John Force raced to the No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car Saturday at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Larry Dixon (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also will lead their categories into Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Force, the defending and 15-time world champion, posted a 4.136, 309.27 in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang to power past longtime rival Cruz Pedregon and take his first No. 1 of the season and 135th of his career. He is now just three short of Pro Stock racer Warren Johnson's all-time NHRA record of 138 No. 1s.
“We got away with it,” Force said. “It makes me feel good for those two kids [Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas] who are tuning the car, and they remind me of [former crew chief] Austin Coil. The key is that [by being the No. 1 qualifier] we will get to watch what everybody can do [tomorrow]. We're going to watch the ones ahead of us and then look at [first-round opponent Bob Bode's] number and try to put an edge on him. With Coil, the Chi-Town Hustler was famous for consistency, and that's how we won all the championships. Dean Antonelli, he listens, and he has learned so much from Coil, and it's showing right here.”
Pedregon is second with a 4.145, 306.19 in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry, and Robert Hight anchors the third spot in his Auto Club Ford Mustang with a 4.146, 309.56. Series leader Mike Neff sits fourth in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang with a 4.153, 306.46.
Dixon, a five-time winner at LVMS, earned his 50th top-qualifying effort in Top Fuel; his Friday run of 3.904, 312.78 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster held steady at the top. It is Dixon's second No. 1 of the season and fourth at this track.
“They weren't great runs today, but we'll still get data,” Dixon said. “I am really surprised that a 3.90 stuck. I really thought some of the cars, especially [teammate] Del's [Worsham], would actually knock that off. I think we were really fortunate. If you get a 10-degree-cooler track [tomorrow], you'll see some quicker e.t.s. For me, my job is the same whether [the track temperature] is 60 or 160 [degrees]. We'll go out there and try hard and know that the Al-Anabi team will give me a great racehorse.”
Brandon Bernstein posted the quickest Saturday pass in Top Fuel with a 3.926, 305.01 and will start second in his Copart dragster. Gainesville winner and series points leader Worsham qualified third in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster with a 3.938, 305.42.
In Pro Stock, 2009 world champ Edwards claimed his 35th No. 1 qualifying effort and first of the season with a performance of 6.695, 206.51 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP as he works to turn around his season after a slow start.
“I thought we ran better yesterday than we did today,” Edwards said. “Overall, we're really pleased with the way we are running. We made four solid runs down the track, and hats off to all my guys. Everybody is going to run better tomorrow because the track will be a lot quicker. Hopefully we can adjust and make the right decisions.”
Edwards, who suffered a rare DNQ at the season opener in Pomona and lost in the second round in Gainesville, said that this effort couldn't come at a better time.
“It was important for us to come in here and run good,” Edwards said. “We struggled the first couple of races, and to come in here and run good makes you feel better. Hopefully we can take this and get our season going right at the third race of the season instead of the first race of the season.”
Jason Line, winner of the first two races of the season, improved to second overall with a 6.707, 205.47 in his Summit Racing GXP. Team Mopar Dodge Avenger driver Allen Johnson, who is outside the top 10 in points, is third with a 6.711, 206.07.
Roger Burgess claimed his first No. 1 qualifying effort of the season and opened eliminations with a victory Saturday in the Get Screened America Pro Mod Series portion of the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals.
Burgess bettered his top qualifying performance of 5.956 seconds at 249.81 mph in his turbocharged Pro Care Rx 1953 Corvette in the first round of eliminations as he powered past Michael Gullqvist to take the win. Burgess posted the quickest run of the weekend with a 5.926 at 251.91 while Gullqvist's '68 Camaro made a hard move to the right at the hit of the throttle and trailed with a 9.268 at 103.23.
“It's game on now,” Burgess said after posting the impressive run. “We've got a competitive race car. The car is racing the way we want it to."
No. 2 qualifier Jay Payne was upset by Donald Martin while Gainesville winner and No. 3 qualifier Khalid Balooshi advanced to the second round with a win over Dennis Radford.
The other first round winners included Kenny Lang, Danny Rowe, Melanie Troxel, Troy Coughlin and Rickie Smith.
Second round pairings include Burgess vs. Lang; Smith vs. Coughlin; Martin vs. Rowe; and Balooshi vs. Troxel.