Richmond Pontiac Racing Notes and Quotes

DINWIDDIE, Va. (April 29, 2000) - The field is set for tomorrow's running of the 6th annual NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson drove the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird to the No. 1...

DINWIDDIE, Va. (April 29, 2000) - The field is set for tomorrow's running of the 6th annual NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson drove the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird to the No. 1 qualifying position in the quickest field in the classes' history. In the fourth and final session, the "Professor of Pro Stock" eclipsed the quarter mile with a track-record elapsed time of 6.838 seconds at 201.28 mph. Kurt Johnson was second in a Camaro and Jeg Coughlin was third in an Oldsmobile. Jim Yates qualified fourth in the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird with a career-best elapsed time and speed of 6.859 seconds at 200.44 mph. Jamie Yates also ran career-best numbers qualifying fifth in the second Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird with an elapsed time of 6.868 seconds at 199.023 mph. Tom Martino's Century 21 Firebird jumped to the No. 7 qualifying spot, Mark Pawuk is qualified eighth, Richie Stevens is ninth, Ron Krisher is 10th, Bruce Allen is 11th and Mike Thomas is 12th. The record bump was an elapsed time of 6.905 seconds.

In Funny Car, Jerry Toliver had the best Pontiac Firebird qualifying numbers with a run in the second and final session today of 4.883 seconds at 307.44 mph. That was good enough for the No. 2 qualifying position. Todd Paton is qualified eighth, Al Hofmann is ninth, Frank Pedregon is 10th, Gary Densham is 11th, Bruce Sarver is 13th, Del Worsham is 15th and Houston winner Bob Gilbertson is 16th. Cristen Powell and Dale Creasy Jr., did not make the field. The No. 1 qualifier is John Force in a Mustang with a track-record elapsed time of 4.826 seconds at a track-record top speed of 317.72 mph. Jim Epler is qualified third in a Camaro, Whit Bazemore is fourth in a Camaro and Scotty Cannon is fifth in a Camaro.

In Top Fuel, MBNA/Pontiac driver Cory McClenathan has his Joe Gibbs' Dragster qualified in the No. 6 position with an elapsed time of 4.652 seconds at 288.15 mph. The No. 1 qualifier is Joe Amato with an elapsed time of 4.563 seconds at 311.99 mph. Kenny Bernstein is qualified second, Gary Scelzi is third, Larry Dixon is fourth and Doug Kalitta is fifth.

The 6th annual NHRA Nationals presented by Chevrolet is the sixth race on the 23-event NHRA Winston Championship tour. Television coverage can be seen on TNN on Sunday, April 30, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) - "Our run was just a little better than everybody else's run. It wasn't a great run, but you have to understand that the only thing missing on the track were poles and skis because it has the moguls. The pass wasn't what you would call smooth and pristine, but everybody else has to battle the same conditions. I was just fortunate enough to run quicker than everyone else. We made as good a run as we could make on this particular racetrack. Ideally, with these kind of atmospheric conditions, the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Firebird should be able to run somewhere between a 6.81 to a 6.83. But those bumps knock off a lot of e.t. because they upset the fuel level in the carburetors, and then when the car is in the air the tires are off the surface and that hurts us as well. We did a little bit better than everybody else at that particular time but this could all change with the next qualifying session. This lineup is definitely not set in stone."

Second Session: "We appreciate the extra concrete out there, we don't appreciate the way they did it, that's the problem. If they grind it, and smooth it out it will be just fine. It was probably just one of those things where it was done in a hurry and it didn't come out according to plan. They'll take care of it for next year - we're not worried about that. At the same time it's something we have to deal with, but we're all dealing out of the same deck, so we'll see what happens. The way it is right now, the left lane has one more severe bump in it, but the right lane has a series of bumps and they kind of offset each other."

Were you surprised at how quick the field was? "Not really. The air conditions we had today were about as good as we've had all year long. The first 330 feet of the track and the last eighth mile are fine. It's just that the new section will take a little bit of grooming and once they do that this will really be a dynamite track - at this time of year anyway.

How did testing over the holidays help your performance? "It was a case where we felt we weren't where we wanted to be performance-wise, so we no choice but to go and figure out how to make these cars run quicker and faster. The first five races of the year we weren't running up to our standards and when you're in that position you have to find out why - whether it's personnel, or equipment or whatever it is you have to go and fix it. When you're self employed, and you have a problem with your business all you have to do is look in the mirror to see where the problem is." No. 1 qualifier - 6.838ET(track record)/201.28MPH

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) - "This Splitfire Pontiac Firebird was pretty fast tonight considering how far behind the eight ball we were after coming out here and missing the first run and then losing the second run to rain. With this new car it just takes us a little while to dial it in but I think it's coming around pretty good. If we can get a couple of more rounds in tomorrow I think we can catch up with the fast cars. We're only a couple of hundredths behind and I'm anxious to get out there and race. I think having the second car is really helping us right now. We've proved that we can run them both pretty well, make the right tuning calls and it gives us some consistency. Actually looking at the graph, Jamie's Firebird ran better than my car. So we'll take what we put in Jamie's car, put it back in my car and see if we can't run quicker tomorrow. I'm really impressed with Jamie. He's doing a great job of driving and we put a lot of effort into trying to get him in the show at our hometown track. I'm really proud of him. He's a great kid and now has an opportunity to go out there and play in front of the fans. Right now he has a pretty darn fast racecar." No. 5 qualifier - 6.859ET/200.44MPH

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing/Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird) - "Considering how bad the track was the run wasn't that bad. Our Summit Racing Firebird doesn't like rough racetracks and it's been a handful. I put it into second gear, it started getting upset and wouldn't settle down until high gear. We're losing a lot of e.t. in the middle of the racetrack. I'm not even sure that a 6.90 is going to stay in. There are a lot of good cars that aren't in the field but at the same time they're all fighting the same problems that we are. We have a racetrack that has a very good starting line, it's very marginal in the middle and with the power we're making we're having trouble getting that power to the racetrack. We can run quicker if we can get the car smoothly over the bump. We'll try some things in this last session. We have e.t. left in the racecar, but we have to get it settled down. It's frustrating when you have this good of a racecar and then end up fighting problems on a racetrack as rough as this one." No. 8 qualifier - 6.884ET/198.99MPH

Bruce Allen (Reher-Morrison Pontiac Firebird) - "I thought the Reher-Morrison Firebird should have gone a 6.88. We didn't run good in low gear, got a little aggressive, shook a little going into second and then the rest of the run was fine. But it hurt us a solid hundredth or two. I felt like we had a good opportunity to pick up but unfortunately we didn't. I think it will be good this afternoon, that left lane may a little quicker and we'll go after it. Being consistent and running another 6.90 isn't all that bad either. It wasn't that good a run and still went a 6.90." No. 11 qualifier - 6.888ET/199.88MPH

Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) - "Although objectively it wasn't a great run, it was good enough to put us in the show, and that is what counts. Over the last two races, we had struggled to make what we would call a good clutch run, and when the clutch failed this morning it finally showed there was a problem with the clutch coating. I borrowed a clutch from another racer which I had never had in this car and put it in for the last run. After I did my initial clutch set-up, I put extra in it because I wanted to make sure it had enough to get down the track. It was dead solid from one end to the other. Effectively that was our first run of the weekend, so we'll tune on it for tomorrow. Fortunately, we have lane choice for the first round and we'll see what this Century 21 Firebird can do tomorrow." No. 7 qualifier - 6.870ET/200.41MPH

Richie Stevens (Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird) - "That was a breath-taking, nail biting way to get into the field. Now I can understand why my dad chews his nails. That was some pressure. Right before they shut the door on my car I heard the announcer say 'Here comes Richie Stevens in the Valspar car. He's on the bump. If he doesn't improve this lap he could be outta here.' We got a little behind yesterday and then lost a round to rain. It all came down to today's two runs. We knew what we had to do. After the first round today I thought that time would at least be good enough to keep us in the field. But it turns out it wasn't even close. It's great to have rebounded like we did and to put that final number up there. Tommy's (Utt) the man. He always gives me what I need to have when it comes down to racing." No. 9 qualifier - 6.886ET/198.32MPH

Jamie Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) - "That run surprised me especially considering how our weekend had gone up to that point. I knew the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird had the potential to run that well, but I didn't expect it to be that good on that pass. I'm ecstatic. That's the fastest I've ever been and there's a lot left in it. I did not drive the car very well so that tells me we can improve. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I get to play and that's why we came here. Before the round started we still didn't know how quick the session would be. We knew that the trucks were picking up a little bit, and as soon as some of the cars at the beginning of the session started to improve that was a pretty good sign. I have a great team behind me that works extremely hard to make it all possible and it was just a matter of everything coming together. I knew it was out there especially with the motor we have. We changed motors before the round after hurting our good motor yesterday and put a new one in this morning - that run this morning was really the first run we had on that engine. So we put something in for tonight that we knew would be better. It's been hectic, and I've got a long ways to go from a learning standpoint but things are looking good for tomorrow." No. 5 qualifier - 6.868ET(career best)/199.02MPH


Al Hofmann (Jim Dunn's Mooneyes/Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird) - "It was a great feeling to put our Mooneyes Pontiac Firebird solidly in the show. We have one more run left and I think we can move up a little bit. It was on an excellent run early -- we just need to match the motor to the clutch and this car will run close to low e.t. This new Firebird works the clutch so hard that it's wearing it out right now. The downforce is tremendous. We have the wing up figuring we would need it for the track, and you can see with the numbers some of these cars are running that the track is beginning to come around. With the wing up we just need to feed it more clutch. The motor's making big power - Jim's (Dunn) doing an excellent job with that. We're making as much power as anyone, we just need to get the clutch matched up but it's definitely coming around." No. 9 qualifier - 5.000ET/296.24MPH

Gary Densham (NEC/AAA Southern California Pontiac Firebird) - "The NEC Firebird was on a great run heading towards a 4.95 or q 4.96. The tune up was perfect, the clutch was perfect, but we just dropped a valve. When it did that it blew up big time -- it was instantaneous. We were trucking along there real fast and then it got noisy, windy and very bright. However, we might be able to get back out there and improve on that. We're hustling here to see what we can do to get ready for tonight, but we're making a trade off between trying to make the run and getting everything right for tomorrow." No. 11 qualifier - 5.010ET/287.66MPH

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "That was hyperventilation, shaky hands, sweaty palms time. It's one thing when you've messed around for three passes and need one to get in. It's another when you've only had two passes because of the rain -- a malfunction in the first session, totally missing the second and a complete desperation shot in the last attempt. We just backed the Checker Schuck's Kragen Firebird off as far as we could and trusted ourselves. It's no good qualifying 15th, it's not what we're here for and it's not what we expect of ourselves, but it's a heckuva lot better than one of the alternatives. We were staring that option right in the eyes and I'm relieved to say the least." No. 15 qualifier - 5.113ET/295.34MPH

Frank Pedregon (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "That was a nice recovery for the blue Firebird. We did just what Del did in the first run today, and when you blow the tires off at the line you really get thrown for a loop tuning-wise. You start to think, 'Where do we go from here?' So to retune our Pontiac and get a solid 5.00 out of it, I'm just really happy. We get my brother Tony in round one, so it's Pedregon versus Pedregon again. I owe him. I owe him from Gainesville where he beat me in round one, and I'm sure I owe him for some stuff when we were kids. I just want to get Checker Schuck's Kragen, Pontiac, Havoline and all of our supporters into round two and take it from there. The blue team wants to carry its weight around here." No. 10 qualifier - 5.007ET/301.74MPH

Bruce Sarver ( Pontiac Firebird) - "I was as nervous as heck up there for the final session. I've been in that position a few times and come out on the wrong end. The Pontiac Firebird was going to make it during the first session today but blew a bleeder off the clutch. We left it alone and she went right down there. We should have a pretty good racecar for tomorrow. I don't think our program's been off track since Phoenix. We just had some bad luck as far as parts are concerned. In Houston last weekend we threw the blower belt off on three qualifying runs. There's been a bad batch of belts and we were cutting them right in half. In fact the dragster (Winston Top Fuel - Gary Scelzi) was on its fastest run ever and it broke a belt. Now we have some new belts and hopefully that will correct the problem. We go into every race thinking we can win otherwise we wouldn't be here. With the personnel and equipment we have we definitely can win us a few races. Hopefully those gremlins we battled with during those first five races are gone and we can start shining." No. 13 qualifier - 5.031ET/302.01MPH

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Mike Thomas , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Mark Pawuk , Jamie Yates , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Ron Krisher , Dale Creasy Jr. , Gary Densham , Scotty Cannon , Todd Paton , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Jerry Toliver , Cristen Powell