John Force raced to an Infineon Raceway track record performance to lead Funny Car qualifying Friday at the FRAM / Autolite NHRA Nationals. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel, LEFT), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Force followed his victory in Denver last weekend with a 4.060 second run at 311.99mph in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang to take the provisional No. 1 qualifying position at the scenic Northern California dragstrip. If the time holds through Saturday's two qualifying sessions (11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.) Force will become the NHRA's all-time No. 1 qualifying leader with 139 in his career.
“It's a credit to (co-crew chiefs) Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas, they've given me a good car all year, but it's like I said after I won at Denver, my focus has been on too many things,” Force said. “I'm excited and my guys are great, but (Tim) Wilkerson helped when he couldn't run because the sun was in his eyes. We all waited for the sun to drop and we got it. Credit goes to the guys and this race track. The weather has been so beautiful here today.”
It was a tense moment after the run, as Force's parachutes got tangled as he tried to slow his car, but the 15-time world champ managed to bring his machine to a stop just before the sandtraps at the end of the track.
"She was trucking on down through there,” Force said. “I stopped a foot short of the sand. I wasn't flying when I got there, but I got on the brakes and slowed her down when I got there. The whole chute packs fell off the back on one side for some reason.”
Force credited a lucky coin he received from NASCAR team owner Jack Roush in helping him get the car stopped. He's hoping the coin will help him win his second race in a row and continue an upward climb in the point standings as the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs approach.
“I've got my lucky coin,” Force said with a smile. “Roush gave it to me. I am going to carry it all weekend and see what happens. After I've been getting beat up all year I deserve a little luck.”
Robert Hight was second with a 4.084 at 311.49 in the Auto Club Ford Mustang and defending winner Ron Capps was third in his NAPA Dodge Charger with a 4.107 at 305.77.
Schumacher was quickest in Top Fuel with a 3.814 at a track record speed of 321.65 in his U.S. Army dragster.
“This isn't a track where you show up at and try to be average,” Schumacher said. “The conditions were perfect. It will be hotter tomorrow. It was the run. You have to be in the top half of the field. We've been trying some things in testing after Chicago and it's starting to pay off. I am as excited as I've been in a long time. (Crew Chief) Mike (Green) feels comfortable and that always puts the driver at ease.”
Schumacher's teammates were second and third overall, as Spencer Massey posted a 3.834 at 312.50 in his FRAM/Prestone dragster and Antron Brown clocked a 3.841 at 315.19 in his Matco Tools dragster.
Johnson powered his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger to the top of the order in Pro Stock with a performance of 6.547 at 210.50.
"We made a really good run,” Johnson said. “The air was getting better really fast and this Hemi likes to breathe that good air. The track is awesome and that Mopar Dodge Avenger is really hauling the mail. That is about what we should have run, so everybody else is having a little bit of problems but I bet they will catch up tomorrow.”
Johnson held off a hard-charging Erica Enders for the top spot. Enders was second in her ZaZa Energy Chevy Cobalt with a 6.555 at 209.82 and Larry Morgan drove his Lucas Oil Ford Mustang to the third spot in 6.576 seconds at 209.36.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Jr. covered the distance in 6.887 at 193.02 on his Lucas Oil Buell.
“All we did was make one clutch adjustment and the track came to us and I just rode a really good pass,” Arana Jr. said. “It was amazing. I knew it was good as soon as I dropped the clutch because it smacked me in the butt. I tucked really hard and I ran a 6.88. This new motor is amazing. Hopefully we can keep the No. 1 spot and it will have one hell of a record going and now I just need to do my job and get a win.”
Angie Smith was second with a 6.949 at 190.22 on a Buell and defending winner Michael Phillips, who was runner-up last weekend at Denver, was third on his Racers Edge Buell with a 6.950 at 193.88.