Doug Kalitta ended a three-and-a-half year drought on Saturday at the 23rd annual NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways with his first No. 1 qualifier since the 2006 Auto Club NHRA Finals.
The other No. 1 qualifiers at the 14th of 23 races in the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season were Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock).
On a cooler day Saturday, many expected change at the top of the qualifying ladder but only Edwards emerged from the pack – Kalitta (3.844, 313.58) and Hight (4.194, 291.57) set the pace in each of their respective classes in the Friday night session.
“Obviously we held on today. Larry Dixon got close (a 3.896 in the third qualifying session). I'm real proud of my guys. It's nice to get some performance out of (the Kalitta Air dragster) and our first low qualifier in awhile,” Kalitta said.
The No. 1 was Kalitta's first pole since November, 2006, and it was the 29th of his career.
“(Team owner) Connie (Kalitta), obviously he's happy, and the whole team is happy. It's been awhile. Hopefully this will be the beginning of something good for us,” he said.
He will have a bye in the first round tomorrow and when reminded of the incident in Denver where Brandon Bernstein banged the blower on the burnout during a bye run and couldn't stage, thus forfeiting the gimme 20 points, he said, “We won't do that …”
Kalitta also secured a berth in the Countdown to 1 NHRA Playoffs along with fellow Top Fuel driver Antron Brown.
In Funny Car, Hight's No. 1 in his Auto Club Ford Mustang was his sixth this season and the 38th of his young career, leaving him just six shy of Top 10 status on the all-time No. 1 qualifiers list after less than six full years of racing.
“The top 10 cars are so bunched up, anyone can win this deal,” Hight said. “It's a big deal being No. 1 for points, but it really means nothing. No matter (where you qualify) in Funny Car, you've got a tough race.”
Hight opens with Jeff Diehl in Round 1 Sunday and he was quick to remember a 4.22 Diehl ran in hot conditions in Norwalk two weeks ago. “He does that again tomorrow and we take him lightly and he's going to put us on the trailer,” Hight said.
Also in Funny Car, points leader John Force clinched his berth in the Countdown to 1.
In Pro Stock, defending Full Throttle Series champion Mike Edwards (6.598, 209.75) bounced back from his first-round loss at the Summit NHRA Nationals June 27 to earn his NHRA-best 10th No. 1 qualifier of 2010.
“(On Friday), we stepped outside the box and tried a few things, and didn't like what we seen (so) we went back (Saturday) morning and kind of ran the thing the way we ran it here last year,” said the driver of the Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP. “I really thought it was going to work out (Friday) … and it didn't”