ENNIS, Texas – Courtney Force raced to the qualifying lead in Funny Car Friday at the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at the all-concrete Texas Motorplex near Dallas.
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Sr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also led their categories at the second of six playoff events in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.
The 24-year-old rookie driver powered her Traxxas Ford Mustang to a leading time of 4.081 seconds at 308.21 mph and if her performance holds through Saturday’s two qualifying sessions (11 a.m. and 2 p.m.), it will be the second No. 1 qualifying position of her career.
She was pleased to make two solid runs as her team is gearing up for the $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootout tomorrow. The lucrative Funny Car all-star race was rescheduled for this event after it was rained out twice in Indianapolis earlier in the month. Force, the fan vote-lottery winner for the No. 8 starting spot, will face top seed Ron Capps in the first round of the Shootout.
“I think that so far today we’ve proved that we have a good race car, and we can run it in the heat during the day and we can run it when it cools down a little bit at night,” Force said. “We’re hoping that the 4.08 stays tomorrow. I’d be so excited and so proud to get my second No. 1 qualifying position in my rookie season. We wanted to stay in the top half of the field, that was our main goal today so we can just focus on the Traxxas Shootout, going in and getting that 100 grand tomorrow.”
Tim Wilkerson was second in his Levi Ray & Shoup Mustang with a 4.081 at 308.21, Jack Beckman was third with a 4.109 at 303.98 and defending event winner Cruz Pedregon was fourth with a 4.129 at 288.39 in the Snap-on Tools Toyota.
In Top Fuel, series points leader Schumacher was quickest with a 3.829 at 320.13 in his U.S. Army dragster. If his effort holds through the end of qualifying it will be his fourth No. 1 of the season and 71st of his career.
“That was a great run,” said Schumacher, a five-time winner at the Motorplex. “I’ve always said that we’re a good high-pressure team. How do you get any more high-pressure than that? Friday night qualifying is what’s going to set the field. It was 90 [degrees] today, and it’s going to be 90 tomorrow and 90 on Sunday. We went up there in a situation where we should be cautious because we weren’t in the show. For Mike [Green, crew chief] to go up there and do what he did, that’s pretty gutsy. Those qualifying bonus points are going to make a difference. On the first run, I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get any. I won a championship by two points [in 2009]. It makes qualifying pretty exciting.”
Doug Kalitta was second with a 3.836 at 322.34 in his Mac Tools dragster and J.R. Todd was third with a 3.839 at 317.34 in his Total Equipment and Service dragster. Charlotte winner Shawn Langdon was 16th in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster after two sessions.
Johnson moved into position to claim a season-best 10th No. 1 qualifying position in Pro Stock, powering his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger to a 6.568 at 211.43.
“Building up those little points in qualifying is what we’re shooting for, and we did that today,” said Johnson. “This is a great track with a great, flat surface and a lot of traction. I can’t say enough about my crew. Everything is perfect right now. We’re running on eight-and-a-half cylinders. The car is consistent, and we’re looking for more of the same tomorrow.”
Charlotte winner Jason Line was second with a 6.586 at 210.54 in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro and three-time season winner and Houston native Erica Enders was third with a 6.586 at 210.41 in her GK Motorsports Chevy Cobalt.
Arana Sr. paced the Pro Stock Motorcycle field with a performance of 6.898 at 195.11 on his Lucas Oil Buell. If the time holds it will be his fifth of the season and 22nd of his career.
“I definitely feel happier,” Arana Sr. said. “We have more momentum going especially with the second run. We picked up the pace a little bit. The track has been great. I think we can probably get even more aggressive tomorrow.”
Hector Arana Jr. rode his Lucas Oil Buell to the second spot with a 6.899 at 193.63, while the Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley Davidsons of Eddie Krawiec and Charlotte winner Andrew Hines were third and fourth respectively.