Del Worsham raced to the qualifying lead in Top Fuel Friday at the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex. Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders in their divisions at the second of six races in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, NHRA's playoffs.
Worsham, who led the point standings for the majority of the regular season and has earned two Funny Car victories at the famed all-concrete Texas drag strip, powered his Al Anabi Racing dragster to a 3.869sec run at 318.54mph to lead the 16-car field. Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. for Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations.
“To lead a session comes with bonus points, and depending on the weather tomorrow, that could possibly stand for the No. 1 spot, which comes with extra points also," Worsham said. "We had a pretty disappointing first round in Charlotte, so it's nice to rebound like that. Everybody on the team just did a great job."
Worsham, who entered this event third in the standings after coming into the playoffs as the top seed, needs a big weekend to gain some ground on new series points leader Antron Brown, who won the playoff-opener at Charlotte last weekend and has won four of the last five races. Brown struggled in the first two qualifying sessions here in his Matco Tools dragster and was 14th with a 4.638 at 181.42.
"If you had told me at the beginning of the season that I would be less than two rounds out of first place at the second race of the Countdown, I would have said give it to me right now," Worsham said. "But to be leading the points nearly the entire season, then come out of Charlotte in (third) place and lose that cushion that we had, it was a bummer. But this is a tough team that has won championships before, and they know what they're doing. They've been here before and I haven't, so I'm just going to follow their lead.”
Seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher was second in his U.S. Army dragster with a 3.880 at 315.27, while Brandon Bernstein was third in his Copart dragster, posting a 3.882 at 312.35. Two-time world champion Pedregon posted a 4.086 at 307.86 in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Solara to take the qualifying lead in Funny Car.
"The run felt good," said Pedregon, currently fourth in the Countdown standings. "It was smooth, and it didn't shake or wobble one bit. We were watching the track temperature, which was dropping ever so slightly, and so this time I'd say we were on the aggressive side. There are times when the car just goes out there and runs on its own, but on this one we were pressing a little bit because it was cooling down. If we're going to climb back into this championship, we're going to need every point that we can get."
A couple of non-Countdown teams anchored second and third as Brainerd winner Johnny Gray was second with a 4.141 at 303.78 in his Service Central Dodge Charger and Jon Capps, brother of Ron, was third in his Paul Smith-owned Chevy Monte Carlo with a 4.152 at 296.44. Alexis DeJoria made her much anticipated Full Throttle Series debut behind the wheel of her Patron Toyota and posted a 4.281 at 294.37 for 14th on her first run and then experienced a small engine explosion and fire on her second run. She'll start from scratch tomorrow to try and qualify for her first Funny Car race as 18 cars are entered for 16 starting spots.
In Pro Stock, Line set both ends of the track record to take the top spot with a performance of 6.553 at 211.20 in his Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GXP.
"We got all the one-two qualifying points, and that's all you can ask for," Line said. "It gives us a little room to try things that we normally wouldn't do, and I think that we learned a couple of things on the run. Looking at tomorrow's weather forecast, I would say that there's a good chance that our numbers will hold up. And if they do, that will be good for me. I don't think that I've ever qualified No.1 four times in a row."
Line's teammate, Greg Anderson, was second in his Summit Pontiac with a 6.559 at 210.67 and 2009 world champ Mike Edwards was third with a 6.568 at 211.03 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac.
Hines led Pro Stock Motorcycle with a track record time of 6.859 at 194.74 on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. His teammate, Charlotte winner and series leader Eddie Krawiec, claimed the track record speed of 195.79 and was second with a 6.867 on his identically prepared V-Rod.
“Conditions aren't really that different from Charlotte last weekend,” Hines said. “The temperature is up a little and the sun is out, but the atmospheric stuff is right in our window. Our Eagles are soaring right now and we're out here to prove a point. Eddie and I have had a chip on our shoulder the last few races, and we're tired of people saying stuff. We're gunning for the No. 1 and 2 spots. We're trying to be like those KB Racing guys. They're putting up all kinds of crazy numbers, and we want to be like them. That was one of the best runs I've made in a long time. Matt's got the clutch dialed in really nice, and we're learning a lot from the high-speed video camera that we bought earlier this year. We made some changes to our wheelie bars that we're really starting to notice. We've always been able to run up front, but we've never been able to run up front with good 60ft times, and now we're putting the whole package together.”