Friday’s leaders hold on through final NHRA qualifying in Houston

Top Fuel driver Morgan Lucas raced to his fourth No. 1 qualifying position of the season Saturday at the 25th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Royal Purple Raceway.

Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock), and Hector Arana Sr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were No. 1 qualifiers and will lead their categories into Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event near Houston.

The GEICO/Lucas Oil Top Fuel team ran low e.t. of the event Friday evening, and the 3.772-second pass at 327.74 mph held up as the No. 1 qualifying position throughout Saturday’s warm weather conditions.

Morgan Lucas

Cruz Pedregon

Allen Johnson

Hector Arana Sr.

“We were real fortunate that the Friday night session ran a little late for us, and we got the conditions to run that big number," Lucas said. “We also had the opportunity to test a little bit [with the hotter temperatures] today, but for tomorrow, we’ll put the car back to where we know it can run well. We obviously have a good handle on the car and can make it run consistent 3.80s."

Lucas will start from the No. 1 position for the eighth time and will face No. 16 qualifier Troy Buff in the opening round.

No one in Funny Car bettered Pedregon’s Friday pass of 4.103 at 305.29. The Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry driver will start from the No. 1 position for the second time this season and 47th time of his career. He will face No. 16 qualifier Gary Densham in round one.

“Thankfully, we made two good runs yesterday because we dropped a cylinder on both runs today," said Pedregon of his eighth No. 1 qualifying effort at Royal Purple Raceway. “The good news is that we stayed No. 1. I’m already thinking about race day."

In Pro Stock, Johnson held on to the No. 1 spot as no one outran the Team Mopar Dodge Avenger racer’s Friday evening pass of 6.545, 211.73.

“Our motto in the Mopar camp is consistency, and I think we’ve accomplished that this weekend," Johnson said. “We weren’t quite as fast as we wanted to be, but we were just a hundredth off. I think tomorrow will be a knock-down drag-out, but the Mopar Avenger team is ready for that. Everybody has their winning hats on, and we’re learning how to win."

This is Johnson's second No. 1 of the season and 20th of his career. Johnson will race Shane Gray and his Tire Kingdom GXP Sunday morning.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Lucas Oil rider Arana set low e.t. of the weekend during Saturday’s final qualifying session when he posted a 6.850, 194.86 and secured his first No. 1 of the season and 18th of his career. Arana’s Lucas Oil Buell teammate and son, Hector Arana Jr., is qualified second in the 16-bike field.

“We just worked hard," Arana said. “We know the Harleys are fast, but we can’t think about them. We just keep working, and the results show. I was happy when I ran, but I felt even better when my son was No. 2. We keep tuning on the bike, and little by little, it’s getting better. We’re making excellent runs, and that’s what’s giving us an edge."

Arana will race No. 16 qualifier Mike Berry in the opening round of eliminations Sunday, and Arana Jr. will face Steve Johnson, the No. 15 qualifier.

In the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx, No. 3 qualifier Danny Rowe was among the first-round winners Saturday when he advanced his Sterling Bridge ’68 Chevy Camaro.

Rowe’s 5.951, 244.92 was too much for Mike Knowles, whose '68 Camaro lost traction almost immediately and coasted across the finish line at 11.413, 78.30. Rowe will face Troy Coughlin in round two Sunday. Coughlin defeated Leah Pruett to advance.

Defending event winner and No. 1 qualifier Mike Castellana was upset in the opening round by Steve Matusek. No. 2 qualifier Rickie Smith also lost in round one, to Donald Walsh.

Other second-round pairings include Brad Brand vs. Kenny Lang and Walsh vs. Pete Farber; Matusek will get a bye run.

Pro Mod eliminations will continue on Sunday at approximately 2 p.m.

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