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NHRA: Rain Hampers Final Two Qualifying Rounds

24 August 1998

BRAINERD, Minn.- Saturdays intermittent rainfall at Brainerd International Raceway forced several adjustments to the final two rounds of professional qualifying for the VisionAire NorthStar Nationals. Still, in between showers, the fastest drivers in the world managed to treat the huge gathering of die-hard fans to some spectacular racing.

The biggest moves were made in the Top Fuel and Funny Car brackets, where the nitro-burning machines gobbled-up the oxygen-rich conditions in the one session they were allowed to complete. Meanwhile, the Pro Stock drivers were slightly off their usual pace despite the fact they finished both of their scheduled rounds.

Team Pennzoil remained a strong championship contender throughout the weekend and will enter Sundays elimination racing with all three of its drivers enjoying the advantage of lane choice due to their exceptional qualifying performances.

Heres the latest news along Pennzoils pit row heading into Sundays elimination rounds.

Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Dragster, rocketed down the quarter-mile strip in 4.662 seconds at 309.38 mph during his final qualifying pass to finish in the No. 3 position. "It feels wonderful to be running so well at the end of qualifying," Hill said. "I love to be in the top half of the top half of the field."

Hills qualifying performance marks the 10th time this season that he has positioned the Pennzoil Dragster in the top half of the 16-car qualifying field. Additionally, Hill has finished as one of the top four qualifiers in seven of the last nine races.

"We will be ready to go tomorrow," Hill said. "Im very optimistic about our chances. The only question left to answer is the weather, but we have already run under several different conditions this weekend. Times like this is when our experience really helps."

Hill will square off against No. 14 qualifier Mike Dunn (4.808 seconds at 298.11 mph) in Round 1 of eliminations. Hill has beaten Dunn one time in 1998, while suffering no defeats. "Hes a great friend and I always wish him the best," Hill said with a wry smile. "But once were on the starting line and the engines start chattering, its every man for himself."

Bruce Allen, the driver of the Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac, spent the day fine-tuning his car for Sundays action. In his first pass Allen drifted towards the retaining wall at mid-track and elected to shut his motor off to avoid a collision. Allens second uneventful lap on Saturday night was better than his first one but he couldnt improve on his Friday evening posted time of 7.059 seconds at 194.67 mph. Allen remained in third place.

"These were basically test runs and thats what we used them for," Allen said. "It was too slick out there to post any sort of competitive time so we decided to get as much information as possible in preparation for tomorrow. There was no sense in pushing it. The track was in bad shape early on and it didnt get much better at night."

As the third-place qualifier, Allen will open against No. 14 qualifier Ron Krisher, who ran a 7.091-second pass at 194.00 mph. The two men have not faced each other this season. "I never look at who Im running against," Allen said. "I dont want to know. If I take care of my business, it shouldnt matter.

"The Outlaw Pontiac is running well and Im pleased that we seem to be back up to speed. Weve put a lot of work into this car and it looks as though its finally paying off."

Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac, ran two of the quickest laps of the day (7.132 seconds in Round 3 and 7.122 seconds in Round 4), but could not improve on his Round 2 pass of 7.067 seconds at 194.84 mph. Thomas finished in the No. 7 spot.

"The track got a little better as the day progressed but we were too close to the front of the pack in both sessions to make a serious move," Thomas said. "The car was extremely loose down near the finish line. I was all over the place. At least we had a chance to see how our clutch responded to the latest adjustment we made so were getting closer to where we want to be."

Thomas will open Sundays elimination racing against Larry Morgan, who finished in the 10th spot with a time of 7.077 seconds at 193.34 mph. "Im glad I have lane choice," Thomas said. "The right lane is definitely better. But Larrys a great driver and hes run well in both lanes. Ill have to be dead-on to beat him. A lot could depend on the weather and how it affects the engine set-up. That will be the difference between winning and losing."

Mike Ferderer, the sportsman-class driver of the Pennzoil Super Gas Pontiac and the Gumout Super Comp Dragster, suffered first-round dismissals in both of his cars. Ferderer was disqualified with a red-light (starting line) violation in the opening round of Super Comp elimination action. In the Super Gas bracket, Ferderer gained a huge starting line advantage, lead the entire race and was forced to lift off of the accelerator near the finish line to avoid breaking-out of his index time. Just as he lifted, his competitor passed him and won by one-hundredths of a second 10.01 seconds to 10.02 seconds.

"These things happen," Ferderer, a three-time world champion, said. "Its unfortunate because both cars are running great. These are the kind of weekends you want to forget. Ill just have to be better in Indy."