Brainerd: Friday qualifying report

FORCE, SCHUMACHER, ANDERSON AND ELLIS TOP CATEGORIES IN FIRST DAY OF QUALIFYING AT LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS BRAINERD, Minn. - Thirteen-time Funny Car champion and budding A&E real life television star John Force is the provisional qualifying ...

FORCE, SCHUMACHER, ANDERSON AND ELLIS TOP CATEGORIES IN FIRST DAY OF QUALIFYING AT LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS

BRAINERD, Minn. - Thirteen-time Funny Car champion and budding A&E real life television star John Force is the provisional qualifying leader at the 25th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals.

Force drove his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang down Brainerd International Raceway in 4.773 seconds at 323.74 mph to take a big step towards his 130th career No. 1 qualifying effort.

Tony Schumacher posted a crowd-pleasing 4.499 at 330 mph to lead Top Fuel, while Minnesota native Greg Anderson and red-hot Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Chip Ellis also paced their categories the $1.6 million race, the 16th of 23 on the $50 million POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Force is Funny Car's provisional low qualifier based on speed alone, as both he and former employee Tony Pedregon both posted 4.773-second passes in the second round. The difference was that Force topped out at 323.74 mph to Pedregon's 321.04 mph speed in the Q Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

"We've done good here before because there's always good air and we can make muscle," said Force, a 10-time winner at BIR. "If it stays cool like this, we'll be okay. We just haven't been able to run in the heat this year. I asked [crew chief Austin] Coil why we can't run in the heat and he said he's still figuring out the new car, the new engine, and the new clutch we've been using this year."

Schumacher, who clocked a 4.446 at 337.58 mph at last year's Brainerd event, is on top once again, this time by a sizable .065-second margin.

"Contrary to popular belief, these qualifying points are important," Schumacher said. "Eventually, if you're on top enough, the extra points you get for qualifying well add up to a round. As tight as this deal is getting, a round can be the difference at the end of the year."

Schumacher's teammate Melanie Troxel seems to have found her groove again, placing the Skull Shine dragster in second with a 4.564 at 325.22 mph.

Anderson was the quickest of both Friday sessions, opening with a 6.759 at 204.11 mph before dropping to a 6.744 at 203.86 mph in the evening. He was ultimately followed on the ladder by his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO teammate and fellow Minnesotan Jason Line, who is slightly more than a hundredth back with a 6.756 at 203.46 mph.

"It's not a surprise to be here but you still got to go out and earn the right," said Anderson, who together with Line has collected 11 of 15 low qualifier awards for KB Racing this year. "It's not like we have a huge advantage. It's just a tiny one so you have to go out and work for these things. All the No. 1s, Full Throttle deals, and top speed of the meet, that's all because of the guys in the pit."

Running for his fifth low qualifier of the year, Ellis has the quickest bike on the property once again after posting a 7.086 at 186.41 mph on his Drag Specialties S&S Buell V-Twin Friday night.

"We're just rolling right along," Ellis said. "Some of the other guys out there are telling me we're making them look bad but I know that we go fast because everyone on this team works so hard. We're the first ones here and the last ones out. So unless you work harder than us, don't complain."

Saturday's final two qualifying runs will begin at 11:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Melanie Troxel , Jason Line , Chip Ellis