Larry Dixon raced to the No. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel Saturday at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. Ashley Force Hood, Allen Johnson and Hector Arana also will lead their respective categories into Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Dixon's Al-Anabi Racing dragster was the quickest in each of four qualifying sessions and as a result the series points leader claimed his second No. 1 position of the season and 42nd of his career with a performance of 3.822 seconds at 316.08 mph. The three-time Atlanta Dragway winner will face No. 16 qualifier Steve Torrence in the first round.
"We got down both sessions, so hopefully we have the same conditions tomorrow because that's what we're set up for," said Dixon, who collected 12 bonus points in qualifying to bolster his lead. "This is the first time we've been low every session since I've [been with the Al-Anabi team], and with the bonus points for qualifying, that adds up fast when you can do that.”
Doug Kalitta was second in his Kalitta Air dragster with a 3.849 at 318.09 and Brandon Bernstein's Copart/Lucas Oil dragster improved to third, posting a 3.913 at 312.21.
Force Hood took her first No. 1 position of the season in Funny Car with a 4.104 at 304.60 in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. It was the 10th No. 1 of her career, and second consecutive top spot at this race. The 2008 winner of this event and runner-up here last year, Force Hood will try to secure her first win of the season when she meets Jeff Diehl in the opening round.
"This is definitely one track where we've done well for whatever reason," Force Hood said. "It's a tricky track, so it's surprising that this is somewhere we've had a lot of success, but my tuners, Ron [Douglas] and Guido [Dean Antonelli] have it figured out and we do well here even when we struggle. We gained a few points. We haven't run that great, but it was good enough to stay first."
Defending champ and Force Hood teammate Robert Hight was second in his Auto Club Ford Mustang with a 4.124 at 305.98. Ron Capps was third with a 4.147 at 303.71 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger.
In Pro Stock, Johnson claimed his first No. 1 position of the season and eighth of his career with a 6.634 at 208.23 in his Team Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Avenger.
"The track was really hot and the air conditions were worse,” said Johnson, who will face St. Louis winner Warren Johnson in the first round. “We sort of tested it that last run in case the track conditions get that hot again tomorrow. It didn't like what we did, so we definitely learned not to go there.”
Series points leader Mike Edwards had the two quickest Pro Stock runs of the day but wasn't quick enough to move around Johnson's quick time from Friday. He holds down the second position with a 6.641 at 208.07 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP.
"We're still right there with (Mike), but he's still bad to the bone so we have to do our job and be perfect," Johnson said. “If we both do our jobs tomorrow, it will come down to me and him in the final, and then it will be down to lane choice and who can get his foot off the clutch first."
Hector Arana raced to the No. 1 spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a 6.913 at 193.96 on his Lucas Oil Buell and bumped Friday leader Matt Smith to fourth overall. It is Arana's third No. 1 of the season and 12th of his career. Arana will face Wesley Wells in the first round.
"That was amazing," Arana said. "I knew I could run those numbers if I could leave the starting line. The bike felt smooth and when it was still carrying the front wheel in second gear I knew I was on a good run. We were just hoping to stay consistent. I knew I had a little more, but the .91 surprised me. I'll take it."
David Hope was second on his Mohegan Sun Buell with a 6.924 at 192.19 and Andrew Hines was third on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson with a 6.938 at 191.92.