San Antonio: Friday qualifying summary

Cruz Pedregon Highlights Return of Nitro Funny Car Opening Day of Amalie Oil Texas Nationals SAN ANTONIO, Texas (March 24, 2006) -- After a 14-year absence, Nitro Funny Cars made their return to competition on the eMax Drag Racing Series...

Cruz Pedregon Highlights Return of Nitro Funny Car Opening Day of Amalie Oil Texas Nationals

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (March 24, 2006) -- After a 14-year absence, Nitro Funny Cars made their return to competition on the eMax Drag Racing Series circuit as Cruz Pedregon, Camarillo, Calif., claimed the provisional #1 qualifying spot at the Amalie Oil Texas Nationals presented by Ancira Cars, Trucks and RVs and the San Antonio Express-News at San Antonio Raceway.

Pedregon, the only driver other than John Force to win an NHRA Funny Car world championship in the 1990's, used a 4.765 ET at 321.12 mph pass to wrestle the top Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Car seed away from his brother, Frank, heading into Saturday's action. Frank Pedregon led the pack after the early qualifying session when he clocked a 4.892/297.16. Frank Pedregon did not attempt a run during Friday's evening qualifying. Bob Gilbertson, Charlotte, N.C., is provisionally in the #3 position with a 5.027/300.06.

After claiming the provisional pole, Pedregon had nothing but praise for the surface at San Antonio Raceway.

"This is huge, it's big for us," Pedregon said of the strong number. "It's a credit to IHRA, the race track and (track owners) Todd and Judy Zampese. It also says a lot about what this class will be. People across the country will read an NHRA Nitro Funny Car driver ran a 4.7 in San Antonio, and you can't run 4.7s at just any track. The track condition was phenomenal and that is what people will see. The car doesn't know what track we're at... we set it up and as long as the track is good it will run. Lots of times we come to a new race track and aren't confident to push it too much. We set this up, tuned it down just a little bit and it ran a great number."

Despite being on top after the first day, Pedregon knows his race team will have work to do if they hope to stay in the top spot.

"Our goal is to run as hard as we can. We're not going to look ahead, we'll go one round at a time," he said. "There are a lot of good cars here so you don't know what can happen."

Doug Foley, Sewell, N.J., started the season with a flourish, claiming the provisional Torco Pro Nitro Top Fuel pole position with a stout 4.610/315.56 pass during the early qualifying session. Foley was unable to improve that mark during evening qualifying, but the number stood up as only Bruce Litton, Indianapolis, Ind., (#2 at 4.655) and Louie Allison (#3 at 4.686) were able to dip into the 4.60s at night. Andrew Cowin, Greensboro, N.C., making his return to the eMax Drag Racing Series after a one-year absence, is in the #4 spot while Bobby Lagana, Jr., Scarsdale, N.Y., in his new McKinney Dragster, will spend the night on the bump spot. Lagana posted a 4.895.

"We're happy with the number we ran," Lagana said. "A 4.89 is a pretty strong bump spot, but we have more left in the car. We're looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow."

In the first race of the season the Torco Pro Stock drivers proved to be in midseason form as an astounding 6.486 bump spot looms after two Friday qualifying passes. Brian Gahm, Lucasville, Ohio, went from out of the show to the provisional #1 qualifier position with a blistering 6.354/218.65 pass in the evening qualifying session. Gahm, a two-time Torco Pro Stock world champion, needs a low 6.41 run Saturday to claim the IHRA elapsed time world record.

Rob Mansfield announced his return to the eMax Drag Racing Series in style with a 6.382 pass at 218.76 mph. After setting the Torco Pro Stock world on its ear towards the end of the 2004 season, Mansfield struggled early in the '05 season and stepped back to regroup after a few races. But the Wilson Manifolds team has a handle on its '05 Chevy Cobalt and is in the provisional #5 qualifying spot.

Defending Torco Pro Stock World Champion Steve Spiess, also in an '05 Cobalt, has not slowed down at all, posting a pair of runs in the .30s. His 6.378/218.37 pass during the evening qualifying session was good enough to put him in the #3 position heading into tomorrow's final qualifying session. Jerry Haas (6.374) now sits in the #2 spot.

Three-time defending Alcohol Funny Car World Champion Rob Atchison, London, Ontario, picked up right where he left off last season, posting a 5.813/246.71 in the early qualifying session to lay claim to the provisional #1 spot. Atchison was unable to improve that number in the evening while Mark Thomas, Louisville, Ohio, who did not make a second run in the evening, remained#2.

In Torco Pro Modified, Rick DiStefano claimed both the track elapsed time record and the provisional #1 qualifying spot with a 6.062/234.14. While DiStefano set the ET record, Scotty Cannon, Jr., who is in the second position after both Friday qualifying hits, grabbed the speed record at San Antonio Raceway with a 6.074 run at 237.34 mph. Glen Kerunsky is in the #3 position while Rick Moore, at 6.287, is on the bump spot heading into Saturday qualifying.

-ihra-

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Series Drag
Drivers Mark Thomas , Bruce Litton , Frank Pedregon , Bob Gilbertson , John Force , Andrew Cowin , Scotty Cannon , Louie Allison , Cruz Pedregon , Jerry Haas , Doug Foley , Glen Kerunsky , Rick DiStefano , Steve Spiess