John Force moved to within one of NHRA Pro Stock great Warren Johnson's all-time No. 1 qualifying record by racing to his third consecutive top qualifying performance of the season Saturday at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Royal Purple Raceway near Houston. The other three top qualifiers from Friday also held on to their positions as Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Ronnie Humphrey (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will lead their categories into Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Force earned the 137th No. 1 qualifying position of his Funny Car career with his Friday pass of 4.097 seconds at 310.27mph in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang as slightly warmer weather conditions prevented the majority of racers in all categories from improving their performances during Saturday's two sessions. Force will face rookie Brian Thiel in the first round of eliminations as the 15-time world champ is seeking his 133rd career victory and eighth at this track. A win by Force or either of his teammates would give the John Force Racing team its 200th NHRA victory.
“My team has given me a good car and it's going down the race track,” Force said. “The track got a little tricky out there. I still drive my car with a brake handle and with my foot. When the crew chief tells me ‘I don't know if it will go,' that's when I get excited because I know it's in my hands and I can make some magic and get it through there. You look at some of these cars out here who got in the show. A big high-horsepower car ain't what you need unless we get a cold front roll in here. You could call this a match racer's race. The big dogs may step up if the cold front comes through and everybody tries to run (low numbers). Otherwise it could be anybody's race day.”
In Top Fuel, U.S. Army dragster driver Schumacher posted his second No. 1 of the season and 63rd of his career based on his Friday run of 3.817 seconds at a track record speed of 323.81 mph. Schumacher will meet Troy Buff in the opening round.
With similar weather conditions expected for Sunday, two-time Houston winner Schumacher is looking forward to the challenge.
“We all have the same race track so if one (crew chief) figures it out before the others that team will have a good chance of winning the race,” Schumacher said. “Tomorrow is going to be about awesome battles. You are going to see a lot of people have to pedal the cars. When two guys blow (their tires) off at the tree it's pretty cool. It's game on. At the end of the day I have an incredible amount of faith in my team. We are trying to get a trophy. Those pewter trophies are looking good on everyone else's shelf but I have a shelf too and I need to fill it. We're just going to go out there and motor it down there and get some data in the first couple of rounds and go fast later.”
In Pro Stock, journeyman racer Ronnie Humphrey earned his first career No. 1 qualifying position with his performance of 6.571 at 211.16 from yesterday. Humphrey, who drives the Summit/Genuine Hotrod Hardware Pontiac GXP, will face first round opponent Steve Kent, a rookie in the 200 mph category who is making his first career start.
“This is a dream that's come true for our team and it is a team effort,” Humphrey said. “We were No. 2 in the final session today and now we need to get into race day and make it happen. I came to this race with a different plan. I quit thinking. I want to thank Jason Line because he told me to stop thinking about it so much and just go up there and have fun. Now we just have to get relaxed and go up there on race day and make some good runs.”
Tonglet claimed the second No. 1 qualifying position of his career in Pro Stock Motorcycle, as his Friday effort of 6.849 at 195.45 on his Nitro Fish Suzuki remained at the top of the 16-bike order. Tonglet will race veteran rider Steve Johnson in the first round.
“Qualifying ended on a high note when we stayed number one,” Tonglet said. “It felt good to have a performance like that at our home track. Conditions were a lot different than Friday. I'm glad we were able to capitalize on that, because it was really hot and humid Saturday. We had a bunch of people hanging around our pit area, and we're expecting more on Sunday. We're hoping to have a long day.”
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BAYTOWN, Texas -- Sunday's first-round eliminations pairings for the 24th annual O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Royal Purple Raceway, the fifth of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.
Top Fuel -- 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.817 seconds, 323.81 mph vs. 16. Troy Buff, 4.097, 87.10; 2. Spencer Massey, 3.838, 319.45 vs. 15. Steve Torrence, 4.017, 291.89; 3. Brandon Bernstein, 3.859, 317.42 vs. 14. David Grubnic, 3.940, 310.48; 4. Larry Dixon, 3.863, 316.60 vs. 13. Clay Millican, 3.925, 312.35; 5. Antron Brown, 3.873, 315.78 vs. 12. Doug Foley, 3.919, 292.39; 6. Del Worsham, 3.874, 316.97 vs. 11. Bob Vandergriff, 3.909, 313.58; 7. T.J. Zizzo, 3.885, 314.90 vs. 0. Doug Kalitta, 3.899, 317.49; 8. Terry McMillen, 3.889, 314.02 vs. 9. Morgan Lucas, 3.897, 317.34. Did Not Qualify: 17. Scott Palmer, 4.320, 199.85; 18. Shawn Langdon, 5.384, 141.71.
Funny Car -- 1. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.097, 310.27 vs. 16. Brian Thiel, Dodge Charger, 4.273, 293.86; 2. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.108, 305.49 vs. 15. Jon Capps, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 4.262, 286.56; 3. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Solara, 4.114, 309.20 vs. 14. Bob Bode, Chevy Impala SS, 4.235, 297.22; 4. Mike Neff, Mustang, 4.131, 307.93 vs. 13. Tony Pedregon, Impala SS, 4.221, 289.69; 5. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.139, 295.98 vs. 12. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.216, 305.08; 6. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.144, 301.13 vs. 11. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.209, 299.53; 7. Paul Lee, Impala SS, 4.165, 301.13 vs. 10. Jeff Arend, Solara, 4.203, 297.68; 8. Jim Head, Solara, 4.179, 302.69 vs. 9. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.183, 299.86. Did Not Qualify: 17. Melanie Troxel, 4.289, 287.66; 18. Johnny Gray, 4.356, 277.49; 19. Todd Simpson, 5.617, 273.83; 20. Terry Haddock, 5.664, 290.19.
Pro Stock -- 1. Ronnie Humphrey, Pontiac GXP, 6.571, 211.16 vs. 16. Steve Kent, GXP, 6.722, 209.20; 2. Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 6.571, 210.93 vs. 15. Warren Johnson, Chevy Cobalt, 6.694, 209.88; 3. Mike Edwards, GXP, 6.577, 210.67 vs. 14. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.688, 208.20; 4. Jason Line, GXP, 6.579, 210.47 vs. 13. Shane Gray, GXP, 6.673, 208.78; 5. Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.584, 211.10 vs. 12. Kurt Johnson, GXP, 6.619, 209.46; 6. Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.585, 209.95 vs. 11. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.617, 210.21; 7. Allen Johnson, Avenger, 6.591, 211.06 vs. 10. Erica Enders, Cobalt, 6.599, 209.88; 8. Ron Krisher, GXP, 6.592, 210.54 vs. 9. Greg Stanfield, GXP, 6.597, 209.82. Did Not Qualify: 17. Mark Buehring, 6.878, 202.45; 18. Dave River, 7.000, 199.94.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.849, 195.45 vs. 16. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.041, 194.04; 2. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.868, 195.39 vs. 15. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.028, 190.00; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.901, 195.99 vs. 14. Chip Ellis, Buell, 7.015, 190.78; 4. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.903, 193.82 vs. 13. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.991, 191.46; 5. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 6.904, 197.39 vs. 12. David Hope, Buell, 6.970, 190.81; 6. Gerald Savoie, Suzuki, 6.914, 191.35 vs. 11. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.947, 190.75; 7. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.919, 191.13 vs. 10. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.939, 190.70; 8. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.921, 196.33 vs. 9. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.939, 193.27. Did Not Qualify: 17. Junior Pippin, 7.061, 190.27; 18. Mike Berry, 7.077, 188.54; 19. Dawn Minturn, 7.092, 188.31; 20. Redell Harris, 7.105, 190.16; 21. Joe DeSantis, 7.144, 188.60; 22. Justin Finley, 7.148, 191.57; 23. GT Tonglet, 7.169, 191.10; 24. James Surber, 7.289, 188.94; 25. Bailey Whitaker, 8.049, 185.05; 26. Katie Sullivan, broke.