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NHRA: Pennzoil's Labor Day Party Ends Early

9 September 1998

INDIANAPOLIS - Team Pennzoil suffered a pair of early exits from the professional elimination sessions of the 44th annual U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Top Fuel pilot Eddie Hill and Pro Stock champ Mike Thomas were both dismissed in the first round of Monday's racing, sending Team Pennzoil home empty handed.

Here's a recap of the first round races that involved Pennzoil drivers.

Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, drifted out of the groove and lost traction 60 feet into his first round race and helplessly watched Pat Dakin take the win. Dakin's clean run of 4.750 seconds at 302.72 mph easily bettered Hill's 8.77-second, 82.65-mph lap. The race marked the third time this season that Dakin has beaten Hill.

"The front end lifted and slowly drifted to the right and by the time it set the wheels down the rear tires were out of the groove and spinning," Hill said. "This is the first time I can recall that happening to us. This car always runs straight. I can only surmise that it was a traction problem with the back tires where one tire got a better bite than the other and it forced the car to turn a little bit.

"It's a shame. We started the day in a great mood. We were in the top half of the quickest field ever assembled and, thanks to the Pennzoil motor oil in the engine, we had not damaged any parts and appeared to be a strong contender. This was just another unfortunate finish. It wasn't driver error and it wasn't the car's fault, it just happened."

Hill has won seven elimination round races in 1998 and is one of only five Top Fuel drivers to have qualified for every elimination session this season.

Mike Thomas, the pilot of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac, was eliminated in the opening round by John Nobile. Thomas got the jump at the starting line (0.465 seconds to 0.500 seconds) but suffered from power failure in fourth gear and lost near the top end of the track by a margin of 7.09 seconds at 195.65 mph to 7.16 at 192.71 mph.

"The motor is hurt somewhere," Thomas said. "I thought I had a win there. I was even thinking, 'Well, I got this one,' when all of a sudden it started missing real bad in fourth gear. I'm not happy. This is the third race in a row that we've had something bad happen in the first round. I'm heading for our engine shop myself right now. We have to fix this engine and get back to winning races."

Thomas has recorded 12 elimination round wins and one national title this year in 15 races. He is currently in sixth place in the Winston Pro Stock points standings.

Mike Ferderer, the sportsman class driver of the Gumout Super Comp Dragster, has advanced to the fifth round of his class and will square-off against David Rampy this afternoon. Ferderer ran an 8.926-second pass at 145.27 mph in his Round 4 win. The three-time world champion, who was named the Car Craft Super Gas Driver of the Year on Saturday, drives two cars for Team Pennzoil.