BRAINERD, Minn. – Brainerd Int’l Speedway saw a record setting night of racing at the 36th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals on Friday.
Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel) and Robert Hight (Funny Car) ran national elapsed-time record runs in their respective categories during qualifying.
Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also provisional qualifying leaders at the 17th of 24 events on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.
Pritchett piloted her Papa John’s Pizza dragster to the quickest run in NHRA history with a pass of 3.640-seconds at 330.63 mph to close out the second qualifying session while Hight’s 3.793 pass at 338.00 mph in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS also landed him in the record books.
Pritchett held the previous Top Fuel national record of 3.658 set in Phoenix at the beginning of the season.
“We’ve looked forward to this night session for a long time,” Pritchett said. “Knowing that Brainerd, this track, this surface, the conditions and what NHRA is able to do to it, lays down the ground work for us to pull out the most power possible. That’s what this team did. They have been working tirelessly at finding small amounts of power here, there and everywhere and to be able to put it on the track tonight was incredible.”
Rounding out the top-three heading into Saturday qualifying are Brittany Force who ran a 3.685 pass at 333.16 mph in her Monster Energy machine and Doug Kalitta with a 3.694 pass at 330.31 mph in his Mac Tools dragster.
Hight’s pass was the first 3.7 second run in Funny Car history, he also holds the Funny Car national speed record of 339.87 mph set recently at Sonoma Raceway.
“I could tell it was running fast and I saw the 3.79 on the scoreboard,” Hight said. “It’s just something you dream about. There are so many things that have to happen and work together for it all to come together. It’s not that easy. This is a big milestone. To be part of a milestone as a driver, this was big for me.”
Currently qualified second is Matt Hagan in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T with a 3.807 pass at 336.57 mph and 16-time world champion John Force is third in his PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS.
In Pro Stock, rookie Gray holds the No. 1 position with a 6.607 at 208.617 mph in his Gray Motorsports / Vavoline Chevrolet Camaro holding off points leader Bo Butner who is second with a 6.617 at 207.69 mph in his Jim Butner’s Auto Chevrolet Camaro.
“We went out there and made a conservative run for Q1 to make sure we could get some data,” Gray said. “It kind of paid off. If you can go out there and make, obviously a fast run, but just a solid run to collect data then it sets you up really good for sessions like this. I’m very fortunate to be able to drive this thing and it’s going well right now.”
In the third position is Pro Stock veteran and 2012 world champion Allen Johnson with a 6.622 at 206.86 mph.
Arana Jr. leads the Pro Stock Motorcycle field after running a 6.879 pass at 194.24 mph on his Lucas Oil Buell in the second qualifying session.
“It feels good to be up here. It’s been a while. It’s about time,” Arana Jr. said “We’re really working hard and we got the bike running well and it just seems that there’s something that just gets right by us. Hopefully this is the weekend where that turns around. We feel pretty confident that we still have room to improve off that run so we’re excited to see what happens tomorrow.”
Matt Smith is qualified second with a 6.884 at 195.22 mph on his Polaris Racing Victory and Scott Pollacheck is currently third on his Suzuki Extended Protection Suzuki with a 6.908 at 193.54 mph.