Top Fuel driver Antron Brown and Pro Stock racer Erica Enders are in position to earn world championship titles Sunday as both drivers raced to No. 1 qualifying positions Saturday at the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also will lead their categories into tomorrow's 11 a.m. eliminations as No. 1 qualifiers at the penultimate race in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Brown scored his sixth No. 1 qualifying position of the season and the 43rd of his career with a track record time of 3.722 seconds at 326.95 mph at the controls of his 10,000-horsepower Matco Tools dragster. He holds a 142 point lead over second place Tony Schumacher and needs to advance one round farther than Schumacher to finish the event tomorrow with a lead of 151 points or more to secure his second title. He will meet rookie contender Jenna Haddock in round one.
"We did what we needed to do in qualifying and now we're just focused on winning that first round," Brown said. "We have to be flawless tomorrow. We know we're in a good spot for the championship, but we're not going to worry about that and just keep racing hard until we see that big trophy come our way."
Enders earned her sixth No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 18th of her career with her track record performance of 6.559 at 210.28 in her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro. She increased her points lead to 162 over Greg Anderson, who qualified second in his Camaro. Like Brown, her magic number is a lead over second place of at least 151 to clinch the series title.
"We made two really good passes so we were just trying to get ready for tomorrow," said Enders, who will race Deric Kramer in the opening round. "It was good to make more consistent passes. I am pumped going into tomorrow and we'll see what happens. Tomorrow is going to take consistency. Every round is tough and there are no gimmies in Pro Stock. Las Vegas has been really good to me in the past and I want to continue that trend tomorrow. I want to win the race and that's my first goal tomorrow."
|Tommy Johnson, Jr.|
Johnson continued to keep his championship hopes alive in Funny Car by taking the No. 1 qualifying position with a track record time of 3.931 at 320.43 in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T. He will meet Bob Bode in the opener.
Series leader Del Worsham qualified sixth and will face defending world champ Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman qualified fourth and will meet Tony Pedregon. Worsham holds a 38 point advantage over Beckman.
Johnson says he thought one of the two leaders in front of him would take advantage of cooling conditions as the session moved into the darkness Saturday and run quicker than his track record time. He knows that he needs to be ready to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself tomorrow. Johnson trimmed his deficit to Worsham to 137 with his qualifying performance this weekend.
"I think first round will be a lot of focus on what everybody else is doing," Johnson said. "You know, go out and do your job and try to win your round but really pay attention to what is happening to the other cars. The have-fun attitude might go out the window if they both lost first round. It would be very serious. You know, ‘Go get it. We've got to win this race,' because that's our chance, the door's open. If they go a couple rounds, let's go win a race. That's about all that's left. It will be interesting to see. Their outcome will probably have more to do with how I'm looking at things and what we're doing."
Savoie continued his playoff hot streak in Pro Stock Motorcycle, riding his White Alligator Suzuki to his third No. 1 qualifying position of the season with a track record time of 6.852 at 196.30. He will face Fred Camarena in the opening round of eliminations as he continues to chase series points leader Andrew Hines, who qualified second on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.