John Force raced to the qualifying lead in Funny Car Friday at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway near Denver.
Season points leader Force powered his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang to a 4.191-second run at 296.76mph to move into position to claim his fifth No. 1 at this event, fourth of the season and 135th of his career. Qualifying continues Saturday with two sessions that will set the field for Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations.
“We really choked it down on the first run just to make it go A to B to see what would happen,” Force said. “At half-track I'm thinking, ‘This is almost embarrassing.' But the crew chiefs are making the decisions and it's very critical to get down there.Coming into this race No. 1 in the points put us at the rear of the pack [in the first session] and allowed us to watch the rest, then that run put us low and put us at the rear of the pack [in the second session] to watch the rest. (Del) Worsham stepped up and ran a great number, then we went out and did it and got it on speed.”
Antron Brown, Allen Johnson, and Michael Phillips also were qualifying leaders in their categories at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Defending event winner Brown paced the Top Fuel category with a leading effort of 3.961 at 286.19 in his Matco Tools dragster.
“The conditions out here are really good and the track is really good,” said Brown. “Tomorrow is going to be really interesting because it's going to be cool and I don't think the .96 is going to hold. You're going to see some guys out there going for it and I think you're going to see a low .90 or high .80. We were No. 1 last year on Saturday with a .86, so it's definitely out there. We've just got to get the power level right and get the car hooked up.”
Johnson, the defending winner who has advanced to the last three finals at this race, was quickest in Pro Stock with a 7.020 at 197.19 in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger.
“The conditions got a lot better and the track temperature was 20 degrees better so we just adjusted the gear ratio and got after it,” Johnson said. “The track is pretty awesome and we'll adjust to it tomorrow. I really think tomorrow will be the best day because it's supposed to cool down. We'll have work tomorrow to hang onto it.”
Phillips, who won last weekend at Sonoma, Calif., led the way in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a track record time of 7.308 at 183.12 on his Racers Edge Suzuki.
“That 30 was a surprise (in the first session), I thought it would be around a 40 or 41,” Phillips said. “It had a decent short time and I revved it up good and got it down there. That 30 was impressive. I thought my second run was going to be better, but evidently it wasn't. I think it will be real fast tomorrow, so I think you'll see some 20s out there in the morning.”