NHRA: All Three Pennzoil Cars Aim for Kansas Crown
3 October 1998TOPEKA, Kan. - Team Pennzoil will enter Sunday's elimination racing for the championship crown of the 10th annual Parts America Nationals with it's full compliment of professional drivers contending for their respective titles. Despite a rain-shortened qualifying session which saw the cancellation of Friday night's round, Pennzoil drivers Bruce Allen, Mike Thomas and Eddie Hill all managed to position themselves for a memorable final day. In an interesting twist, Allen and Thomas will open Sunday's action against each other, assuring a Pennzoil car will advance to the quarterfinals.
Here are the thoughts along Pennzoil's pit row with all qualifying rounds completed.
Bruce Allen, the Pro Stock driver of the Outlaw Fuel Additives Pontiac Firebird, served notice that his car has solved the traction problems which kept him out of the last two races with three competitive qualifying times, the best of which was a 6.963-second, 196.07-mph pass. Allen advances to Sunday's elimination racing out of the No. 7 position and will face Thomas (6.996 seconds at 196.80) in Round 1. The two have raced each other twice this year with each man taking one win.
"We're very happy," Allen said. "We've had three good runs where the car went straight down the track and we ended up in the top half of the field. Considering the trouble we've had over the last few races, this has already been a great weekend.
"During the last round, we made our first lap in the right-hand lane and bounced and shook all the way down the strip. The advantage of recording three clean runs is that we collected a lot of data. Our two best runs happened in the left lane so we'll probably pick that one in the morning. It's a shame that we open against Mike because whenever I don't do well, I root for him. On the other hand, at least Pennzoil is assured of one car reaching the next round."
Mike Thomas, the Pro Stock driver of the Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird, used Saturday morning's 6.996-second, 196.80 mph lap to place his car in 10th place in the 16-car field. Thomas will surrender lane choice to Pennzoil teammate Allen (6.963 seconds at 196.07 mph) in the first round of eliminations.
"It's been a real ordeal getting this car in the field," Thomas said. "It seems like we've had to change everything at some point over the weekend. We broke something in the transmission in the last round but it's a fixable problem. The good news is that I know how we need to set-up the car for tomorrow. We'll be ready to go. If Bruce weren't racing us I'd be rooting for him. But when it's head-to-head, you don't have any friends."
Eddie Hill, the Top Fuel pilot of the Pennzoil Dragster, enters Sunday's action out of the tenuous 16th position. Hill failed to complete a full run under power in qualifying and used a twice-pedaled, 5.013-second pass at 307.58 mph to keep his streak of 36 elimination-round appearances alive. He will open against reigning Winston points champion Gary Scelzi, who finished as the No. 1 qualifier after carding a 4.561-second lap at 321.77 mph. Scelzi has won the last three races on the National Hot Rod Association circuit and has a 1-1 record against Hill this year.
"Maybe all of our lousy luck has been used up in qualifying and we can find some good luck on race day," Hill said. "I would happily trade a sub-par qualifying session for a win on Sunday.
"We've been plagued by tire shake this weekend. That last run it was so bad that it almost knocked my lights out. I had a full-blown headache before I finished the run. We've got to get a handle on the problem and I have a strong hint of what it is.
"We sure don't have much data on this track and obviously Gary does. He's been running so well lately that we'll have to be real quick to beat him. Maybe he's due for a letdown and we can knock off the No. 1 guy. That would be great for us."