The Friday leaders in early qualifying for tomorrow’s NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway were the kings of the mountain after Saturday as well as Antron Brown, Bob Tasca and Allan Johnson took the top spots in for Sunday’s elimination in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock respectively.
All three drivers saw their Friday times hold up on a warm Bristol Saturday, but much like the proverbial iceberg, the calm at the top belied a greater threat lurking below.
The shocker in Top Fuel over the weekend didn’t come as much from who was at the top of the charts, as it did from finding out who was going home early.
Don Schumacher Racing teammates Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher snared the top two positions on the elimination ladder for Sunday, but two of the top-seven in the NHRA Top Fuel points chase failed to punch a ticket for tomorrow’s Round of 16.
Brandon Bernstein saw a 115-race streak go by the boards when he failed to make the Sunday show, ending a run that took the son of the legendary Kenny Bernstein more than five years to put together. Bernstein, who was seventh in the points coming into the weekend, was joined on the trailer by Morgan Lucas. Fourth in the points, Lucas has a pair of wins under his belt this season, but will likely drop a spot or two in the points chase by failing to earn a berth in Sunday’s final sessions.
“It blows my mind that those guys would have problems, especially when you look at the strength of their teams, but it goes to show you what can happen here,” Brown explained. “This place is really tricky though. You really have to hit it in the right spot or else you can have a lot of trouble.”
This place is really tricky. You really have to hit it in the right spot or else you can have a lot of trouble.
Brown dominated through the four rounds of qualifying, and went side-by-side with DSR stablemate Tony Schumacher on both passes today, with both cars topping the time charts in both Saturday sessions. Schumacher qualified second and will have a great shot tomorrow at cutting into Spencer Massey’s series points lead, as Schumacher and Massey will square off in the second round on Sunday, providing that they win their openers.
“It’s never too early to look at the points, but we try not to get caught up that because sometimes, it can make you do things that you wouldn’t normally do,” Brown said. “We try to focus on each round we run and if you do that, at the end of the day the points will take care of themselves.”
Hometown Pro Stock favorite Allan Johnson continued his qualifying mastery of the Bristol Dragway today as he took the top Pro Stock qualifying spot for the third consecutive year, and did it in style by leading three of the four sessions in posting the quick time of the weekend.
Johnson steered his Mopar Dodge Avenger down the strip in 6.623 seconds with a top speed of 207.78 mph to snare his fourth top-qualifying position of the 2012 season. The run gave him qualifying honors over Mike Edwards, while Vincent Nobile, Jason Line and V. Gaines rounded out the top five.
“The car has been really consistent so far this weekend and if the driver can do his job tomorrow, we should be in pretty good shape,” Johnson said. “Everybody in the organization is doing a great job, feeding us great stuff. We feel like we won a battle today, tomorrow we have to go out and win the war.”
Nobile and Line both made slight gains during Saturday’s third round to move up the ladder, but the big jump came from Ford Mustang pilot J.R. Carr. Carr, who was not in the qualifying order going into his final pass, vaulted all the way to the ninth spot to qualify for his first NHRA National event since 2004.
Funny Car didn’t have as much drama as the other classes as Tasca breezed to the top spot ahead of Mike Neff. Both Tasca and Neff stood on their times from Friday night to pace the Funny Car ladder ahead of Jack Beckman, Ron Capps and John Force.
Tim Wilkerson bumped his way into the show in the last of the four rounds of qualifying, knocking Bob Bode off the ladder and moving young Blake Alexander to the bump spot. Bode got a final shot at Alexander but came up empty, and joined Todd Lesenko as Funny Car pilots that are packing up early.
Tasca scored his first number-one qualifying spot of the year after carding a best time of 4.063 seconds (310.48 mph).
"We have good data for tomorrow, we know what to do to make the car get down the lane in the heat, and that's what we are going to have to do tomorrow," Tasca said. "But it's not as easy as just looking at data. There's a lot of variables and a lot of changes, we just have to get through the first round, because it is going to take a big number to get through the first round tomorrow."