Reading Pontiac Racing Saturday Notes

MOHNTON, Pa. (Saturday, September 18, 1999) - The field is set for tomorrow's 15th annual True Value Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway Park. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson nailed down another No. 1 qualifying spot, his 12th of the season,...

MOHNTON, Pa. (Saturday, September 18, 1999) - The field is set for tomorrow's 15th annual True Value Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway Park. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson nailed down another No. 1 qualifying spot, his 12th of the season, when he set both ends of the track record in the first qualifying session this morning. Johnson drove his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird to an elapsed time of 6.853 seconds at 201.43 mph. Bruce Allen ran another career-best elapsed time in the morning session when he piloted the Outlaw Fuel Additives Firebird down the Maple Grove quarter mile in 6.905 seconds. The Arlington, Tex., resident also ran his career-best top speed at 200.17 mph making him the 12th member of the Speed-Pro 200 mph Club. Allen is qualified fourth. Mark Pawuk is qualified fifth, Tom Martino is seventh, Jim Yates is 11th, Richie Stevens is 13th, Mike Thomas is 15th, Steve Schmidt was 20th and George Marnell was 23rd.

In Funny Car, Frank Pedregon's Red Line Racing Oil Firebird is qualified in the No. 6 position with an elapsed time of 5.088 seconds at 282.22 mph. Tommy Johnson Jr. is qualified eighth, Gary Densham is ninth, Al Hofmann is 11th and Del Worsham is 16th. The No. 1 qualifier is Tony Pedregon with an elapsed time of 4.912 seconds at 298.50 mph. John Force is qualified in the No. 2 position, Ron Capps is third, Scotty Cannon is fourth and Jerry Toliver is qualified fifth.

In Top Fuel, MBNA/Pontiac driver Cory McClenathan is qualified in the No. 13 position with an elapsed time of 4.729 seconds at 284.27 mph. Gary Scelzi is the No. 1 qualifier with an elapsed time of 4.580 seconds at 307.58 mph. Eddie Hill is qualified second, Scott Kalitta is third, Tony Schumacher is fourth and Kenny Bernstein is fifth.

FOX Sports will carry two hours of television coverage on Sunday, September 19, beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern. Speedvision will televise two hours of firt-round coverage beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern.

PRO STOCK

Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) "The most important thing is that we got qualified. These cars with suspensions and multiple speed transmissions are susceptible to racetracks that have a series of bumps, especially if they're in the wrong spot. This is an old, old racetrack and I highly suspect that there's not much base underneath it. We pulled up our records from last year using the same car, there are two bumps near the finish line in both lanes. The right lane had one in fourth gear; a small one that wasn't very significant. We came back with the same car and this thing is bouncing all over the racetrack. Unfortunately, this track needs to be dug up completely and a base needs to be applied to make it a national-event caliber track. That means that it needs to be a smooth racetrack so we don't have a one lane course. It appears that the left lane is significantly faster than the right lane, so lane choice especially with our cars, will dictate the results, even more so in the later rounds. There are so many things that can happen in drag racing that effect the outcome that there will certainly be some winners in the right-hand lane, but the odds are slightly against it, especially in the suspended cars. The fuel cars have enough downforce where the bumps don't have the same effect on them that they do on our cars." No. 1 qualifier - 6.853ET(track record)/201.43MPH(track record)

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) "I think if we're going to win this race tomorrow we're going to need a little luck. We thought we had a handle on the combination this morning when the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird ran the 6.93. We thought we were getting a lot closer to it, but the car went out tonight and shook even harder. Obviously we're pretty far off on our clutch tune up. We need to keep going after it, but we're not sure how aggressive we need to be. We don't want to go so far to the other side of it, and knock the clutch out, so we just keep nit-picking, taking a little bit out of it here and there. So far, we haven't been aggressive enough. It should be pretty good in the morning like it was today when we ran the 6.93, so if we get a little closer, the car should run a 6.90 or 6.91. That should put us right there in the ballpark with the fast cars. Right now it's just too aggressive in second and third gear, and it's going out there and striking the tire real hard. There are some bumps on the racetrack, but that's not our problem. It's happening directly on the gear change, so if we can get a little closer with the clutch then we'll be okay tomorrow." No. 11 qualifier - 6.937ET/198.41MPH

Bruce Allen (Outlaw Fuel Additives Pontiac Firebird) "Now we just need to run a 6.80, win the race and we'll really be happy; at least for a little while anyway. Making the 200 mph club is awesome. It makes the work more rewarding when your results begin to pay these kind of dividends. The guys at the shop will be ecstatic. They keep asking us when we're going to run 200, and I told everyone that we couldn't do it here because it was too bumpy, so I'm tickled. It's especially good considering our position right now, and to be running good always helps when you're trying to find a sponsor. We talked about running 200 mph maybe at Topeka, but Dallas would have been more realistic. Now we have that out of the way and that's a nice bonus. It's funny because when you don't need to run that fast, or when you're not expecting something good like that to happen, or when you're not worrying about it, it happens. When you're really wanting it to happen you can't get it done no matter how hard you try. The money is icing on the cake. Now we're in the seven-second club, the six-second club, and the 200 mph club. I don't foresee in my lifetime having to worry about a five-second 300 mph Pro Stock club, but when you're racing professionally at this level, it's important to be a part of performance milestones like that." No. 4 qualifier - 6.905ET(career best)/200.17MPH(career best)

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) "We're running good again. We've struggled to make a good run here but I'm sure everyone else has too. The track is pretty rough and our car just doesn't like the bumps here. We made a pretty bad pass this morning, and last night we missed an opportunity as well. We're right there where we need to be with our tune up, but our car just won't go down the racetrack. I would have loved to have run in the 6.80s last night, and our Summit Racing Firebird is definitely capable of doing that, but it just wasn't meant to be. Things are coming together and on Sunday anything can happen. I think tomorrow it will take consistency to win and the ability to get over the bumps on the racetrack It's a tricky track because we have good air, so we're making a lot of power. But the car gets upset and then that makes it difficult to get it settled down. We're not having any different problems than anybody else out here, but being the most consistent and finding a way to run the fastest on raceday will be the key to winning here tomorrow." No. 5 qualifier - 6.908ET/198.28MPH

Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) "I would have to say that after failing to qualify at the last three races that we're pretty happy tonight in the Century 21 Pontiac camp. This is the first time out with our new car. We've tested it on some terrible tracks but we really didn't know what the potential was with this Firebird. It stepped up and ran good for us yesterday, and it ran fine this morning, but we don't have a handle on what it likes in low gear yet. We haven't quite figured it out. We tried something tonight and that definitely didn't work, but it still ran fast down the back. We'll go back to our Friday setup, and then stay here on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and test on all three days. I don't want to shoot myself in the foot, and try too hard to fix the car because the numbers we've been running are good enough to win a race tomorrow. We made a pretty good lap this morning and went 6.94. We kept going in that direction and that wasn't the right move, so we'll go back to where we were and try and go some rounds on Sunday." No. 7 qualifier - 6.926ET/199.37MPH

FUNNY CAR

Tommy Johnson Jr. (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) "I kind of like being in the role of underdog a little better than being the favorite, so I kind of like our chances for tomorrow. We've struggled a little with the tune up and we just haven't quite hit it yet, but anything can happen tomorrow. I shook the tires today and shut it off. Tomorrow on raceday I'll pedal it and do whatever it takes to get there first. We'll try and come out, do a good job and get this Interstate Batteries Firebird to the finals. We're in and we're racing tomorrow. It's not that we're not running well, it's that we just haven't hit it right yet. We've been trying some things to correct it and I'm confident that tomorrow we'll be ready. We'll just tune her up and let her go." No. 8 qualifier - 5.123ET/270.43MPH

Dale Creasy Jr. (Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird) "We're going to put the Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird in line and get ready to go. The way the NHRA has qualifying setup, in the last session they reverse the order of your qualifying session . So we'll be able to watch everybody run and if we don't have to go we're going to sit out and hang on until tomorrow. Indy beat us up pretty good on our parts inventory and that put everything back a step. If we can get a little bit of stuff saved up each race we'll be okay. We know the time will come when we have to make four qualifying runs to get in the field. But right now, if we don't have to then we're not going to. We'll save the money and then beat them up on Sunday." No. 17 qualifier - 5.251ET/273.22MPH

Al Hofmann (Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird) "I'm pretty happy with how things are going here. We have so much stuff to get straightened out that our primary concern is just to get the car ready to race. I think we're headed in the right direction, but we'll just have to see what happens in the next couple of races. We can't do it all in one race, but I'm confident that this Firebird will be fast again and we'll be right back in the thick of the hunt. I'm doing quite a bit of the work myself, and Andy Neering is taking some direction from Jim Dunn so that he can step into a more prominent role with the racecar. I'm trying to work him into a crew chief position, but this is a team effort and it's going to take some time. Everybody here is responsible for making this car go down the track. I do like being more hands on with the car and I'm sorry that I ever got so uninvolved with it. That's why I'm out here. I've always enjoyed working on the racecar; that's how I started, and now I enjoy it more than I ever have. It's nice when you can make a run and see some progress and that's what we've been able to do this weekend. For that last session our goal was just to get it in. I didn't want to put any additional pressure on the guys because they put enough of that on themselves. Now we're just here to see what we can do tomorrow and try and make our Pontiac go down the track quicker than the guy next to us." No. 11 qualifier - 5.154ET/282.75MPH

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) "That was a testimony to how good they're making these diapers we have under our motors. A few years ago they'd have been cleaning up after us. That motor is total junk, broken all to pieces. I needed to leg it as far as I could. We're trying to get in the show here so it became a sacrificial motor. I could hear it doing all sorts of ugly things but I kept my foot in it as long as I could. When I lifted I knew all eight pistons weren't where they were supposed to be -- kiss that one goodbye. What stinks is that it wasn't really a good enough time to put us securely in the field. We've still got to step up to stay in the program so we blew up a bunch of expensive stuff without getting the prize. The good news is, I think, is that we found the right tune up for the Checker Schuck's Kragen Firebird.. That wasn't a tune-up problem at all, that was just something broken in the motor and that happens to everyone out here from time to time. We've got to put all new stuff in it and bring it back out like it was. It should run a 5.10 or so, I'm sure of that."

Second Session: "OK, I've got a question: When does qualifying 16th and having to face Tony Pedregon in Round 1 feel like a good thing? I'll tell ya when. When you start your car for your final lap outside the field, barely get in, and then have to wait and watch Dale Creasy have a legit shot at bumping you right back out one pair later. Compared to the alternatives, being 16th is OK. This was truly an awful day, the sort of day I think you put in the bank as reasons why you have good things happen to you every now and then. We blew the motor to smithereens in the first session and had a major motor swap between laps. Then we managed to have a whole bunch of totally weird and unrelated things go wrong trying to get back up there for the last lap. We had problems with the mags, had a backfire trying to start it, then fixed that and had an oil pump problem, so we fixed that and then had a problem setting the timing. By that time, the Top Fuel session was half over so basically my dad (Crew Chief Chuck Worsham) took his best guess at the timing. I mean, what else were we going to do? With all that going against us, a 5.23 was about all this thing was going to run, so I'm happy we legged it down there and got in. It was ugly but it worked." No. 16 qualifier - 5.239ET/288.46MPH

Gary Densham (NEC/AAA Southern California Pontiac Firebird) "We made two good runs today with the NEC Pontiac Firebird. We ran 5.12 and a 5.14, but the track still seems to be awful loose on the end. We probably had our career-best early numbers, but then got the car out there far enough where it started smoking the tires. If we can correct that for tomorrow then I think we'll have a competitive racecar. I think we'll need some 5-0s to advance into the later sessions though. The track is coming around enough and it's better than it was when we first got here; we're figuring things out but so is everybody else. That's what makes the sport fun. If the chess board was always the same it would get kind of boring." No. 9 qualifier - 5.125ET/277.34MPH

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Mike Thomas , Kenny Bernstein , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Dale Creasy Jr. , Gary Densham , Scotty Cannon , Cory McClenathan , Scott Kalitta , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , George Marnell , Chuck Worsham , Jerry Toliver , Tommy Johnson Jr.