Rookie Spencer Massey races to first No. 1 Qualifier in NHRA Top Fuel
Rookie driver Spencer Massey was the only driver to supplant one of the overnight qualifying leaders at the 29th annual Summit Racing NHRA Southern Nationals when he raced to the top spot in Top Fuel on Saturday.
The other provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the sixth of 24 races in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series were Ashley Force Hood (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Massey, who drives for NHRA legend Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, earned his first career No. 1 qualifier when he laid down a 3.820-second pass at 311.20 mph on Saturday to move the U.S. Smokeless dragster around Morgan Lucas and the GEICO Powersports/Lucas Oil team.
"I'm still living the dream. I'm still trying to wake up from it, especially being No. 1 qualifier here in Atlanta, it's awesome," said Massey. "I knew (Snake) was happy. I saw the crew guys' faces and I knew it was a good run. They were shooting for mid-80s, they wanted to get it first, second, third or fourth and it surprised me with the 82. We were all happy."
In Funny Car, Force Hood will start from the pole -- her 4.073 at 310.05 from Friday held up Saturday -- as she seeks to repeat her historic win from a year ago when she defeated her father, John Force, to become the first female in NHRA history to win a Funny Car race.
But it won't be easy. Her reward for placing the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang on the pole is a first-round matchup with 22-time winner Del Worsham and the Al-Anabi Toyota Solara team, who just got in the field with a 4.210 at 298.34.
"Not that I know who I want to have, but I know I don't want to have Del. That's a great team and he's a great driver, but you know what, that's race day," Force Hood said. "Funny Car is super competitive. There's not going to be an easy round all day."
Interestingly, she has defeated Worsham en route to each of her two career wins and she also met Worsham in the first round at Atlanta last year.
The draw was no better for Pro Stock's No. 1 as Anderson's reward for winning the pole was a first-round matchup with 39-time NHRA Full Throttle Series winner Kurt Johnson, who just got his ACDelco Chevy Cobalt in the field with a 6.638 at 208.81.
"There has never been much room for error (in Pro Stock) and there's none now," Anderson said. "It's going to be a battle-royale. If you win one of these races, you definitely feel good because you've conquered the mountain."
Anderson's Summit Racing Pontiac GXP was the best car throughout qualifying as he set the track record Friday with 6.568 and then he improved the track e.t. record on Saturday with a 6.557 (Warren Johnson set the track speed record, 211.26 mph).
"I said we weren't going to see conditions like (Friday) again ... and boy was I an idiot. What we did yesterday was great, but that wasn't going to get us anything. We were going to have to go out (Saturday) and run faster if we wanted to (stay) No. 1 and fortunately we got all the round pegs in the round holes," Anderson said.
Hines' official No. 1 qualifying run aboard his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson on Friday included the track record e.t. of 6.877 with a 195.03 mph speed. On the second run Saturday, with a strong tailwind, he proceeded to set the track record for speed by topping out at 195.25 mph.
"It's fun to come out here and go fast," said Hines, who will open with No. 16 Mike Berry on Sunday in what is forecast to be more overcast and more humid conditions. "My brother (Matt) is a really good tuner so whatever conditions we face (Sunday), I feel really confident going into (Sunday).
The race begins at 11 a.m. ET Sunday.