Sonoma Slow Start for Team Pennzoil

SONOMA, Calif. (Aug. 6) -- A slight sprinkle slowed the start of the 12th Annual Autolite Nationals at Sears Point Raceway and made Friday's first round of qualifying extremely tough on the competitors as they attempted to navigate the tricky ...

SONOMA, Calif. (Aug. 6) -- A slight sprinkle slowed the start of the 12th Annual Autolite Nationals at Sears Point Raceway and made Friday's first round of qualifying extremely tough on the competitors as they attempted to navigate the tricky surface for the first time. Out of 66 pro drivers in the top three classes, only 35 completed their opening laps under full power.

Team Pennzoil certainly wasn't exempt from the problems as all three drivers in the Pennzoil stable opened with sub-standard laps. Here's a quick look at their Round 1 tribulations.

Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, reached the 60-foot mark on the track before encountering ignition problems. The 63-year-old Texan tried to continue the lap but eventually was forced to shut off and pull his parachutes before the finish line. His mediocre 5.342-second pass at 187.52 mph placed him in the No. 11 spot on the ladder

"We started nice and conservative, just like we planned, but the ignition failed completely on us 1.4 seconds into the run," Hill said. "She still seemed to be pulling and I let her labor for a little while. Then we hit the half-track mark and she totally broke down. In fact the car stopped pulling so quickly that I registered 2.5 g's of negative force. That's when you know it's time to click it off and wait for the next session."

Bruce Allen, the driver of The Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac, immediately lost traction during the launch of his first-round lap and elected to shut his motor off to avoid damaging any parts unnecessarily. His official marks saw a 13.044-second lap at 65.89 mph.

"We experienced massive tire shake right away in low gear," Allen said. "That'll happen every time you get too much tire speed. The track was tough to gauge and the rain didn't help us much either. Whenever it goes from sunny to overcast and then back to spotty sunshine, it makes it hard to figure out. Tonight should be much better for all of us."

Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, experienced the same traction problems as many of his peers and failed to complete his opening pass. He posted a 13.638-second pass at 62.07 mph to finish the session in 23rd place out of 28 cars.

"The car went left immediately so I shut it off," Thomas said. "I knew right away that we underestimated the track in regards to the clutch set-up so I didn't even try to drive through it. Tonight should be spectacular. Now that we know what we can get away with traction-wise, we should be able to tune in a really quick lap."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Bruce Allen