FINAL QUALIFYING FUNNY CAR: BAZEMORE TAKES THIRD STRAIGHT POLE POSITION Defending event champion WHIT BAZEMORE, KENDALL OIL/MATCO TOOLS CAMARO Z28, qualified No. 1 for the third straight event this season, and the ninth of his career, with...
FUNNY CAR: BAZEMORE TAKES THIRD STRAIGHT POLE POSITION
Defending event champion WHIT BAZEMORE, KENDALL OIL/MATCO TOOLS CAMARO Z28, qualified No. 1 for the third straight event this season, and the ninth of his career, with his 4.955-second elapsed time at 308.21 mph, which he recorded in the cooler air of Friday night's qualifying session. In the heat of the day, however, he has struggled to get down the track.
BAZEMORE: ARE YOU RIGHT ON TRACK TO KEEP YOUR TITLE HERE? "Actually, we're not. Believe it or not, I really feel like today is more important than last night because today we ran in the conditions that we are going to race in. We struggled today, smoked the tires both runs. It's a little different than our situation in Denver (where he won). That gave us more confidence. We are behind the 8-ball with our Kendall/Matco Tools Camaro. Even though (Jerry) Toliver did not qualify, (John) Force is always the guy to beat. They looked awfully good today and awfully strong and very consistent. We have got our work cut out for us. We have got to get down the race track to win races; that's what it's all about. Tomorrow we have got to be prepared for the first round and not make any mistakes." Whit will face Dale Creasy Jr. in the first round.
JIM EPLER, WWF RACING 'BIG RED MACHINE' CAMARO Z28, qualified No. 5, 5.049/300.40. Funny Car points leader and WWF Racing teammate Jerry Toliver did not qualify for the first time since Memphis in '99. Toliver's rival for the championship John Force is on the other side of the ladder. Epler and Force could only meet in the final round.
EPLER: WHAT'S YOUR JOB TOMORROW? "To win, that's my job. I don't know what's going to happen. I would have loved to have been in the position to take Force out early, but I can't do anything about it. Being on opposite sides of the ladder we have to hope for the best until we get to the finals and try to win the race. We've learned a lot in every round of qualifying. In the last run, we learned what not to do. I think we can run in the fours tomorrow. We're consistent, and we're going to be tough to beat tomorrow."
RON CAPPS, U.S. TOBACCO CAMARO Z28, qualified No. 10, 5.155/298.40.
CAPPS: "We are just as disappointed with our qualifying as we have been in the last three races. We just haven't qualified well. Part of having a good game plan in every race is getting in the show the first run on Friday and going at it on Friday night. It gets worse and worse when you don't get in the show early. Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) was having stuff thrown at him. We had a bad fuel pump after Friday's run. On Saturday we had a new fuel pump. Every crew chief shivers at that thought because you don't know what's going to happen. It showed us we could go down the right lane in that run. Without lane choice (in the first round) we will have to use that run for data for the first round tomorrow. The good news is that we will gain points on Toliver. If we make it by Del Worsham in the first round we will have John Force in the next round. We will have to make good use of the fact that we can gain some points here (on points leader Toliver and second-place Force.)"
PRO STOCK: KJ IS NO. 4; TOM HAMMONDS QUALIFIES FOR FIRST TIME IN EIGHT RACES
KURT JOHNSON, AC DELCO CAMARO Z28, turned the quickest run in the fourth and final qualifying session. He ran a 6.957-second e.t. at 199.58 mph in the heat to serve notice that he will be a contender in Sunday's final eliminations. Kurt qualified No. 4 with a 6.947/199.79 in the Saturday morning session. Kurt has now qualified in the top half of the field for eight straight races at Sears Point Raceway.
KURT: "On that last run the tires spun hard initially, and when I heard the engine accelerate so quickly I thought the clutch might have slipped too much. We adjusted the suspension before that run to increase the bite, but we still have a ways to go to get the 60-foot time where it needs to be. If we can run 6.95 all day tomorrow, I think that could be good enough to win. This track is still very tricky, and all I can say is that we were quicker than everybody else in the last session, I think you're better off spinning the tires a little on this track rather than locking them up solid and getting into tire shake. On Friday night, I slipped and slid to a 7-flat elapsed time that put us ninth on the sheet. Today we just wanted to move up because it took a 6.96 to get in the field last year under the same conditions. I just wanted to get a solid qualifying spot, and I didn't really care whether we got the low e.t."
Kurt will face Tom Hammonds in a battle of Camaros in the first round of eliminations.
TOM HAMMONDS, WINNEBAGO/GM PERFORMANCE PARTS CAMARO Z28, qualified No. 13 today with a 6.995-second elapsed time at 197.65 mph, posted in last night's qualifying session. This is the first time Tom has qualified since he returned to Pro Stock competition at Englishtown, N.J., last May, following his NBA team's (Minnesota Timberwolves) loss in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Originally, Hammonds planned to compete in 13 events this year; but he opted not to race in the non-points Winston Showdown. After Sonoma, he has four races left on his schedule.
HAMMONDS: "If you can run and improve with everybody during that particular session then you should qualify. We had problem after problem throughout this year that has hindered that. It makes it more gratifying. Obviously, we still don't have the Camaro completely ironed out, but we are heading in the right direction. If we can get it to run the front half of the track like we run the back half, we will be as fast as anyone here. I'd just like to thank my sponsors for all their words of encouragement - from Winnebago to Chevrolet to GM Performance Parts to Mac Tools, Kendall Oil and American Racing - because without a lot of those words of encouragement it would have been very difficult." YOU WERE THE LAST CAR TO QUALIFY TODAY AND YOU WERE ALREADY IN THE FIELD: "We knew we were qualified because we were the last car, but we still wanted to make a good run. We actually made two good runs in the right lane, which is probably the worst lane and didn't get down the left lane at all. But knowing that we were already qualified definitely took a lot of pressure off. We will just do our normal routine, maintain the car tonight, get up tomorrow and, instead of packing up everything, be ready to race. Now the fun starts. Qualifying is work, racing is fun." HOW DOES IT FEEL? "It feels great. We're only on first base now. Now we have got to run the bases and go all the way to home." HOW DO YOU RELATE IT TO BASKETBALL? "We just won the first game in the series of a five-game series, so we have four rounds to go to get the big prize." ON RUNNING YOUR CHEVROLET TEAMMATE KURT JOHNSON IN THE FIRST ROUND: "Isn't that terrible? Somebody's got to go. I will do the best I can, my crew will do the best they can to make sure it's not me."
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