Cruz Pedregon raced to the qualifying lead in Funny Car Friday at the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals. Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel, LEFT), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders in their categories at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville.
Two-time world champ Pedregon, whose only win at this event came in 1998, powered his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry to the provisional No. 1 position with a performance of 4.047 seconds at 296.05 mph. If the effort holds through Saturday's final two qualifying sessions (11:30 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.) it will be his fourth No. 1 at this event and the 51st of his career.
“We just have a good car,” Pedregon said. “It's very forgiving and maybe making us look better than we are. It has been running good since mid-year last year and carried through over the winter and we have made some improvements. If anything it has picked up more consistency. This is definitely a good track here and one we like. It's a good start for the Snap-on Tools Toyota."
Johnny Gray was second in Funny Car with a 4.071 at 313.22 in his Pitch Energy Dodge Charger, while Del Worsham drove his DHL Toyota to the third position with a 4.110 at 309.98.
Kalitta led Top Fuel qualifying with a 3.801 at 325.85 in his Mac Tools dragster, holding off Shawn Langdon and defending world champion Antron Brown for the top spot.
“I am real proud of my guys, the car left real straight and ran great down through there,” Kalitta said. “My whole Mac Tools team has the car running good so I am happy to have a good ride here at the Gatornationals which is always a great event. It's always a race you look at in the series and hope you can do well. I am real proud of what is going on and real hopeful that we can hold up tomorrow.”
Winternationals winner Langdon was second in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster with a 3.802 at 324.59, while Brown's Matco Tools dragster was third overall with a 3.812 at 321.88.
Edwards moved to the top of the Pro Stock order with a national record time of 6.473 at a track record speed 214.31 in his Interstate Batteries / I Am Second Chevy Camaro. If Edwards can hold onto the national record time until the completion of this event he will earn 20 bonus points.
"It's fun to set the record, but tomorrow's another day,” Edwards said. “We'll see if we can adapt to the conditions. The air is so good here and we make so much power that you just have to be careful off the starting line because these engines are aspirated and they breathe what the air is and they love this kind of weather and make a lot of power. It's a great way to start. We run really good in the first two races and now to come here in totally different conditions and keep it going, I'm just really proud of my guys.”
Defending Pro Stock world champ Allen Johnson was second in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger with a 6.481 at 213.64 and four-time Gatornationals winner Jason Line was third in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro with a performance of 6.483 at 213.40.
Smith was quickest in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a 6.804 at 197.28 on his Viper Motorcycle Company Buell.
“It feels good,” said Smith, the 2007 Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ. “We worked hard all winter long and made a big gain at the end of last year in the last two races and we thought we were in the right direction and proved it in testing. I think we are going to be a strong team all year long. It's going to be a fun year and I think the class is very, very equal. It will be like Pro Stock car, where you will live and die by the starting line.”
A pair of Lucas Oil Buells were second and third in the bike qualifying order as Hector Arana Sr. clocked a 6.817 at 195.22 and Hector Arana Jr. was third with a 6.831 at 194.55. Defending world champ Eddie Krawiec, who has won this event the last three seasons, sits 16th on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson with a 6.986 at 185.72. His time will not carry over to Saturday's two sessions.