Josh Hart put himself in position for his first career No. 1 qualifier, powering to the provisional top spot in Top Fuel on Friday at the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway. Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car), Cristian Cuadra (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also the provisional No. 1 qualifiers.
Hart delivered a run of 3.689 seconds at 328.38 mph in his R&L Carriers dragster, putting together two strong runs as he aims for the first No. 1 in his career and making the only run in the 3.60s on Friday. His second career win in Top Fuel also came at the Charlotte fall race during his rookie season in 2021, and Hart has done well in the four-wide setting, advancing to the final quad the last two years in Charlotte.
“The team deserves it. (Crew chief) Ron Douglas and the crew always give me a great car,” Hart said. “We’ve been learning a lot about each other and gelling properly, and it’s nice to hit that milestone and show what we’re capable of.
It was never a car problem, it was a driver problem, I’ll openly admit that. I can make a bunch of excuses, but I just didn’t get the job done. I learned a lot the last race in Vegas. Overall, you watch these guys busting their butts every single weekend and you just have to focus and do your job. Every day is a new start, but we’ve got a great car and a great team. A lot of good morale over there, and it’s just about surrounding yourself with good people.”
Austin Prock’s 3.707 at 328.70 during the second session gave him the second spot, while points leader Steve Torrence had two strong runs, including a 3.708 at 330.55 that puts him in the third spot.
DeJoria’s stellar start to the 2023 season in Funny Car continued, as she raced to the No. 1 spot to close out qualifying, going 3.876 at 333.08 in her 11,000-horsepower Bandero Tequila Toyota GR Supra. If it holds, it would give DeJoria her first No. 1 qualifier this season and seventh in her career. She’s qualified second the past three races, putting together a series of consistent results that currently has the standout third in points. The only thing missing thus far is her first victory of the season, something DeJoria looks to change this weekend.
“I have yet to win a four-wide so it’s exciting to be number one right now,” DeJoria said. “Hopefully it stays. God willing we’ll stay No. 1 and make it to the winner’s circle on Sunday, but you can’t think that far ahead.
“We’ve been working towards this, our current success, so we’re really excited about how we’re running. This is the best start to our season; it’s been so consistent, and it’s about getting down the track and quickly when a lot of cars haven’t. Having a good consistent racecar is a huge confidence builder for the entire team. It does a lot for us, and I can tell.
“I want to win this race. It’s time. It’s past time. We need to win this race.”
Cruz Pedregon, who has qualified No. 1 the past two races, is currently second with a 3.879 at 327.11 and Robert Hight’s 3.894 at 330.23 has him third.
Cuadra jumped to the top during the final session in Pro Stock, looking to grab his second career No. 1 qualifier thanks to his run of 6.558 at 208.91 in his Corral Boots Chevrolet Camaro. Cuadra earned his first career No. 1 qualifier earlier this season in Phoenix and made a big jump in the second session on Friday in Charlotte. He’s also one of four members of the Cuadra family racing this season, as his brothers, Fernando Jr. and David, are competing, with his father, Fernando Sr., also racing. David Cuadra is making his first Pro Stock start this season, but everyone is chasing Cristian at the moment.
“I’m really happy about that run,” Cuadra said. “After the (first) run I was nervous; I was first pair out and nervous to shake (the tires), but the guys from Elite, they gave me a really good engine. I put it all together, and I’m number one for the moment. I’m happy. The four wide puts a little bit more pressure on the driver, but I love it. Sometimes it gets confusing for us, but if you’re able to focus on your lane, you can do really, really good.”
Deric Kramer’s 6.566 at 208.46 puts him third, while points leader Dallas Glenn, who has won back-to-back races, is right behind in third after going 6.575 at 209.20.
It’s been nearly two months since Pro Stock Motorcycle opened its season in Gainesville, but Herrera kept rolling with a run of 6.758 at 201.10 on his Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki. Herrera qualified No. 1 and won in Gainesville to open the year, earning his first career victory in the category, and continued to impress on Friday in Charlotte. It has the young phenom on track for his second straight No. 1 qualifier as Herrera made a huge run under the lights at zMAX Dragway.
“This feels good. We had a little problem in Q1, but sometimes you’ll have that. I have all the confidence in the world in my Vance & Hines/Mission Foods team,” Herrera said. “We’ve got two more rounds tomorrow and anything can happen, but we’ll see if we can keep It going.”
“There is a lot more to pay attention to (in four-wide racing). I just wanted to make sure I didn’t get timed out, which seems like the biggest thing. I went up and watched Pro Mod before we ran to see how it all went so hopefully, I got a little rhythm going.”
His teammate, Eddie Krawiec, is currently second after going 6.765 at 197.77 and Hector Arana Jr. is third with a 6.825 at 200.80.
Qualifying continues at 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday at the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.