Baytown: Friday qualifying report

FORCE SETS RECORDS TO LEAD FUNNY CAR; KALITTA LINE AND BROWN ALSO GO LOW BAYTOWN, Texas -- The most prolific racer in Houston Raceway Park history, seven-time Funny Car winner John Force, added to his Texas legacy Friday night with a ...

FORCE SETS RECORDS TO LEAD FUNNY CAR; KALITTA LINE AND BROWN ALSO GO LOW

BAYTOWN, Texas -- The most prolific racer in Houston Raceway Park history, seven-time Funny Car winner John Force, added to his Texas legacy Friday night with a double-track-record pass of 4.695 seconds at 328.06 mph to lead the Day 1 qualifying action at the 19th annual O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil, the fourth of 23 events on the NHRA POWERade Series.

Force's run put him in prime position to earn his ninth low qualifier award at this facility. He was joined by Top Fuel's Doug Kalitta (4.533), Pro Stock's Jason Line (6.686), and Pro Stock Motorcycle's Antron Brown (7.059) at the top of the provisional race day grids.

The closest Funny Cars to Force's Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang are those of his two teammates, Robert Hight (4.754, 323.12) and Eric Medlen (4.770, 311.56) who are second and third on the grid. Still, the 13-time champ is more than five-hundredths of a second in front.

"The tune-up was good, the track is good, and the air is good, that's what it takes," Force said. "If you want to win a bunch of championships you have to stay ahead of the curve. We started working on this stuff a year ago and it bit us but now the work is paying off and all three cars are running good."

As the No. 5 qualifier coming out of the first session, Kalitta ran ahead of a handful of heavy hitters, but no one managed to beat his 4.533 at 326.08 mph. The Mac Tools dragster has yet to post a top qualifying run this year.

"I thought (Tony) Schumacher has the best chance to get around us and if he had stayed hooked up he probably would have," Kalitta said, "but he had to shut it off. Maybe things are turning for us. It certainly worked out better for us tonight. I don't know if it'll hold but it's still fun for us tonight."

Schumacher's U.S. Army dragster still posted a third-best 4.546 at 287.78 mph despite the fact he shut off early.

Although the humidity readings were near 100 percent, Line still managed a track record elapsed time of 6.686 at 206.29 mph in his Pontiac GTO. The driver of the Summit Racing Pontiac GTO eclipsed his more decorated teammate Greg Anderson's 2-year-old mark of 6.693.

"Tonight I get to be Greg," Line said. "Normally I run quick early and then he passes me up and gets all the glory. It's a bit of a surprise for us to run this good in high humidity because normally we struggle in these kinds of conditions. I'll take it."

Houston favorite Erica Enders overcame an aborted first run and climbed all the way to fourth with a 6.709 at 205.76 mph in her Chevrolet Cobalt.

A runner-up at the last stop in Gainesville, Fla., Brown went right to work Friday, zipping to the No. 1 spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle in the opening session with a 7.059 at 187.89 mph on his U.S. Army Suzuki. The pass held through the night session.

"There's no doubt the field is a lot more level," Brown said. "In Gainesville I was low two sessions and Ryan Schnitz was low in the other two on his Buell. It'll be even better when we get fuel injection figured out because that's what they use."

Top Fuel points leader Melanie Troxel and defending series Funny Car champion Gary Scelzi are both outside their respective fields at the midway point of qualifying. They'll have two more chances to make the field during Saturday's final two sessions, scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Melanie Troxel , Jason Line , Ryan Schnitz , Eric Medlen , Robert Hight