Top Fuel points leader Spencer Massey failed to make the field Saturday as qualifying came to an end at the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway.
Larry Dixon, Cruz Pedregon, Mike Edwards and Hector Arana Jr. raced to the No. 1 qualifying positions in their respective categories at the 20th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and the fourth of six races in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, the six-race playoffs to determine the world championships.
Massey, who held a 65 point lead over the competition entering the event, was unable to race his FRAM dragster in to the field Saturday during qualifying. It was Massey's second career DNQ and came on the third to final race of the season.
“It seems like from the first run to the last run, the car was wanting to run like it was at Maple Grove Raceway,” said Massey. “Obviously it hurts us tremendously because if we would have qualified we could get more points, we could've gone some rounds and had a shot for winning the race which would have helped us out tremendously in the points. Now this is just going to bunch everybody back up. We're not going to have a 60 points lead. We might lose our points lead and that's just the name of the game. Sometimes it's a drag and sometimes it's a race and we got the drag end of the deal this time.”
Dixon was able to keep his Al-Anabi Racing dragster at the top of the Top Fuel field with his Friday night run of 3.919-seconds at 303.84 mph. It is the third No. 1 qualifier of the season for Dixon and 51st of his career.
“I'm feeling good, as good as you can feel on a Saturday night,” said Dixon. “I'm not looking down the road, I'm thinking about getting our car prepared, getting a good night sleep, and going out there and trying to win the first round. It's not as hot as it was in Dallas, but it's hot, and that puts a lot of pressure on the teams and the crew chiefs to calm the cars down and get them down the track. The track surface is great; it's the track temperature that makes it hard on the teams. We got ourselves in this position (fourth in points) and we can certainly get ourselves out of it, and having a good day tomorrow would certainly help the cause.”
Second-place driver in the point standings Antron Brown qualified in the sixth spot in the field while third-place driver in the standings Del Worsham took the third spot in Top Fuel.
Pedregon held on to his top spot in Funny Car with his Friday night run of 4.215 at 296.37 in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry. It was Pedregon's sixth No. 1 qualifier of the season, 45th of his career and second in the Countdown to the Championship, with his last coming in Dallas.
“We're just going to try to be steady,” said Pedregon. “That last run was important to us because the car did what we asked it to. It actually dropped a cylinder at the 330 mark, so we'll go back and fix that, but we have a great car. We missed it on our first run today, but we've made three solid runs. We were second quickest that session, even with a cylinder out, so we're looking good. We're just going to go out there and try to be steady like we always do. We're going to have to be on our toes, but I like our chances.”
By qualifying fourth and earning four bonus points Mike Neff moved back into the series lead in Funny Car, while Matt Hagan qualified sixth in the field in his DieHard Dodge Charger and now trails Neff by three points heading into Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations. Countdown contender Ron Capps was unable to qualify for the field, ending the longest current consecutive races qualifying streak in the category.
In Pro Stock, Edwards kept his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP in the top spot on Saturday with a run of 6.617 at a track record speed of 210.28. It was his fourth No. 1 qualifier of the season, 38th of his career and third straight No. 1 qualifier at Firebird International Raceway.
“We ran good this morning, but we're still struggling off the starting line,” said Edwards. “We just haven't got it figured out and we're a little bit concerned about that. We didn't get down (the track in the second session), so we're definitely scratching our heads. We feel good about how good we can run if we make a decent run off the starting line.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle Arana Jr. put down an impressive run to take the top spot away from points leader Eddie Krawiec. Arana Jr. rode his Lucas Oil Buell to a 6.889 at 195.31 to set a track record for time and speed and collect his sixth No. 1 qualifier of the season and third straight No. 1 qualifier in the Countdown to the Championship.
“Even if we had another run on Friday night, I knew that we had the horsepower that showed in the back half (to get the No. 1 qualifying spot),” said Arana Jr. “We just had to get the clutch package together, and that's what we did this morning. We got it to hook up, ran a 1.06 60-footer, and everything else came together for the 6.88. I honestly didn't think we were going to run a .88, but we did, and we're really very proud of that.”