Defending Funny Car champion Jack Beckman raced to his second consecutive No. 1 qualifying position at Brainerd International Raceway Saturday during the final day of qualifying for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Clay Millican (Top Fuel) and Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) will also lead their categories when eliminations begin Sunday at 11 a.m. for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event in Brainerd.
Beckman, driving a new Don Schumacher Hall of Fame Tribute Dodge Charger, earned his second straight No. 1 qualifying position of the 2013 season with a pass of 4.038 seconds at 313.37 mph. Beckman has two career runner-up finishes at the track but has yet to win there and is also looking for his first victory this season. He will race Bob Bode in the first round of eliminations Sunday.
"We've got a brand new car that only has four runs on it and two of them were low E.T. of the session,” Beckman said. “There is no guarantee [of success] when you qualify No. 1. Theoretically, you stack the odds a little bit in your favor. Other than that, it is just bragging rights.
“These guys went back after Seattle and put together a completely new chassis, we've got the old school body on it and I love the mix. I like the way it is running and I like our chances.”
Ron Capps suffered an engine explosion near the finish line during his third qualifying attempt on Saturday in his NAPA Auto parts Dodge Charger. He was uninjured, qualified ninth and will face Del Worsham in the first round. Points leader Matt Hagan qualified second with a 4.044 at 315.34 and will meet Tony Pedregon in the opening round of eliminations.
In Top Fuel, Millican earned his second No. 1 qualifying position of the season with his pass of 3.773 seconds at 326.63 mph he recorded Friday night in his Parts Plus dragster. This marks his first career No. 1 qualifying position at Brainerd International Raceway and gives Millican a first round matchup with Terry McMillen on Sunday.
“The car has been really good all weekend and has been down the track every single lap in qualifying,” said Millican, who is seeking his first NHRA win. “This car is so solid right now, it is crazy. I said something about this yesterday, but had I been able to keep the car straighter on the .77 it might have gone a .76. We continued to work on a few things with the chassis with the two runs today and it went nice and straight, and that Parts Plus car is rolling right now.”
Top Fuel points leader Shawn Langdon qualified fourth with his run of 3.797 at 322.88 and will face Bob Vandergriff Jr in the first round. Spencer Massey qualified second and will face rookie Brittany Force.
In the Countdown to the Championship, Khalid alBalooshi earned a berth into the playoffs on Saturday by qualifying for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Only four positions is the Countdown to the Championship remain in Top Fuel.
Nobile was able to retain his No. 1 qualifying position he earned Friday night in Pro Stock with a run of 6.580 at 209.43 in his Mountain View Tire Dodge Avenger. It is his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season and his first at Brainerd International Raceway. He will face Chris McGaha in the first round of eliminations.
“This is pretty exciting, especially considering that we haven't been qualifying very great this whole year,” Nobile said. “I think on average we're like eighth or ninth throughout the season. But to be No. 1 at this race means a lot, and it means we have a fast race car. After coming off two wins, there's nothing better than qualifying No. 1. I think this shows that things are going in the right direction [for our team] and it couldn't happen at a better time than now with the Countdown coming up.”
Points leader Mike Edwards qualified fourth with a run of 6.593 at 210.21 and will face Greg Stanfield in the first round. Minnesota native Greg Anderson qualified second, the highest he has qualified this year, with a run of 6.588 at 209.17 and will face Deric Kramer on Sunday.
V Gaines and Erica Enders-Stevens also both earned positions into the Countdown to the Championship by qualifying Saturday, leaving only one spot remaining in Pro Stock.