Antron Brown set a new national record with the second-quickest time in NHRA Top Fuel history on is way to securing the no. 1 qualifier spot for Sunday’s 27th annual Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa.
Johnny Gray topped the track ET record to score his first career no.1 qualifier in Funny Car, joining top qualifiers Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana, Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Records continued to fall in all four divisions throughout both of Saturday’s sessions, with the national in Top Fuel falling twice within minutes.
After just missing the provisional pole by one-thousandths of a second on Friday, Dixon roared back in Saturday’s final session with a record-breaking pass of 3.769 at 323.43 mph, breaking the mark of 3.770 he himself set in the season-opening event at Pomona.
Coming up in the final pairing against Spencer Massey – who broke the track ET record earlier in the day – Brown regained the top spot with a stunning 3.766/325.30 to claim his 29th-career no. 1 qualifier spot as well as the new national ET record.
"It's an awesome feeling. I grew up in this part of the country, so it feels great to do this in front of so many friends, family, and peers," Brown said. “The Funny Car have been doing this (setting records) for a while, and it was the dragsters' turn.
I was sitting there watching 'Hot Rod' (Fuller), (Del) Worsham, and Morgan (Lucas) making great runs, and I knew (the speed) was out there. It felt awesome.
Brown, who came into this event trailing Worsham by seven points, now has 20 bonus points in the Countdown to the Championship and now faces the challenge of winning out the weekend to try and knock Worsham from atop the standings.
“The 20 points for the record aren't for sure yet and won't win you a championship without the round-wins to go with it," Brown said, “but it'll sure help us sleep easier knowing we have it in our back pocket."
Bruce Litton took the bump spot and will face Brown in the opener. Fred Farndon, Rit Pustari and Terry McMillen missed the field.
Although not in the Countdown field, Johnny Gray proved himself a force to be reckoned with in Funny Car after staging one of the biggest comebacks of the weekend, jumping from 13th in Friday’s session and barely losing the provisional pole to Matt Hagan before coming into Saturday’s session.
After John Force gained the no. 1 spot with a track-speed record run of 4.011 at 319.22 in the opening session, Gray countered with the third-quickest pass in NHRA Funny Car history, going 4.010/318.62 in the final pairing against Force, knocking the 15-time Funny Car champ to second en route to his first career NHRA no. 1 qualifier spot.
"My car's not in the Countdown, but, the way I look at it, we just helped DSR by taking qualifying points away from Force's team," Gray said. "The track was awesome, and the air was really good. The car has run 4.02, 4.03 before. It made a little quiver at the (concrete-to-asphalt) transition last night, so the guys thought it would run good if we could just get rid of that. They gave me a great hot rod."
Leah Pruett-LeDuc made the field in her Funny Car debut, taking the bump spot. Mike Smith, Paul Lee, and Terry Haddock failed to qualify.
Pro Stock points leader Jason Line notched his fifth consecutive no. 1 qualifier spot and the seventh of the season with a track record 6.513 at 211.83 mph.
Line, Mike Edwards and Greg Anderson all topped the track ET record on Friday, with the mark going to Edwards because of his higher top speed. Saturday was a different story, as the top four qualifiers all broke the ET record.
“I didn’t realize that we had 7 No. 1s this year. I’m proud of that," said Line, who will face Bob Benza to start Sunday’s eliminations. “That’s why we go to the shop and work hard so we can come back out and do it again the next week."
“It’s exciting to have five low qualifiers in a row," Line said. “It would appear that we have it figured out but if you listen to us in pit area you wouldn’t think so. Our crew still debates every run. Hopefully we can turn this into another win tomorrow."
Ronnie Humphrey took second at 6.525/211.20, followed by Edwards with a 6.528/ 211.76. Anderson took home a share of the record book, setting the track top speed record with a 6.533 at 212.03 mph in a fourth-place effort. Ron Krisher rounded out the top five with a 6.558/ 210.87.
|Hector Arana Jr.|
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, rookie Hector Arana, Jr. got the better of the points leader and set the track ET record to boot, hitting a 6.824 at 195.48 mph to knock Eddie Krawiec from the top spot and collect the fifth no.1 qualifier spot of his young career.
Krawiec held the second spot with a 6.826/197.97, followed by Hector Arana, Sr. (6.831/ 195.28), Andrew Hines (6.845/195.48) and Steve Johnson (6.858/194.21).