Topeka Pontiac Racing Friday Notes

TOPEKA, Kan. (Friday, October 1, 1999) - Qualifying began today for the 11th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals at Heartland Park. Sunny skies, cool temperatures and excellent track conditions worked in combination to produce some...

TOPEKA, Kan. (Friday, October 1, 1999) - Qualifying began today for the 11th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals at Heartland Park. Sunny skies, cool temperatures and excellent track conditions worked in combination to produce some outstanding qualifying performances. In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson and the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird took the No. 1 qualifying spot with a track-record elapsed time of 6.907 seconds at 198.70 mph (track record). Jim Yates is qualified seventh, Mike Thomas is eighth, Richie Stevens is ninth, Steve Schmidt is 10th, Tom Martino is 11th, Bruce Allen is 12th, George Marnell is 13th and Mark Pawuk is 21st. In addition to Warren Johnson, Jeg Coughlin is qualified second, Allen Johnson is third, Kurt Johnson is fourth and Troy Coughlin is fifth.

In Funny Car Tommy Johnson's Interstate Batteries Firebird is qualified in the No. 4 position with an elapsed time of 5.012 seconds at 295.14MPH. Del Worsham is qualified fifth in the Checker Schuck's Kragen Firebird. Worsham stepped up in the second round with an elapsed time of 5.021 seconds at 306.40 mph. Frank Pedregon is qualified eighth, Al Hofmann is 11th, Dale Creasy is 16th, Gary Densham is 17th and Tim Wilkerson is 19th. Tony Pedregon is the No. 1 qualifier with an elapsed time of 4.894 seconds at 305.01 mph. John Force is qualified second and Cristen Powell is third.

In Top Fuel, MBNA/Pontiac driver Cory McClenathan is qualified in the No. 17 position. Earlier in the day, veteran tuner Jim Brissette was named crew chief on the Joe Gibbs Racing Top Fuel entry following Friday's resignation of co-crew chief Rick Cassel. The No. 1 qualifier is Gary Scelzi with an elapsed time of 4.524 seconds at 304.46 mph. Joe Amato is second, Eddie Hill is third, Kenny Bernstein is fourth and Tony Schumacher is fifth.

Television coverage of qualifying highlights can be seen on Speedvision on Saturday, October 2, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern. First-round coverage of final eliminations can be seen on Speedvision on Sunday, October 3, beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern, and final-round coverage of eliminations will be telecast on FOX Sports starting at 5 p.m. (local time). Check your local listings for specific play dates and times.


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird) "We were debating whether we were going to change the chassis on the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Firebird. Based on what happened in the first run, we came back and didn't expect the track to get quite as good as it did and consequently we got out of the groove on that run. We probably lost in the vicinity of three hundredths, maybe four hundredth's, but of course we're always a little too optimistic. Two hundredths for sure. It should have gone a 6.88 with a decent lap, but it was just a case of could've, would've, should've. At least part of the equation is solved and we got to the other end in one piece. We were a little bit off, but it looks like everyone else was off a little more. Now it's just a matter of seeing what the track will yield tomorrow and hopefully we can make the correct adjustments."

"There are a few more bumps in the middle of the course in the right-hand lane which tends to upset the car a little, but it's affect on e.t. is about a hundredth. It affects the speed more because it upsets the car in the middle of he course and you lose momentum."

Do you think the 6.90 will hold up? "If it's any better out here tomorrow that 6.90 could be exceeded quite easily by two or three cars. The Coughlins were right there with a 6.91 and Kurt (Johnson) was there with a 6.92. That just means we had better get better too." No. 1 qualifier - 6.907ET(track record)/198.70MPH (track record)

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) "The way the sessions are scheduled here this weekend, the performance in the class should keep stepping up with each round. I think the weather will be a lot better tomorrow, and that 6.94 should keep the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird in the show, but from the way it looks, the field is going to get faster. There's a pretty big difference in the lanes. The left lane is as smooth as glass and you can make some really nice runs over there. The right lane has some bumps in the middle, and it kind of shakes the tires in third and fourth gear. We were in the left lane, made a lot of tire speed down low, but this track doesn't seem to mind that very much. We're going to work on tuning the motor up, try and take a little clutch out of it and see if we can get closer to where we need to be. The last two races we've been spinning the tires. We keep backing into it, and backing into it and we're almost at a happy medium. We just have another notch to go before we get it where we want it. If we could have straightened out in first and second gear we easily would have run a 6.91 or 6.92. It was just way too aggressive. If we can run within two hundredths of the fast cars we can win on Sunday. The longer we go on race day the more even the lanes will become. As the fuel cars run down that right lane, they put a lot of rubber down after the bump and that makes the car hook better as it goes over the bump. Even if we lose lane choice we should be able to win from over there." No. 7 qualifier - 6.942ET/197.42MPH

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) "We need to go faster! We just didn't make a very good run today. We're not sure if maybe there's something wrong with our motor because it didn't run good in the last session at Reading, and we made a terrible run there. We'll give it one more shot, and if the Summit Racing Firebird doesn't make a good run tonight, that engine will be coming out. We missed it pretty bad though. The track is rough on the top end, and the car got out of shape at the beginning of fourth gear and started bouncing all over the place. I'm sure a lot of the guys had the same problem. I remember there being a couple of bumps in the right lane, and one in the left lane, but not near as bad as what we saw on the graph today. We'll just try and get our Pontiac to go over them, and every once in a while we'll hit it right and go over. You almost have to shift at the right point so that you hit the bumps in the right place in the groove of the track. Hopefully we'll be right on target. We'd like to leave here tonight knowing that we're qualified solid because with Topeka you never know what the weather may bring." Bruce Allen (Outlaw Fuel Additives Pontiac Firebird) "We made a sloppy run this afternoon, but that's okay because anytime you can make a bad run, and be in the top half of the field, that's not too bad. I think we can improve quite a bit on our first pass. We'll make some adjustments to the Outlaw Fuel Additives Firebird and tonight the track should be better. I was real loose downtrack. Some of the guys thought there may have been some water coming up through the track, but it may also have been a matter of the track not having enough runs on it yet. Some cars ran pretty good so the track was there to run on. To be honest, I was surprised that our elapsed time was as good as it was. I'm not disappointed at all and it's good place to start. Tonight should be two or three hundredths quicker depending on when we run, maybe even a little more than that. So we'll have to pick up over what the fastest guys ran today (6.96) and probably run a 6.92 or 6.93 to be good. If we can do that, and make that kind of a move, I'll be happy. Tomorrow conditions should be even better than they were today, so we can use this as a tune up run. I'm encouraged that we can make a bad run and still be in the thick of things." No. 12 qualifier - 6.974ET/196.13MPH Tom Martino (Century 21 Pontiac Firebird) "It's always better to start off strong and then chase whatever you're doing wrong. The first session was a nice run. We've looked at it and we've seen some things that we can improve on, but it's not like one of those runs where you step back and ask, 'man, what are we going to do now?' The Century 21 Firebird probably could have gone faster, but at the same time we could have just as easily have gone slower. It's good to get a good run under our belt and we can fine tune from here. Tonight we'll just try to clean up the run. We think we can make a transmission ratio change and pick up more from where we are now, but this is a new car and I'm not sure yet how it's going to respond to the different ratios. Tonight we'll do something that's a given, see how it performs, and if does what I hope it does, then for tomorrow we'll change the ratios around." No. 11 qualifier - 6.974ET/197.16MPH

Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird) "For tonight's session we'll just work on tuning up. We've had so many things go wrong with the racecar that we even had the front end rubbing a little bit. Jerry Haas came over and adjusted it for me. We were terribly over-clutched on the first run. The Pennzoil Firebird can run much faster because we had a ton too much clutch, overestimated the air and track conditions, and shook in almost every gear. I'm confident that we can jump into the top half of the field tonight. Even in the fourth and fifth gear change we shook, but we just missed it a little bit. Fortunately we got down the track and got some data we can tune from. The run felt bad at the start. It went sideways and hooked the centerline a little bit. I pulled it back in and it corrected."

Second Session: "Wow, that felt great. Nice and straight all the way down the strip. We actually should have been two or three hundredths of a second quicker but I think we had a tad too much fuel in this Firebird and it slowed down out top-end speed. This is anybody's race to win and I feel really good after that run. This might be our chance to shine. The car has shown so much potential this year but we haven't been able to show off a lot lately. Maybe we'll be partying in Topeka come Sunday night." No. 8 qualifier - 6.946ET/196.24MPH

Steve Schmidt (Dynagear Pontiac Firebird) "We didn't make a very good run tonight. I drove the Dynagear Firebird out of the groove and we're tickled that we ran a 6.96. I think we had a 6.93 or a 6.94 in it, and we would have been happy with that. I think there's some left in it and we can run better than that. It's just a matter of putting everything together. We've tested since Reading working hard on both the car and the truck. The truck obviously ran a lot better. I think David's (Spitzer) Sonoma was eighth in speed for the whole weekend, so we're happy he's in the show. He could have run a lot better, maybe even as high as the top half. I think David will run better tomorrow and I think he'll be competitive on race day." No. 10 qualifier - 6.966ET/196.22MPH

George Marnell (Dynomax Pontiac Firebird) "All we want to do tonight is make a good run. It seems like it's been a while since we've done that. This time I think the motor was a little down on power, and then the Dynomax Firebird acted like it may have had too much clutch in it. When we got to fourth gear it broke the tire loose. I was happy to get the car down the track to tell you the truth. We're going through the drill right now changing everything out. It looks like our problem is electrical and not mechanical. If we can put the car down the racetrack then I think we can get into the top half of the field. There's a lot left in this Pontiac. If we can tune off the information we have and find our problem then we should be able to get down the racetrack with a decent number." No. 13 qualifier - 6.977ET/196.96MPH

Richie Stevens (Valspar Pontiac Firebird) "We're in solidly right now and that was our goal for today. What's nice is that we ran quick in both lanes today. Not everyone out here can say that. It makes its easier to relax tonight knowing that our Valspar Pontiac Firebird can handle either side of this track. Obviously, everyone picked up their performance in round two and I'm glad we held our own. I fell like we could have been maybe a hundredth of a second or two quicker so we have something to shoot for in the morning. I don't see the field changing too much from this point forward but you never know. It'd be nice to step up and get into the top half of the field, but the way the Valspar car is running right now, it really doesn't matter much." No. 9 qualifier - 6.949ET/197.08MPH


Tommy Johnson Jr. (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) "We were on a pretty decent pass tonight and we had Force covered. The Interstate Batteries Firebird was pulling out pretty far ahead of him. The car was probably not as good as we would have wanted, but with the track cooling down, we were a little worried about that. We can adjust to it though. We almost made it tonight and it was close. The car was quite a ways down the track before it smoked the tires, so it was on the verge of making it all the way through. The first run was okay. It wasn't a great run, but it wasn't a bad run either. A couple of good runs tomorrow and we'll be right back in the thick of things. We should be able to step it up into the 4.80s or low 4.90s. We were hoping that we had a shot tonight. They told me tonight before I got in the car that it would run really good or smoke the tires. Unfortunately it smoked the tires. I'm glad that we got it in the show this morning. If not, I would have pedaled it tonight just to get it in because we're not sure what the weather's going to give us tomorrow." No. 4 qualifier - 5.012ET/295.14MPH

Del Worsham (Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Pontiac Firebird) "BIG! Period. We've had so much going on, so much stress, so much off the track stuff just consuming us, all the announcements and new contracts and everything, and then we got the chance to put all that aside and go out and actually race this afternoon in the first session… And then we had to shut off after the burnout. We had an oil leak that shouldn't have happened, but it actually wasn't anyone's fault. Our normal bottom-end guy isn't here this weekend, his mom is very ill and we told him to stay home with her. We have very experienced people covering for him, but it wasn't a routine thing for them to check the overflow tank, and it was full. Doing the burnout, it overflowed and we oiled the track. I was about upside down furious, but we all relaxed and took a deep breath and got over it. Tonight, it was total stress city again, because we have so much new stuff on the Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Firebird right now we're still feeling our way on the tune-up. We really needed the afternoon lap to find out where we were with the car, so when we didn't get that run, we went out there tonight in some tricky conditions, with what we thought was a good starting point. I'd say 5.02 at 306 miles per hour is a good starting point. That was one of the smoothest runs we've made all year, and it had a lot of room to be faster and quicker. I went from stressed out to the max to smiling again in 5.02 seconds. Life got all better after that. BIG! It was all big." No. 5 qualifier - 5.021ET/306.40MPH # # # #

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Mike Thomas , Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Kenny Bernstein , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Tommy Johnson , Gary Densham , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Steve Schmidt , Jerry Haas , Tommy Johnson Jr. , Cristen Powell
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing