Johnny Gray held on to the No. 1 spot in Funny Car Saturday as qualifying came to an end at the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway. Shawn Langdon (LEFT) and Mike Edwards also were qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the second of 23 races in the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing season.
Gray powered his Service Central Dodge Charger to a 4.074sec pass, the quickest lap of the weekend, at 298.93mph Friday night and kept the top spot through Saturday qualifying to secure his second career No. 1 qualifying position.
“Rob (Wendland, crew chief) backed the thing down and got it ready for tomorrow,” said Gray. “He said we ought to run about a 4.12, and that's what we ran, so we're real confident going into tomorrow that we've got the Service Central/Big O car ready to compete. The car really ran good at the end of last year, and we runner-upped here last year. We just missed it by a hair in the final, so hopefully we can end up back there and learn from the mistake we made here last year and go ahead and win this thing.”
Gray will face Funny Car driver Grant Downing in the first round of eliminations on Sunday. Recent race winner John Force qualified fifth in the field, while defending event winner Jack Beckman qualified sixth. Rookie driver Courtney Force raced to the 12th qualifying spot in the category, while Kalitta Motorsports driver Alexis DeJoria's pass of 4.296 was not strong enough to secure her a spot in Sunday's eliminations.
After setting the track record Friday night, Langdon kept his Al-Anabi Racing dragster in the top spot in Top Fuel through Saturday qualifying. Langdon's Friday night pass of 3.754 at 323.12 stayed strong enough to secure him his second career No. 1 qualifying position.
“It feels great to qualify No. 1 in just the second race of the year,” said Langdon. “I'm still trying to process all this stuff and catch up with these (Al-Anabi team) guys. They are so good. Giving me such a good racecar helps my confidence as a driver. Race day will be different than qualifying. There's a lot more pressure. But it's nothing that this team can't handle. As a driver I will try to do the best job I can. I hope to move forward and get my first win.”
Langdon will pair up against Top Fuel pilot Troy Buff in the first round of eliminations Sunday. Three-time Firebird International Raceway winner Tony Schumacher secured the second spot in the field while Schumacher's teammate Antron Brown locked in the fifth spot in the category.
In Pro Stock, Edwards took the top spot away from Friday qualifying leader Jason Line when he powered his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP to a 6.536 at 210.80. The pass not only set the track record for time, but also secured Edwards his 40th career No. 1 qualifier, fourth consecutive at Firebird International Raceway and fifth overall at the track.
“There's something about the desert,” said Edwards. “Our car seems to run really good here. I can't put my finger on why this happens, but we even ran good in the heat here last year. Anytime that you can qualify No. 1, it's really good for us. But we'll have to work hard to stay up there, because Jason (Line) and Greg (Anderson) really came on strong in the final qualifying session.”
Edwards will face NHRA legend Warren Johnson in the first round of eliminations on Sunday. Line qualified second for the event and recent race winner Anderson qualified fifth. Eliminations for the NHRA Arizona Nationals begin Sunday at 11 a.m.