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NHRA: Pennzoil's Hill Continues Career Weekend

31 October 1998

HOUSTON - A spectacular Friday night session of professional qualifying for the Second Annual Matco Tools SuperNationals was highlighted by Texan Eddie Hill's all-time career-best run. The 42-year race veteran brought the appreciative crowd out of their seats when he blistered the quarter-mile strip of Houston Raceway Park in 4.574 seconds at 313.91 mph. The pass marked both the quickest and the fastest lap of Hill's storied career.

Elsewhere in the Pennzoil pits, Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas showed the exceptional power of his car when he managed to qualify in the top half of the competitive field despite running in the less-than-desirable right-hand lane. Fellow Pro Stock pilot Bruce Allen struggled to find a top-level time and remains outside the field.

Here's a quick look at each driver's opening day.

Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, sent the crowd into a frenzy when he blasted down the strip in 4.574 seconds at 313.91 mph. Both marks signified career-best marks for the 62-year-old legend. The elapsed time put Hill in the No. 3 spot with two rounds of qualifying yet to be run.

"This is like old times," Hill said. "I'm putting 'The Thrill' back in Eddie Hill again. To set both ends of my career-best records in Houston is too good to be true. I couldn't think of a better place or a better time to do this. It would be a tremendous lift for our team if we could find a way to turn this great qualifying session into a win on Sunday. If the car continues to run like this we will be tough to contend with.

"Credit Dan (Olson, Hill's crew chief) and the rest of the guys for having the car in such great shape. It is as close to perfect as it's ever been.

"The crowd support has really lifted us too. I could hear them at the other end and that's pretty rare. And when we came back down the return road, they were going crazy. If you didn't know better, you would have thought that I'd won the race. The feeling I have right now is why we race. It makes all the other stuff you have to do worthwhile."

Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, was one of only two drivers to have successfully qualified out of the right-hand lane on Friday night. Thomas recorded a 6.977-second lap at 197.58 mph to place his car in the No. 8 spot.

"I'm extremely happy to be in the top half of the field," Thomas said. "Unless something really strange happens with the weather, I would think that the field is set. Lane choice could be the difference on Sunday. Only one other car and us made it down the right side with any kind of competitive time. I don't know why that happened because the track seemed pretty level to me. We'll spend tomorrow tuning for Sunday and we'll see what happens. I like our chances right now."

Bruce Allen, the driver of the Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, failed to improve on his first-round lap of 7.034 seconds at 195.86 mph. Allen's official time in Round 2 was 7.035 seconds at 194.51 mph.

"We're searching for answers right now," Allen said. "We had the good lane and still couldn't post a good time. The car is strong right now. It's just not as strong as the top-level guys are. We're hoping for cloud cover during tomorrow's early session. If the temperatures don't get too crazy before 11 a.m. we'll have a shot at making the field. We're sort of holding our breath right now."