Topeka Pontiac Racing Eliminations Report

11th ANNUAL ADVANCE AUTO PARTS NATIONALS HEARTLAND PARK TOPEKA TOPEKA, KANSAS TOPEKA, Kan. (Saturday, October 2, 1999) - Final eliminations for the 11th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals began today at Heartland Park Topeka. After one ...

11th ANNUAL ADVANCE AUTO PARTS NATIONALS HEARTLAND PARK TOPEKA TOPEKA, KANSAS

TOPEKA, Kan. (Saturday, October 2, 1999) - Final eliminations for the 11th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals began today at Heartland Park Topeka. After one round of eliminations, the race was postponed until Monday morning at 11:00 a.m. because of cold weather and rain.

In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson and Steve Schmidt will advance to round two. Johnson will race his son, Kurt Johnson while Schmidt will race Troy Coughlin. Richie Stevens, Mark Pawuk, George Marnell, Jim Yates, Tom Martino and Bruce Allen lost in round one; Stevens to Mike Edwards, Pawuk to Mike Trumble, Marnell to Jeg Coughlin, Yates to Kurt Johnson, Martino to Troy Coughlin and Allen to Steve Schmidt.

In Funny Car, Frank Pedregon advanced to round two and will race Whit Bazemore, Tommy Johnson Jr., will race Cristen Powell and Del Worsham will face John Force. Gary Densham and Al Hofmann lost in round one; Densham to Frank Pedregon and Hofmann to Cristen Powell.

PRO STOCK

Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) The tires were spinning from the eighth mile to the finish line and the engine was turning over 9800 rpm. We increased the spoiler angle and did everything we could to increase the downforce. We switched lanes because it appeared that the cars that ran ahead of us weren't getting down the left lane too successfully."

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) I think the track conditions today were way beyond what we were used to running in. The starting line was extremely good. The Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird stood up hard and took off to the right and got just a little bit out of the groove. There was no bite outside the middle of the groove. The middle of the groove was really good, at least the first 20 to 30 feet, but once you got out of the groove the track was slick and moist. A light mist had been falling all day with 90 percent humidity and it was just extremely slick. Once the car got out of the groove it gets sucked even farther out with one of the tires spinning and the other tire's driving. That just compounds the problem. The car ran really well at 60-foot, I had a good light and I think we could have given Kurt (Johnson) a good run. The clutch looked great on the graph. If we could have run right down the middle this Pontiac would have run a 6.90 or 6.91. It was a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think the right lane was actually better that round. We tried to hit the wall (laugh). I watched the video and I should never have driven that car as far as I did. I knew we were close, I knew that I was ahead and I knew his lane wasn't a piece of cake either, but I didn't think he's go right down the middle either. I figured if we could get to the finish line under power we would be all right, but it's better to back out of it and fight another day. I didn't hit anything and we're fortunate for that. The motor is making a ton of power and I can't wait to get to Memphis. We'll probably stop in St. Louis and make some hits on the chassis, cut some bars out of it and try and change it around a little bit - just to loosen it up because the car is really, really stiff and we're having trouble in the middle of the track with it."

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) "It hasn't been our year for brakes. We had an opportunity to win a race but we broke the transmission. I probably could have stuck it into another gear and kept going. He only ran a 7.71 and even though he left on me by a little bit, the Summit Racing Firebird was ahead of him by the time we reached the 330. You have so many things going on in your mind that when something like that happens sometimes you're just not prepared. But looking back, I should have slammed it into another gear and kept on going. I knew it as soon as it happened. I tried pedaling it one time, it didn't go anywhere and that's why I shut it off. We have a fast racecar here but it just seems like little things keep biting us on race day. We check our transmissions every single race and I'm sure that the cold weather has something to do with it. The parts are brittle, the metal is brittle, it just hasn't been a good weekend for us. We'll go onto a little warmer weather and maybe we'll do better in Memphis." Bruce Allen (Outlaw Fuel Additives Pontiac Firebird) "Some of the problem was the lane, some of it was us. The Outlaw Firebird went left real hard, so we got out of the groove and you don't ever want to do that. It still feel like I had a little control, but it got out there and started shaking the tires real hard so I aborted the run. We didn't do that bad this weekend. We qualified and got into the field but that's not enough. The next thing we have to do is win rounds on race day. We're not doing that very well. We have the car running better, but now we have to take that next step. The groove is pretty narrow here, especially when it gets cold. If you're not on a part of the racetrack where other cars are running then there's not any heat at all. Like most things though, you second guess yourself thinking that maybe the other lane was better. But we can't worry about that. We have to concentrate on keeping our car from going left so hard. We can work on that and fix that, and then we need to get ready for Memphis. Memphis is a tricky track as well. It has one bumpy lane and the conditions will be nothing like this. It's a good track and you can run fast there. We have to get qualified there, work on our car and try and win some rounds on Sunday."

George Marnell (Dynomax Pontiac Firebird) "I'm just glad to be in one piece to be perfectly honest with you. We did all we could in that lane. It was just horrible. We got a little bit out of shape, and then from about third gear on, it broke the tire loose. I could see that yellow car all the way down the track and stayed with it for about as long as I could. I got my Pontiac through there, but I was just hoping that he (Jeg Coughlin) would run into more trouble than I did, and that I would be there at the finish line. It didn't work out that way, but it's like hitting a groundball to the shortstop, you still have to run it out. That's what we tried to do, it didn't work this time but maybe it will next time, you never know. We were pedaling these cars and doing things that we normally don't have to do. We can run a lot better than a 7.02 in this air. The motor has a lot more power than that but he racetrack wasn't there. We did a pretty good job this weekend and did a good job of getting down the racetrack. We have some information to tune from and there are a few new things we're going to try in Memphis. I think if we can get to a racetrack with a little more heat in it, this Dynomax Firebird will be in a lot better shape." Richie Stevens (Valspar Pontiac Firebird) "I cannot get a break! I would have won almost any other race that session but I just happened to run into the one guy that had figured out the track today. The track was cold and the Valspar Refinish Firebird didn't hook up well. I spun a bit and the car jerked to the left. Once I got out of the groove it started spinning and shaking and bouncing all over the place. That must have hurt our time. I saw him (Edwards) out there and when I finally did hook up, I was gaining on him quick. But I ran out of track. I thought our luck had finally turned after the nice weekend we had in Reading (PA) and then coming here and getting the pole. But I guess we'll have to wait another week to get a win for Valsapr."

FUNNY CAR

Al Hofmann (Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird) "Without a doubt these cars weren't made to run in 40-degree weather. I feel like this Firebird was ready to make a good pass. We've been making some changes that are beginning to show up and some of the improvements have been in the fuel system. We went up there with the car looking about the best its been since I've been running the deal. We changed the whole fuel system around with the timers, put a new management system on it and it seemed to like it. It felt real good in the burnout, I backed up and everything just looked really good. At the hit it went to 8000, the motor was running great, and unfortunately stuff happens. Two sparkplugs were over-tightened, stripped and it shot out. All in all though, I think we have something to go race with now. Soon we'll be a racecar that's going to give a few people a hard time. We won at Memphis last year and then came to the final here, but that's another race car, another deal, and a different year. As far as conditions here, it was tough on everybody. I hope it's a little warmer in Memphis because that's the kind of weather I like."

Gary Densham (NEC/AAA Southern California Pontiac Firebird) "We shook real bad, and normally I can catch it pretty quick, but it was so violent that it disoriented me. Instead of taking two-tenths or three tenths to get the job done, it took four-tenths, reset the timers, and then it goes lean and then it doesn't run. It's upsetting. It's just one of those days. I don't know if it's the cold or the waiting around that throws you off, you get yourself psyched up to race and then the whole gameplan goes right out the window. It's disappointing. The good thing is that we get to race again in a few days. We can redeem ourselves there."

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , John Force , Gary Densham , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , George Marnell , Steve Schmidt , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr. , Cristen Powell