Rookie Funny Car driver Chad Head raced to his first career No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals fueled by Full Throttle.
Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also will lead their categories into Sunday's noon eliminations as No. 1 qualifiers at zMAX Dragway during the only NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event that features racing in a four-wide configuration.
The second generation racer powered his Head Racing Toyota Camry to a career-best performance of 4.014 seconds at 315.19mph to top the 16-car field. Head is the son of longtime NHRA nitro racer Jim Head, who has earned multiple wins in both Funny Car and Top Fuel as a driver.
“To go 4.01, it's unbelievable,” Head said. “It's just credit to Dad, Johnny Davis, and the whole crew. We did a really good job in testing, then we really struggled hard in Gainesville and Vegas, so to come here and rebound and do that, that's pretty awesome. It lifts everybody's spirits.”
Head, who has long worked behind the scenes in the sport in a variety of management roles with several different race teams, will meet Alexis DeJoria, Jeff Arend and Robert Hight in the opening round of eliminations as he goes for his first career victory at the controls of an 8,000-horsepower Funny Car.
“I expected success with my father being crew chief,” Head said. “He's very talented, and he does a great job, and that just shows you how great of a job he's doing because I've got a long way to go. I'm just hanging on. I'm just lucky that the car went straight because it has nothing to do with me. It has nothing to do with my ability. It has to do with how those guys set the car up and how they do the stagger and all of that. It's 100 percent on those guys because there's no way in 25 runs that I have the ability to go 4.01. It just shows you how good that team is.”
John Force qualified No. 2 in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang with a run of 4.039 at 316.08 and defending world champ Jack Beckman took third in his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger with a 4.071 at 311.99.
Top Fuel driver Langdon, who won his first career race here last September, claimed his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season and seventh of his career with a performance of 3.751 at 327.90 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster.
“We feel pretty confident at this track,” said Langdon, whose first round opponents include seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher and rookies Brittany Force and Sideni Frigo. “The Al-Anabi car has run really good here in the past. It's the site of my first victory, and we definitely came in this weekend with a lot of confidence and high hopes for the weekend.”
Defending event winner Spencer Massey qualified second with a 3.774 at 326.24 in his Schumacher Electric dragster, while Morgan Lucas was third in his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster with a 3.788 at 324.90.
Top Fuel points leader Schumacher entered the final qualifying session not in the field but was able to cover the distance in 3.823 at 321.19 in his U.S. Army dragster to grab the seventh spot in the order and increase his consecutive race qualifying streak to 228, currently second to Greg Anderson among active drivers.
Edwards raced to his fifth consecutive No. 1 position of the season in Pro Stock, powering his I Am Second Chevy Camaro to a national elapsed time record of 6.471 seconds at 213.64 mph. It is Edward's 46th career No. 1 position and he will open eliminations against Vincent Nobile, V Gaines and Frank Gugliotta.
“Today was an awesome day,” Edwards said. “I never would have believed that we could be No. 1 at the first five races. That's so hard to do. So far, qualifying has been great, but I need to work on race day. Hopefully we can run good tomorrow.”
Jeg Coughlin will start second in Pro Stock with a 6.495 at 213.47 in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger, while Shane Gray qualified third in his Gray Motorsports Chevy Camaro with a 6.498 at 213.03.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Jr. earned his first No. 1 of the season and 11th of his career with a performance of 6.826 at 195.19 on his Lucas Oil Buell.
Arana Jr., who won the season-opening bike race in Gainesville, Fla. a few weeks ago, will try to make it two in a row when he meets a tough set of first round challengers in brother Adam Arana and the Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson duo of Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec.
“We had all the ingredients today for fast racing,” Arana Jr. said. “Thankfully, I was able to get the No. 1 spot. It's pretty cool to be able to do this at the four-wide. The [four-wide format] is different, but in reality, it's the same as two-wide racing. You just have to focus on what you're doing. It's not that hard once you get the [staging] lights down pat. I try not to worry about anything else; I just focus on my bike and on my set of lights.”
Scotty Pollacheck was second with a 6.834 at 193.88 on his Sovereign-Star Racing Buell and the 2010 winner of this event, local favorite Matt Smith from nearby King, N.C., was third with a 6.837 at 194.63, on his Viper Motorcycle Company Buell.