Connolly, Beckman, Coughlin lead Friday fields in Seattle

Jack Beckman continued his hot streak in Funny Car by racing to the qualifying lead Friday at the NHRA Northwest Nationals.

Dave Connolly (Top Fuel) and Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) also were quickest in their categories at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event in Seattle, the final of three events in the NHRA Western Swing.

Beckman completed the first three-second Funny Car run in Pacific Raceways history with a 3.997 at 314.17 mph in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T during the final session of the day. Beckman, who qualified No. 1 in Seattle in 2013, won the previous two events at Denver and Sonoma and is looking to become the second Funny Car driver and eighth Professional driver overall to sweep the NHRA Western Swing.

“I just keep riding the wave, and it keeps lasting longer and longer," said Beckman, the 2012 world champ. “I did not do a good job first session. Our car was wicked fast early. I let it get out of the groove, and it smoked the tires. Crew Chief Jimmy Prock backed the car down a little bit because we didn’t have the advantage of running last in the second session."

Jack Beckman

Dave Connolly

Jeg Coughlin Jr.

Recent Chicago winner Tommy Johnson Jr. sits second with a 4.036 at 308.00 in the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T while Atlanta winner Tim Wilkerson is third with a 4.038 at 311.85 in the Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Ford Mustang. Two-time and defending world champ and current points leader Matt Hagan is fourth. Alexis DeJoria escaped injury when her Patron XO Cafe Incendio Toyota Camry suffered a spectacular explosion during the second session.

In Top Fuel, Connolly claimed the top spot with a track record performance of 3.751 at 327.19 in his C&J Energy Services dragster. Connolly, who is in his first season in Top Fuel following a lengthy career in Pro Stock, is two sessions away from claiming his first No. 1 qualifying position in the category and ninth of his career.

“When I went through, I didn’t know the boys had set it up to run that fast," said Connolly. “I thought a .78 would be a good run out there, and when the .75 popped up, I was in shock. With the caliber of cars behind us, I definitely didn’t think it would stand."

Eight-time and defending Top Fuel world champ Tony Schumacher sits second in the U.S. Army dragster with a 3.761 at 320.74. Three-time season winner Richie Crampton is third with a 3.765 at 320.43 in the Lucas Oil dragster. Defending race winner Doug Kalitta is 12th with two sessions remaining.

Coughlin shot to the qualifying lead in Pro Stock following his track record 6.501 at 212.59 in the Stockseth Racing/Elite Motorsports/ Chevy Camaro. Coughlin, a five-time Pro Stock world champ, is running a limited schedule this season as teammate to defending world champ Erica Enders.

“It feels fantastic to be back out on the track, and to be sitting on top [of the field] after day one here feels very special," said Coughlin. “With the weather tomorrow morning expected to be cooler, our 6.50 likely doesn’t stand a chance of staying up on top. We’ll sleep on that and be proud of our efforts today, but know that we’re [going to] come out and swing hard tomorrow."

Jonathan Gray, the runner-up in Sonoma last weekend, is currently qualified second with a 6.505 at 212.13 in the Gray Manufacturing Chevy Camaro. Four-time world champ Greg Anderson sits third, and 2012 world champ Allen Johnson is fourth. Defending world champ Enders is sixth.

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