BRISTOL, Tenn. — With the quickest run of his career and the quickest Funny Car run in 2013, Funny Car driver Del Worsham led a parade of track records en route to the qualifying lead on Friday at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers at Bristol Dragway.
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Series event, as track elapsed time (E.T.) and speed records were set in every category.
Worsham powered his 8,000-horsepower DHL Toyota Camry to a run of 4.008 seconds at 314.83 mph to move to the top of the Funny Car qualifying field at Thunder Valley. If the time holds, it would be Worsham’s first No. 1 qualifier in Funny Car since April 2010, sixth overall in Funny Car and 13th in his career.
The standout pass under the Bristol lights also puts Worsham, the 2011 Top Fuel world champion, in line for his first No. 1 qualifier at legendary Bristol Dragway. Two qualifying sessions remain on Saturday (12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.) before Sunday’s eliminations at noon for the 10th of 24 races in 2013.
“It was a great run,” Worsham said. “I was kind of wowed myself. The car’s been running better at every individual race. The crew chiefs along with Jim Oberhofer and Connie Kalitta have been working together and making a lot of headway.
“I’m really excited for the guys on this team. For the last six years, they’ve been working really hard to find success and I feel really good about where we’re going. I’m really happy for [crew chiefs] Jon Oberhofer and Nick Boninfante. They’ve stuck with this team through thick and thin, and I’m proud of them.”
Jack Beckman broke the track speed record with a pass of 317.05 in his Valvoline/MTS Charger, as his run of 4.012 puts him in second. Matt Hagan and his Mopar/Rocky Footwear Dodge Charger was third with a 4.049 at 317.05, matching Beckman’s speed just moments after the defending Funny Car world champ set the track record.
Worsham, who will be chasing his first Funny Car win since 2009, was shocked at the career-best run on Friday, which also gives him the chance to become the eighth different Funny Car driver to claim a No. 1 qualifying spot in 2013.
“I was surprised. I thought it would run 4.04 or 4.05 out there. It went 4.07 in Englishtown and Topeka, and we just made little moves from there,” Worsham said. “When you start working on something and making a lot of runs in a row, things start happening.”
Massey set the pace in an entertaining final qualifying session in Top Fuel, racing his Battery Extender dragster to the top spot with a run of 3.775 at 326.79. If the effort holds, it would be Massey’s first No. 1 of the season, his first at Bristol and seventh of his career.
“That was a great run and obviously a great way to start,” Massey said. “I’ve never done extremely well in Bristol, never won the race or had anything spectacular happen. We wanted to do that. Phil (Shuler, crew chief) said, ‘Hey, it should go out there and run .76 or .77. If it runs anything close to that and puts us No. 2 or 3, we’ll be happy.’
“I really didn’t think it was going to stay No. 1. I figured Shawn (Langdon) or Tony (Schumacher) would have run .75 or .76, but they struggled a little bit. We stayed No. 1, which is unbelievable.”
Steve Torrence went 3.779 at 324.51 in his Capco Contractors dragster to take the No. 2 spot, while Clay Millican powered his Parts Plus dragster to third with a 3.787 at 326.48.
David Grubnic and Schumacher both dipped into the 3.70s as well, as Grubnic sits fourth in Optima Batteries dragster after going 3.792 at 321.12. Schumacher is currently fifth after a run of 3.795 at 325.77 mph in his U.S. Army dragster.
“The Battery Extender guys have been working hard all year to get to the finals,” Massey said. “We’ve been to a number of semifinals but we have had trouble getting to the finals. We want to capitalize on it and go a step further, but first you have to qualify No. 1. We’re having fun.”
In Pro Stock, series points leader Edwards stayed red-hot at Bristol Dragway, as he posted a track record performance of 6.632 at 207.59 in his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro.
“I thought we might run a 6.62 tonight, but our run earlier today was so good that it was hard to improve on,” said Edwards, who tested in Bristol last week to prep for a stretch of four consecutive race weekends.
The impressive run followed a strong opening pass for Edwards, who already has three wins in his commanding 2013 season. Edwards broke the track speed record on his run of 6.638, going 208.23. Should Edwards’ time stand, it would mark the ninth No. 1 in his brilliant season, second in Bristol and 50th of his career.
Edwards is also hoping to extend his run of dominance at Bristol Dragway. The Coweta, Okla. native has won the last four races in Thunder Valley in Pro Stock and appears in good position to try to make it five straight.
“I like running in the summer heat because we’ve done well in that in the past,” Edwards said. “I’m looking forward to doing more of it. It appears we have a good tune-up window for this track.”
Defending Pro Stock world champ and Greenville, Tenn. native Allen Johnson is currently second in his Team Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Avenger with a 6.645 at 206.70. Jason Line is third with a 6.661 at 206.73 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro.
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