CRUZ PEDREGON LEADS FUNNY CAR QUALIFYING ACTION AT O’REILLY NHRA SPRING NATIONALS; LUCAS, JOHNSON AND KRAWIEC ALSO QUALIFYING LEADERS
BAYTOWN, Texas — Two-time NHRA Funny Car world champion Cruz Pedregon raced to the qualifying lead Friday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Royal Purple Raceway.
Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders in their categories at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event near Houston.
Pedregon powered his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry to the top of the Funny Car qualifying field during the evening qualifying session with his pass of 4.103 seconds at 305.29 mph, a run Pedregon almost didn’t complete.
“We almost didn’t run because the reverser lever fell off in my hand, I threw it out the window,” Pedregon said. “Lee Beard (crew chief) didn’t know what to do with it. I’m just glad we got it in first gear because we really made a nice run.”
Pedregon’s Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry team struggled in the beginning of the season, but Pedregon feels like the team is finally coming together. If the team holds onto the No. 1 spot through Saturday’s qualifying sessions it will be his second of the season and 32nd of his career.
“Our car is coming around, I feel it in my bones,” Pedregon said. “We should have won the last race but the driver let us down. We should have run a 4.07 on that run but it dropped a cylinder. I know the time is coming when we can run with anybody.”
In Top Fuel, Lucas posted a 3.772 at 327.74 in his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster to earn the qualifying lead. If Lucas holds onto the top spot it will be his fourth of the season and seventh of his career. Several dragsters hit the 3.77-second mark during the exciting session, including second place Steve Torrence, Spencer Massey, and Tony Schumacher.
“All I could think of is that when it left the line so aggressively, was ‘God, please let this think stick,’” Lucas said. “We’re really fortunate to have the team that we do right now. It’s a good way to bounce back from what we did in Charlotte [first-round loss].”
In Pro Stock, Johnson drove his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger to the provisional No. 1 spot with his pass of 6.545 at 211.73.
“The air got about 300 feet better and the track cooled down about 20 degrees, so that was good for us,” Johnson said. “We left a little bit on the table, but we were consistent. The morning qualifying round tomorrow could be as good or better as it was in today’s second session.”
If Johnson maintains the No. 1 position it will be his second of the season and 18th of his career.
Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Krawiec rode his Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson to the top of the pack with his performance of 6.872 at 197.83.
“The humidity went down on the second run and we had a pretty stout tailwind,” Kraweic said. “If we’d had that tailwind in Gainesville, I would have run 200 mph. That was about a picture perfect run. The bike went straight and I tucked in and motored down the track. I don’t think there was much left, maybe a few thousandths, not hundredths.”
Qualifying action continues Saturday with sessions scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Eliminations get underway Sunday at 11 a.m.
BAYTOWN, Texas — Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 25th annual O’Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Royal Purple Raceway, sixth of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.
Top Fuel — 1. Morgan Lucas, 3.772 seconds, 327.74 mph; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.772, 322.88; 3. Spencer Massey, 3.778, 326.95; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.778, 326.56; 5. David Grubnic, 3.829, 323.35; 6. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.837, 321.12; 7. Brandon Bernstein, 3.848, 322.27; 8. Doug Kalitta, 3.855, 320.81; 9. Shawn Langdon, 3.870, 314.90; 10. J.R. Todd, 3.873, 319.52; 11. Bob Vandergriff, 3.884, 317.94; 12. Terry McMillen, 3.901, 290.26. Not Qualified: 13. Cory McClenathan, 3.921, 315.86; 14. T.J. Zizzo, 3.937, 319.98; 15. Clay Millican, 3.946, 300.06; 16. Keith Murt, 3.962, 311.34; 17. Troy Buff, 3.965, 306.60; 18. Antron Brown, 3.997, 306.67; 19. Bruce Litton, 4.007, 294.31.
Funny Car — 1. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Solara, 4.103, 306.19; 2. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.107, 307.02; 3. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 4.123, 308.50; 4. Jeff Arend, Solara, 4.138, 307.37; 5. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.139, 300.00; 6. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.150, 306.53; 7. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.153, 256.65; 8. Jim Head, Solara, 4.165, 297.61; 9. Johnny Gray, Charger, 4.197, 300.80; 10. John Force, Mustang, 4.212, 296.05; 11. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camary, 4.230, 302.62; 12. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.247, 291.45. Not Qualified: 13. Bob Bode, 4.289, 292.39; 14. Terry Haddock, 4.306, 289.88; 15. Mike Neff, 4.318, 228.11; 16. Jack Beckman, 4.332, 227.34; 17. Todd Lesenko, 4.398, 283.55; 18. Gary Densham, 4.492, 263.72; 19. Todd Simpson, 5.066, 171.73; 20. Tony Pedregon, 6.711, 101.16.
Pro Stock — 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.546, 211.93; 2. Jason Line, Pontiac GXP, 6.550, 211.00; 3. Dave Connolly, Chevy Cobalt, 6.577, 210.57; 4. Mike Edwards, GXP, 6.579, 210.37; 5. Ronnie Humphrey, GXP, 6.582, 210.80; 6. Erica Enders, Cobalt, 6.582, 210.47; 7. Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.584, 210.93; 8. Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.586, 210.50; 9. Ron Krisher, GXP, 6.602, 210.24; 10. Kurt Johnson, GXP, 6.616, 209.49; 11. Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 6.616, 209.39; 12. Rickie Jones, GXP, 6.622, 209.92. Not Qualified: 13. Larry Morgan, 6.623, 209.33; 14. Greg Stanfield, 6.627, 208.23; 15. Jeg Coughlin, 6.634, 209.85; 16. Shane Gray, 6.655, 208.26; 17. Steve Kent, 6.662, 209.10; 18. Chris McGaha, 6.663, 208.20; 19. Warren Johnson, 6.739, 208.81; 20. V. Gaines, 7.212, 207.75.
Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.872, 197.83; 2. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.886, 194.77; 3. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.892, 195.56; 4. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.908, 194.63; 5. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.911, 195.76; 6. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.938, 193.71; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.941, 191.65; 8. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.949, 193.49; 9. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.963, 193.57; 10. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.973, 192.93; 11. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.985, 192.41; 12. John Hall, Buell, 6.990, 193.16. Not Qualified: 13. LE Tonglet, 7.004, 192.58; 14. Michael Phillips, 7.011, 191.89; 15. Jerry Savoie, 7.030, 192.52; 16. Steve Johnson, 7.037, 192.93; 17. Mike Berry, 7.054, 191.73; 18. Redell Harris, 7.061, 189.55; 19. Joe DeSantis, 7.128, 186.43; 20. James Surber, 7.156, 186.72; 21. Katie Sullivan, 7.264, 181.69.
POMONA, Calif. – John Force put the band back together. That could mean the blues for his Funny Car brothers.
Force brought three former John Force Racing team members back for 2012, improving his “brain trust.” And what does Force do the first race out? He wins the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Force joined Top Fuel’s Spencer Massey and Pro Stock’s Greg Anderson as the winners in NHRA’s season-opener.
Force beat teammate Mike Neff on a holeshot in the finals to secure his 134th career victory – but his first win since Denver last year.
“We got the group back the way it used to think, the way it used to function,” Force said. “We’ll just see what happens to it. But a good start.”
Force brought back Dickie Venables and Danny DeGennaro to work on daughter Brittany’s dragster, but that also allowed Force to concentrate on his own car. Then, former Force team crew chief John Medlen returned late last month. Medlen’s son Eric was killed while testing a JFR car in 2007, creating a large void in Force’s life.
But John Medlen came back two weeks ago, telling Force, “I want to come home.”
“The thing that really mattered to me was getting right,” Force said. “People left for reasons. I didn’t have a car for John, Dickie Venables left earlier because he wasn’t in line to get his own race car. I’m getting back, I’m filling a hole in me. …
“Robert (Hight) and I sat over the winter with the guys who were missing: ‘Get the people back so we can focus.’”
Force was clearly focused Sunday, taking out Alexis De Joria, Tim Wilkerson and Gary Densham before squaring off against Neff in the finals.
“I said, ‘What are we going to do Guido?’” Force asked crew chief Dean Antonelli before the finals. “He said, ‘We can’t race him the way we are. We’re going to have to go after it, and if it smokes the tires, we go home.’ It wasn’t quick enough to beat him, but he was late, and we got the win.”
Neff was asleep at the lights, as Force gained a huge advantage at the starting line, .067 seconds to Neff’s .175 light. Force’s Castrol GTX Ford Mustang made a pass of 4.080 seconds at 315.64, beating Neff’s quicker run of 4.036 at 316.82 mph.
“I went after him,” Force said. “He said something distracted him. He goes, ‘Did your motor come up?’ I said no.”
Massey was simply dominant Sunday in Don Schumacher Racing’s Prestone Top Fuel dragster. He was low of the round (3.782 seconds at 325.53) in the opening matchup against Steve Faria and second-low of the second round (3.776 at 326.79 mph) in beating Clay Millican.
But that was just a start.
“After second round, we didn’t have any data on the computer,” Massey said. “(Crew chiefs) Phil (Shuler) and Todd (Okuhara) tuned that thing like it was an old Top Fuel car from 1968. They looked at the plugs and the bearings, and it went a .74 at 328 mph.”
Massey’s run of 3.745 seconds at 328.62 mph was the second-quickest pass in Top Fuel history, as well as the fastest Top Fuel run ever.
In the finals, he out-ran teammate Antron Brown with a run of 3.750 seconds at 325.77 mph, beating Brown’s 3.794 at 320.43 mph.
Not a bad way to start the season after falling short of the 2011 title.
“It makes you that much more hungry, that much more motivated to want to win a championship,” Massey said. “This winter, we all sat around and focused and acted like it was not an off-season. We put that new race car together, went and tested, and the car ran very well. We came here, and it shows. It shows these guys know what it takes to get the car down the race track.”
Anderson’s Summit Racing team knows how to get down the track, too, winning for the 71st time and the fifth time at the Winternationals. After beating teammate Jason Line in the semifinals, Anderson turned back Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the finals with a pass of 6.549 seconds at 210.87 mph. Coughlin was returning to the sport after a year off and rallied from the 14th qualifying position to a spot in the finals.
“The outcome was great,” Anderson said. “If you want to be greedy, I didn’t qualify where I need to qualify. I like to qualify on the opposite side of the ladder from Jason. We qualified fifth and ended up having to race (Line) in the semifinals. That’s the only bummer of the weekend.
“It seemed like we had the two strongest cars today, and they had to tangle in the semifinals. … We closed the door. We stopped that big yellow Mopar that came flying right back into the scene.”
Listen for Rob Geiger’s Phoenix preview on the Saturday, February 18, 2012 In Wheel Time radio show at 7:30 AM or visit www.Go2Geiger.com. – Don