Denver: Saturday qualifying report

LINE CLAIMS PRO STOCK POWERade POINTS LEAD; KALITTA KEEPS CLOSING GAP ON TROXEL MORRISON, Colo. - Former Rookie of the Year Jason Line assumed the NHRA POWERade Pro Stock points lead with a double-track-record pass of 7.062 seconds at 195.65 mph...

LINE CLAIMS PRO STOCK POWERade POINTS LEAD; KALITTA KEEPS CLOSING GAP ON TROXEL

MORRISON, Colo. - Former Rookie of the Year Jason Line assumed the NHRA POWERade Pro Stock points lead with a double-track-record pass of 7.062 seconds at 195.65 mph Saturday at Bandimere Speedway.

Line's stunning run under record high temperatures of 101 degrees placed him alongside fellow low qualifiers Doug Kalitta, Gary Densham, and Chip Ellis, who will lead their respective categories into final eliminations at the $1.5 million Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals. Eliminations begin at noon.

By virtue of his higher qualifying effort, Line takes the POWERade points lead from his boss and Summit Racing Pontiac GTO teammate Greg Anderson by two points. Anderson qualified fifth with a 7.094 at 194.60.

"This is the first time in my career that I've been in the points lead so it's pretty cool, even if it only lasts for one night," Line said. "We'll have to see what happens tomorrow. It's still a lot of fun for both of us.

"That was the best run of the year, at least for us. I knew it was good and when I got around the corner Dave Connolly was shaking his head at me and he held up the No. 1. I thought he meant low for the session but when I heard I was No. 1 qualifier I was stunned. That was phenomenal."

Kalitta nibbled another six points off Melanie Troxel's quickly vanishing lead by qualifying on top of the Top Fuel ladder with a 4.631 at 319.60 mph in his Mac Tools rail. Troxel, the season-long point leader, qualified 12th with a best of 4.785 at 312.42 in her Skull Shine/Torco Race Fuels dragster. She now leads Kalitta by just 18 points, or less than one round of action.

"The track's pretty tricky, so it could go either way tomorrow," Kalitta said. "It's definitely easier being the driver than the tuner at this event, I can tell you that. The first round will be tough. I hope like heck we have the tune-up.

"The guys are up for the championship run. We think we can get it done. We're within a round of the lead now and [crew chief Rahn] Tobler's won championships before so he knows how to get it done. It should be fun."

Densham skipped the last qualifying session to save parts but his Racebricks Chevy team managed to survive the final assault and award the 59-year-old Densham his ninth career low qualifier award and his first as an independent team owner.

"Competing against the teams we see out here each week, to end up as the No. 1 qualifier is a real thrill for me," Densham said. "Those darn Team Force cars are usually the ones taking these low qualifier deals so to steal one away from them is fun. Plus, I can really use the money."

Defending series champion Gary Scelzi, who is quietly sneaking back into this year's championship picture, zoomed to second place in the final session with a 4.896 at 310.20 in the Oakley/Mopar Dodge Charger.

An intriguing first-round match-up between archrivals Whit Bazemore and John Force developed in the last round shuffling. Bazemore's Matco Tools Charger will have lane choice over Force's Castrol GTX Ford Mustang by virtue of his quicker E.T., 4.952 to 4.984.

The heat didn't bother Pro Stock Motorcycle leader Ellis at all as he got quicker in each of Saturday's two runs. After posting a 7.383 Friday night, he dipped to a 7.348 Saturday morning and then a 7.332 Saturday afternoon for his fourth low qualifier award of the year.

"This Drag Specialties Buell has been running really, really well," Ellis said. "If we can go into tomorrow and just duplicate what we did today and yesterday, I like our chances. I don't want to toot my own horn but I'm driving good also. This motorcycle is just perfect for me and it's so easy to ride. I don't know what it is, but I like it."

Points leader Angelle Sampey was third with a 7.427 on the U.S. Army Suzuki. Defending POWERade champion Andrew Hines dropped to ninth with a best of 7.450 on his Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod.

-nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Gary Densham , Melanie Troxel , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Angelle Sampey , Dave Connolly