Baytown: Saturday final qualifying report

Kalitta, Bazemore and Gann hold on to the top spots in Houston, Yates steals the No. 1 position on Saturday at the NHRA O'Reilly Spring Nationals. BAYTOWN, Texas - Whit Bazemore earned the top qualifying position in Funny Car at the NHRA...

Kalitta, Bazemore and Gann hold on to the top spots in Houston, Yates steals the No. 1 position on Saturday at the NHRA O'Reilly Spring Nationals.

BAYTOWN, Texas - Whit Bazemore earned the top qualifying position in Funny Car at the NHRA O'Reilly Spring Nationals with a quarter-mile run of 4.800 seconds at 318.92 mph in his Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird.

Doug Kalitta, Jim Yates and Shawn Gann led their respective divisions at the $1.9 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing event at Houston Raceway Park.

Bazemore, who qualified in the No. 1 position at nine of the final 12 events last season, will be on the top of the elimination ladder for the first time in 2002.

"It's been disappointing, it's been frustrating," Bazemore said. "Everybody knows what we are capable of and we just keep plugging away and get better and better each race. You do wonder where did it go from last year until now. It's all still there. We just have to find it."

All eyes will be on John Force as he attempts to capture his 100th career win in Funny Car. Force qualified fourth and will face Dale Creasy Jr. in the first round of Sunday's eliminations. The focus on Force takes the pressure off of Bazemore.

"For several reasons I am glad he hasn't gone and won it right away," said Bazemore. "100 wins is an incredible accomplishment. As long as he doesn't do it against us in a final round, I'll be the first to congratulate him. I'd like to see him do it. He's going to do it, it is just a matter of time. I think it is going to be a great moment in our sport and a great moment for him. It's just an incredible accomplishment for whatever sport you are in.

After winning his 99th NHRA national event in Pomona, Calif., Force has yet to win the elusive 100th in the last three events. Force has won six times at Houston Raceway Park.

Kalitta led the Top Fuel order with a 4.579 at 320.81 pass in his Mac Tools dragster, jumping to the front of the field for fifth time in his career. Kalitta's best effort came during night qualifying on Friday and was strong enough to hold off the field.

"You never know," said Kalitta. "With these guys out here these days, there is a handful of guys that can do it (take the top spot) in the hot weather. It's certainly pretty tough to do and we're pretty happy we were able to hold on to it."

Yates earned his first top qualifying award of the season to lead the Pro Stock division with a run of 6.822 at 202.24 in his Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am. Yates took the top qualifying position during the Saturday morning session and ran low elapsed time during the afternoon session.

"That's good if you can run 82 and 84 and be the fastest car both sessions," said Yates, a two-time NHRA Pro Stock champion. "That gives us a good tune-up for tomorrow and it's going to take a good tune-up and a lot of good driving to win this race."

Gann's Suzuki led the Pro Stock Motorcycle field with a pass of 7.185 at 192.58. Gann edged out defending series champion Angelle Savoie for his first No. 1 qualifying position of his career.

"It's a big deal to beat her out," Gann said. "We've got the most horsepower this weekend."

Final eliminations start Sunday at 11 a.m.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , John Force , Doug Kalitta , Shawn Gann