Date published: May 28, 2010
Rickie Jones' runner-up was not only remarkable because of his holeshot wins against Mike Edwards, Greg Anderson, and Johnny Gray but also because of the progress he has made after switching from a Mopar ride to an Elite Motorsports Pontiac over the winter. Said Jones, "Richard Freeman has done an excellent job with his engine program, and my father has done the same with our R.J. Race Cars chassis operation and in his role as the crew chief. The car was very consistent, [including] a 6.68 in the final, which helped my confidence." As for his driving, Jones said, "I was just hungry and wanted to win."
Untimely engine problems contributed to Allen Johnson's loss in the semi's against Jeg Coughlin Jr. Johnson's engine builder/father Roy said, "We lost one mph and .01-second in the back half. When we got back to the pits, we could barely turn the engine over, so something was going away. Allen did his job by staying within .01-second of Jeggie on the Tree, so I guess you'll have to put the blame for this one on me."
Gray had his best weekend to date with his engine program, qualifying a seasonbest third with a 6.652 and reaching the semi's only to shut off against Jones after cutting a tardy .426 light. Said Gray, "We had a new clutch pedal installed, and it was positioned in a way that I could only get half of my foot on the pedal surface. In the semi's, the car started to creep forward when I revved the engine up, so I pressed in the clutch, and that's when the Tree came on."
Following a marathon 10-day rebuilding effort by chassis builder Jerry Haas, Rodger Brogdon showed up in Atlanta with the car that he crashed in Madison. Unfortunately for Brogdon, he failed to qualify with an 18th-best 6.701. Said Brogdon, "Jerry and his guys even worked on Mother's Day to get it done, but we had no time for testing. If we could have tested for just one day, I think we could have figured things out. We'll be testing in St. Louis to get ready for Topeka."
After Greg Stanfield qualified Kenny Koretsky's Nitro Fish Pontiac in the No. 6 spot with a 6.659, crew chief Eddie Guarnaccia said, "We're making progress, but there's more work to do. Right now, we can't run Greg's best engines because the car isn't happy with that extra power, but by working with Greg's other engines, we're getting closer to finding the chassis setup that we need."
Danny Gruninger completed his twoevent stint in Jim Cunningham's Ford Mustang by missing the 6.696 cut with a best of 6.700, a significant improvement over his best provisional e.t. of 6.763 in Madison. Said Gruninger, "I was very excited to have this opportunity and happy to see the progress that we made with our second effort. I felt my driving was better this weekend and that the tune-up really came together." As for his future plans, Gruninger said, "We've been repairing the engine for my own car that I broke in Las Vegas and hope to be back by Denver."
After not qualifying for his fourth consecutive race, Larry Morgan said, "Ever since the new rules were implemented regarding having a certain percentage of the weight over the rear wheels, we just haven't been able to set up our car the way we did in Pomona [where Morgan was a semifinalist]. I will be taking delivery on a new car soon that has been built to the specs necessary to accommodate the new rules. It's very difficult to make a good run with the car I have now."