Columbus: Saturday qualifying report

JOHNSON, DIXON, BAZEMORE AND TONGLET EARN NO. 1 QUALIFYING POSITIONS AT PONTIAC PERFORMANCE NHRA NATIONALS HEBRON, Ohio -- Warren Johnson raced to his 134th career No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the Pontiac Performance NHRA...

JOHNSON, DIXON, BAZEMORE AND TONGLET EARN NO. 1 QUALIFYING POSITIONS AT PONTIAC PERFORMANCE NHRA NATIONALS

HEBRON, Ohio -- Warren Johnson raced to his 134th career No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals at National Trail Raceway.

Larry Dixon, Whit Bazemore and GT Tonglet also will lead their respective categories into Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations at the $2 million race, the eighth of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Johnson, who earned his first No. 1 starting spot at this track in 1978, clocked a track record performance of 6.723 seconds at 205.13 mph in his GM Performance Parts Pontiac. It is his fourth top qualifying effort of the season and his ninth at the quarter-mile drag strip located just east of Ohio's capital city.

"We knew the conditions were going to be good this morning," said Johnson, whose career No. 1 qualifying total is the most among all NHRA pro drivers . "That's why we went back to a known combination we've already qualified No. 1 with at number of races this year. We felt that if the conditions were better then we'd improve incrementally in relation to everybody else and stay at the front of the pack."

Dixon earned his 24th career No. 1 effort in Top Fuel and first ever at National Trail Raceway, by powering his Miller Lite dragster to a run of 4.510 at a track record speed of 331.94.

"It's a nice feeling to have the quickest car for three of the four sessions," said Dixon, a three-time winner at Columbus, who clocked a pair of 4.53s on Saturday. "I was surprised that our 4.51 from Friday held up. All the credit goes to Dick LaHaie (crew chief) and the Miller Lite crew. He's had a lot of success at this track as both a driver and as crew chief for a lot of drivers. He seems to know his way around here pretty good and he's on his game this weekend. I'm having a blast."

Bazemore claimed his 29th career No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car, posting a track record time of 4.762 at 322.34 in his Matco Tools Dodge Stratus.

"Qualifying No. 1 is special when you consider the type of season we've had, and the fact that we struggled somewhat with our Matco Tools Dodge this year," Bazemore said. "Lee Beard (crew chief) and the Matco Tools team worked really hard to get us back on track, especially when we tested at Bristol Dragway on Monday after the race and we made a number of strong runs. Hopefully we will be able to look back at Atlanta and say that event was the turning point for us and that's what motivated us to come here and get our car going in the right direction."

Tonglet claimed his first top qualifying position of the season and second of his career in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a 7.090 at 187.03 on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.

"It has been a really good weekend," Tonglet said. "We would've liked to have gone quicker, but we'll take it and see what we can do tomorrow. The conditions today should be pretty similar to what we'll have tomorrow so we feel pretty good."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Warren Johnson , Whit Bazemore , Dick LaHaie , GT Tonglet