St Louis Team Pennzoil Round 1 Report

Thomas waits out rain, wins in Round 1 ST. LOUIS (June 26) -- It started nearly three hours late, but the first round of elimination racing at the Third Annual Sears Craftsman Nationals was definitely worth the wait. Saturday's showers finally...

Thomas waits out rain, wins in Round 1

ST. LOUIS (June 26) -- It started nearly three hours late, but the first round of elimination racing at the Third Annual Sears Craftsman Nationals was definitely worth the wait. Saturday's showers finally gave way to some exciting racing at Gateway International Raceway and the near-capacity crowd that braved the inclement weather saw some of the year's best head-to-head races.

Here's a quick recap of each Pennzoil driver's opening round lap.

Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, gave up a huge starting line advantage to his first-round opponent Robert Patrick (0.530 second start to Patrick's 0.452 reaction time) but overcame the deficit and won his race by three car lengths. The official numbers saw Thomas cross in 7.035 seconds at 196.04 mph against Patrick's 7.235-second lap at 192.69 mph.

"Running a 7.03-second lap in that lane doesn't come by luck," Thomas said. "It was a battle all the way down the track. The car was sliding all over the place. My crew chief Rick Hickman did an outstanding job of setting this car up to the conditions. He's a magician.

"Now we're looking better with lane choice over (Jim) Yates but we'll still have to be quick to get by him. This is starting to shape up into a good weekend. I've got to keep it going."

Thomas will have lane choice over Jim Yates in Round 2. Yates beat Steve Schmidt in Round 1 with a lap of 7.073 seconds at 194.77 mph.

Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, lost an exceptionally close race against Australian David Grubnic in Round 1. Hill took the lead in the beginning by leaving the starting line in 0.506 seconds compared to Grubnic's 0.538-second launch. But the final numbers saw Grubnic inch ahead and win by eleven thousandths of a second with a 4.656-second lap at 308.00 mph to Hill's 4.699-second, 310.91-mph pass.

"I tuned in less power than we needed," Hill said. "That's nobody's fault but mine. The entire run was way too conservative and the computer graphs back that fact up. The engine tried to come around at the end and that's why we had a good speed. The track just ended up being way better than we expected and the car took too long to get going. I'm very, very disappointed. We wanted and needed more out of this race and we had the car to go some rounds."

Hill has qualified for 10 of 11 races this season, seven times in the top half of the field. He has logged seven elimination round wins and is currently 11th in the Winston points.

Bruce Allen, the driver of The Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, lost his opening round match-up with Greg Anderson when his car struggled to hook up to the less-than-desirable right-hand lane. Anderson posted a 7.033-second lap at 196.93 mph to Allen's 7.051-second pass at 196.04 mph.

"We actually made a pretty good run," Allen said. "I'm not entirely upset. To make a lap in eliminations that's four hundredths of a second off the best time of the round is very encouraging. It makes me feel like we can compete with anyone.

"To make five complete laps in a competitive manner like we did this weekend marks a good bit of progress for us. Greg raced us hard in today. He got me at the light a little (0.449 seconds to 0.496 seconds) so he would have been tough to beat even if we had been perfect. But we went after him as hard as we could. Things are finally starting to look better in the Outlaw Pit."

Allen has qualified for four elimination rounds this season and has logged one elimination round win. Entering this race he was 20th in the Winston points standings.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Greg Anderson , David Grubnic , Bruce Allen