NHRA: Thunder Valley Roars with Pennzoil Power
29 September 1998NOBLE, Okla. - Team Pennzoil sportsman-class drag racers Bill Kent and Amanda Harbin didn't walk away with the title of the National Hot Rod Association's Division 4 points race Sunday at Thunder Valley Raceway. But they made sure they put the Pennzoil brand in the spotlight with some solid racing before they were eliminated.
Kent, the driver of the Pennzoil Competition Eliminator C-Dragster, struggled through the qualifying rounds with a tire-shake problem that affected all of his early passes. He wound up in the ninth position when the elimination ladder was set and uncharacteristically began Sunday's action outside the lead pack of drivers.
The sub-par showing was immediately forgotten in Round 1 of eliminations when Kent, who has held both the top speed and best elapsed time marks for C-Dragsters over the last three years, shocked everyone with the weekend's quickest time and fastest speed of 7.242 seconds at 186.86 mph. The speed mark was just off the national record of 188.19 mph, which Kent set himself last year.
"We were feeling pretty good after that run," Kent said. "The tire shake problem was gone and we moved into the top spot all in one run. It certainly brought a lot of attention to the Pennzoil Dragster and our team. We were on top of the world."
Unfortunately, the euphoria didn't last long. Armed with the advantage of lane-choice, Kent selected the previously preferred left lane for his second-round race. It was a fateful decision as midway through his pass, Kent's car jerked violently towards the centerline and he was forced to shut off his motor to avoid an accident. "I thought for a moment that I might clip the car in the other lane," Kent said. "I had to kill it to keep both of us safe. It was a strange deal. Every car that ran down that left side lost control. The fuel cars had run before us and I guess there was oil on the track. I'm still pleased with the weekend and how the car was running and I'm already looking forward to the next race."
Harbin drove her extremely consistent Pennzoil Super Comp Dragster into the third round of eliminations before breaking-out of her index time of 8.90 seconds by a larger margin than her opponent, who also exceeded the posted break-out time. The violation discarded an impressive 0.412 reaction time Harbin had recorded at the starting line. "The car was so consistent all weekend," car owner Kent said. "But it picked up some speed somewhere. The atmospheric conditions down in that valley can really fluctuate and I guess Amanda found some real clean air, which made her go faster than normal. She was still pretty happy."
Both Kent and Harbin will compete Oct. 8-11 at the Pennzoil Nationals in Memphis, Tenn.