NHRA: Pennzoil Drivers Ready for Victory Dance
28 October 1998HOUSTON - Fond memories of past successes at Houston Raceway Park have the professional drag racers of Team Pennzoil excited about this weekend's Matco Tools SuperNationals in Baytown. Legendary Top Fuel pilot Eddie Hill, a past winner at the track, is anticipating a triumphant return to the Victory Circle as are Hill's Pro Stock teammates Mike Thomas and Bruce Allen, both of whom have runner-up finishes at HRP on their resumes.
Here's a quick look at each driver's thoughts of the upcoming race.
Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, is hoping for a weekend similar to the one he experienced in 1988 when he set a national elapsed time record and won the Houston event outright. He has even received a reminder of his glory days in the Lone Star State from one of his many fans.
"I was just opening the mail and a fan had sent me a copy of the National Dragster magazine that came out right after the Houston race in '88," Hill said. "It was great to relive the memories of that happy weekend. The story talked about how we ran another four-second pass in qualifying six months to the day after we had broken the four-second barrier in Dallas. I remember that lap in Houston. We were running Gene Snow and he was as excited as I was when we got out of our cars.
"Then we went on to win that race with a 4.936-second lap in the finals that just shattered the national elapsed time mark. It was quite a weekend. It would be awesome to pull out something special like that this time around. Psychologically, we feel real comfortable in Texas and especially in Houston, which should give us an edge. I'm an old East Texas boy myself so I'm happy to be coming home.
"We plan on going for broke. The goal is to set a new career best elapsed time and mph mark and I truly believe we will do it. Without revealing too much, we have made a few changes that I predict will make our car faster and quicker. It's time to have a little fun."
Hill is currently in 11th place in the Winston points standings and could move up as high as ninth place this weekend. He has won nine elimination round races this year.
Bruce Allen, the driver of the Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, is a two-time runner-up at Houston Raceway Park (1997 and '90) who hopes to survive one more round of racing during this trip to the circuit's quickest track.
"We've been so close in the past," Allen said. "It's time to win one. It's a real tribute to the team that we run so well at the track that's recognized as the fastest one out there. A real bonus for us is that it's in our sponsor's (Pennzoil) backyard. Plus it's in Texas. So we end up having so many folks at the track pulling for us. It makes you want to win for their sake.
"Houston Raceway Park is unbelievable. The owners are real racers themselves and they spare no expense in making their track the best one on the circuit. It's first class from the parking lot to the strip itself. Ask around the pits and every driver will tell you that Houston's the track they want to race at the most. I really hope to do well here and put our car back in the top 10 of the points standings before the season ends."
Allen has recorded 11 elimination round wins this year and is in 12th place in the Winston points standings.
Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, is anxious to return to his "favorite track" where he reached the finals of the Pennzoil Nationals in March. In that race, Thomas lost to 1998 Winston points champion Warren Johnson in a thrilling and extremely quick final, 6.878 seconds to 6.926 seconds. Thomas atoned for his Houston loss to Johnson two months later by beating him in the championship race of the Route 66 Nationals in Chicago. Now he wants revenge in Houston with his corporate sponsor Pennzoil watching from the front row.
"Everyone, Warren included, better beware when I get to Houston," Thomas said. "We've spent the last two days testing in Dallas and we have everything working perfectly on the car. I've also been nailing some great lights (reaction times at the starting line) and I think we'll be tough to contend with. I'm coming to Houston to kick butt and take names and I already know how to spell WJ.
"We just ran the fastest speed of my career (199.15 mph) in Dallas and Houston will be even faster. I love that track. It's very smooth in both lanes and it's always very fast. The fans will definitely have a great show to watch all weekend."
Thomas has won 13 elimination round races this year. He is currently in seventh place in the Winston points standings.