Team Pennzoil poised for Pomona success POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 1) -- Confidence is high on Team Pennzoil as the world's best drag racers turn their attention to the season-opening 39th Annual AutoZone Winternationals at historic Pomona Raceway.
Team Pennzoil poised for Pomona success
POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 1) -- Confidence is high on Team Pennzoil as the world's best drag racers turn their attention to the season-opening 39th Annual AutoZone Winternationals at historic Pomona Raceway. Expectations of immediate success in 1999 grew exponentially during the National Hot Rod Association's preseason as record-shattering times, multiple event wins and fast test sessions became the order of the day for the Pennzoil pros.
Here's a quick recap of the off-season moves of each Pennzoil driver scheduled to compete in the Pomona event, which begins Thursday.
Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, was rewarded for his steady performances over the course of the 1998 season with a one-year contract extension from Pennzoil and additional support of his program from Matco Tools. Hill, who won the Winternationals in 1995 and carded a runner-up at Pomona Raceway in 1992, qualified for every race last year and is currently on a streak of 40 national events in which he has earned a spot in the elimination rounds.
Hill also closed 1998 with a convincing three-race surge. The impressive finish started in Dallas when Hill positioned his car in the top half of the quickest Top Fuel field ever assembled. A week later in Houston, Hill posted the best elapsed time and speed of his 51-year career with an awe-inspiring 4.574-second, 313.91-mph pass. He then finished the season by racing his way into the final round of the prestigious Big Bud Shootout in Pomona.
Picking up where he left off in '98, Hill started 1999 with an thrilling performance at the PRO National Time Trials at Phoenix's Firebird International Raceway. There the 62-year-old Texan grabbed the No. 1 qualifying spot by posting a 4.632-second lap at 297.55 mph.
"We're coming to Pomona with more than high hopes," Hill said. "This time we have plenty of solid numbers that back-up our enthusiasm. During testing a few weeks ago we posted the best 60-foot time ever recorded by a Top Fuel Dragster (0.827 second.) At the end of last year we reset our career best speed and elapsed time four different times and then we came to Pomona and reached the finals of the Big Bud Shootout. Things couldn't be looking better.
"We have a lot of new crew members and they have just rejuvenated everyone. The new five-disc clutch is working out great and we believe that the greater heat capacity of the new system will help us out tremendously down-track. It's just way more forgiving.
"Most importantly, we're all smiling. There was more laughing and carrying on in Phoenix then we had in all of last year. I can't remember the last time I was this excited about racing."
Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, is very eager to arrive in Pomona and start the new racing season. During the winter break Thomas extended his deal with Pennzoil for another year and then promptly rewarded his sponsor's confidence by running the quickest elapsed time ever recorded in a Pro Stock car, a remarkable 6.845-second, 200.17-mph lap during Houston Raceway Park's Pro Stock Superbowl Challenge.
Because the run did not take place during an NHRA national event, it will not count as an official record. That fact has Thomas exceptionally anxious to repeat the feat in front of all of his racing peers in Pomona.
"Depending on the weather, we could have several more runs like that," Thomas said. "We can actually go faster. There are still a couple of things we're working on that were off a little bit in Houston. I'd say that we'll definitely go 200 mph this weekend. I ran a 199.24 at the Winston Finals in November and the engine I have now is a lot quicker than the one we were using then. The main thing I want to see is consistency. We're as fast and quick as anyone out there. If we can get organized and be fast and quick every time down the track then we'll win a lot of races. There is no reason we can't be both."
Bruce Allen, the driver of The Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, appears to be peaking at the appropriate time. The perennial top-10 finisher recorded the fastest speed of his 14-year career Sunday when he registered a 199.07-mph lap during a testing session in Houston. The speed capped a weekend filled with passes in the low 6.9-second range.
"We had a couple of really encouraging laps late in the day when we ran a pair of 6.93-second passes at 199 mph," Allen said. "We had just put in a new motor and it appears to be running very strong and consistent.
"We'd like nothing more than to get off to a fast start in Pomona. We are actually trying to buy a little time before we receive shipment of a new Don Ness car that we hope to have by Phoenix. Of course, a new car has no guarantee of being better than the old one, but they usually are. If we combine a better car with this engine, we could really be on to something."
Allen is a two-time runner-up at Pomona Raceway (1990 and 1985.)
Mike Ferderer, the sportsman-class driver of both the Pennzoil Super Gas Pontiac Grand Prix and the Gumout Super Comp Dragster, has recorded a near-perfect preseason mark in 1999. Already this year, Ferderer has notched two Super Comp wins and two Super Gas semifinal appearances in the two events he has entered. He is also the defending Super Gas champion of the Winternationals.