GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Veteran Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta raced to the No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals.
Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were No. 1 qualifiers and will lead their categories into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
Kalitta claimed his second straight top qualifying effort of the season and 33rd of his career with a 3.779 second run at 326.32 mph in his 8,000-horsepower Mac Tools dragster. Kalitta moved around defending world champ Antron Brown on his final qualifying attempt to claim the No. 1 spot at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville. Kalitta will face rookie Leah Pruett in the first round.
Brown, who briefly held the top spot late Saturday with a 3.787 at 324.20 in his Matco Tools dragster, will start second and face three-time world champ Larry Dixon in the opening round.
“I was surprised when Antron went out there and ran that .78 because everybody was bunched closer than that,” Kalitta said. “Hats off to Jim (Oberhofer, crew chief) and all my guys and the decision they made at the end to get it to run like that. It was nice and straight and planted to the middle of the grove and I am really looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully the conditions will be the same as today and we won’t have to mess with our tune-up much and put a string of runs together tomorrow.”
In Funny Car, Pedregon scored his first No. 1 of the season and 51st of his career as no one was able to better his Friday run of 4.047 at 296.05 in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry.
On his final qualifying attempt, Pedregon said his car sounded funny after the burnout so he shut it down on the starting line prior to the run.
“We had some kind of mechanical problem,” Pedregon said. “You just have to put it behind you. Tomorrow is another day. You just have to shake it off. We’ll put the car back where it was and just let it rip. We’re going to have to press the issue a little bit because there are a couple of cars that can run with us. That 4.04 isn’t going to buy us any round wins tomorrow. We are going to have to take it to them.”