Brittany Force continued to show rapid improvement in her rookie season by racing to the qualifying lead in Top Fuel Friday at the 59th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the world’s most prestigious drag race, the 18th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Series.
Force, the daughter of NHRA Funny Car icon John Force, powered her 8,000-horsepower Castrol Edge dragster to a leading performance of 3.820 seconds at 313.44 mph. If Force’s performance holds, it would be her first career No. 1 qualifying position. Force’s sister Courtney earned her first No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car a year ago during her rookie season at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
Qualifying for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event continues Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Eliminations are set for Monday at 11 a.m. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout in Top Fuel also takes place on Saturday, with the Funny Car Traxxas Nitro Shootout slated for Sunday.
“I’m so excited and we’re definitely feeling good right now,” said Force, who will meet points leader Shawn Langdon in the first round of the Traxxas Shootout on Saturday. “My guys have worked so hard and we’ve certainly struggled and a had a lot of ups and downs this year, but to get this first (provisional) No. 1 I’m so excited about it.”
Spencer Massey, currently second in points and the defending Traxxas Nitro Shootout winner, went to second with a 3.837 at 316.38 in his Battery Extender/Schumacher Electric dragster. Doug Kalitta’s 3.841 at 311.13 in his Mac Tools dragster put him in the third position.
“It’s our rookie season, but we’re fighting to get that first win and hopefully we can do it at the biggest race of the year,” Force said. “It’s tough to stay motivated when you’re struggling, but the guys are working hard, we’ve gotten a lot of support and it’s starting to pay off.”
Tasca paced the Funny Car category with a 4.085 at 312.28 in his 8,000-horsepower Motorcraft/Quick Lane Shelby Ford Mustang. Tasca, who is seeking his first win of 2013, will claim his first No. 1 qualifier of the year and fourth in his career if the run holds. The strong pass also helped Tasca’s chances for the Countdown to the Championship. Tasca, who is seeking his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory, is currently ninth in points.
“The car did exactly what we wanted today and that was great to see,” Tasca said. “Getting those three bonus points for making the best run that session was big. We want to keep getting those throughout the weekend, but that run also gives us some freedom to take a big swing at it (Saturday).”
John Force took his Castrol GTX Mustang to the second spot with a 4.087 at 309.70 while his daughter Courtney powered to the third spot with a 4.088 at 316.30 in her Traxxas Mustang. Cruz Pedregon’s 4.089 at 300.13 in his Snap-on Toyota Camry was the only other Funny Car to dip into the 4.0-zone on Friday.
“I don’t think that number is going to stick, so we’re definitely going to have to step up,” Tasca said. “But we’ve got a car that is capable of running three seconds and it’s also able to go down a hot, sticky track and I’ve never had a car like that. I’m having fun and we go to every race to win. That’s what it takes to be a championship contender and I’ve never had a team or a car as good as this.”
In Pro Stock, defending world champ Johnson took command during the lone qualifying session on Friday, running 6.661 at 207.02 in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger. If it holds, it would be the third No. 1 qualifying position this season and 31st of his career. Johnson is seeking his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory and is currently second in points.
“We definitely made the perfect run in the first session in these conditions,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a really good set-up for these conditions and it just absolutely made a perfect run. It didn’t have much left in it.”
Shane Gray is currently qualified second in his Gray Motorsports Chevy Camaro after going 6.665 at 207.78. Points leader and five-time 2013 winner Mike Edwards took his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Camaro to third after his run of 6.669 at 209.60. With his qualifying pass Edwards also secured the No. 1 seed in the Countdown to the Championship.
“Conditions for (Saturday) are supposed to be similar to today so it will be tough to improve,” Johnson said. “Winning this event is definitely on my bucket list. It’s right up there with winning the championship. It would certainly be really special.”
Smith ran a 7.010 at 192 in his Viper Motorcycle Company Racing Buell to take the initial top spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Should that run maintain the top spot, it would be the fourth No. 1 qualifier for Smith, who is currently second in points.
Smith won the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in 2006 and would like nothing more than to pick up his second win at Indy seven years later.
“We were pretty happy with how it went but it definitely wasn’t a perfect run,” Smith said. “We’ll take it, though, and we’ll go into (Saturday) and the rest of the weekend feeling good.”
Steve Johnson, who is fighting to stay in the 10th position in the Countdown to the Championship, went 7.017 at 190.65 on his Suzuki to surge to second. John Hall is currently third on his Viper Motorcycle Company Racing Buell after his pass of 7.029 at 189.79. Hall and Scotty Pollacheck also clinched their positions in the Countdown to the Championship after making a qualifying run, leaving only four spots remaining.
“We were pretty impressed with how it ran in the back half of the run, so we can’t complain,” Smith said. “I just wanted to get that one run down, so I’ve got that data for these conditions and we’ll be ready to roll for the rest of qualifying and eliminations.”