The ageless John Force earned the provisional pole in Funny Car with a 4.021sec pass at 316.08mph on the first day of qualifying at the 23rd annual O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals Friday.
The other provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the fifth of 23 races in the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season were Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Force, now 60 years old, has already won twice this season in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang and if the No. 1 holds up it would be the 133rd of his career, leaving him just five shy of Warren Johnson (138) on the all-time No. 1 qualifier list. It's really the one major NHRA milestone that the 14-time NHRA champion and current points leader does not possess.
Force co-crew chief “Mike Neff said ‘Hang on. I'll give you eight cylinders and a smooth clutch transition and you keep it in the groove' – which I know how to do – ‘and it'll go down there'…and it went,” Force said of the run that was the second quickest at 1000ft.
The stunning pass continues a season-long resurgence for Force, who has led the points from Day 1 in 2010 after a three-year stretch from 2007-2009 in which he never led the points.
“My dad always told me, ‘If there's no oranges on the ground, shake the tree and you'll have lots of oranges' and I just kept shaking the tree…I shook our tree and out of it comes, so far so good,” Force said.
There were also a couple of spectacular explosions in the final Funny Car session, first Robert Hight's Auto Club Ford popped near the finish line and then Tony Pedregon's NitroFish Chevy blew up sending his body up some 25ft in the air. Neither driver was injured.
Brown, who won his first career race in Top Fuel at Houston Raceway Park, secured the provisional No. 1 with his 3.803sec pass at 317.64mph in his Matco Tools dragster.
“After (crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald) saw the Force run, that 4.02, that was pretty sporty, they decided to push it,” said Brown, who was just two pairs behind Force after a 7.339 Q1 pass. “We were just really stoked (with the run).”
In Pro Stock, defending NHRA Full Throttle Series champion Edwards earned the provisional No. 1 with a 6.539sec pass at 211.93mph in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP. This would be Edwards' 14th No. 1 in the last 15 races dating back to last season.
“The track was just really good, we feel like we might have left a little out there,” Edwards said.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hector Arana continued his impressive run dating back to 2009 with a 6.856 at 193.49 aboard his Lucas Oil Buell. The time was the fourth-quickest Pro Stock Motorcycle pass in NHRA history.
“It's been 14-to-15 years since we've had these conditions here in Houston,” Arana said. “The conditions here are awesome.”
Qualifying at the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals concludes with the third and fourth sessions on Saturday when the fields will be set for Sunday's final eliminations.