Team Pennzoil has point to prove in Seattle SEATTLE -- As the National Hot Rod Association Winston Drag Racing series returns to Seattle International Raceway for the 11th Annual Prolong Super Lubricants Nationals, each driver in the Pennzoil...
Team Pennzoil has point to prove in Seattle
SEATTLE -- As the National Hot Rod Association Winston Drag Racing series returns to Seattle International Raceway for the 11th Annual Prolong Super Lubricants Nationals, each driver in the Pennzoil stable has their own reason to be excited. Hall of Fame legend Eddie Hill is fresh off his best race of the year and anxious to continue his streak. Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas is hoping to gain more ground in the points standings while fellow Pro Stock pilot Bruce Allen, after a week of testing in Oregon, looks to be the most prepared driver in his class. Additionally, three-time world champion sportsman driver Mike Ferderer feels his knowledge of his hometown track will provide him with the advantage he'll need to win.
Here's a short report from each driver's camp heading into Seattle.
Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, put together his best weekend of racing this season in Sonoma, Calif., when he reached the semifinal round by beating reigning Winston Top Fuel champion Gary Scelzi. It was Hill's first third-round appearance of the season and kept his Texan Racing Team heading in the right direction.
The most impressive part of Hill's 1998 campaign has been his qualifying performances. He is one of only five Top Fuel drivers to have qualified for every race this year, extending his streak of elimination round appearances to 31 races. Hill also has put the Nuclear Banana (as his car is affectionately called) in the upper half of the16-car field in nine of the circuit's 13 events. Additionally, Hill has started Sunday's action in the No. 4 position or higher in six of the last seven races.
"One of our biggest strengths this year has been our crew chief's (Dan Olson) ability to adapt the car to the various conditions we've encountered at each track," Hill said. "He has been such a tremendous addition to our team. This year has been everything we had hoped it would be except for one thing -- we want to win some races and we haven't done that yet. Still, I continue to be very optimistic because this car is the best machine I've ever piloted in my 43 years of racing. I know we have what it takes to win, we just need to prove it.
"Seattle would be a good place to win. We went to the semi's there last year so we have some really good data on that track and how to set-up the car. We certainly have a better car this time around so we're confident we can do well. Seattle International Raceway is always tricky, so it won't be easy. But I sure would be tickled if we took a little man (trophy) home."
Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, feels as though he has some catching up to do after a disappointing first-round exit in Sonoma. Thomas, one of only six Pro Stock national event winners this year, enters Seattle as a man on a mission.
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"I said at the beginning of the Western Swing (Denver, Sonoma and Seattle) that this was a perfect time to make a run at a championship," Thomas, who is currently fifth in the points standings, said. "Well, we had an engine blow in Denver and then I blew it at the starting line in Sonoma. Those two things have made Seattle a pivotal race for our team. I have no doubt at all in my mind that our car can win every race. I feel as though I missed a golden opportunity to gain a lot of ground in Sonoma so I'll have to do that much better here."
Bruce Allen, the driver of the Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac, returns to the site of his 1989 runner-up finish feeling that he has something to prove. Allen, a perennial top 10 Pro Stock-class stalwart, did not qualify for the elimination rounds of the NHRA's last race after four consecutive sub-par qualifying runs. In fact, Allen has uncharacteristically missed the Sunday portion of seven national events this season.
"It's been a very frustrating period for all of us," Allen said. "In all my years of racing, I thought that I'd seen it all. But this season we have continued to run into problems that I've never encountered before. Our team left Sonoma feeling we had a lot of extra work to do before this weekend so we stopped at a track in Woodburn, Ore., and ran several test laps. I'm happy to report that we really feel as though we've solved our problems. Of course, every track presents it's own unique obstacles, but at least I know the car is dialed-in right. I'm anxious to get back out there and return to competitive racing. We always do well at S.I.R. and I hope this year is no exception."
Mike Ferderer, the sportsman-class driver of the Pennzoil Super Gas Pontiac and the Gumout Super Comp Dragster, is happy to be at his hometown track after an extensive road trip. The three-time world champion, who resides in Kent, has been chasing points at tracks in Minnesota, Wyoming, Colorado and California over the past several weeks. "I'm so happy to be sleeping in my own bed," Ferderer said with a smile. "I've been on the road for eight weeks so it's good to be in my own backyard for a change. I've missed talking to my wife and playing with my dogs.
"I did have a successful run while I was gone. My cars have been running great and I won several rounds of racing which will help those season totals. I know this track here very well and I'm expecting to make a run at the title. Everything is ready to go."