Larry Dixon raced to the Top Fuel qualifying lead Friday at the NHRA Las Vegas Nationals.
Matt Hagan, Mike Edwards and Hector Arana also led their categories at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event, the fifth of six races in the Countdown to 1, NHRA's championship playoffs.
Dixon, currently second in the championship standings, powered his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to a performance of 3.805 seconds at a track record speed of 318.24 mph at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. If his time holds through Saturday's two qualifying sessions (11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.) it will be his ninth No. 1 of the season and 40th of his career.
"That's a great run for the Al-Anabi team," Dixon said. "His Highness Sheik Kalid is in the house this week. There's a lot on the line the next two weeks, so we're out there trying to do our best.
"Without the qualifying bonus points, being more than two rounds of racing out against a car like [Tony] Schumacher's, you couldn't make up the points in two races. I know there was one race where we made up 12 points, there was one where we made up seven points, and they obviously start adding up. It would be tough to make up ground if we didn't have that. Alan [Johnson, team owner] and Jason [McCulloch, crew chief] and everybody on the Al-Anabi team is really trying to do everything we can. We're trying to not leave anything on the table because it's not going to do any good to talk in the wintertime about what-ifs."
Series leader Tony Schumacher, who holds a 45 point lead over Dixon, was third overall with a 3.893 at 313.07 in his U.S. Army dragster.
Rookie driver Hagan paced the Funny Car order with his track record performance of 4.030 seconds at 313.88 mph in his Shelor.com Dodge Charger.
"This track has always been good to me," Hagan said. "Hopefully, we can take a Wally home this weekend. We've got a great race car. Tommy [DeLago, crew chief] is doing his job tuning the car. Hopefully, I can do my job driving the car, and when we put two and two together, it ought to add up. I know we've got a fast hot rod, and we've got a lot of good data from when we were here at the beginning of the year, so hopefully we can go out there and run some good numbers."
Hagan said he knew the car was on a great run.
"I didn't have to drive it around a whole lot," Hagan said. "It just went out there and did what it was supposed to do; it went right down the track. I drove it a little bit far, but when it feels that good, it's hard to pull your foot out of it. Tommy DeLago, I can't say enough about that guy. I got the easy job. I just hang on to this thing. Sometimes it can be more difficult than you think, but other times, it just runs right down through there, and that's what it did tonight."
Series leader Robert Hight was third with a 4.065 at 308.71 in his Auto Club Ford Mustang, while Ashley Force Hood was 13th in her Castrol GTX Mustang, clocking a 4.163 at 303.23
In Pro Stock, Edwards moved into position to earn his 15th No. 1 qualifying effort of the season and trimmed his magic number for clinching his first world championship title to 19 points, or less than one round over three-time champ Greg Anderson. Edwards posted a track record performance of 6.623 at 207.75 in his A.R.T./Young Life Pontiac GXP to lead the category.
"Our lead isn't very big -- this is Pro Stock," Edwards said with a grin. "There's no quit in these guys out here. It's not over. I promise you Greg Anderson and Jason Line and Jeggie -- they're still after this, so we've just got to keep focused and try to do our best. We'll come out here tomorrow and race the track and race the conditions and hopefully we can stay in front."
Edwards could possibly clinch his first Pro Stock crown on Sunday if he holds a 151-point lead over the second place driver at the conclusion of this event.
"It's been quite a season, and to come here and run like this tonight, hat's off to my guys," Edwards said. "They're doing a really great job here. Ever since Richmond, my guys at the shop have been fired up and they've been nonstop and they found some more for us. It's just unbelievable what those guys are doing right now. This car is extremely fast, and I'm just so proud of my whole team. It's a great feeling to work with a bunch of great guys. Like I've (said before), I'm living my dream, and it's close to coming true."
Series leader Arana was first in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a performance of 6.979 at 192.03 on his Lucas Oil Buell.
"(That run) released a lot of pressure off my shoulders," said Arana, who added four more points to his series lead. "For 20 years, I've been working at this and wanting this. I've wanted to do well and have the fans love me and to know who Hector Arana is, and I am accomplishing those things. It's an awesome feeling. I'm not going to worry about [the championship] too much because I don't want to lose my concentration. I just want to keep my focus."
Second place rider and defending world champ Eddie Krawiec was fourth after two rounds, posting a 7.029 at 190.97 on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.