Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta led a record-setting day of qualifying Friday at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals.
Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car, LEFT), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event just north of San Francisco.
Kalitta, a five-time winner at Sonoma, covered the distance with a track record time of 3.785 seconds at 321.65mph in his Technicoat dragster to lead the 16-car field. If Kalitta's time holds through Saturday's two qualifying sessions (11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.) it will be his first No. 1 qualifying position since 2010 in Brainerd, Minn. and the 31st of his career.
“It feels great,” Kalitta said. “We always love coming here. It's beautiful country. My car has always run well here. That was definitely one of the best sessions we've had in a while. We are looking forward to coming out here tomorrow and try to keep some consistency going and get the car ready for Sunday. Hopefully my spot will hold up for low qualifier.”
Kalitta's teammate David Grubnic was second with a 3.790 at 318.02 in his Optima Batteries dragster and seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher was third with a 3.792 at 321.19 in the U.S. Army dragster. The track record changed hands three times during the session. Series leader Spencer Massey, who has raced to four wins this season, was sixth in the FRAM dragster with a track record speed of 324.90.
In Funny Car, Pedregon powered his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry to a track record time of 4.028 at 307.30 to take the top spot. Pedregon, a two-time winner at Sonoma, has three No. 1 qualifying positions this season and 48 in his career.
“The car has been fast all year,” Pedregon said. “We just haven't been able to put it together on race day. It seems like everything that can go wrong has. One of these days we'll punch it in for a win. It was nice to be able to run toward the back. You could see all the cars setting records. We made a last minute adjustment and that made the difference. It actually blew up and kicked the rods out of it, so it might've been a little better. But hey, great job by the Snap-on Tools team.”
Pedregon says he knew the run was going to be quick as soon as it left the starting line.
“It sure was nice to get there in a hurry,” Pedregon said. “That thing set me back in my seat and it's fun to drive when they do that. It was a good run. It hung on and it was really smooth. It's nice to be No. 1 and get those extra championship points.”
Denver winner Jack Beckman was second in his Valvoline NextGen Dodge Charger with a 4.042 at 311.70 and Ron Capps, who has won the last two Funny Car titles at Sonoma, was third in his NAPA Auto Parts Charger with a 4.046 at 317.57. Series leader Robert Hight was ninth in his Auto Club Ford Mustang.
Johnson was quickest in Pro Stock with a time of 6.527 at 212.06 in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger. Johnson took the top spot from Mike Edwards, who earned the track record time of 6.527, but was bumped to second overall via his slower speed of 212.03 in his K&N/Penhall Pontiac GXP. If Johnson's time holds through Saturday qualifying it will be his category-best eighth No. 1 of the season, fifth in a row and 26th of his career.
“Anytime you can go anywhere and be No. 1 it's great,” said Johnson, the current Pro Stock points leader. “Here lately the Mopar Dodge Avenger has had a good package. I think this will be (five) in a row. We've still got a few runs to dial the Hemi in and that's what we're going to do. The Hemis are struttin' their stuff. We just have to keep it up.”
Greg Anderson, a four-time Sonoma winner, was third his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro with a 6.539 at a track record speed of 212.29.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, series leader and defending world champ Eddie Krawiec took the top spot with a track record performance of 6.801 at 198.35 on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.
Krawiec says with perfect conditions on Saturday fans might be able to witness the first 200 mph run in the two-wheel category. Krawiec holds the fastest time in the class at 199.26 mph.
"Tomorrow morning, for us, is usually a fast session," Krawiec said. "It's just whether the wind's playing with us in our favor or against us. You never know here. Could it happen? Absolutely, if everything was right, if we had these air conditions, with the wind helping us. It would never happen without the wind, so we need Mother Nature to cooperate and turn the flag the other way."
Krawiec's teammate Andrew Hines was second with a 6.848 at 195.28 on his Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson, while Hector Arana Sr. was third and Hector Arana Jr. was fourth on their Lucas Oil Buells.