Matt Hagan led a record-setting day of performances Friday by racing to the qualifying lead at the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. Cory McClenathan, Allen Johnson and Eddie Krawiec also were qualifying leaders in their categories at the fourth of six playoff events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Hagan, who trailed series leader John Force by 25 points entering the race, was quickest in Funny Car with a track-record effort of 4.011sec at 311.56mph in his DieHard Dodge Charger.
Hagan's time could become an NHRA national record if the Virginia driver can post another run at 4.051sec or quicker during the course of the weekend to certify the performance per NHRA rules. Hagan holds the current national record for Funny Car at 4.022sec.
“It's been there all along,” Hagan said. “Even when we set the national record [at Chicago], the graph showed that we had a lot more left, and there's still some more, so it's very exciting. I'm honored to be able to drive this kind of racecar. [Team owner] Don Schumacher really put a hell of a racecar beneath me, and all I have to do is go out there and drive it. I was just trying to get up on the wheel out there and make sure I kept it in the groove. I was just trying to make sure we did everything right out there because I knew Tommy [DeLago, crew chief] was swinging for the fence. It's just awesome to run those kinds of numbers.”
Force was second in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang with a 4.057 at 311.27. Hagan's teammate Jack Beckman, who is third in the point standings, was fourth with a 4.068 at 308.00 in his Valvoline/MTS Charger. Fourth-place Ashley Force Hood was 10th in qualifying with a 4.150 at 293.09, however her Castrol GTX Mustang suffered an engine explosion during her second qualifying attempt that blew the carbon fiber body off her car. She was uninjured in the incident and managed to bring the car to a stop.
In Top Fuel, McClenathan topped the order with a category-best run of 3.832 at 316.01 in his FRAM dragster. Despite the great weather conditions, most of Top Fuel teams couldn't find the right combination for the evening qualifying session.
“The biggest thing for us was to come in with a plan and the plan was to try and set the record,” said McClenathan, who is second in the series standings to Larry Dixon. “Our first run was good but the second one wasn't. I don't think you could make enough power for that track tonight. It just shook too hard so we'll bring it back tomorrow and try again.”
Series leader and event defending winner Dixon qualified third in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster with a 3.854 at 317.05, while third-place points-sitter Tony Schumacher was second in his U.S. Army dragster with a 3.852 at a track-record speed of 318.24.
“My goal is to go at least one more round than Larry,” McClenathan said. “If we do that, it should be a shootout between us, Larry and Tony in Pomona.”
Johnson paced the Pro Stock order with a track-record run of 6.551 at 210.70 in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger.
“On the first run the transmission broke and we didn't get down the track. We were going for all the bonus points we could get,” Johnson said. “I did make a really good run on the second run. My goal was to get 150 points this weekend and we're three down after that first run. I need to do something special now. I can only get 147. We just need to go out and do it.”
Pro Stock series leader Mike Edwards was third with a 6.561 at 210.54 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP. Greg Anderson, winner of the last two races and currently second in points, was 13th in his Summit Racing GXP with a 6.594 at 209.75.
Krawiec led the Pro Stock Motorcycle field with a track-record performance of 6.855 at 195.85 on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.
“I won this race last year, so I'm hoping for a repeat,” Krawiec said. “My game plan is to try and make a hard move in these final three races. My teammate's [Andrew Hines] up there fighting for a championship with LE [Tonglet]. I'm pretty far behind, but weirder things have happened, so I'm just going to go after it and try and stay consistent and try to win rounds.”
Series leader Hines was second with a 6.898 at 193.21 on his Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson and rookie Tonglet was third overall with a 6.907 at 191.62 on his NitroFish Gear Suzuki.
Qualifying continues Saturday at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. for Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations.