Field set for US Nationals
With excellent weather leading to optimum rack conditions, more track records fell by the wayside with new top speed records set in Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Three-time Indy winner Larry Dixon retained the no. 1 qualifying spot in Top Fuel as everyone remained status quo from Saturday’s sessions. No one was able to equal Dixon’s track record 3.776, earning him his sixth top qualifying spot of the season and the 46th of his career.
Cory McClenathan held the second spot with a 3.784, followed by Tony Schumacher (3.790), Brandon Bernstein (3.802) and Antron Brown (3.808).
Dixon came into the first race in the Countdown as the no. 1 seed and earned six bonus points in qualifying to give him an edge in the hunt for his third Top Fuel title – a quest he plans to take one race at a time, starting with his first round match up against Bruce Litton.
“If we were fortunate to win the race tomorrow, that won’t decide the championship, you still got five races after that,” said Dixon. “The only thing that can to be decided tomorrow is who is going to win and that’s all you can do.
“I’m not looking past Bruce Litton, and if we do well in that round, we’ll move to the next round, and if you do well enough you can add all that stuff together and then you got the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – but that’s two-and-a-half months away. I’m not worried about that, I’m worried about Bruce (Litton) and moving onto the next round.”
Matt Hagan held the top spot in Funny Car as no one was able to beat his 4.039 from Saturday, earning his second top qualifying spot of the year in his first season as a Countdown contender.
None of the top five improved their positions from Saturday, with Ron Capps holding the second spot at 4.049, followed by Robert Hight (4.055), Cruz Pedregon (4.057) and John Force (4.058).
In the first round, Hagan will face Tony Pedregon, who just barely made the field on his last qualifying pass and wound up in the bump spot
“It’s huge to come out here and qualify No. 1,” said Hagan. “I owe it all to (crew chief) Tommy DeLago. He gets smarter every day. I don’t know how he puts it all together up there, but he does. He’s got some really cool ideas and we¹ve been working on some stuff. We came out here and tested a couple days before the race and I definitely think it¹s paying dividends back to us.
“I’m going to put my game face on tomorrow and go in there and pull my belts down tight because I know Tommy is coming to play. We’re just going to come up there and do what we do and that¹s go rounds.”
Mike Edwards regained the top qualifying spot in Pro Stock after falling as low as fifth on Saturday. Edwards posted a track record 6.579 for his 12th no. 1 qualifier spot of the season and picked up eight bonus points. Allen Johnson took the second spot with a 6.580 with a new track-record speed of 210.28 mph, followed by Jason Line (6.580, 209.95 mph), Jeg Coughlin (6.580, 209.39 mph) and V Gaines (6.584).
Edwards will face Justin Humphreys as he looks to defend his 2009 title in his first elimination round of the Countdown.
“It’s just like every other race, it is more pressure,” said Edwards, “it is the first race in the Countdown but you still have to focus and do your normal thing, just take it all in, relax and try to do your job. We’ll go as far as I go. If I can drive good, then we’ll go far.
“Winning a second championship is a lot harder. It’s hard to get there to win the first one, I think it’s even harder to stay there.”
Andrew Hines retained the no. 1 seed that he has held all weekend in Pro Stock Motorcycle to score his second top qualifying spot of the season. After setting the national record on Saturday with a 6.815, Hines turned around and bested the track record he already broke the day before, putting up a lap of 196.76 mph.
L.E. Longlet moved up to the second qualifying spot with a 6.847, bumping Eddie Krawiec to the third spot with a 6.867. Hector Arana (6.874) and Michael Phillips (6.919) rounded out the top five.
Hines swept up 15 additional points in his qualifying effort and will go up against Wesley Wells in Monday’s final, looking to post his fifth victory of the season.
“I don’t even know if I got 15 points in the Countdown all last year, so to start off this way taking every point on the table that’s a big deal,” said Hines. “Our team has done a really good job experimenting with tune-ups trying to figure out what works, and we got pretty nailed done right now. I feel really confident, I think I have the best chance I’ve even had in my career to bringing home a US Nationals Wally.”
David Hope was the only Countdown entry to miss the field, posting an identical 7.054 to Wesley Wells by losing out to due to a slower top speed.
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