Force, Worsham and Line on Pole at zMax
Earlier rain showers that passed through the area pushed qualifying back into the early evening and brought cooler temperatures and fresh track conditions as the rain washed away most of the rubber from Friday’s sessions.
Drivers took to the track four at a time during the qualifying sessions under the unique setup at zMax Dragway, where all three of the top classes will go four wide for qualifying as well as Sunday’s elimination rounds.
The top two from each round will move on the semi-finals, where the top two in each quad will move onto the final round.
Force, who had qualified no better than fourth in any of the previous three rounds, was the only driver in the top five to improve his position in the final round, jumping from fifth to the top spot with a time of 4.056 at 315.19 mph to top teammate Robert Hight.
“You always go after records, you don’t think about them on race day, but if I can get it – if I can tie him, if I can catch him … – but just to be in the running with him … any time you can put yourself in a category with these guys, you’re doing your job,” said Force.
Force will face 16th qualifier Dale Creasy and Nos. 8 and 9 qualifiers Ron Capps and Jim Head in the opening quad.
Hight held the second spot at 4.062, 313.07, followed by Cruz Pedregon (4.064, 307.44), Mike Neff (4.072, 308.35) and Jack Beckman (4.074, 314.02).
Melanie Troxel and Brian Thiel failed to make the field for Sunday’s race.
Just a month after scoring his first victory since moving from Funny Car to the Top Fuel ranks, Del Worsham scored his first career Top Fuel top qualifier spot with a track record run of 3.780 at 325.77 mph, besting the previous record of 3.790, 321.12, both set by Cory McClenathan here last September.
Worsham trailed Doug Kalitta and Al-Anabi Racing teammate Larry Dixon going into the fourth round on Saturday after Dixon rocketed past Kalitta with a 3.808, 323.43 in the days opening round.
Neither Dixon nor Kalitta were able to improve their time in the final round and slipped to third and fourth respectively after Tony Schumacher took the second qualifying spot with a 3.798, 326.71.
“Definitely feeling very high right now, what a great run,” said Worsham. “I watched Larry put down a great 3.80 and he went to the number one spot and conditions got better and Alan Johnson and (crew chief) Brian (Husen) just did magic on that car. I’m just lucky to be the guy driving it.
“Track conditions here have been great, considering we were running in the far right two lanes - three and four - and set the record in number three, which is a lane I don’t believe gets used very often. The NHRA have done a great job keeping it prepped and keeping it even, I believe a guy can win in any of the four lanes right now and that’s what four wide is going to be about, is making sure everyone has an equal shot to win.”
Worsham will lead off in a foursome that will include Morgan Lucas, Dave Grubnic, and Antron Brown.
Pat Dakin, Terry Sainty and “The Greek” Chris Karamesines missed the show.
Anderson, who held the top spot from Friday, was unable to improve on his 6.566, 210.37 from Friday and held onto the second spot. Mike Edwards was third with a 6.573, 210.80, followed by Rodger Brogdon (6.577, 209.72) and Vincent Nobile (6. 578, 211.16).
Line moved up from as far back as sixth from his first qualifying effort on Friday to move into second behind Anderson after Saturday’s opening round before jumping to the top spot in his final run with a 6.562 at 210.97 mph. He’ll face Ron Krisher, Dave Connolly and Shane Gray in the opening round.
“It was a great run, a little bittersweet to steal it from my boss, hopefully he won’t fire me,” said Line. “It was sort of fun to be able to go out and beat them. I’m trying to be sorry, but at least it’s one of the Summit cars (on the pole), I guess that’s all that really matters. As long as one of us is on the pole.”
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