Ashley Force Hood raced to the qualifying lead in Funny Car Friday at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals. Larry Dixon, Allen Johnson and Matt Smith also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Force Hood continued to have success at Atlanta Dragway, site of her milestone first career victory in 2008 and No. 1 qualifying effort and runner-up finish last year, by powering her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a leading qualifying performance of 4.104 seconds at 304.60mph.
"I thought for sure at least one or two cars would bump past us,” Force Hood said. “My Castrol GTX Mustang went right down there and didn't have any problems. I thought for sure someone would beat me out of that spot. We are happy that we didn't let this night session go by. We utilized it for our benefit. Tomorrow we'll get to run at the back of the pack and you'll have a little advantage. We still have to keep it (No.1 spot) thorough the race tomorrow. It will be pretty challenging to run that quick tomorrow during the day.”
Defending series champ Robert Hight was second in his Auto Club Mustang with a 4.124 at 305.98, while Ron Capps posted a 4.147 at 303.71 to take third in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger. Series points leader John Force sits 16th in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Mustang with a 4.511 at 259.51 as his best effort of the day.
Dixon led Top Fuel qualifying with a performance of 3.822 at 316.08 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster.
"We'll see if it sticks, but great job by Alan [Johnson] and Jason [McCulloch] and everyone on the Al-Anabi crew," Dixon said. “Alan and Jason both have been doing this a long time and it seems like they look at the conditions and challenge themselves to see how good they can run for those conditions. With the way the car has run in Vegas, where it was warm, and St. Louis where it was warm, I'm as happy as a guy can be about [our hot-weather] tune-up because even as hot as it is now, this is going to seem like Club Med. We're not really even into summer yet, but they seem like they have a handle on it for now."
Doug Kalitta held down the second spot in his Kalitta Air dragster with a 3.849 at 318.09, while Cory McClenathan was third in his FRAM dragster, posting a 3.924 at 308.35.
Johnson covered the distance in 6.634 at 208.23 in his Team Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Avenger to lead the Pro Stock category.
"We were confident we could go 6.64 and we needed to be perfect to get around Mike [Edwards] and we were,” Johnson said. “We tested here last month and Dad's [crew chief Roy Johnson] found some power lately. We've caught Mike, now we just need to get our car running down low as good as he does. Performance wise we're right with him or just ahead of him and if I can do my job and we can make the right decisions on the track, we'll be something to reckon with."
Defending class champ Edwards was second with a 6.641 at 208.07 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP, while Johnny Gray was third in his NTB GXP with a 6.652 at 207.34.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Smith rode his Al-Anabi Racing Buell to the top spot with a performance of 6.940 at 191.87.
"We found some horsepower last weekend,” Smith said. "When I let the clutch out I knew it was a good run and by the time I hit third gear I knew it was good enough to be No. 1. It picked the front tire up in fourth gear, which these Buells don't usually do, so I was excited. It's going to be good tomorrow."
Defending class champ Hector Arana was second on his Lucas Oil Buell with a 6.941 at 193.79 and David Hope was third with a 6.955 at 192.19 on his Mohegan Sun Racing Buell.
Qualifying continues Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. for Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations.