Brainerd: Friday qualifying report

FULLER, ASHLEY, LINE, AND ELLIS SITTING NO.1 AT LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS IN BRAINERD BRAINERD, Minn. -- Top Fuel points leader "Hot Rod" Fuller navigated a sweltering hot Brainerd International Raceway in 4.607 seconds Friday night to take the...

FULLER, ASHLEY, LINE, AND ELLIS SITTING NO.1 AT LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS IN BRAINERD

BRAINERD, Minn. -- Top Fuel points leader "Hot Rod" Fuller navigated a sweltering hot Brainerd International Raceway in 4.607 seconds Friday night to take the provisional qualifying lead at the 26th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals.

Running without the benefit of a title sponsor, Fuller still found a spot for his all-white dragster beside fellow low qualifiers Mike Ashley (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock), and Chip Ellis (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

All four low qualifiers had to beat out champions to earn top billing. Fuller passed Round 1 leader Tony Schumacher. Ashley fought pass John Force, who had passed him earlier in the second round, with a 4.833. Line knocked teammate Greg Anderson down two pegs with his 6.750, while Ellis showed early leader Angelle Sampey he means business with a 7.032.

Like most of his peers in Top Fuel, Fuller struggled to get down the track in the opening session. But once the sun got off the racetrack he was able to make his move, running a 4.607 at 324.83 mph to take the top spot. Fuller has been top qualifier three times this year.

"Our first run was a mistake on my part, to be honest," Fuller said. "They had the car set up soft because they wanted it to go down that hot racetrack. They slip the clutch to get it to do that but when I stepped on the gas it felt weird to me so I lifted.

"The second time it felt good all the way down the track, at least for a hot track, and I knew it was good when I pulled the chutes. I felt totally relieved because I wanted to make it up to my guys."

Larry Dixon jumped to second with a 4.617 at 298.34 mph in his SkyTel dragster. Fuller's David Powers Motorsports teammate Whit Bazemore followed in third with a 4.628 in his Matco Tools rail. Round 1 leader Schumacher dropped to 11th overall.

Ashley was quickest of both Friday sessions, opening with a 4.887 at 308.71 mph before improving to a 4.833 at 324.98 mph as the sunset over Gull Lake. Ashley was low qualifier at the last race in Sonoma, Calif., and has four top qualifying efforts this season in his Torco Dodge Charger R/T.

"It's definitely hot out there but I feel like we have a really good hot weather tune-up," Ashley said. "When we're not trying new things or breaking in new parts, our car is very consistent."

John Force ended up second with his 4.846 at 317.19 mph in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang. His teammate Robert Hight was next with a 4.867 in the Auto Club Ford. Force's daughter Ashley is on the provisional DNQ list and needs a 5.248 or better to make the cut.

Line impressed with his second-round blast of 6.750 at 204.66 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO. The native of Wright, Minn., which is 70 miles east of BIR, has a crowded schedule this weekend as he works on his racecar and cheers on his father Lawrence Line and sister Stephanie Diekema, who are both racing in Super Stock.

"Both Greg [Anderson, teammate] and I are already in the Countdown to the Championship field so we're using these final two races before the first cutoff to test some things so we can be at full speed when the next phase starts," Line said. "I know I'm going to be working on my driving quite a bit. We're still looking for wins also."

Ron Krisher was the closest to Line with a 6.753 at 203.80 mph in his Valvoline Cobalt. Greg Anderson led the first session but dropped to third by day's end despite improving to a 6.769 at 204.63 mph in his GTO.

Ellis has qualified in the top half of the Pro Stock Motorcycle field at every event this year, but he's yet to earn low qualifier honors, a fact that might change after his class-leading 7.032 at 191.32 mph on Friday evening. Ellis' Drag Specialties S&S Buell V-Twin is being tuned by S&S Cycles owner George Smith this year, his first season as a tuner.

"This year has been a struggle to a certain extent," Ellis said. "But the entire team, including the guys at S&S, have been working so hard and I think we're gaining on it. This is a nice deal for them."

Reigning series champ Andrew Hines is second on his Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod, a hundredth of a second back of Ellis with a 7.042 at 189.50 mph. Angelle Sampey is a distant third on the U.S. Army Suzuki with a 7.091.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , George Smith , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Chip Ellis , David Powers , Robert Hight , Angelle Sampey