Thomas sneaks in during final round All three Pennzoil pros reach elimination round of St. Louis event ST. LOUIS (June 25) -- Team Pennzoil will enter Saturday's Race Day action at the Third Annual Sears Craftsman Nationals with its full ...
Thomas sneaks in during final round
All three Pennzoil pros reach elimination round of St. Louis event
ST. LOUIS (June 25) -- Team Pennzoil will enter Saturday's Race Day action at the Third Annual Sears Craftsman Nationals with its full complement of drivers thanks to some final round heroics by Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas. The 46-year-old from Knoxville, Tenn. was the only driver in his class to grab a spot in the 16-car field during the fourth and final round of qualifying Friday night at Gateway International Raceway, thereby earning the right to advance to tomorrow's action.
Here's an in-depth look at Thomas' pass as well as those of his Pennzoil teammates.
Thomas, who drives the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, managed to post a 7.015-second lap at 196.90 mph in Round 4, which moved him from 26th place into the No. 15 spot in the field. Thomas will now square off against the Ford Probe of Robert Patrick, who qualified second with a 6.968-second, 197.22-mph lap.
"The pressure was really on," Thomas said. "I was definitely stressing out. I guess you'd have to say I'm a big fan of this nighttime format. If we hadn't had two chances to run at night then I probably wouldn't have qualified because of the lifter problem we ran into last night. It looks like the racing gods are keeping an eye on me this weekend.
"Now that we're in I'm already thinking about tomorrow. This could really turn into a big race for us. A few of the guys that are ahead of us in the points didn't qualify and we have a chance to make up some ground. I'm going for the kill when eliminations start. I'm really focused and I'm confident that this car can win some rounds for me."
Thomas has already moved up one spot in the Winston championship points standings this weekend by virtue of John Nobile's failure to qualify. He now occupies the 13th position and could move up as high as seventh with a win tomorrow.
Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, finished the qualifying session with a tire-smoking lap of 8.961 seconds at 81.68 mph and will therefore use his 4.628-second lap at 313.95 mph from Thursday night as his official qualifying pass. That time places Hill in the No. 5 spot on the ladder and sets up a Saturday afternoon race against No. 12 qualifier David Grubnic, who posted a 4.702-second run at 306.88 mph.
"We were looking for the limits of the track and we stepped over the line a little," Hill said about his Round 4 lap. "That's the advantage of running so well earlier. It gave us the chance to gamble and we now have a real good grasp of what we can and can not do.
"I'm absolutely tickled that we were the quickest and fastest car in today's earlier session because we're expecting the exact same conditions tomorrow when the title's on the line. Obviously, if we're the quickest and the fastest on Race Day then we'll be looking real pretty with a trophy of Wally (Parks) in our hands."
Hill has now successfully qualified for 10 of 11 races this season and has finished qualifying in the top half of the field on seven occasions.
Bruce Allen, the driver of The Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, improved slightly in the final round with a lap of 7.015 seconds at 197.16 mph. The elapsed time helped Allen hold on to the No. 14 qualifying spot and means he'll start the elimination rounds against Greg Anderson, who qualified in the No. 3 spot with a lap of 6.982 seconds at 197.71 mph.
"We're pretty happy in the Outlaw pit," Allen said. "Our incremental numbers from Round 4 show that we were one of the quickest cars out there and that really makes you feel good when you're heading into the elimination rounds.
"With this race having two nighttime qualifying sessions it really kept everybody on their toes because we all knew that some massive changes could happen in the last round. I like this format. It's so much fairer for all the competitors. I wish we could do this at every race.
"We made four good runs and that makes me feel real good about this car. We continue to have trouble at the starting line but we're accepting that for now to make sure we can at least have a full run every time. Now we can start figuring ways to make better launches and we'll start to contend at every race. We're making progress."