St. Louis Pontiac Racing Thursday Report

MADISON, Ill. (June 22, 2000) - Qualifying for the 4th Annual Sears Craftsman Nationals got underway today at Gateway International Raceway. In Pro Stock, Ron Krisher in the Eagle One Firebird is the No. 1 qualifier with an elapsed time of...

MADISON, Ill. (June 22, 2000) - Qualifying for the 4th Annual Sears Craftsman Nationals got underway today at Gateway International Raceway. In Pro Stock, Ron Krisher in the Eagle One Firebird is the No. 1 qualifier with an elapsed time of 6.940 seconds at 197.91 mph. Kurt Johnson is qualified second, Jeg Coughlin is third, Rickie Smith is fourth, Mark Pawuk is fifth in the Summit Racing Firebird and Richie Stevens is sixth in the Valspar Refinish Firebird. Bruce Allen is eighth, Brad Jeter is ninth, Tom Martino is 15th, Warren Johnson is 16th, Jim Yates is 17th, George Marnell is 19th and Jamie Yates is 27th.

In Funny Car, Jerry Toliver's WWF Pontiac Firebird is qualified in the No. 1 position with a track-record elapsed time of 4.883 seconds at 303.84 mph. John Force is qualified second, Tony Pedregon is third, Jim Epler is fourth and the CSK Firebird driven by Del Worsham is qualified fifth. Al Hofmann is qualified eighth, Bruce Sarver is ninth, John Lawson is 11th, Tim Wilkerson is 15th, Dale Creasy Jr. is 17th, Frank Pedregon is 18th, Gary Densham is 19th and Tommy Johnson Jr. is 20th.

In Top Fuel, Cory McClenathan and the MBNA/Pontiac dragster is qualified second with an elapsed time of 4.608 seconds at 313.51 mph. Joe Amato is the No. 1 qualifier with an elapsed time of 4.602 seconds at 313.51 mph. Bob Vandergriff is qualified third, Don Lampus is fourth and Kenny Bernstein is fifth.

The Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway is the 12th race on the 23-event NHRA Winston championship tour. Qualifying highlights can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, June 24, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern. Television coverage of final eliminations can be seen on Sunday, June25, beginning at 10 p.m. Eastern.


Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing/Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird) - "I was real happy with where we ended up tonight. After our first run we had something wrong because the car just died from about 330 on. We were concerned that maybe the motor was hurt but instead we discovered that it was an electrical problem. We responded to the challenge so I'm pleased with our effort. We were a little heavy and I think we have something left in the Summit Racing Firebird. It's good to be in tonight and I'll be able to sleep. Usually I'd say we're pretty safe but you never for sure with this class. There are so many good cars that could make a hit and move up that I'm never sure that we're safe, but it's a good start. We're going to be able to try some stuff tomorrow that we've been wanting to try. Hopefully we'll stay in the top half of the field and get ready for raceday. It's just been awesome around here this week. The telephone calls, the faxes and the notes from people here. The buzz is still in this camp. It's been a long time coming. We've worked really hard on this and none of the guys here had been in the winner's circle before. We got there and now this team knows how it's done. We've been real consistent this year, we've qualified real well and we just have to keep working on it."

Ron Krisher (Eagle One Pontiac Firebird) - "I really didn't do such a good job of driving that time. It was a case of everybody else but me doing their job on that occasion. The Eagle One Pontiac Firebird could have come out of first gear just a hair higher than it did, but other than that it was a good run. We were kind of debating after the first run. We were heavy and didn't quite know where to go. Mike (Edwards) and Mike (Elliott) took a stab at it and it came up pretty good. We all thought we would be light if anything but it turned out to be just right, especially since I got out of the lane down there in fourth gear and kind of ran down the left side next to that wall. We couldn't have used a lot more clutch down there. Being able to maintain our performance is exciting. I'm driving well, everybody is moving up in the program and Mike and Mike get a little better handle on the car at each race.

"We're still learning how to run this car but they made some dramatic improvements right before Chicago. Last weekend in Columbus we broke the wishbone. We changed everything on the back of the car because we destroyed everything from the tires on down. The wishbone was gone, the shocks were messed up, the shock sensors were messed up, so after the first run we weren't sure whether our problem was the back of the car, too much clutch or whatever when I shut off. It's easier to drive though when you have confidence in what you're doing and this whole team is building a lot of confidence. They're excited and my people back home are too. The Eagle One Firebird is going to be in the winner's circle again this year I'm completely positive of that. You can take that to the bank."

Bruce Allen ( Reher Morrison Pontiac Firebird) - "The car shook pretty hard going into second gear and we were lucky that we got away with that. It did a similar thing this morning but it was much more violent than that and I had to shut off. Tonight it was a little bit better, and just because it was cool the car made it down through there but we were disappointed with the 6.99. We should have run a 6.97. Tomorrow we'll make some changes. That first run in the morning will be a pretty good test session. It's not very likely that you'll run much better so we'll make some changes to this Pontiac Firebird to try and get it through low with a smooth transition into second. The rest of the run was really nice but we gave up too much e.t. up front."


Jerry Toliver (WWF Pontiac Firebird) -- "This just goes to show you how competitive these Funny Car sessions are. It feels real good to be back in the number one spot in points standings again, but it goes another step further to go a 4.88 out there on this track. I was nervous about (John) Force and (Ron) Capps both coming up after me. They were in the back of the pack, we were the first pair out to run and the track was getting better as the night went on. After smoking the tires in the first round, it just goes to show you how good of a crew we have and with Armstrong and the boys we couldn't ask for any thing more. We've got one more night of qualifying but going into it - it looks good. We laid a little smack down tonight and it feels good. There's a lot more left in the WWF Firebird even yet. If we would have been in the back of the pack we could have tuned it up a little more, and may have even gone faster but we will take the 4.88. I think this shows the real girth of this team. We were down, and lost the points lead and then we came back and got the points lead back. And then to come here and get the number one qualifying spot after the first day shows that this team has what it takes to win a championship."

Dale Creasy, Jr. (Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird) - "We knew this track would be a little weak. I'm not taking anything away from the racetrack, but it's just the heat and humidity. The cars are making plenty of power. We thought the car would make it but it didn't. We've got an idea. We're going to see if it works and see what we can do in the next run. The track from 100 feet to half-track is pretty weak. But, it will get better tonight after the sun goes down. The Mad Magazine Pontiac Firebird felt great. It just got light in the back end and I shut it off because I knew something was wrong. It's a good thing I did or I would've burnt the clutch out of it. Maybe I knew it was doing it or maybe it was good luck but either way I'll take it."

Bruce Sarver ( Pontiac Firebird) - "The track down course was real loose so it was just a matter of getting through the first half. We were fortunate enough to get it down to about 700 feet before the tires started spinning. But looking at the data we should do real well in the next session. The first 500 feet down the track was good. There is no rubber at the end of the track and as you have seen a lot of guys have spun their tires down there. But we are currently in the third spot and we are looking to have some fun tonight with the Pontiac Firebird."

Tim Wilkerson (Sioux City Kenworth Pontiac Firebird) - "We kind of did what we wanted to which was to run a 5.10. We ran a 5.17. We haven't really had the expertise to run a 5.10 so we thought we would try to figure out how to run in the middle of the pack. Instead of trying to run a 4.80 or nothing, we changed our program a little bit and decided to try and stay in the middle of the field. We acted like we knew what we were doing - believe me it was an accident. But we have the data now, and have it all broken down so we'll know from now on how to run a 5.15. So now for the next session we will try and work on getting to the 60-foot line quicker and hopefully get a good run. The track is pretty marginal. I wanted to be going a little faster at half-track than I did that run. I didn't get that done, but that's ok. We'll just go out and try and hit the gas hard in the next session and see what we can do."

Al Hofmann (Mooneyes/Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird) - "I'm pretty happy with how we ran during that session. The only thing bad about it was we didn't get a computer reading out of it. But Jim (Dunn) has been around a long time so he'll figure out what happened during that run. It was a pretty good run -- I am very satisfied with the Mooneyes/Red Line Oil Pontiac Firebird. The car was ok. It shook quite a bit and spun the tires but we are qualified in the number two spot and we're excited about that for Pontiac and all our sponsors. I think the track conditions were a lot better than what a lot of people expected it to be. It will obviously be better tonight and we are hoping for another great run." Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) -"Now that's more like it, that's why we're here. We had the guts to basically leave it alone and let the track come around. It will go quicker than that if the conditions are the same, it was totally safe and never in any danger. Tomorrow will be a lot like today I think, there's a big difference between the two sessions. It's like the heat of the day in the first one and a night run for the second one. But, the first session tomorrow will be like Round 1 on Saturday, so it will be important to tune for that. I'm just really pleased that we put such a solid number up."

Frank Pedregon (Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird) -"Well, that really surprised me. It showed no indication of wanting to do that on the first pass, and we had our car set up very similarly to Del's, but obviously there was at least one critical difference. We'll just have to see what that was and correct it. This is the key spot where the two-car thing comes into play. With Del's 4.98 in the bank, we can work together to get this blue car into the field tomorrow. And, hopefully, we won't match up in Round 1 again."


Cory McClenathan (MBNA/Pontiac) -"Things went much better in the second session than in the first round. The track came around big time cooling off a little bit. We left out a couple of things we wanted to change and that ended up helping us a lot. It made the car a lot stronger. Once we get the engine apart we'll take a look at it this time. It was a pretty strong run for the conditions and everything. Looks like Joe Amato beat me just by six thousandths which is fine. Sometimes when you are the number one qualifier it almost jinxes you. I think I would rather be in the back of the pack a little bit and then maybe we can win on Saturday. We're pretty happy with the performance right now. We know the car has more in it, whether we can utilize it here is a different story. We won't be able to tomorrow afternoon, but tomorrow evening maybe we can and we sure are going to try."

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Brad Jeter , Mark Pawuk , Jamie Yates , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Jim Epler , Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , John Force , Joe Amato , Ron Krisher , Dale Creasy Jr. , Gary Densham , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Don Lampus , Rickie Smith , Jerry Toliver , Bob Vandergriff , Tommy Johnson Jr.