Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec earned No. 1 qualifying positions at Sonoma Raceway and will lead their classes into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
No one in Funny Car was able to improve on Beckman’s jaw-dropping 3.921-second run from Friday. However, Beckman was able to run quick enough on the day’s final attempt to certify his 3.921 as the provisional national record, which comes with a 20-point bonus if he can hold on to it through the end of the event. It was Beckman’s second No. 1 of the season and 12th of his career. He will open eliminations against Tony Pedregon.
Beckman ran as a single in the final qualifying session after teammate Matt Hagan’s machine broke on the starting line. Beckman powered his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T to an impressive run of 3.958 at 318.84 in the heat of the day. The 3.958 gave Beckman the 1 percent backup he needed for the record.
“I think it’s bitchin to be the quickest Funny Car driver in the world, but I want the trophy at the end of the day,” Beckman said. “The national record is for the crew chiefs. If we can win tomorrow, I think that’s one that over time would be looked upon as domination. If you can qualify No. 1, set a national record, and convert that to the trophy, that is one for the history books.”
Series points leader Hagan qualified second and will race Paul Lee, and 16-time champ John Force qualified third and will face John Hale in the opener.
In Top Fuel, Brown claimed his fifth No. 1 of the season and 42nd of his career with his track record performance of 3.707 at 326.95 mph in his Matco Tools dragster. Brown will go for his fourth win of the season in a first-round matchup with Steve Chrisman.
“The run we just made gears you up for the first round tomorrow,” Brown said. “It gives you a great deal of confidence going into tomorrow, but you have to remember it’s nitro and anything can happen with these cars. We have to be poised and execute the best we can to get by the first round. The car ran some great e.t.s today, and at no point was it in trouble. I have all the confidence in the world in my team. I need to do my job to keep it in the groove and have a good reaction time. If we all work to the best of our abilities, we have a chance at winning the race tomorrow.”
Dave Connolly qualified second and will race Terry McMillen, and J.R. Todd will face Jenna Haddock in the No. 3 vs. No. 14 bracket.
In Pro Stock, McGaha earned his fourth No. 1 qualifying position of the season with his Friday track record time of 6.499 at 212.36 mph in his Harlow Sammons Racing Chevy Camaro. McGaha will meet V. Gaines in round one as he remains in hot pursuit of his first career victory.
“We got a lot of data today that was very helpful because this was more like race day,” McGaha said. “The weather was a bit worse, so we didn’t have to tone it down too much. When you make those late [night] runs it’s fun, but it’s mostly throwaway information. As a rule, the Pro Stock guys are good at adapting to the track. Very seldom do we have problems unless the conditions change when we’re in the lanes. That happens occasionally, but we had a good handle on it today.”
Defending event winner Jason Line qualified second in his Summit Racing Camaro and will race rookie Aaron Strong in the first round. Series points leader Greg Anderson, a four-time Sonoma winner, qualified third and will meet rookie Alex Laughlin in round one.
Krawiec, who raced to victory in the NHRA Pro Bike Battle Saturday at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals and earned $7,500 for the win in the all-star bonus race featuring the eight quickest riders from the last year, also took the No. 1 qualifying position in the two-wheel category at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event. It is his second No. 1 of the season and 25th of his career.
Series points leader Krawiec, who won in Denver last week from the No. 1 qualifying position, hopes to keep his streak of successful runs going tomorrow when he opens eliminations against Angie Smith.
“Everyone knows we’ve struggled a bit this year, and it took a lot of hard work to get down this road,” said three-time world champ Krawiec. “We ran well, but we weren’t consistent. Before Denver, we went to a test session because we just didn’t know where to look. Now we do. I can’t thank Matt [Hines, crew chief] and the rest of the Vance & Hines team enough. We have a great bike for tomorrow, and I hope we can repeat what we did today.”