Friday's Top NHRA Qualifiers Hold Onto Positions After Hot Saturday Sessions
Courtney Force continued her list of number one qualifying efforts by holding on to the to spot for Sunday's NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway. Her Friday time help up through Saturday's hot and sunny conditions, as all four pro class pole winners failed to improve their qualifying times. Doug Kalitta held onto the No. 1 seed in Top Fuel qualifying for the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway, while Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) used their times from Friday to hang onto top seeds after track temperatures exceeded 145 degrees on Saturday Eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday in the first of six Countdown to the Championship races
(CONCORD, NC - Sept. 16, 2017 - RIS) – Doug Kalitta led the stars of the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship in scorching zMAX Dragway’s pavement during a sun-filled Saturday of qualifying for the NHRA Carolina Nationals. With track temperatures exceeding 145 degrees on Saturday at "the Bellagio of drag strips," Kalitta’s 3.723-second, 329.50-mph pass from Friday held as the quickest time in Top Fuel qualifying.
After capturing his 49th career number 1 seed, Kalitta will race against 85-year-old Chris “The Golden Greek” Karamesines in the first round of eliminations on Sunday. “This is one track I’ve yet to win at so I’d love to get a win here and check that off the list,” Kalitta said. “This is probably the nicest facility in NHRA and it packs them in with the crowd. … We’ll probably have conditions (Sunday) like we had today. I think we have a really good setup for tomorrow. There should be some good racing.” Points leader Steve Torrence qualified second after a 3.724 at 327.51 in his Capco Contractors dragster, and he will take on Terry Haddock in the first elimination round. Leah Pritchett sits at third in qualifying with a 3.725 at 327.98 as she gets ready to take on Wayne Newby in round one of eliminations.
Courtney Force maintained the No. 1 spot in Funny Car competition on Saturday. Her 3.891-second, 330.07-mph pass on Friday put the John Force Racing driver in the best possible position to capture her first win at zMAX Dragway when the racers line up on Sunday. Force’s charge to the front didn’t come with much breathing room, though. The top six drivers in Funny Car qualifying were separated by only 0.02 seconds. “This entire Funny Car category, and Top Fuel as well – it’s intense out there,” Force said. “These guys are running some killer numbers in the heat. Obviously, we’ve got our eyes on them. To be separated that closely from the top half of the field, you know you’re going to have a tough race tomorrow. We’ve got to get our team prepared. My Advance Auto Parts guys are ready to get the job done. This is the time to turn the corner.”
J.R. Todd qualified second with a 3.898 at 329.18 in his DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car, and is set to face-off with Jeff Diehl in the first round. Tommy Johnson Jr. rounds out the top three after a 3.901 at 325.06 as he prepares for Dave Richards on Sunday.
Tanner Gray retained the pole in Pro Stock qualifying, as no one could top his 6.559-second pass at 210.50 mph on Friday. “You’re going to see a lot of the same track conditions tomorrow as you saw today,” Gray said. “I’m definitely a little more nervous (for the first Countdown race) but I’m confident with the car we have and how it’s running, so I’m excited. I don’t see why we can’t win tomorrow.
“I’m really proud of my team for giving me a great race car, it’s been a lot of fun to drive this car and get these No. 1 qualifiers,” Force added. “We know we have to bring that same success into Sunday, and I am just looking forward to tomorrow as we try to end up in the winner’s circle.
“Today was all about setting up for tomorrow’s run since we will have similar track conditions, but we feel pretty good about where we’re at,” Gray said. “A lot of my opponents have experienced the Countdown before, so I’m definitely a little nervous but I’m also confident in my car and driving so I feel like there’s no reason we won’t win tomorrow.”
Andrew Hines’ 196.50-mph pass in 6.825 seconds on Friday remained quickest for the two-wheeled contingent, to give Hines the top spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle. “We feel really good about what we did today,” Hines said. “Today was set up more for race day. … We had a 135-degree race track in Q4 and we still went down the line pretty well. I’ve got the utmost confidence in our equipment for tomorrow.
“With conditions being ideal this weekend, we have been looking at today as our own tune-up for tomorrow,” Hines said. “I feel strong about the tune-up our team has put together, and now we have to make sure we do it again tomorrow when it really counts.”
Teammate Eddie Krawiec holds the second position with a 6.836 at 195.00 in his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, and will take on Mark Paquette first on Sunday. Reigning world champion Jerry Savoie rounds out the top three after his 6.838 at 196.10, as Savoie will go up against Melissa Surber when eliminations get underway.
Gates open at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday. Final eliminations kick off at 12 p.m.
Top Fuel -- 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.723 seconds, 329.50 mph vs. 16. Chris Karamesines, 4.734, 162.33
2. Steve Torrence, 3.724, 327.51 vs. 15. Terry Haddock, 4.709, 166.39
3. Leah Pritchett, 3.725, 327.98 vs. 14. Wayne Newby, 3.826, 320.43
4. Antron Brown, 3.728, 331.85 vs. 13. Terry McMillen, 3.825, 309.98
5. Clay Millican, 3.747, 322.96 vs. 12. Dom Lagana, 3.809, 317.87
6. Brittany Force, 3.749, 329.18 vs. 11. Pat Dakin, 3.798, 299.73
7. Richie Crampton, 3.749, 284.33 vs. 10. Scott Palmer, 3.795, 323.89
8. Shawn Langdon, 3.778, 320.97 vs. 9. Tony Schumacher, 3.788, 325.30.
Funny Car -- 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.891, 330.07 vs. 16. Bob Gilbertson, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.448, 215.58
2. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.898, 329.18 vs. 15. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.247, 299.46
3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.901, 325.06 vs. 14. Dave Richards, Ford Mustang, 4.067, 298.67
4. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.906, 330.47 vs. 13. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.066, 309.42
5. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.910, 324.51 vs. 12. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.981, 320.05
6. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.911, 327.27 vs. 11. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.981, 324.12
7. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.962, 324.44 vs. 10. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.980, 323.04
8. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.962, 318.02 vs. 9. John Force, Camaro, 3.967, 326.95.
Pro Stock -- 1. Tanner Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.559, 210.50 vs. 16. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.828, 202.15
2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.567, 210.73 vs. 15. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.708, 206.76
3. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.573, 210.77 vs. 14. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.668, 207.37
4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.578, 210.60 vs. 13. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.662, 208.14
5. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.582, 209.43 vs. 12. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.636, 209.46
6. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.586, 209.98 vs. 11. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.629, 209.17
7. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.586, 209.69 vs. 10. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.603, 209.33
8. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.600, 209.36 vs. 9. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.602, 209.75.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.825, 196.76 vs. 16. Charles Sullivan, Buell, 7.112, 186.28
2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.836, 195.00 vs. 15. Mark Paquette, Victory, 7.004, 189.31
3. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.838, 196.10 vs. 14. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.972, 191.29
4. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.840, 196.47 vs. 13. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.957, 194.83
5. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.850, 195.00 vs. 12. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.946, 193.49
6. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.865, 195.73 vs. 11. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.917, 193.68
7. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.872, 195.03 vs. 10. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.907, 193.52
8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.878, 194.21 vs. 9. Chip Ellis, Victory, 6.878, 194.07.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Ron 'Rat' Tornow, 7.130, 186.33
18. Lance Bonham, 7.183, 186.20.
Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.