Pedregon, McClenathan, Line, Tonglet on Pole at zMax
Bonus points were in the line as the Countdown to the Championship entered its second event, but at the head of the Funny Car field, Cruz Pedregon looked to play the role of the spoiler.
Pedregon’s time of 4.078 from Friday’s session stood through the second day of qualifying to give him his first top qualifying spot of the season and the 39th of his career.
The top five drivers hold onto their qualifying spots from Friday with John Force taking the second spot with a 4.081, followed by Bob Tasca III (4.109), Jeff Arend (4.115 306.95 mph) and Matt Hagan (4.115 299.40 mph).
Pedregon, who missed the cut for the Countdown field, collected nine bonus points for leading three of the four qualifying sessions, points that may be sorely missed by the drivers fighting for the title.
“We were just in ‘let’s not kill the motor’ mode today, and it went out there and ran two great runs. When you have a good car like that, it does some great things on its own,” said Pedregon. “We’re real excited knowing we have a car that will contend, obviously the hard part is to go out and doing it fours times in a row tomorrow. I like our chances at least if we can keep doing what we’re doing.”
The driver who took the biggest hit to his championship hopes was Tim Wilkinson, who had his run from Friday night disqualified and was then unable to improve his position, missing the show for the first time this season.
“Today, we got basically a race-day tune-up,” said McClenathan. “It’s much warmer, and the humidity’s here, and it looks like it’s going to be a little bit warmer tomorrow, so we just need to be careful. We can make it A to B, but you can’t get the big E.T.’s and speeds that we saw last night, but last night was perfect conditions as far as trying to go out there and lay one down, so we took advantage of it and picked up a few points along the way. That’s good for us.
“Our side of the ladder looks awful tough tomorrow, so we’re going to have to fight for it. We’ve had to depend on other people to take out some of the frontrunners here, and now maybe we’ll get a chance to do it ourselves tomorrow instead.”
Antron Brown held second with a 3.832, followed by Brandon Bernstein (3.839), Larry Dixon (3.846) and Tony Schumacher (3.866).
Morgan Lucas barely held onto the bump spot as six drivers jockeyed for the final qualifying spots, with Terry McMillen getting bumped from the field for his first DNQ of the year.
Jason Line finished out the day at the top of the Pro Stock ladder in a head-to-head battle with Mike Edwards.
Line, and teammate Greg Anderson traded the lead back and forth along with Edwards over the first four qualifying session with Anderson getting bumped from Friday’s no. 1 spot on Saturday by Edwards, who ran a 6.607.
Not be outdone, Line ran next and bumped Edwards with a 6.604 which held through final session to give him his first no. 1 qualifier of the season.
Line will face Kurt Johnson in the first round for the fifth time this season, making his first run as a no. 1 qualifier since 2009 in front of his hometown crowd.
“It’s good to go in as no. 1 qualifier anywhere, but it’s probably a little bit better here, we have more friends and family here, so that definitely makes a difference,” said Line. “It’s been so long since I’ve been number one, I really can’t remember what it feels like.
“It was good for our Summit Racing team, we weren’t just number one but in all the sessions either Greg (Anderson) or myself was low (qualifier) in every session, and our Ronnie Humphrey, our third car, he ran good as well. It feels really good, it shows we’re definitely headed in the right direction and it feels good to be back near the top.”
Dave Connolly took third with a 6.610, followed by Anderson (6.613) and Rodger Brogdon, who posted a 6.617 to move from 10th to fifth.
Among the drivers who missed the show was second-place points contender Allen Johnson, who was disqualified from the event for registering a .027 blood-alcohol level during a random drug and alcohol test administered prior to Saturday’s qualifying session.
Johnson had previously qualified seventh during Friday’s rounds, but his time was thrown out after he was DQ’d.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle top spot went to rookie-of-the-year contender and US Nationals winner L.E. Tonglet, who earned his first career no. 1 qualifier spot by beating out a strong showing by the Harley-Davidson’s of Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines to collect eight bonus points in his first event racing as part of the Nitrofish team.
Hines held the top spot since Friday’s first round with a 6.913 before Tonglet topped him with a 6.910.
Tonglet, will face Mike Berry for their second opening round showdown in the last three evens, with Berry getting the win over Tonglet at Brainerd on Aug. 15.
Eddie Krawiec improved his time from Friday but did not advance his position, holding onto third with a 6.914. Steve Johnson (6.917) and Karen Stoffer (6.953) rounded out the top five.
Jeremy Teasley and Wesley Wells failed to qualify.
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