Antron Brown raced to his sixth No. 1 qualifying position of the season Saturday in a rain-delayed day at the Toyo Tires Oil NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
NHRA officials were forced to set the field after two complete qualifying sessions for the weekend when persistent showers moved into the area during Friday's qualifying and lingered through Saturday's sessions. The amount of rain overnight caused a water seepage problem on the racing surface, further delaying qualifying. NHRA and track officials worked throughout the day to keep the track dry for the safety of the participants.
Ashley Force Hood, Mike Edwards and Hector Arana also will lead their categories into Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations as the No. 1 qualifiers at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event, the 17th of 18 races in the NHRA regular season.
Brown powered his Matco Tools dragster to a 3.854 second run at 315.71 mph to earn his 20th career No. 1 effort. The Full Throttle Drag Racing Series points leader is looking to add a sixth win to his impressive season and begin gaining momentum as the Countdown to 1, NHRA's six-race championship playoff, begins Sept. 18 at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte, N.C.
"The weather conditions threw us for a curveball yesterday, but we made adjustments for it," said Brown. "[Crew chiefs] Brian [Corradi] and Mark [Oswald] gave the car a little more power. They said, 'Hold on, 'Tron!' That Matco Tools car motored right on through there and squeaked out a No. 1 spot.
"Our main focus right now is to prepare for the Countdown by racing like we're in the Countdown. Our main deal is going rounds at each and every race. We attack each race like it's our last one. We're not saving anything extra."
Morgan Lucas moved into second as Brown was quicker than his performance of 3.867 at 307.37. Defending event winner and six-time world champ Tony Schumacher was sixth in his U.S. Army dragster with a 3.931 at 280.78.
Force Hood remained No. 1 qualifier on Saturday with a 4.114 at 301.47 in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang despite an engine explosion that will require her to use a back-up car for Sunday's eliminations. Force Hood was OK and kept her No. 1 position with Friday's 4.114.
"It's in pretty bad shape, and I don't think it's fixable for tomorrow," said Force Hood about her damaged race car. "That's OK; that's what spare cars are for. It's a little bit of an uneasy feeling to start tomorrow in a car we haven't run before, but it looks like that's the path we're going down. My guys are ready to get the car together and make a comeback tomorrow.
"It took me by surprise. It felt like it was going right down the groove before it banged. The vision was the biggest issue for me. The fire flashed and then went behind me, but the body and injector were blocking the view in front of me. It was hard to gauge where I was on the track, but we got it stopped right near the wall. The car looked like abstract art when we got back with the injector sitting sideways and the windshield cracked."
Tony Pedregon jumped into second in the final order with a 4.133 at 299.53 in his Wicked Quick/Q Horsepower Chevy Impala and defending event winner Jack Beckman was third in his Valvoline/Mail Terminal Services Dodge Charger with a 4.134 at 297.68.
In Pro Stock, Edwards held the No. 1 qualifier honor from Friday's pass as he was unable to complete a pass without problems on Saturday. He took his category-leading ninth No. 1 effort of the season with a 6.640 at 207.78 in his ART/Young Life Pontiac GXP.
"Like I've said before, all the credit goes to my team. They do it all, not me," said Edwards. "It's challenging when the weather is changing and you don't get four decent shots, but my team made a good decision when we got a chance to race."
Points leader and defending event champion Jeg Coughlin improved upon his Friday qualifying position to move into the eight spot with a 6.712 at 206.42 in his JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt. Surprisingly, Allen Johnson did not qualify, breaking a 52-race qualifying streak.
Arana rode his Lucas Oil Buell to his fourth No. 1 qualifying position of the year in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a performance of 6.982 at 190.11.
Eddie Krawiec, the series points leader who had a seven-race final round streak broken last week, qualified fourth on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.