ENNIS, Texas – Tommy Johnson Jr. raced to the provisional qualifying lead in the Funny Car class on Friday night at the 33rd annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex.
Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also provisional No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the third of six playoff events during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Johnson is aiming for his first No. 1 qualifier of the season after his second qualifying run of 3.958 seconds at 323.66 mph in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T.
“We ran well first round and went down the race track” John Jr. stated. “John (Collins, crew chief) got after it pretty good. It’s always fun to watch him when cars start to run better out there, and he comes back to lift the box and twist some knobs. So, I knew the car was going to run pretty good.”
Tim Wilkerson is second after the second round of qualifying, running a 3.958-second pass at 315.64 mph in his Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang, while J.R. Todd’s run of 3.962 seconds at 320.05 mph has him in third.
Points leader Robert Hight went 4.013 seconds at 318.99 mph in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro.
Top Fuel’s Millican will look to secure his 9th No. 1 qualifier this year following his 3.726-second pass at 328.54 mph in his Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster. It would also mark the 19th career No. 1 qualifier for Millican, who is currently second in the points standings.
“To be honest, we typically have a good idea of what the car is going to run,” Millican said. “That has all gone out the window since the Countdown started. I really didn’t think we were going to go .72 tonight. What David Grubnick (crew chief) is doing right now is totally impressive and the kids putting this together are unbelievable.”
Points leader Steve Torrence moved to the No. 2 spot during the second round of qualifying with his pass of 5.793 seconds at 255.82 mph in his Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster.
In Pro Stock, Coughlin took the lead during the second qualifying session with his pass of 6.599 seconds at 207.53 mph in JEGS.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro. It would mark his fourth No. 1 qualifier this season and 27th of career, who is currently seeded No. 4 in the points.
“Our goal coming into the Countdown was definitely to be much more aggressive,” Coughlin said. “I was trying to see if we could earn a couple of small points along the way. The team has done a fantastic job of that and darn near leading the pack with qualifying points.”
Greg Anderson is second with his pass of 6.600 seconds at 208.42 mph in his Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro and teammate Jason Line rounds out the top three with his run of 6.601 seconds at 207.75 mph.
Smith, the current Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader, finished atop the qualifying order in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a 6.876 seconds at 197.65 mph on his Elite Motorsports DENSO Auto Parts EBR. He is chasing his fifth No. 1 qualifier of the season and second of his career at Texas Motorplex.
“The conditions are pretty hot today,” Smith stated. “The track seemed good for how hot it was. We were low first round by a hundredth and we will go to that set up tomorrow. We’ve been to two finals in a row and hopefully we can just keep that momentum going.”
Hector Arana Jr. is second after going 6.882 seconds at 195.45 mph on his Lucas Oil Racing TV EBR and defending world champion Eddie Krawiec follows in third with a run of 6.892 seconds at 192.25 mph.