GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Brittany Force set the Gainesville Raceway track record Saturday during the fourth qualifying session of Top Fuel to become the first woman to qualify No. 1 at the AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals since Shirley Muldowney 40 years ago.
Robert Hight (Funny Car), Rodger Brogdon (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the third of 24 events on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.
Force locked-in the top spot with her pass of 3.680 seconds at 326.32 mph in her Advance Auto Parts dragster to claim the track record. The 2017 Top Fuel champion is seeking her first win of the season at the facility where she secured her first win in 2016.
“I’m very proud to put a number on the board like that,” Force stated. “We want to go out and win this race tomorrow. On that last run, (David) Grubnic pulled me aside and told me it was going to be a fast one and to hang on. This place is a special place to me, and I love racing here. I can’t wait to come back and win here again.”
Force will line up against Chris Karamesines in round one of eliminations on Sunday. Mike Salinas secured the No. 2 spot with his run of 3.694 seconds at 326.32 mph and will face rookie Jordan Vandergriff. Defending Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence rounds out the top three.
Hight sits atop of the Funny Car class with his run of 3.868 seconds at 331.12 mph in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro. He has swept the No. 1 qualifying position for the season and third No. 1 at the facility.
“It’s pretty amazing and a lot of hard work,” Hight said. “We had a chance to win a championship last year and didn’t get it done. It didn’t sit well with my team and they worked hard at getting this thing prepared and figuring out what our weaknesses were. Qualifying is over and now we’ve got a race to win.”
He will face-off against Terry Haddock Sunday morning in the first round. Tim Wilkerson sits in the No. 2 position with a pass of 3.875 seconds at 327.27 mph and Tommy Johnson Jr. is third.
Brogdon took the Pro Stock category lead during the fourth round of qualifying with his run of 6.490 seconds at 212.43 mph in his RBR Machine Chevrolet Camaro. He secured his second No. 1 qualifier of the season, second at the facility and is chasing his first win since 2015.
“I’ve always been able to drive a race car,” Brogdon stated. “The hardest part is having a lot of power and a good car. The Elite (Motorsports) team and (team owner) Richard Freeman are incredible. He puts me in a fast car every weekend. To win this race and with the toughest class, I’d probably cross everything else off my bucket list.”
Brogdon will race Wally Stroupe in the first round of eliminations. Veteran Greg Anderson powered his Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro to the No. 2 spot with his pass 6.494 at 213.40 and Matt Hartford is third overall.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines raced to the top of the category during the fourth qualifying session securing a national record time of 6.720 seconds at 199.94 mph on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. His last victory at Gainesville was in 2004 and is on the hunt for his first win since the season finale in 2017.
“The guys on our team are doing a great job making sure that we get motorcycles that are flawless and making sure that we go to the start line with no problems,” Hines said. “I was really hoping to go 200. That was really the point to strive for and it would’ve been nice to get that one out of the way. Tomorrow is a new day and we will try again then.”
In other action, Warren Johnson claimed top honors in the Unfinished Business event that featured seven other NHRA legends driving identical Toyotas. Johnson defeated Ed McCulloch in the final round of the special bracket that also featured Muldowney, Kenny Bernstein, Terry Vance, Don Prudhomme, Joe Amato and Don Garlits.