Topeka Saturday Pontiac Notes

PRO STOCK Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird) There's more bite at the starting line than we anticipated. It's pretty stout up there. Running in the first pair was an advantage because the track had just been groomed, but we ...


Warren Johnson (GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird) There's more bite at the starting line than we anticipated. It's pretty stout up there. Running in the first pair was an advantage because the track had just been groomed, but we slipped the clutch too much. With our new transmission, we don't have as wide a selection of gear ratios as we would like.

We're way down in 19th in 60-foot times, and usually we're near the top of the list. We're giving up some e.t. on the first half of the run. The transmission doesn't have that much effect at the top end, so we're able to run good speed. If we can pick up the performance in the first half of the track, we should be able to run a 6.93 or 6.94.

Second Session - Our first run was a disaster because we didn't have enough clutch, and this time we overcompensated with too much clutch. We're going to have to work on the car's 60-foot time. A 1.02 is good, but there are cars running 1.01's out there. With the gear ratio we're using, we gave up a little in 60-feet and gave up a little from the 330 feet to the 1/8th mile. Tomorrow we could have an entirely different racetrack. Historically if there is sunlight on the track, it can develop bald spots on the starting line, and that will impact everyone's performance. We'll see what Mother Nature gives us, and then go from there. No. 8 qualifier - 6.965ET/197.93MPH (track record)

Tom Martino (Martino Racing/Jesel Valve Train Pontiac Firebird) I'm glad to have a run that was representative of what this team is capable of. Our old car, "Christine" (nicknamed after the possessed vehicle in the Stephen King novel and movie) had been fighting us throughout the season, so we gave her a rest. This new Firebird chassis that we borrowed is doing an excellent job, and I think we've already learned some things that we can apply to the other car. Hopefully we'll be able to continue this way, not only tomorrow, but for the rest of the year. No. 4 qualifier - 6.960ET/197.02MPH

Jim Yates (Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird) I still think there's some left in the Splitfire/Peak Firebird. The right lane was really bumpy through the middle. The car had an excellent 60-foot time and the traction was just perfect off the starting line. Rich (Purdy), and Bob (Ingles), and I got together and made some decisions on the tune up of the car. It worked very well the first 600 feet but after that, the car bounced just a little bit. That right lane has a pretty rough transition from the concrete to the asphalt, and that upset the car just a little bit. Inside the car, it bumped real hard, and shook when I put it in fourth gear, keeping the shift light on for a long time. I thought I was on a heck of a run until I went over the transition. After I went over the transition, it just felt like it lost some momentum. Bob Ingles made some tune up decisions on the engine that resulted in some big mph for us on the back end. I'm really impressed with the car right now. We've been working on it, and we've come up with a combination that's going to get us down this racetrack in this kind of air. Without a question, the left lane is faster, but it just depends on what the air is going to do. It seems to be staying constant, so maybe we can go in there and pick up some. It wouldn't take much. We just have to go in that left lane and see if we can do it. If the air improves and we fail to step it up some, I'll be a little disappointed. We should be able to run a 6.94. There are a lot of other cars out there that can also run faster, so we'll just have to wait and see. No. 2 qualifier - 6.950ET/197.19MPH

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird) We're still debating on how risky we're going to get for the night session. We don't think our position is secure because the weather has been pretty consistent all day, and we think the left lane is better than the right. The Summit Racing Firebird didn't run too bad to the 330, but the car got all upset when it hit the first bump and didn't settle down after that. We can definitely run faster. We just need to choose the right tune up and make the right decision that will allow us to do that. We're hoping we'll be able to step it up. We're not leaving the starting too good so we're thinking about changing a couple of things that we normally wouldn't do. We have a new group of faces, some new enthusiasm and we're thinking about getting a little riskier than what's normal for us. No. 11 qualifier - 6.997ET/196.72MPH

George Marnell (Tenneco Pontiac Firebird) Everybody did what they were supposed to do. The car did what it was supposed to do, and Bob (Cave) did a great job putting the clutch together on this thing. With all the little nuances it takes to get one of these things down the racetrack, he did a great job and it ran right down the pike. Bob Ingles came over and did some carburetor work that gave us some great power. That helped quite a bit, and the driver must have done his job too because the Tenneco Firebird is going to race tomorrow. I knew it was a good run. I thought, if that wasn't good enough to put this car in the show then I was in trouble. We launched great, and I knew as soon as I switched feet that this car was on a good pass. No. 5 qualifier - 6.961ET/196.24MPH

Bruce Allen (Outlaw Pontiac Firebird) That was another really good run. To be honest, that's probably as good as it gets for us. It's a big advantage to have back-to-back solid runs like that because it allows you to work on the little things. We all know the difference between first place and last place isn't much in Pro Stock, so when the Outlaw Firebird is set-up right and you can fine tune the little things, then you have an edge over the other guys.

We're very happy. We had three good runs where the Outlaw Firebird went straight down the track and we ended up in the top half of the field. Considering the trouble we've had over the last few races, this has already been a great weekend. During the last round, we made our first lap in the right-hand lane and bounced and shook all the way down the strip. The advantage of recording three clean runs is that we collected a lot of data. Our two best runs happened in the left lane so we'll probably pick that one in the morning. No. 7 qualifier - 6.963ET/196.07MPH

Mike Thomas (Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird)  It's a big relief to get that one
in the books.  Now we have a session left to tune-up for tomorrow and get
ready for the real racing.  Believe it or not, the Pennzoil Firebird can go
a lot quicker.  The clutch was real soft just now, which is the same story
you'll hear all up and down the pits.  Everyone was soft.  I predict a lot
of movement this afternoon.  There could be a real dogfight going on in the
last round.    

It's been a real ordeal getting the Pennzoil Firebird in the field. It seems like we've had to change everything at some point over the weekend. We broke something in the transmission in the last round but it's a fixable problem. The good news is that I know how we need to set-up the car for tomorrow. We'll be ready to go. No. 10 qualifier - 6.996ET/196.80MPH

Mark Osborne (Sherman Racing Pontiac Firebird) That's two years in a row that the Sherman Racing Firebird has been able to land the top qualifying spot here at Heartland Park. The situation was a lot different this year, with the track conditions and the cooler temperatures, so we weren't able to use too much of what we learned last year. The setup on the car was different given those factors, but we did use some of the clutch information that we had from last year. We were really looking forward to running in the left lane. We feel that's the better lane for the Pro Stock class, so we were pretty confident we could put up a big number. It's a little smoother than the right lane and we were running right with the faster cars in that lane. We were hoping to pick up a hundredth or two, and maybe take the low spot. We got a little more than we expected. We were looking for a 6.94 and the 6.92 popped up. That was pretty awesome, it really was. Tomorrow we can't be too conservative because there are a lot of alligators out here in this class. They'll get after you pretty tough if you're not ready. We have Larry Morgan in the first round, he's a good competitor and we're just going to try to do a good job. If the car runs fast, we'll be here late tomorrow night. No. 1 qualifier - 6.924ET(track record)/197.71MPH


Cruz Pedregon (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) We were on a good run that time, it got a little loose, but Wes (Cerny) made some changes today that will take advantage of these conditions. I feel that the Interstate Batteries Firebird can really light up the scoreboard. Our game plan will be to make a good pass since we have just one more before we go racing tomorrow. It looks good, it feels good and now we just have to make it happen. Wes runs the car as hard as the track will let him. It won't surprise me if we step up and run a mid-4.80. You never know. I'm just going to be prepared to pull some g-forces and keep this thing in the center. No. 1 qualifier - 4.941ET/293.82MPH

Randy Anderson (Parts America Pontiac Firebird) We should have done better this morning, but the clutch timer failed, so we're working to get it right. The Parts America Firebird is in the show right now. We'll just have to get this place figured out so that we can make a good pass. The air is cool and even though the track is good, everyone out here has been a little shy about tuning up the motor. No. 11 qualifier - 5.366ET/268.89MPH

Tim Wilkerson (JCIT Pontiac Firebird) The JCIT Firebird shuttered a little bit at about 100 feet, so I pedaled it. The spring got hooked up to the frame well, and that's why it looked like a quarter mile burnout. I tried to pull up hard with my foot but it was just locked in. I reached over to turn the fuel off, and when I did that, it all blew up. I was more worried about Del (Worsham) than anything. I could see him out of the corner of my eye and my car was smoking really hard. I was concerned that I was going to end up in the other lane or up against the wall. I couldn't get it to back off and that's why I shut it off. I'm glad everyone's OK. No. 5 qualifier - 5.071ET/295.56MPH

Dale Creasy, Jr. (Creasy Racing Pontiac Firebird) The Creasy Racing Firebird is doing just fine. We've been testing some new clutch disks for GM, they're working, but we have to go back to something this time that we know will work. I stayed with it and thought I was going to run over one of the cones. I missed one, and when I turned my head to see if I had missed it, I almost ran over another one. I turned the wheel real hard and I had nothing but the half track cones coming at me. I guess I need either a rear view mirror or some side mirrors so I can see how close I'm getting. No. 18 qualifier - 7.038ET/130.24MPH

Al Hofmann (GM Performance Parts Pontiac Firebird) The concrete here is so good that you have to get after it early. Weird would be a better word than tricky to describe the conditions this weekend. Everyone is having their problems. We have one of our miracle packs of clutches left, we'll put it in the GM Performance Firebird, go with our standard tune up, and it will probably go right down through there. The track this weekend seems to be very good and it's not wearing clutch. I talked to some of the other guys out here and they're not wearing clutch either. With the qualifying session being shortened by rain, we're all up against the wall. We ran 6.39 and we're 11th. That tells you a little bit about what's going on. You have to get after it early, but that's completely different from what you need on the second half. The first half is so good that you can't put enough in it. It's going to rattle and shake. Then when it gets off of the concrete, it's a whole new ball game. We'll go out, give it a shot, and I think we'll be okay. No. 12 qualifier - 5.446ET/197.88MPH

Del Worsham (Checker's/Schucks/Kragen Pontiac Firebird) Here we go again. I've lost track of how many races we've had to go to the last session to get this Checkers/Schucks/Kragen Firebird in the show. Each time I say we're not going to let this happen again. We just cannot get a handle on the track. It's good, but combined with the cold air and the humidity, we're just way off. When it smokes the tires right at the hit of the throttle like that, you can't really pedal it because you don't have any momentum going. I tried to pedal it a couple of times there, but it was just bouncing and shaking and everything. We had a problem right before the run. When the track got oiled down, I got out of the car for a second, and when I went to get back in, the zipper down the front of my firesuit got all hung up. It was panic time there for a bit.

The Cardiac Kids do it again. That is three races in a row that we've had to hit a home run in the bottom of the 9th with two outs and two strikes on us. This one seemed like it needed to be a grand slam and we were facing Randy Johnson. When you haven't been able to go 10 feet for two runs, you've got to have some faith that you can make it go down the track. No. 10 qualifier - 5.303ET/287.63MPH TOP FUEL

Cory McClenathan (McDonald's/Pontiac) Because of the weather, we had to decide on whether to try and run in the 4.50s with Scelzi, or just try and get it in the show. We eased off the McDonald's/Pontiac and just put it in the show. Now there's a little room for improvement, so we'll just try and run a 4.60 flat or a 4.59. The key is to have a competitive setup for tomorrow. It's going to be cool so it should be pretty interesting. No. 8 qualifier - 4.672ET/317.68MPH

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Larry Morgan , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell