McClenathan leads Gateway NHRA qualifiers
Cory McClenathan held off defending Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher to pick up the No. 1 qualifying spot Saturday at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. John Force, Mike Edwards and Hector Arana also took the top spots in their respective categories as qualifying came to an end at Gateway International Raceway.
McClenathan drove his FRAM dragster to a 3.815-second run at 305.63 mph and past provisional No. 1 qualifier Schumacher to earn his third No. 1 qualifier of the season and 36th of his career.
"On our No. 1 run it was on a string," said McClenathan. "We had good conditions and everything went right. I shut it off at 900 feet so I was surprised it ran that quick. As the day went on, conditions changed and it got tricky. We didn't see any really good runs in the left lane and had to abort the last run. The hardest thing is that going into tomorrow we've only had a few good runs."
Defending event winner Antron Brown ended up in the 16th and final spot while points leader entering the event, Larry Dixon took the third spot in the field.
In Funny Car, 14-time world champion John Force stayed in the top spot. Force drove his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang to a 4.103 run at 307.23. This is Force's third No. 1 qualifier of the season and 134th of his career.
"My run last night was really good in the cool air," said Force. "When we put that 4.10 on the board it was good but I think Ashley was more impressive with that 4.12 today. That's the car to beat. I'm struggling in the heat but I have a good hot rod so I can race."
Second-place driver Matt Hagan will start 12th while Force's teammate and daughter, Ashley Force Hood, sits in the second spot in the field.
Continuing his dominance over the Pro Stock field, Edwards followed up his win at Las Vegas with the No. 1 qualifier at Gateway. Edwards drove his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP to a 6.640 at 207.82. This is Edwards's sixth No. 1 qualifier of the season in just seven races and 28th of his career.
"We had some misfortune this morning so we came back and regrouped," said Edwards. "Everybody has been saying that I've been dominating but if you look at the back half numbers, our performance is not much different than the rest of the field. We've just been making good runs and that's why we've been beating them. There are a lot of good cars out here and it's really, really close. That's what our fans come out to see."
Arana rode his Lucas Oil Buell to the top of the field in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a run of 6.905 at 194.46. It's Arana's second No. 1 qualifier of the season and 11th of his career.
"This track is awesome on the starting line and I had a hard time getting the right combination," said Arana. "I knew if I could get it today, that we'd be okay. I dropped the clutch and the rpm came up quickly so I knew it was a good run. Then (the track crew) gave me the No. 1 sign and I knew I was the quickest."
Sunday's eliminations begin at 11 a.m.