Richmond Pontiac Racing Saturday Notes

DINWIDDIE, Va. (May 1, 1999) Qualifying was completed today for the Fifth Annual Pennzoil Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park. For the first time all season, Warren Johnson's GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird will not start...

DINWIDDIE, Va. (May 1, 1999) Qualifying was completed today for the Fifth Annual Pennzoil Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park. For the first time all season, Warren Johnson's GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird will not start Sunday eliminations from the No. 1 qualifying position. The four time winner of this race (1995-98) will start from the No. 2 spot with a quarter-mile run of 6.843 seconds at 202.24 mph (national record). George Marnell is qualified fourth, Mike Thomas is seventh, Mark Pawuk is eighth and joins the Speed Pro 200 mph club, Jim Yates is 10th, Tom Martino is 11th and Steve Schmidt is 16th. Bruce Allen's qualifying run of 6.935 seconds was not good enough to make the 16-car field. The No. 1 qualifier is Kurt Johnson in a Camaro with an elapsed time of 6.840 seconds at 201.94 mph. It is the quickest Pro Stock field in NHRA history. In Funny Car, Cruz Pedregon's Interstate Batteries Pontiac is the highest qualified Firebird in the No. 2 position with a run of 4.943 seconds at 290.63 mph. Tim Wilkerson starts tomorrow's race qualified fourth, Del Worsham is ninth, and Dale Creasy Jr., is 16th. Al Hofmann did not make the 16-car qualifying field. The No. 1 qualifier is Jim Epler in a Corvette with an elapsed time of 4.933 seconds at 304.19 mph In Top Fuel, Cory McClenathan's MBNA/Pontiac is qualified second with an elapsed time of 4.593 seconds at 318.92 mph. Gary Scelzi is the No. 1 qualifier with an elapsed time of 4.494 seconds at 321.12 mph

TNN will televise 90 minutes of racing highlights on Sunday, May 9, beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern with a repeat show on May 10, from 12:00 a.m. - 1:30 a.m. Eastern.


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) Even though the weather is going to be warmer tomorrow, I fully expect Kurt (Johnson) to back up the national record. He certainly should be able to run better than a 6.91. Winning the race is much more important than setting the record and when we come to any event, that's our main priority. The conditions this morning were pretty decent, we just didn't have the right setup in the GM Goodwrench Firebird. This afternoon the back two-thirds of the racetrack was just ridiculous. It was like driving in sand. I don't know what's on the surface, but it's obviously very slippery out there. Everybody was loose out there. The fuel cars would get to about the 500-foot mark and then they'd go up in smoke - and they have 10,000 pounds of downforce on them. Of course they have five times as much horsepower, but that's beside the point. For tomorrow, we'll have to take a look at everything we've done up to this point and from that, figure out what will be the best approach to setting up the car. The last run we made to the 330 was as fast as our 6.84 run. After that, it was so loose that the car just lost all of its ET. Theoretically, if we can get the same weather conditions tomorrow, and if we can put the round pegs in the round holes and the square pegs in the square holes, then we should able to run quicker. But that's easier said than done. No. 2 qualifier -6.843ET/202.24MPH(national record)

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) I'm pretty impressed with the way the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird is coming around. The problem is that we just couldn't make a run in that left lane, and it's going to be tough on us tomorrow because we're going to be over in that lane. Hopefully with the fuel cars running, the track will improve and we'll be able to step up. The car's been running great, we just have to see if we can't overcome that disadvantage tomorrow. In the last session we made a really good pass - we were the third fastest and you can't take anything away from us for that. Maybe if we can get a little luck tomorrow we'll be able to get a couple of rounds under our belt. With Jamie (Yates) running the second car, we're experimenting with some clutch setups and some different gear ratios in his car, and that way it gives us a good idea on what we need to do in my car. If we run both cars the same and we both make a bad run, then we know it's something we did and not something strange happening in the car. We're also trying some different carburetors than we're used to running and it seems like both cars made good runs in that session. We keep moving forward and that's all we're doing. With the other car, that gives us four more runs under national event conditions and that's the best testing you can do. Four runs out here during a national event is like 20 runs out here testing all alone. So it's well worth the energy and effort it takes. And it's nice when he qualifies like he did today. He gets to come in here and race on Sunday. That will be the first race he's ever qualified for so I'm really proud of him. No. 10 qualifier - 6.886ET/200.11MPH George Marnell (Dynomax Pontiac Firebird) We've made a pretty good comeback after our performance at Dallas. We're really having trouble grabbling a hold of the track around third and fourth gear, right around where it makes the transition from concrete to asphalt. Every single pass that we've made in the Dynomax Firebird the car has broken loose real hard there. I think what that is doing is hurting the momentum and we just can't seem to make that up. It's running 199 and change, and I think we're capable of making a 200 mph run, but in order to do that we're going to have to keep our momentum all the way to the finish line. We just haven't been able to accomplish that so far. Our goal right now is to try and get a hold of the race track, and try and get a good tune up for tomorrow. We're hoping that an engine change in the car will help us hit that 200 mph mark. Right around the 400 foot mark on the race track is where we're having our trouble, and a little heat may help us out some tomorrow. No. 4 qualifier - 6.866ET/199.73MPH

Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) We made some changes last night and tried some things we haven't done before. The track helped us a little bit and Raptor (engine) helped us out some as well. It wasn't a killer run and we probably should have run a 6.86. We'll try to tune off that a little bit, and I'm hoping that the Century 21 Pontiac Firebird will make a halfway decent pass that we can take into tomorrow. I feel that we have plenty of power to win any single race we go to. It's a matter of getting the car to where it needs to be. It seems that every race track we go to we learn something different. Now we can change the car to what we think our power will give us. It's easy to say that works now because we're running okay. Ask me in three or four races and I may have a different answer. The car shook in third gear out of control. It didn't move around so it didn't grub off too much elapsed time. I short shifted it into fourth and it shook all the way through fourth. When I put it in fifth gear, it hooked up so good that I could actually hear it screech the tires. After that, it really started charging. If it hadn't of shook, we probably would've only picked up a hundredth in elapsed time but we would've run 200 mph. No. 11 qualifier - 6.888ET/199.73MPH Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) The left lane was really bad and when I saw Warren (Johnson) run 200.00 mph, I didn't think it was going to be possible for us to break 200. I knew there was a slight chance, but the Summit Racing Firebird was moving around, shaking and spinning the tires. I decided to go for it, stayed in it and we were able to stick it in there. The other engine looks like its been hurt all weekend because we felt we should have been running faster than what we were. We're pretty excited because that's two Summit Pontiac in the 200 mph club this weekend. Tomorrow we want to win some rounds and see if we can't give a little pay back for last week. No. 8 qualifier - 6.883ET/200.08MPH

Bruce Allen (Outlaw Pontiac Firebird) We got down the left lane pretty good but it wasn't quite fast enough to get in. We lost our good motor last week in Dallas, and coming in here we were a little behind the eight ball to begin with. It's difficult to come to a race when you know you can't compete with your best guns, and out here these days you really need them. You know that you have to do everything perfect and have others miss on their runs if you're going to get in. By Atlanta we'll be in good shape, and we'll be able to run good there. Last night I was disappointed because the Outlaw Firebird went left real hard in that left lane. We came back this morning, made some adjustments and were able to go straight. So I feel pretty good that we have a car that we can work with. It's going to take us a little while to get the car to where we know what it will do. The first run we spun up, shook a little and overestimated the track. Unfortunately, we aren't familiar enough with this car to know what changes to make. When you're not the fastest car, you have to make those good runs in the best sessions to have any chance of getting in. I'm disappointed but that's part of it. No. 22 qualifier - 6.935ET/198.20MPH


Cruz Pedregon (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) For the conditions we've been racing in this weekend and everything being equal, I think that 4.98 was about all we could get out of it tonight. I was real happy about the run. I shut it off a little early because it started to spin at the end of the racetrack but I feel like the Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird is starting to run up to it's potential. If the car and the driver are on the same page, we're going to win some races and that's what I plan on doing tomorrow. Wes (Cerny) and the crew have done their job and they've given me a car that's fast and a pleasure to drive. Even the 5.18 run that we made this morning was a decent pass, but given the situation it was better to shut it off. I feel like we have as good a chance to win this race than anybody. The key to winning any race is the ability to adapt to changing conditions and there's no question that we know how to do that. I'm excited. I couldn't ask for a more consistent race car. We're going to go out, have some fun and see if we can't put this Firebird in the winner's circle. No. 2 qualifier-4.943ET/290.63MPH

Tim Wilkerson (JCIT Pontiac Firebird) We just left it alone from last night and went up there trying to make another good run somewhere around a low 4.90 or a high 4.80. The race track just wasn't there for what we were trying to do. We'll back it up a little bit and try and run a low 4.90. When you're in the show like we are, you have an opportunity to get aggressive. You see Force and Coil do that all the time. They get in the show and then they go out there and break everybody's backs. We'll figure out how to get down through under full power and see if we can't put together a decent race day setup. The first run I had to pedal it, and the second run was real nice but the fuel pump let go. We'll see what happens. The track may throw us another curve before it's all said and done. No. 4 qualifier -5.023ET/291.26MPH

Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) We thought we had a pretty good idea on how to change the tune up to get us past that 800-900 foot mark where we were spinning the tires. But we never got to that point. This time, in the right lane, it overpowered the track there at the transition before the changes we made were timed to come in. That was an example of how the right strategy can backfire on you. We had already run the 5.11 and went into that session fifth. So we went out there trying to step up to a 4.98, or maybe even the No. 1 spot if it hooked up all the way, and we overpowered the track. We were on a better run than that in today's first session, but we spun the hoops out there at 900 feet. We figured if we could fix that we could run a nice 4.90-something and have a shot at the top spot or top two or three. No. 9 qualifier -5.114ET/298.87MPH

Dale Creasy Jr. (Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird) We backed this Mad Magazine Firebird down some to get down the track. We had .890 60-foot times - the best we've ever had. But it won't go much farther. I think with as good as this air is, the motor's just making too much power. It's going to be a driver's track and if I'm worth my wait in salt, I'll be able to drive it to the finish. Everybody's struggling out here this weekend and you can tell by the elapsed times. In the first session today, the car shook from the step. I pedaled it, caught it and then it started smoking. So I thought, what the heck, so I gave it one more punch. That may be what it's going to take to get us in this field. No. 16 qualifier - 5.445ET/254.14MPH

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Jim Epler , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Gary Scelzi , Dale Creasy Jr. , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Steve Schmidt