Saturday qualifying from the Gatornationals
Track records were shattered in the early qualifying sessions as the mild north Florida weather and cool track conditions led to record speeds, with new tracks records set in Funny Car and Top Fuel as well as new national records in Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.
In contrast to the record setting sessions on Friday, most of the record speeds held up through Saturday’s sessions as temperatures warmed up and track conditions got slicker.
Matt Hagan topped the Funny Car class with a track-record low ET of 4.030 from Friday’s sessions that held up through Saturday, putting Hagan on the pole for the seventh time in his career.
“Florida’s been kind to us, it’s nice to come out here and reset our own track record,” said Hagan. “We had a few issues this weekend, but we got them ironed out now, that’s why they give you four laps (of qualifying) out there.
“I think we’ll see 3.99 runs before the year is up, you have to kind of message these things, they’re like a piece of metal – you keep rubbing on it, the more it shines.”
Jack Beckman (4.051), Mike Neff (4.074), Johnny Gray (4.079) and Cruz Pedregon (4.090) rounded out the top five. Bob Bode took the bump spot and will face Hagan in the first round.
In Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher held the top qualifier spot he won in Friday’s second session over Larry Dixon, posting a 3.814 at a track record top speed of 325.45 mph for the 62nd career pole and will face David Grubnic in the opening round
“As good as it is to be no. 1 from yesterday’s run, today’s run was more important,” said Schumacher. “We didn’t go out today to try and run another 3.81. We wanted to go faster, we wanted to see if you could do it, and guess what – you can’t. The conditions are fine, but the track isn’t going to take any better than that.”
True to Schumacher’s word, no one was able to improve their time and the top five remained unchanged from Friday, with Antron Brown taking second with a 3.822, followed by Spencer Massey (3.828, 318.39 mph), Dixon (3.838, 317.05) and Steve Torrence (3.860).
The Pro Stock record book got completely re-written during the Friday qualifying session with eight drivers beating the track record of 6.520, including three drivers who posted an identical 6.495. The top qualifier spot went to Rodger Brogdon, who won his first career pole with a 6.495 at 213.57 mph.
“It is a little bit special for me, a lot of people don’t know this, but this is the first national event I ever went to when I started drag racing, back in 1984, when I was racing Super Stock,” said Brogdon. “Gatornationals – there’s only one race bigger and that’s Indy, so it really feels good to be no. 1 here.”
Mike Edwards was second with a 6.495 at 213.47, followed by Greg Anderson (6.495, 213.23) and Jason Line (6.496).
Erica Enders set a new national record with a top speed of 213.57 mph. She’ll face NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch, who rebounded from two botched qualifying attempts on Friday to nail down the 12th qualifying spot with a 6.532.
2009 Gatornationals Pro Stock Motorcycle winner Hector Arana notched his 16th career no. 1 spot and his first in the Gatornationals since 1994 with a new national record low ET of 6.777, topping the previous best of 6.811 set last November by Eddie Krawiec.
“I tried to get the ET at the end, there was no one there to give me the ET,” said Arana. “Unbelievable, they gave me a 6.77. (I said) ‘Wow, that’s great.’ It felt slow.
“The track is totally different from Friday, we’ve been blowing the tire, we can’t get a hold of the track. Qualifying No. 1 is great, it means you did the best, you were the best in qualifying, but when it comes to Sunday, that doesn’t mean anything … on race day, of course, anything can happen.”
Although Krawiec’s national record ET was eclipsed, he scored himself another national record, posting the fastest speed ever in the class with a run of 199.26 mph. His time of 6.788 from Friday was enough for the second qualifying spot, followed by Andrew Hines (6.826), Karen Stoffer (6.833) and Matt Smith. (6.872).
Among the non-qualifiers for Sunday’s field was Arana’s son, Hector Arana III, trying to make his NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle debut.
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