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NHRA: Hill Highlights First Round of Pennzoil Race

10 October 1998

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The 11th annual Pennzoil Nationals sponsored by AutoZone kicked off a weekend of racing Friday afternoon with an exciting first round of professional qualifying at Memphis Motorsports Park. Several impressive runs were posted as drivers attempted to gain as much data as possible before tonight's cooler session when record times are expected in all professional categories.

Like the rest of the pros in attendance, the Team Pennzoil drivers absorbed as much information as possible from their Round 1 laps. Here is a synopsis of each driver's run.

Eddie Hill, the Top Fuel pilot of the Pennzoil Dragster, thrilled his adoring fans and his sponsor with the session's second best time, a 4.703-second pass at 304.12 mph.

"Wow, wasn't that wonderful?" Hill said. "The car is so exceptionally smooth that I felt like I could have made that run down a gravel road. I just love to start a weekend like that, especially at our title race. We had a distinct advantage in that round because we were the last pair to run. We saw the other guy's struggle with traction and were able to make the proper adjustments in the staging lane before we ran. We've got a quick turnaround now but the car wasn't damaged at all. Hopefully, we'll be quicker tonight."

Bruce Allen, the Pro Stock driver of the Outlaw Fuel Additives Pontiac Firebird, was one of only seven cars that clocked an elapsed time in the six-second range. Despite the quick time, Allen was unimpressed with his 6.990-second, 196.67-mph pass that temporarily places him in the sixth qualifying spot.

"The track's really green," Allen said. "I basically did what I had to do to get through the run with some information we can use later. (The run) started well with the tires lifting nice through first and second gear. Then it started shaking in third so I just banged it into fourth and finished the run. There is no way that time holds up. When the rubber gets a little thicker and it cools off, guys will be flying."

Mike Thomas, the Pro Stock driver of the Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird, aborted his first pass after his tires began to violently shake in the suspect right-hand lane. Thomas' official time for Round 1 was 10.059 seconds at 89.97 mph.

"We had two problems there," Thomas said. "We had too much clutch and we were in the wrong lane. Everything felt good initially and then the car started shaking so bad that the rear end came around and pushed the car out of the groove. We will definitely run better tonight than we did today but I sure wish we weren't the first pair out. We're already looking at tomorrow morning as our best chance to qualify."