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NHRA: Hill Hopes to end Sunday Slump at Pennzoil Nationals

4 October 1998

MILLINGTON, Tenn. -- In Eddie Hill's long and distinguished career in a variety of motorsports venues he's never seen anything like he and his Pennzoil Dragster team are experiencing this season.

On the track Hill has produced career-best elapsed times and speeds. The performance of his dragster has never been better. On paper, Hill occupies the No. 11 spot in the Winston standings. Somehow, the math just doesn't add up.

Hill has consistently been among the top qualifiers this season in NHRA's Top Fuel category. However, come Sunday, Hill's Pennzoil machine suddenly comes down with a serious case of amnesia. Hill has suffered an amazing 10 first round losses and five second round exits this season. His best effort to date is a lone semifinal appearance at Sonoma, Calif..'s Autolite Nationals.

"It's been very frustrating, no doubt," Hill said. "When you look at the point standings, we're way up there in qualifying points, but frankly, we're embarrassed by our position in the Winston standings. We know we're a much better team than that. During qualifying we've run numbers as good as the winner does on Sunday, but we've had some little things plague us when we get into eliminations. We're just going to continue to work harder and hope for better luck on Sunday."

If there's one place where Hill hopes the good luck begins, it's the 11th annual Pennzoil Nationals presented by AutoZone, Oct. 8-11 at Memphis Motorsports Park. The $1.5 million race is the 19th of 22 events in the $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Hill, Top Fuel's oldest active driver, would like to win that race for obvious reasons.

"Anytime you can win a race that your sponsor has its name on is a good thing," Hill said. "I can't think of any better place to end our streak of bad luck."

Hill says his race day performance hasn't been due to any one factor.

"The hardest part to accept is when you know you have the best people in place, the best parts and you're capable of producing the performance and just don't get results," Hill said. "Even when that happens, you still have to maintain a positive attitude. It makes it difficult."

He just continues to look for positive answers to the situation.

"In 1992 we made seven final rounds and won only once," Hill said. "At that time we felt like if our luck evened out we'd be a contender for the Winston championship that season. It just wasn't meant to be. However, the next season we went to the finals seven times again, but that year we won six of them and earned the Winston championship. It's weird how things work out. I guess this season we're putting a lot of good luck in our savings account for another time."

While Hill remains focused on the task of earning victories, the 1993 NHRA Winston champion says it's going to be fun to watch the drama of the Top Fuel chase unfold in the final four races. He says the winner will be the team that can stay focused and handle the pressure.

"I think the biggest thing is avoiding the tendency of developing an attitude of being a little too conservative and racing not to lose instead of being aggressive," Hill said. "We almost did that in 1993 and it started to hurt us down the stretch. Fortunately we had a big enough lead that we held on and won the championship. But it's so close now that if a team doesn't go into the race with a win-at-no-cost attitude, it will be hard to compete with the level of pressure that will be there. It's going to be exciting to watch, that's for sure."