NHRA: Team Pennzoil Pumped About Pomona
5 November 1998POMONA, Calif. - With a half dozen victories and runner-up finishes at Pomona Raceway under their collective belts, the professional drivers of Team Pennzoil are eager to complete the National Hot Rod Association's 1998 campaign with a win at the 34th Annual Winston Finals. Each driver is hoping a successful weekend in Southern California will help solidify their place in the record books for this season while spring-boarding them to greater heights in 1999.
Here's the latest news and notes from each of the Pennzoil driver's pit.
Eddie Hill, the pilot of the Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster, is exceptionally pleased to be taking part in two separate races at Pomona Raceway. In addition to the Winston Finals, the 62-year-old Hill will be participating in his 11th Big Bud Shootout, which includes the top eight qualifiers of the 1998 season.
"Participating in the Big Bud Shootout will definitely be one of the higher points of the year for us," Hill said. "It's a real testament to (crew chief) Dan (Olson) and the rest of the crew for always having the car ready to go every week, regardless of the conditions. It's an honor to be a part of this group again. It's prestigious to participate in the Shootout because it's not something they give to anyone. You have to earn your way into this field."
Hill certainly deserves to take part in the event. He has qualified for every race in 1998, a streak that dates back 39 races. Additionally, Hill has qualified in the top half of the elimination field on 14 occasions this year, which includes being in the top half of the quickest field in NHRA history (assembled at the October race in Dallas.) Only Joe Amato's 13 Big Bud Shootout appearances eclipse Hill's 11 showings.
Winning at Pomona Raceway is nothing new to the famous Texan. He captured the crown of the 1995 Winternationals and was a runner-up at the Winston Finals in 1992. This time around, Hill is coming off a career weekend at the NHRA's last event in Houston in which he recorded his personal-best elapsed time and personal-best speed when he flew down Houston Raceway Park's quarter-mile in 4.574 seconds at 313.91 mph.
"I love Pomona," Hill said. "Winning there in '95 was great and in '92 we astounded everyone by recording the low ET of every session and every elimination round until the finals when I red-lit. We feel like we know what the track can hold and we plan on testing it several times over the weekend. We'd like to build up some momentum for next year."
Bruce Allen, the driver of the Outlaw Fuel Additives Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, is another Pennzoil driver that has found success at Pomona Raceway. Allen finished in second place at the track in 1990 and 1985 and has several fond memories of Southern California.
"Pomona is unique," Allen said. "I guess because the track is at the fairgrounds it takes on a different feel then all the other races we compete in. There are always an enormous amount of fans there and they all follow drag racing and know what's going on in our world. I know that we always have a good time with the people in the pits and out on the track. The track itself is a little bit of a mystery. It's always off a little on Thursday and Friday so your two best runs are on Saturday. To me, that's how it should be. I like it a lot.
"We have just taken possession of our brand-new car and we have a lot of testing to do before we get to Pomona to see if we can get it ready in time. Either way, we should be able to go fast and compete for the title. We are certainly not going to hold anything back. I want to finish the season with a bang."
Allen has qualified for 10 races this year and has recorded 11 elimination round wins.
Mike Thomas, the driver of the Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird, hopes to make a final charge up the Winston points standings at Pomona Raceway. Regardless of his finish, Thomas will remember the 1998 season as the best of his seven-year career.
"I've done the math and figured out that I can finish in sixth, seventh or eighth place in the points standings," Thomas said. "I want sixth. Actually, I want to go out there and drive and not even think about who's doing what or how many points we have or someone else has. All of that stuff will take care of itself. I just need to focus on driving and win this race.
"No matter how we finish, this has been a memorable year for us. I'd really like to have some fun in Pomona to celebrate our best season as a pro team. We have shown that we have the power to compete with the best cars in the world and I'm already anxious to start a new season. Once I reassemble a top-notch team, I believe we'll be hard to beat."
Thomas has been the most prosperous member of Team Pennzoil in 1998. He won the Route 66 Nationals in May and has recorded 13 elimination-round wins overall.
Mike Ferderer, the sportsman driver of the Pennzoil Super Gas Pontiac and the Gumout Super Comp Dragster, is Pomona Raceway's defending Super Gas champion having taken the bracket's title at the Winternationals on Feb. 1. Ferderer also visited the track's Victory Circle in a Super Comp car in 1987.
"I love Pomona," Ferderer said. "It's a great track and the crowds always make it fun. I've changed up both cars a little in a search for speed. I'm expecting the Pontiac to reach 155 mph and the dragster to hit 170 mph. Overall, both cars are running well."