St. Louis Pennzoil Thursday Report

Pennzoil drivers off to steady start ST. LOUIS (June 24) -- Professional qualifying for the Third Annual Sears Craftsman Nationals began Thursday afternoon at Gateway International Raceway with a feel-it-out opening session. The Pennzoil stable...

Pennzoil drivers off to steady start

ST. LOUIS (June 24) -- Professional qualifying for the Third Annual Sears Craftsman Nationals began Thursday afternoon at Gateway International Raceway with a feel-it-out opening session. The Pennzoil stable of drivers appeared to be using their opening pass to simply find a baseline set-up for their cars at this track so that they can tune properly for what's expected to be a considerably faster session under the lights this evening.

Today's late afternoon start and scheduled evening qualifying session are part of a new format track officials are implementing to help fans avoid the heat of the day.

Here's how each Pennzoil driver started his race weekend.

Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, made a respectable 4.751-second lap at 310.55 mph in the opening round to grab the ninth position in the Top Fuel field.

"We're tickled with the speed we achieved considering how conservative the set-up was," Hill said. "That was one of the fastest passes this track has ever seen. We had her set real soft because we were the second pair out there and we weren't sure what the track was like. It's nice to post a good number like that right off the bat so that you know exactly what changes you need to make to go faster."

Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, ran a competitive 7.077-second lap at 196.39 mph to finish Round 1 in the No. 8 spot on the qualifying ladder. The pass has Thomas excited about this evening's expected cooler session.

"I over-estimated the track big-time," Thomas said. "The car started spinning its tires so quickly that the shift light came on six-tenths of a second after I dumped the clutch. I'm still happy that we got down the track under power and made a decent run. This whole field will be reset tonight and I'd like to be on top by the time we're done."

Bruce Allen, the pilot of The Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, opened his weekend of racing with a middle-of-the-pack pass of 7.123 seconds at 195.14 mph. Allen, who hails from Arlington, Texas, is currently in 17th place out of 36 drivers.

"We spun a little at the starting line," Allen said. "Which everyone was doing. But after that we were pretty smooth. Now we've got some good info on this track and we'll switch to our race motor and get set for tonight. To a certain extent you start over at every track you go to on this circuit. Now we've done that and we're ready to take the next step this evening."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Bruce Allen