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NHRA: Team Pennzoil Advances Two to Quarterfinals

21 September 1998

READING, Pa. - A powerful showing by Team Pennzoil in Sunday's opening round of eliminations propelled Eddie Hill and Mike Thomas into the quarterfinal round of the 14th annual Pioneer Keystone at Maple Grove Raceway. Crowd-favorite Hill used his extra two years of experience to better Connie Kalitta in the Top Fuel bracket while Mike Thomas left Mark Osborne at the starting line with the event's best reaction time.

Here's a quick recap of Round 1 action.

Eddie Hill, the 62-year-old Top Fuel pilot of the Pennzoil Dragster, won the "Battle of the Ages" in the opening round of eliminations when he bettered 60-year-old Connie Kalitta. Hill had a clean run of 4.713 seconds at 301.30, while Kalitta suffered a loss of traction at the 1,000-foot mark and coasted through the timing lights in 6.006 seconds at 150.17 mph.

"After all the work we've put in, we're thrilled to win a round," Hill said. "But we're also hoping that we have a lot more work to do today. The car ran exactly as we intended. We had a conservative set-up because we wanted to make sure we didn't smoke the tires and that's why our time was a little slower than the 4.63-second pass we ran in qualifying. The good news is that if the track conditions hold they way they are now, we have a little room to step on it in this next round."

Hill will face Jim Head in the quarterfinals. Head beat Doug Hebert with a 4.701-second, 304.77-mph pass in the first round and will have the advantage of lane-choice against Hill. The two have squared off on four occasions this season with Head winning three races.

Mike Thomas, the Pro Stock driver of the Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird, used the quickest hole-shot reaction time of the weekend - a 0.412 second start - to get an early jump and eventually outdistance Mark Osborne, who left the line in 0.466 seconds. Thomas needed every bit of the starting line advantage as he ran a 6.984-second pass at 196.07 mph to Osborne's 6.958-second, 197.71 mph lap.

"That was as close to a perfect run as you can get," Thomas said. "I think we still have a small problem in the engine that just isn't showing up on the (computer) screen. If we can find it then we can go faster than we just ran. The hole-shot edge was crucial. It took my best (hole-shot) of the year to beat Oz. We were lucky there and I hope we continue to be lucky. I want to win this race."

Thomas will face Jeg Coughlin in Round 2. Coughlin ran a 6.980-second lap at 196.80 mph to win his first round race against Sean Collins. Coughlin has a 1-0 record against Thomas this year.