Baytown: Saturday qualifying summary

McClenathan surprise low qualifier in Houston; Force, Line, Sampey join him on low qualifier's podium BAYTOWN, Texas -- Veteran Top Fuel racer Cory McClenathan is the surprise No. 1 qualifier at the 19th annual O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals ...

McClenathan surprise low qualifier in Houston; Force, Line, Sampey join him on low qualifier's podium

BAYTOWN, Texas -- Veteran Top Fuel racer Cory McClenathan is the surprise No. 1 qualifier at the 19th annual O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park. McClenathan posted a class-leading 4.531 at 329.42 mph Saturday in the final time trial of the $2 million race to earn his 30th career low qualifier award.

Funny Car continues to be led by 13-time champion John Force's double-track-record 4.695 at 328.06 mph, with Jason Line remaining on top of Pro Stock with a 6.686 at 206.29 mph. Pro Stock Motorcycle point leader Angelle Sampey moved around U.S. Army teammate Antron Brown to take the lead in the two-wheeled class with a 7.038 at 190.59 mph.

Gary Scelzi became the first defending Funny Car champion to fail to qualify for an event in 21 years by missing the cut here. Mark Oswald was the last to record a DNQ as the reigning champ when he couldn't break into the Indy field in 1985. It was the first time Scelzi failed to qualify for an event since Las Vegas I in 2003 -- a stretch of 70 events.

McClenathan broke a 30-race stretch where he'd not led the field by qualifying No. 1 for the 30th time in his career. His last-gasp 4.531 at 329.42 mph in the Fram Boost2 dragster might have been even a click quicker had his blower belt not come off at the top end of the racetrack.

"It's been a long time since I've been outside the top 10 (in the POWERade Series standings) looking in," McClenathan said. "I've tried to be patient and everyone knows I'm not a patient guy, and we've been getting pressure from a lot of different places, but Wes (Cerny, Crew chief) keeps smiling and telling us to just wait because when we get it running it's going to be great. I think we're just now starting to see that."

Top Fuel POWERade Series points leader Melanie Troxel waited until the last session to get in the field with a seventh-best 4.581 at 326.32 mph in her Skull Gea/Torco Race Fuels dragster.

It was the sixth 1-2-3 qualifying sweep for John Force Racing as team patriarch Force led Ford Mustang teammates Robert Hight and Eric Medlen on the Funny Car ladder.

"We're the fastest today but that don't make you win the race tomorrow," Force said.

Capps, the man at the top of the POWERade Series standings, jumped up to fourth overall with a 4.766 at 319.14 mph in his Brut Dodge Stratus R/T.

It was just hot enough to keep anyone from knocking Day 1 leader Line off the Pro Stock podium, so the track record 6.686 at 206.29 mph he posted Friday in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO will earn him his fifth career low qualifier award.

"I need to get out of my driving slump," said Line, who has struggled mightily in the first three races this year. "Everyone goes through slumps; how you get out of them is the trick. The plan is very simple, it's just execution. I know our guys will make all the right calls with the car. I have complete confidence with that part."

Sampey edged teammate and Friday leader Brown to take over the No. 1 slot in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Sampey's U.S. Army Suzuki carried her to a track-record 7.038 at 190.59 mph in Saturday's early session to help her capture the 38th low qualifier award of her career. She also has 38 career victories, more than twice as many as any other woman in NHRA history.

"I personally feel more confident this year than I have in the past," Sampey said. "I'm not saying I'm gonna kick everybody's butts but mentally I feel right, like I know my riding is going to be there."

Eliminations begin at 11 a.m. Sunday.

-nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Cory McClenathan , Melanie Troxel , Jason Line , Eric Medlen , Robert Hight , Angelle Sampey