Ashley Force Hood raced to the No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car Saturday at the NHRA Las Vegas Nationals.
Tony Schumacher, Allen Johnson and Hector Arana also will lead their respective categories into eliminations at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Multiple delays throughout the day caused by several oil downs in Top Fuel and the cleanup following a spectacular crash by Funny Car driver Jeff Diehl extended qualifying into the cool evening hours. Diehl was not injured in the crash.
Force Hood earned her fifth No. 1 effort of the season and 15th of her career when she drove her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a 4.032sec run at 309.70mph. She will face Paul Lee in the first round of Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations.
“I knew it was a really good A to B pass, and I was surprised that more cars didn't step it up and go quicker,” Force Hood said. “It was up to the tuners to get it figured out because that's a long time to wait and the conditions are changing and the track is affected by different things. I was really proud of my team.”
Funny Car series leader Matt Hagan qualified fourth in his DieHard Dodge Charger and will face two-time world champ Tony Pedregon in the first round. Second-place John Force qualified second in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang and will race Jeff Arend in the opening round.
Schumacher claimed his second No. 1 of the season and 60th of his career in Top Fuel, powering his U.S. Army dragster to a 3.812 at a national record speed of 325.14.
“I wouldn't want to race against my car tomorrow,” Schumacher said. “We have an incredible car. The guys are doing an incredible job, and we definitely have the right tune-up for this track and these conditions.”
Schumacher sits third in points and will need a strong outing tomorrow if he's going to climb back into the championship hunt with series leader Larry Dixon and second-place Cory McClenathan. Dixon, who led McClenathan by 89 points coming into the race, will race Troy Buff in the first round, while McClenathan will meet Mark Mariani in the opening round.
Johnson claimed his seventh No. 1 qualifying position of season in Pro Stock, covering the distance in 6.646 at 207.82 in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger.
"We knew that this run was going to be the best one [in terms of conditions] after the four-hour delay [from oil downs],” Johnson said. “When the sun goes down, the track gets awesome here. We stepped it up and it's the second race in a row now where the Dodges have qualified one-two. We're not going to change our tune-up much for tomorrow when we have to run behind the Fuel cars instead of ahead of them. Maybe a little bit, but not a lot. We're still going to be pressing hard on the kill button."
Series leader Greg Anderson qualified 11th and will race Rodger Brogdon in the first round. Defending world champ Mike Edwards, who is second in points, qualified ninth and will meet championship challenger Greg Stanfield in a huge opening round.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana posted a track record time of 6.909 at 193.60 on his Lucas Oil Buell to take his sixth top qualifying effort of the season and 15th of his career.
“It's been good for us to run as well as we have this weekend,” Arana said. “We had the problem with the bike earlier in the year that kept it from responding to our tune-ups. But now that we have the bike fixed, we are running well again.”
Championship contenders Andrew Hines and LE Tonglet qualified seventh and ninth, respectively. Hines will meet Craig Treble and Tonglet will open eliminations against Bailey Whitaker.