Cory McClenathan raced to his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season Saturday at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. Ashley Force Hood and Mike Edwards also will lead their categories into Sunday's eliminations, which begin at noon. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will provide three hours and 30 minutes of coverage of the race starting at 7 p.m. (ET).
McClenathan held on to the top spot in Top Fuel with his 3.874 second run at 312.21 mph from Friday in his FRAM dragster. It is the 33rd No. 1 effort of his career and first at this track. He will face Michael Gunderson in the first round of eliminations.
"I'll definitely take that No. 1, but at the same time, tomorrow is the most important; we need to go rounds," McClenathan said. "That's the one thing this FRAM Top Fuel dragster has been able to do this year is go rounds. We've been in two finals. We've not won a race yet with this car, but it has been consistent. I think the FRAM Tough Guard guys have done a great job with that.
"Consistency is everything to me. Our car has been very consistent. That's what Todd [Okuhara] and Phil [Shuler, crew chiefs] and the guys have really done for me this year. They've given me a car that no matter what racetrack we go to, we may not be the quickest car all the time but we're always right in the hunt with everybody and it does go A to B. I'm in a really good comfort zone because I know this car is going to run good all the time."
In other Top Fuel news of the day, rookie Spencer Massey failed to qualify in his Don "the Snake" Prudhomme-owned U.S. Smokeless dragster.
In Funny Car, Force Hood claimed her second No. 1 position of the season, also with her Friday run of 4.105 at 298.67 in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. It is her second top qualifying run of the season and fifth of her career. She will face Andy Kelley in the opening round.
It will be a bittersweet celebration for Force Hood as her teammate Robert Hight suffered a rare DNQ in his Auto Club Mustang.
"I know it's frustrating for those guys and we feel for them because we've all been in that situation," Force Hood said. "Funny Car is such a competitive category, and it's great that it's like that, but when you're on the outside looking in, it's tough. But they're doing exactly what they need to do. They're bummed, but they're looking forward. They're working with our other teams and they're staying positive, and that's the only way to come out of it. My dad's been through it, and he's won more championships than anybody, so if anyone can give them advice, it's him."
None of the Pro Stock teams were able to improve over Edwards' 6.698 at 205.72 performance from Friday. It is Edwards' fourth No. 1 of the season and 10th of his career in his ART Pontiac GXP. Edwards will race David Beckley in the first round.
"Tomorrow is a different day, but we have made some really good runs here," Edwards said. "My guys, I can't say enough about them. They've done an awesome job here this weekend. They've worked really well together and made all the right adjustments. It's a pretty tricky track, and they've really done a good job and I'm really proud of them. I think I have as good of a chance as anybody [tomorrow]. I've struggled a little bit on Sunday with my driving, but hopefully, I can turn that around and make this a great weekend for us."