ASHLEY, KALITTA AND ANDERSON LEAD QUALIFYING AT O'REILLY NHRA FALL NATIONALS ENNIS, Texas -- New Yorker Mike Ashley raced to the qualifying lead in Funny Car Friday at the O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec. Ashley posted...
ASHLEY, KALITTA AND ANDERSON LEAD QUALIFYING AT O'REILLY NHRA FALL NATIONALS
ENNIS, Texas -- New Yorker Mike Ashley raced to the qualifying lead in Funny Car Friday at the O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec.
Ashley posted a 4.799 at 314.53 mph in his Torco Racing Fuels Dodge Stratus at the all-concrete Texas Motorplex to lead his category and join Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta and reigning Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson as leaders after the first day of qualifying.
A heavily-accented mortgage broker from Long Island, Ashley posted a 4.799 at 314.53 mph in his Dodge Stratus to overshadow the championship battle between Ron Capps and John Force. Capps' Dodge has him fifth after a 4.865, while Force's Ford carried him to 11th with a 4.983. It is the first time Ashley has led the 7,000 horsepower category since moving from Pro Modified to Funny Car last year at the U.S. Nationals.
"I think we've been underrated the last four races," Ashley said. "I'm a former champion. This is not the first time I've been No. 1 qualifier. This shouldn't be a surprise. We've got all the pieces here; a great sponsor in Torco Fuels, the resources of Don Schumacher Racing, and a proven crew chief in Brian Corradi. The weak link has been me, but this is my one-year anniversary driving these cars and I've learned a lot."
Needing to rebound from a costly first-round exit at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Kalitta powered his Mac Tools dragster to the best Top Fuel pass of the day, posting a 4.535 at 324.59 mph on the scoreboard. Kalitta was low qualifier here in 2004 and won the event in 2002. Tony Schumacher, currently second in points, is third in the starting order with a 4.630 at 318.32 in his U.S. Army dragster.
"The car's running strong, certainly good enough to run with anybody that's up there with us in the points," Kalitta said. "We've got to do our jobs and I can't be losing on holeshots. Going out early can really put a beating on anybody's points. You can see how it can go either way real quick."
Defending event champion Anderson and teammate and points leader Jason Line were the last two Pro Stock drivers down the racetrack and they quickly moved to first and second on the provisional ladder in their Summit Racing Pontiac GTOs. Anderson's 6.782 at 203.83 mph was slightly quicker than Line's 6.788 at 203.03 mph, giving him the No. 1 position.
"It's been a different type of season for me," Anderson said. "It's been a grind. But we're still in the game and right now the cars are the best they've been all season. So are the drivers. I want a fourth championship really bad and I know Jason wants his first. They've smelled the blood in the water and pushed their way past us. We need to answer back."
Qualifying continues Saturday at noon and 3 p.m. for Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations.