NHRA: Team Pennzoil Weathers Dog Day in Indy
6 September 1998INDIANAPOLIS - The only thing changing under the merciless Midwest summer skies was the skin tone of the drag racing fans in attendance for Saturday's second and third rounds of professional qualifying for the 44th annual U.S. Nationals. While the Chamber of Commerce weather allowed for plenty of sunbathing in the bleachers, the oily track surface and hot air left most drivers feeling beached between the walls. By day's end, only a few pilots had improved their positions from Friday's cooler nighttime session.
The Pennzoil stable of drivers couldn't escape the mediocrity as each driver effectively managed to keep pace - but not improve on - the position they earned on Friday evening. The following report reflects Team Pennzoil's day at the track.
Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, had a pair of tire-smokers on Saturday. In the early session, Hill aborted the run completely. In the afternoon, he got back on the throttle and attempted to save the lap, which resulted in a 5.405-second, 304.15-mph pass, his best of the weekend. Hill is currently in 18th place.
"I was upset and tried to salvage something (in Round 3)," Hill said. "I came off the line pretty strong but didn't even get 60 feet down the track when she let go (started spinning the tires.) I let off for a second and then stomped on it because we really need some data on this track. Plus, we have to get qualified. We'll just have to back her down some more until the track will hold a complete run. It's a good thing that we get five qualifying laps here. It looks as though I'm gonna need them all."
Mike Thomas, the pilot of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac, posted runs of 7.07 seconds and 7.09 seconds as he experimented with various clutch set-ups. Thomas' Friday run of 7.018 seconds at 195.90 mph left him in ninth place heading into Sunday's action.
"We're trying everything we can think of to adapt to this track," Thomas said. "Unless something crazy happens with the weather, it'll be just like it was today on Monday when the real racing happens. I'm pretty happy with the car down-track, but it's horrible on the starting line. There are bald spots all over the place and it's effecting everyone. The thing is, we're all racing on the same track so you have to learn how to deal with it."
Bruce Allen, the driver of the Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac, ran a weekend-best 7.064-second pass at 195.65 mph as well as a forgettable 7.13-second lap on Saturday. The times were an improvement over Friday's run, which was cut short by a near collision with the wall. Still, Allen finished the day on the outside looking in, settling into the 20th position with two rounds left to go.
"I'm more frustrated right now than anything else," Allen said. "Both laps today the car spun right up as soon as I slipped the clutch. We did gain some information; there just aren't a lot of positives to think about. We have to evaluate our data and make the necessary changes because tomorrow morning is our final chance to get in. It'll be too hot in the afternoon. We have to be ready to go for it in the morning."