CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Courtney Force powered to the No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car on her final attempt Saturday at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
J.R. Todd (Top Fuel), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were No. 1 qualifiers at the unique event which features NHRA Mello Yello Series teams racing in a four-lane configuration.
Force moved from the 16th spot to first with the quickest Funny Car run of the weekend at the controls of her 10,000-horsepower Traxxas Chevy Camaro SS. She covered the distance in 4.011 seconds at 312.35 mph to take her second No. 1 of the season and ninth of her career.
Force said she was relieved to get the top spot after struggling on her first run of the weekend. Friday’s racing was cancelled due to rain and NHRA pro teams only had today’s two runs to qualify for Sunday’s 1 p.m. eliminations.
She will race Chad Head, Dale Creasy Jr. and Del Worsham in the first round as she seeks her first zMAX Dragway victory.
“Going from zero to hero is great, but it’s really my crew chief (Ron Douglas) and my team,” Force said. “It’s lucky that we went straight from 16 to 1, but we still have a lot to work on and I am looking forward to tomorrow.”
Her father, John Force, qualified second in his special edition all-white Chevrolet Camaro SS and he will face off against Alexis DeJoria, Robert Hight and Tony Pedregon. Series points leader Matt Hagan, who won the first two races of the season in his Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger, qualified fourth and he will pair up with Gainesville runner-up John Hale, Cruz Pedregon and Tim Wilkerson.
In Top Fuel, Todd powered to his first No. 1 of the season and seventh of his career with a track record time of 3.713 at 309.63 in his Red Line Oil dragster.
“That was my career best, but the crazy thing is that the car didn’t make it to the finish line under power,” Todd said. “I think we could have run a 3.70-flat or maybe even a 3.69. I really hope we get three shots tomorrow, but tomorrow is all about win lights.”
He will race defending race winner Antron Brown, category newcomer Dave Connolly and current points leader Shawn Langdon in a stacked first round quad.
“This is a driver’s game for sure,” Todd added. “You’ve got Shawn Langdon who is leading the points. They didn’t get down the track, but they could run 3.69. All three of them are capable of putting up big numbers so we’ve got to be prepared.”
Veteran independent racer Pat Dakin, whose last NHRA national event victory came in 1973, qualified second in his Commercial Metal Fabricators dragster with a career-best 3.715 at 318.84 and he will race Brittany Force, Richie Crampton and Chris Karamesines. Series points leader Tony Schumacher qualified third and will meet Clay Millican, Leah Pritchett and Larry Dixon, who returned to action after his scary crash in Gainesville to qualify 11th with a 3.829 at 314.75 in his C&J Engergy/Casedhole dragster.
McGaha took his second consecutive top qualifying position in Pro Stock with a performance of 6.474 at 213.70 in his Harlow Sammons of Odessa Chevy Camaro. The Texas racer will face Shane Gray, Buddy Perkinson and Erica Enders-Stevens in the opening round.
“We started off pretty well in Pomona and Phoenix, but we really stumbled upon what we were looking for in the semis in Phoenix, when we almost crashed,” McGaha said. “We actually stepped on the car the hardest we’ve ever stepped on it and maybe that’s why it almost crossed the center line. We found a few things when that happened, and it’s led to all of our [recent] performance gain.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Jr. set the pace with a track record run of 6.794 at 196.22 on his Lucas Oil Buell. It was his first No. 1 of the season and 17th of his career. He will race Jim Underdahl, Chaz Kennedy and Katie Sullivan in the first round.
“I woke up and looked at the weather, and we were all in shock when we saw that [the corrected altitude] was 600 feet below sea level,” Arana said. “Normally, 500 feet above is good. We knew we had to do everything we could to get the power to the track, so we took our best guess. We’ve got new fuel, a new track surface, and conditions we’ve never seen before, but we managed to hit it and go right down the track. I honestly had a feeling we would run good today.”