Topeka: Pontiac final qualifying summary

Jim Yates put Pontiac Grand Am on pole for second straight race. TOPEKA, Kan., May 25, 2002 - The final day of qualifying for the 14th annual O'Reilly NHRA SummerNationals was completed today at Heartland Park Topeka. With sunny skies, cool air...

Jim Yates put Pontiac Grand Am on pole for second straight race.

TOPEKA, Kan., May 25, 2002 - The final day of qualifying for the 14th annual O'Reilly NHRA SummerNationals was completed today at Heartland Park Topeka. With sunny skies, cool air and a low humidity, the competitors in the Pro Stock category waged a viscous battle for the 16 starting spots for Sunday eliminations. When the final round of time trials was concluded, Splitfire/Peak Pontiac driver Jim Yates had captured his third No. 1 qualifying spot of the season driving his Grand Am to a 6.853 e.t. at 200.20 mph. It marks the second straight race and the 24th time in his career that the two-time NHRA champion (1996-97) has captured the raceday pole position. Yates is currently second in the Pro Stock points standings, just five points behind six-time champion Warren Johnson.

J.R. Carr qualified in the No. 2 position in a Pontiac Firebird, Mark Osborne was third in a Grand Am, Gene Wilson was fourth and Allen Johnson was fifth. Jeg Coughlin had the quickest running Chevy Cavalier in time trials qualifying in the No. 6 spot with an e.t. of 6.859 seconds at 200.44 mph. Englishtown-champion Greg Anderson was seventh in a Cavalier, and Warren Johnson, running the new SC/T Ram Air Grand Am was eighth.

Ron Krisher filled out the No. 16 and final spot in a Chevy Cavalier with a 6.878 e.t. at 201.73 mph. The field was separated by only .025 second, the closest Pro Stock starting lineup in the 50-plus year history of the National Hot Rod Association!

"We've had eight different winners in eight races this year and only three drivers have qualified for every race," said Yates. "If you don't qualify this year in Pro Stock, you can't be disappointed. You just have to go home, figure out what happened and go on from there."

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am) - "The track got about 20 degrees hotter this afternoon, and as good as this track surface is you still have to adjust to it. This morning the air was good and there were a lot of big numbers. The closeness of this field is the best and worst I've ever seen, and your perspective depends on whether you're a race fan or a Pro Stock driver. Anybody, absolutely anybody can win this race tomorrow. Both lines are the same, you have 16 cars separated by only .025 second and it's going to be a driver's race. But the fans are going to get a great show and that's the good news. Pro Stock is alive and well."

"This Splitfire Pontiac is a really fast car, and the problem with that is that it puts a great big target on your back. Everybody knows you're fast and they know there's only one way to beat you and that's to leave on you. There're a lot of starting line games in Pro Stock but I'm up to that. Whenever the other driver has nothing to lose by guessing on the tree then that's what's going to happen. We have some great drivers in Pro Stock, we have a lot of cars within a margin where there's no room for error and our opponents have worked hard to cut good lights to beat us. We've lost a lot of races by only thousandths of a second where our opponent cut four-oh lights, but I'm glad to be where we are. I'm not complaining about not winning a race because we know we have a strong consistent racecar that puts us at the front of the pack every weekend. Look at Krisher. He has a great program, he's on the bump this weekend and we have to run him in the first round."

Warren Johnson (GM Performance Parts Pontiac Grand Am) - "Qualifying is so close now that it's become bizarre. When you have less than three-hundredths of a second separating the top qualifier from No. 16, the priority that you put on qualifying is first and foremost. It's become so close that there is no guarantee - you could have the best racecar on any given weekend and still not qualify. One miscue, or a one-lane racetrack where you're in the bad lane during the good session as far as atmospheric conditions are concerned, and you're out. Everybody that qualifies feels fortunate because a big part of the battle is over. The racing part of it is almost anticlimactic. I don't feel any more pressure trying to qualify this year because I've never let outside influences affect me as far as pressure is concerned, but obviously it drives us to work harder."

On the new SC/T Ram Air Grand Am. "We really can't make a good judgement because this is the first time we've had it on the racetrack. We're still sorting out where we need to be as far as downforce on the rear and a few other issues we need to get straightened out. Without a doubt it will be a better racecar, but right now our job is to adapt to its characteristics. Aero wise it balances out better and keeps us from having to over compensate. Now we're trying to back up to where we need to be and you just don't do that in one shot. It may take two or three test sessions to get it straightened out."

Bruce Allen (Speedco Pontiac Grand Am) - "It's unbelievable. Everybody runs the same so there's absolutely no room for error. There are a lot of cars that were capable of getting in that didn't, so we feel fortunate to be in the top 16. You have really good cars not qualifying every weekend and the parity is the main reason."

You were running the new Ram Air front end this weekend. "The design is better than what we've been running, but to totally take advantage of it will take a little time. It's really nice looking, it's fits our Grand Ams a lot better than the old front ends and I think as soon as we get everything worked out you'll see a performance gain."

-pontiac-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Gene Wilson , Bruce Allen , Allen Johnson , J.R. Carr