POMONA, Calif. – Courtney Force raced to her first No. 1 qualifying position of the season Saturday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries.
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also will lead their categories into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season-opener at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Force grabbed the No. 1 spot from Friday’s leader Jack Beckman in her Traxxas Ford Mustang with a performance of 4.036 seconds at 318.24 mph. This is her first No. 1 qualifier at Pomona and third of her career.
“I’m really excited because it’s my home track,” Force said. “I’m pretty excited that we got the No. 1 spot, but I’ve still got to focus and not get distracted by anything. It’s definitely exciting to have (sister) Brittany running (in Top Fuel). She is my best friend and really amazing to be living our passion and drive 300 mph race cars. There are not a lot of families that can say that. It’s really unique to be doing it with my dad (John Force) and family.”
Force will line up against Phil Burkart in the first round of eliminations. Her father John, the defending event winner, qualified 11th while teammate Robert Hight is 12th. Defending Funny Car world champion Jack Beckman qualified second in the field followed by Gary Densham, Del Worsham and Cruz Pedregon.
In Top Fuel, Schumacher powered his U. S. Army dragster to the 72nd No. 1 qualifying position of his career with his pass of 3.753 at 324.05.
“It was a great to be the number one,” Schumacher said. “That was a phenomenal run. That’s a consistent race car and doing some great stuff. The conditions aren’t going to change at Pomona. We are running really good and assume the other cars are going to run good too. Great cars make you rise to the occasion and do a great job. Fans pay big money to see a good race.”
In the opening round Schumacher will face Brazilian rookie Sidnei Frigo, who rounded out the quickest Top Fuel field in NHRA history. Brandon Bernstein took the second spot in his Protect the Harvest/MAVTV dragster with a performance of 3.761 at 325.22, while defending Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown qualified fourth in his Matco Tools dragster.
Edwards took the top spot in Pro Stock for the 42nd time with a performance of 6.528 at 212.39 in his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro. He will open eliminations against Chris McGaha at an event he has won one time in three final round attempts.
“I’m ecstatic and real proud of my guys,” Edwards said. “We did a phenomenal job. It’s going to be interesting tomorrow and we’ll see what happens but real proud. I think you’ll see some real good runs by the Pro Stockers tomorrow. This is an exciting way to start the season.”
Veteran driver V. Gaines qualified second in his Kendall Oil Avenger with a performance of 6.538 at 211.49. Defending Pro Stock world champion Allen Johnson qualified 10th for his first event in the 2013 season.