John Force scored his first Funny Car pole in more than three years and was joined by Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) atop their respective qualifying fields at the NHRA Arizona Nationals, the second of 23 events on the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule.
Racers and fans sat through a rough second day of qualifying as forecasted rains showed up early and cut the final two qualifying sessions to just one, which began, unusually, with Top Fuel at 1:45 p.m., followed by Funny Car and then Pro Stock; typically, Pro Stock runs before the nitro cars. The day was further slower by another brief rain shower partway through Funny Car, a couple of long oil-downs, and a Pro Stock crash, which made for a long day.
Schumacher took over the qualifying lead from Friday front-man Doug Kalitta after powering his Mike Green-tuned U.S. Army dragster to a de-tuned 3.818 at 317.05 that hop scotched around the Michigan veteran. The No. 1 position is the 59th of Schumacher's career.
“We missed it by a mile – everybody did,” said Schumacher. “The car was shaking early but cleared up. Man, we're the No. 1 qualifier, but it was so off. The track is better than we've been giving it credit for. The .81 was still a pretty darn good run for how soft it was.
“That was one of those runs where we should've gone for a 3.75. We were already No. 2 qualifier. Mike [Green, crew chief] knew when we ran that it was off. He just didn't have time to change the tune-up before we had to run.”
Kalitta's Technicoat fueler slid a spot to second, relying on his sizzling Friday pass of 3.825. Behind him in the top-four qualifying order, as he was Friday, is Larry Dixon (3.837) while Antron Brown moved the Matco Tools Dragster up a couple of spots with a half-tenth improvement to a 3.838 for fourth.
Cory McClenathan (3.841), Shawn Langdon (3.857), Brandon Bernstein (3.863), and Steve Torrence (3.871) round out the top eight. Langdon will square off in the first round with teammate Morgan Lucas for the second time in their careers; the first was in Memphis last season, where Lucas went on to win the event.
The session's highlight may well have been Terry McMillen's run. His Amalie Oil dragster launched into an exciting wheelstand midway through his run. He stayed in the throttle and posted the second-best run of his career, a 3.896, good for the No. 9 spot.
Englishman Andy Carter holds down the final spot in the field with his ProCare RX/Garlits Museum of Drag Racing entry. He'll be Schumacher's first-round opponent Sunday.
Coming off his most frustrating season in decades, Winternationals champ Force continues to look strong in 2010 as he powered his Castrol GTX Mustang to the top of the field in the final run of Funny Car qualifying, charting a 4.063 to take the No. 1 spot away from Friday leader Matt Hagan, who was in the other lane. It is the 132nd career pole position for Force, his seventh at this event, and, remarkably, his first since Indy 2006.
“It feels great considering the last few years have been kind of tough,” said Force. “We shook up our teams a little bit with [crew chiefs] Mike Neff, Austin [Coil], and Bernie [Fedderly], and I've got the new Eric Medlen chassis built by Ford Motor Co. and John Medlen and the Boss 500. I've finally got an all-Ford car and I'm still getting her down the lane, so I'm pretty excited.”
“Conditions weren't what they were [for Friday's second session]. I knew it'd run an 0, but I didn't think it'd run an .06. I saw Neff turning on some screws when he went over the car after I backed up from the burnout. He took a long time and I said, ‘Don't run me out of gas.' I don't know what he did – they never tell me – but I have at lot confidence.”
Hagan's DieHard Charger sits second on the strength of his Friday 4.068/311.34 while Del Worsham leapt to third with the Al-Anabi Toyota with a strong 4.084 pass Saturday. Defending series champ Robert Hight's Auto Club Mustang is fourth with a 4.094, also recorded Saturday. Ashley Force Hood slid one spot to fifth and Ron Capps to six after being unable to improve on their respective Friday passes of 4.119 and 4.120. Jack Beckman (4.133) and Jim Head (4.145) round out the top eight.
After missing the field in Pomona, Paul Lee earned his first spot in the field in his new ride in Jim Dunn's Canidae/Lucas Oil Impala in the 15th position. Former world champ Cruz Pedregon is on the bump spot at 4.364 and will resume his three-decade long rivalry with Force in round one while Force's daughter will take on the field's other female competitor, Melanie Troxel.
Terry Haddock suffered through a fire during his sole qualifying attempt; he was not injured but did not make the field.
Edwards, the reigning Full Throttle champ, collected his 11th consecutive No. 1 qualifying position, an achievement that ties Greg Anderson's 2003-'04 streak, which ranks third in the all-time Pro Stock annals. Only Bob Glidden's 23-race steak is the high-mark, followed by another 15-race streak by Glidden. The pole is the 24th of Edwards' career. Although he wasn't able to improve in his Friday number of 6.609, his 6.625 was the quickest of the round, making him a perfect seven for seven this season in session-best passes. Early in the run, Edwards recorded an unreal .962 60-foot time before shutting off early.
“It's almost unbelievable. We just keep riding the wave. Hats off to my guys. We're just making incredible runs every time. It's a credit to my team and my sponsors: Penhall, Interstate Batteries, and K&N.”
Ron Krisher's Valvoline Cobalt remained second with a 6.627, making it a 1-2 sweep for Edwards' powerplants while Rodger Brogdon ripped his Attitude Apparel GXP into third with an impressive 6.632 208.04. Allen Johnson's Mopar/J & J Racing Avenger rounds out the top four with a 6.635.
Behind the fast four are Jason Line (6.638) and a surprising Bob Yonke, who drove his Adrenaline Motorsports GXP to a 6.639for sixth. Defending event champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. in seventh at 6.641 208.94 and Ronnie Humphrey eighth at 6.647. Humphrey will race his son-in-law, Greg Anderson, who qualified ninth, in round one.
Warren Johnson qualified on the bump with a 6.668 and will face Edwards in round one. Johnny Gray was a surprise non-qualifier but his son, rookie Shane, made the field for the second straight race, qualifying 15th.
The session was slowed after Vinnie Deceglie crashed in Nick Mitsos' Mountain View Tire Dodge. Deceglie walked away in an accident that was eerily similar to Gordie Rivera's crash during Friday qualifying.