Line's Pontiac GTO holds onto No. 1 qualifying spot at Pomona
by Jeff Romack
by Jeff Romack
POMONA, Calif. -- For the second time this season, Jason Line will start Sunday eliminations from the No. 1 qualifying position after his Pontiac GTO set a Friday track-record elapsed time of 6.677 seconds at the NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway. Line withstood the onslaught of two additional rounds of Saturday time trials to capture his fourth career pole and his first ever at Pomona Raceway.
"We just want to win every race, that's our goal," said Line. "We really haven't made good runs this weekend, we just happened to make the one really good lap when we needed to. We don't have a handle on the combination yet, but at the same time, we've gone into a lot of Sunday's this year when we were able to hit on a setup and I'm confident we'll get it figured out by tomorrow."
After yesterday's pole qualifying run, Line's Pontiac ran out of racetrack at the far end of the strip and wound up in the sand traps. The Summit Racing team did a remarkable job repairing the front end of Line's GTO to get it ready for today's final qualifying sessions. During Saturday's first session, the Minnesota native delivered with a strong 6.700 second run at 206.83 mph. Currently third in the NHRA POWERade points standings, Line's previous No. 1 qualifying award this season was back in September at the Lucas Oil Nationals in Reading, Pa., and he was runner-up at last year's NHRA Finals to teammate Greg Anderson.
"The car was a mess last night," said Line. "There was major damage to the front end. We got some help from Gary Hanson, a local guy who has a shop out here - Hanson Racecars. He let us use the shop and we took the hood over there and they did a nice job fixing it up. Although unfortunate, it was a lot of extra work for everybody but it came out okay. The engine was fine - we were going to change it but decided to leave it in."
"We're certainly not overconfident. I would have felt a lot better if we'd made at least three good runs. We have our work cut out for us. Erica (Enders) has certainly been the best and most consistent so far. She's made four good runs and I think her car looks the best right now - at least the happiest for this racetrack."
Enders Chevrolet delivered the quickest lap of the day at 6.681 seconds, and that catapulted her Slammers Cobalt into the No. 2 starting spot, a career-best for the Houston, Tex., resident. It is the fourth straight race that Enders has qualified her Chevrolet fifth or better, and the fifth time this season she has started Sunday eliminations in the top half of the field. Her Chevy Cobalt posted the quickest times in three of the four qualifying sessions this weekend at Pomona Raceway.
"It's been a great weekend for the entire Slammers Chevy Cobalt team," said Enders. "I'm so proud of them, they've done such a great job and they haven't stopped working since February - and even before that. To have our season turn around from what it was here in February, and now to be qualified No. 2 is so exciting. It's surreal for me because this is my dream. I've been watching these guys since I was little and I can't believe I'm doing this. I couldn't be any happier. We're ready to race. We have lane choice, and we have a good car, the best in the last session by two hundredths of a second. Even if we lose lane choice and end up in the right lane, we know how to run over there as well. If I can do my job and cut some lights then we have an excellent shot tomorrow."
Kurt Johnson's ACDelco Chevy Cobalt is qualified in the No. 3 spot with a 6.683 e.t. at a career-best and track-record speed of 207.62 mph. Johnson is a three-time winner of the NHRA Finals, and his last victory at this event was in 2002.
"We know the car will run through the dirty part of the racetrack, we just have to get it through the rubber part of the track," quipped Johnson. "If we straighten it up it will go 6.70-flat. It will be one of the faster cars out there. We're .016, .026 and .036 on the tree. The worst light was a .040 so I think we have that fairly under control, at least to this point. If we get the ACDelco Cobalt to go straight we know it will run from the eighth to the finish line real well."
Greg Anderson is qualified fourth in a Pontiac GTO, Rickie Smith is sixth in a Chevy Cobalt and Mark Pawuk is ninth in a Pontiac GTO.
"Since bringing the new GTO out, we've been working real hard to make better runs," said Pawuk. "Ron Krisher has helped us out with horsepower and it's all made a big difference. Our combination seems to be coming back like the old days and it's great to see. The guys have done a really good job on the car and the result is that we're making consistent runs. We made a good run yesterday morning when we needed to, but there were a lot of guys like myself who got the correct lane choice in the right session. We were fortunate to put down a good lap and we're looking forward to finishing up on a high note tomorrow."
The rest of the GM field in the top 16 of Pro Stock includes Dave Connolly in the No. 11 position in a Cobalt, Warren Johnson is qualified 13th in a GTO and Bob Panella is 16th in a Cobalt.
"About an hour ago I wouldn't have liked my chances for Sunday," said Connolly. "We've struggled and found a clutch problem last weekend in Las Vegas. This weekend we were struggling going down low - it would shake and go right. We took the shocks off and had Jerry Bickel test them before that last run and come to find that one of the electric shocks on the top wasn't clicking over. We had one shock on and one shock off. We let out the clutch before and it didn't feel like it had any power. That last run laid the motor over and the car was going. We have a good shot at it tomorrow. We're not going to run at the top of the page but I think we can run within a couple of hundredths of these guys. Any time you can do that there's a chance you'll turn that win light on."
In the quickest Funny Car field in NHRA history, Cruz Pedregon has the quickest Chevy Monte Carlo in the field and is qualified in the No. 2 position after running 4.708 seconds at 328.66 mph. Tony Pedregon's Chevy Monte Carlo is qualified third with a 4.710 e.t. at 329.99 mph and Del Worsham's Chevrolet posted the fastest speed of the meet so far at a career-best 331.36 mph. Gary Scezli is the No. 1 qualifier in a Dodge with an e.t. of 4.696 seconds.