Courtney Force collected her second no. 1 qualifier of the season on Saturday, going from worst to first in the final qualifying session for Sunday’s sixth annual NHRA Four Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway in Concord, N.C.
J.R. Todd secured his first no. 1 qualifier of the season with a record-breaking run in Top Fuel qualifying, while Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana, Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also went to the top of the ladder in their respective divisions.
Cooler than normal track temperatures coupled with a newly resurfaced track led to record-breaking runs in three of the four divisions, but with rain showers having wiped out qualifying on Friday, drivers were left with just two sessions on Saturday to make the field.
After Saturday’s opening session, several big-name teams found themselves on the outside looking in with just one more chance to race their way in or go home.
One of the biggest names in danger of missing the show was Force, who was just barely hanging on in 16th position after smoking the tires in Friday’s opening round.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Coming into the last session of the day in the third “quad" of four drivers, Force powered down the track with a low ET of 4.011 at 312.35 mph to jump all the way to the no. 1 spot over her father, John Force, and collect her second top qualifier of the season and 16th of her career.
“Going from zero to hero is great, but it’s really my crew chief (Ron Douglas) and my team," Force said. “It’s lucky that we went straight from 16 to 1, but we still have a lot to work on and I am looking forward to tomorrow."
John Force held onto second with a time of 4.040 at 309.98 seconds, followed by Ron Capps (4.051, 308.78), Matt Hagan (4.055, 306.60) and Cruz Pedregon (4.055, 300.06).
Dale Creasy, Jr. took the bump spot and will face Force in the opening round of eliminations on Sunday.
Bob Tasca III failed to make the field in his first appearance of the season, along with Jeff Diehl who posted his second-straight DNQ.
In Top Fuel, J.R. Todd hit the track in the final quad of the day and took over the top spot with a record-breaking run of 3.713 seconds at 309.84 mph, beating the previous track ET record of 3.749 set by Tony Schumacher in September of 2012.
“That was my career best, but the crazy thing is that the car didn't make it to the finish line under power," Todd said. "I think we could have run a 3.70-flat or maybe even a 3.69. I really hope we get three shots tomorrow, but tomorrow is all about win lights."
"This is a driver's game for sure. You've got Shawn Langdon who is leading the points. They didn't get down the track, but they could run 3.69. All three of them are capable of putting up big numbers so we've got to be prepared."
Todd’s run spoiled the party for Pat Dakin, who held the top spot after the first session with a 3.715 at 318.84 looking for his first NHRA no. 1 qualifier since Montreal in 1972, 43 years ago.
The 69-year-old Dakin, who only runs a limited schedule in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, was slated to run alongside Todd in the final quad, but was a no show and ended up losing the top spot, but hung on for second.
Schumacher was third running 3.726 at 328.94 mph, followed by Spencer Massey (3.730, 326.32) and Doug Kalitta (3.736, 325.06) with all five drivers running under the previous track ET record.
Shawn Langdon managed to put together one full run down the quarter-mile in the last session to take the bump spot and knock Terry McMillen out of the field.
In Pro Stock, Chris McGaha picked up his second straight no. 1 qualifier in a row by knocking Jason Line off the top spot in the final run of the day.
McGaha, who came into the final round of qualifying trailing Line in the second position, clocked in with a career-best ET of 6.474 at 213.70 mph to lock up his third-career top qualifier and his second consecutive pole in the Four Wide Nationals.
"We started off pretty well in Pomona and Phoenix, but we really stumbled upon what we were looking for in the semis in Phoenix, when we almost crashed," McGaha said. "We actually stepped on the car the hardest we've ever stepped on it and maybe that's why it almost crossed the center line. We found a few things when that happened, and it's led to all of our [recent] performance gain."
Line held onto the second position, running 6.481 seconds at 214.78 mph, eclipsing the previous track speed record of 213.91 set at the 2013 event by Mike Edwards.
Rookie Drew Skillman put up his career-quickest and fastest pass to take third, going 6.487 at 213.57 mph to match his previous best qualifying effort. Greg Anderson (6.487, 213.57) was fourth, followed by Allen Johnson (6.513, 213.77) in fifth.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Hector Arana, Jr. swept both rounds of qualifying on Saturday to win his first pole of the season and 17th of his career with a pass of 6.794 seconds at 196.22 mph in the opening round, setting a new track ET record .
Defending race winner Andrew Hines took the second spot, posting a 6.826 at 194.77 mph. (Angelle Sampey (6.853, 187.11), LE Tonglet (6.861, 195.03) and Eddie Krawiec (6.870, 192.55) rounded out the top five.