne busted the field wide open driving his Firebird to a final session quarter-mile run of 6.924 seconds at 197.71MPH.
Osborne will race Larry Morgan in the first round of final eliminations.
"That's two years in a row that the Sherman Racing Firebird has been able to land the top qualifying sport here," explained Osborne. "The situation was a lot different this year, with the track conditions and the cooler temperatures, so we weren't able to use too much of what we learned last year.
"We got a little more than we expected on that last pass, but we'll need it on race day. There are a lot of alligators out here in this class and they'll get after you if you're not ready. If our car continues to run fast, we'll have an excellent shot at winning this event."
Defending Parts America champion Jim Yates jumped all the way up to the No. 2 position and feels his Splitfire/Peak Firebird will be ready to go as soon as the weather allows. He will race Larry Nance in the first round.
"I still think there is some left in the Splitfire/Peak Firebird," said Yates. "Bob Ingles made some tune-up decisions on the engine that resulted in some big mph for us on the back end. I'm really impressed with this car right now. There are a lot of cars that can still run faster so we'll just have to see what happens."
Tom Martino is qualified in the No. 4 position and will race the 1998 U.S. Nationals champion Mike Edwards who qualified 13th. George Marnell qualified fifth and will race Rickie Smith who qualified 12th. Bruce Allen is qualified seventh and will race Mike Thomas who qualified 10th. Mark Pawuk is qualified 11th and will race No. 6 qualifier Kurt Johnson. And three-time Winston champion Warren Johnson will start from the No. 8 qualifying position and will face Richie Stevens who is ninth.
In Funny Car, Cruz Pedregon jumped into the No. 1 qualifying position with a performance number of 4.941ET/306.74MPH and will be the man to beat when racing resumes at the Parts America Nationals. Pedregon, who has won this race three times (1992, 1994-95), is confident that crew chief Wes Cerny has the prescribed setup for a fourth trip to the winner's circle. Pedregon will race his brother and No. 16 qualifier Frank Pedregon in round one.
"I feel that the Interstate Batteries Firebird can really light up the scoreboard," insists Pedregon. "Wes (Cerny) runs the car as hard as the track will let him. It won't surprise me if we step up and run in the mid 4.80s if the conditions are just right.
We're a big horsepower team and Topeka has always been our kind of racetrack. It looks good, it feels good and now we just have to make it happen." Parts America Firebird driver Randy Anderson, who is qualified No. 11, will try to find redemption for his sponsor on race day. He'll have to go through No. 6 qualifier Whit Bazemore to do so.
"The Parts America Firebird should have run better in the first session on Saturday," said Anderson. "The key for us and everybody else will be to get that racetrack figured out. The air had been cool when we left there last weekend so it's only a guess as to what we'll face when we return. I have a lot of confidence in Jim Dunn and his ability to get this car down the track. He'll have this car ready to go for eliminations."
Tim Wilkerson is qualified No. 5 and will race Al Hofmann who is qualified 12th. Del Worsham is qualified 10th and will race Jim Epler. Wilkerson, Hofmann and Worsham all needed the final qualifying session on Saturday to make the 16-car field.
"The concrete here is so good that you have to get after it early," said Hofmann. "Weird would be a better word than tricky to describe the conditions we were facing last weekend. Everyone had their problems. The first half is so good that you can't put enough in it. Then when the GM Performance Parts Firebird gets off of the concrete, it's a whole new ballgame."
In Top Fuel, Shelly Anderson and Cory McClenathan also battled extreme weather conditions, but both managed to make the 16-car field for final eliminations. McClenathan is in the thick of the fiercest Winston points battle in years while Anderson will be racing in final eliminations for the first time since a devastating crash at Sonoma in July. McClenathan is qualified eighth and will race No. 9 qualifier Tony Schumacher. Anderson is qualified No. 14 and will race No. 3 qualifier Larry Dixon. Gary Scelzi is the No. 1 qualifier.
"Because of the weather, we had to decide on whether to try and run in the 4.50s with Scelzi, or just try and get the McDonald's/Pontiac in the show," explained McClenathan. "We eased off a little bit and just decided to put it in the show. Now there's room for improvement. The key is to establish a consistent setup, win rounds and hopefully get this car in the winner's circle."
The NHRA Winston championship tour returns to Heartland Park for the 10th Annual Parts America Nationals with a professional tune-up session on Friday, October 16, before final eliminations begin on Saturday, October 17.