INDIANAPOLIS, September 1, 2007 - If Chevy Funny Car driver Jeff Arend is able to hold on to the top spot on the Funny Car grid for two more qualifying sessions tomorrow, the native Canadian will have picked NHRA's biggest stage to claim his first...
INDIANAPOLIS, September 1, 2007 - If Chevy Funny Car driver Jeff Arend is able to hold on to the top spot on the Funny Car grid for two more qualifying sessions tomorrow, the native Canadian will have picked NHRA's biggest stage to claim his first career No. 1 qualifier. Arend has his Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy Impala SS on the provisional Funny Car pole after three rounds of qualifying for this weekend's 53rd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park. Arend drove his Chevy to an elapsed time of 4.754 seconds at 327.51 mph to edge out the Ford driven by Ashley Force. Force had an identical elapsed time of 4.754 seconds but was relegated to the No. 2 spot with a slower speed of 309.70 mph.
"We've been good all year but just fell off a little bit in the summer," Arend said. "We stayed in Reading and did some testing, and this Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy is flying. This would be my first career No. 1 if it stays, and I'm very happy, of course, due to Indy. You can't ask much more than that. I've got a great crew and we were actually trying to run a little faster tonight, but I don't think the conditions were warranting it. The Top Fuel cars only ran a 4.49 as a low, but I'll bypass a (run in the) 4.60s for low qualifier anytime.
"I was pretty surprised (my time held up) until we started seeing some of the big guys just ahead of us running in the high .70s and low .80s. I just don't think the conditions were there to rip off a low .70s, so I was pretty happy. I probably have to attribute a little bit of my luck to (the fact) we went by Eric's (Medlen) gravesite. We had never been their before and I didn't get a chance to go to the funeral. We went by John's (Force) shop and they told us how to get there, and it's pretty touching when you go. I put my hand up against the stone, and I'm sure (his spirit) is helping us, that's for sure."
Jim Yates drove his WileyX/Sea Ray Boats Pontiac GTO to the No. 2 qualifying position in Pro Stock to lead the way for GM racers in the class. Yates, who was No. 1 qualifier here at Indy in 1996, drove his Pontiac to an elapsed time of 6.658 seconds at 206.42 mph to fall just short of Max Naylor's qualifying effort for the No. 1 spot. Naylor drove his Dodge to a 6.665 e.t. at 206.39 mph.
"There's a huge difference from right lane to left lane here," Yates said. "We ran really well over in the right lane and I think we had a good handle on it, but going to the left lane (tonight) you know you've got to reprogram the car and the setup. Jamie (Yates, crew chief) came up with a couple of ideas on the car chassis-wise, and clutch and transmission-ratio-wise, and obviously it ran really well. We hit it right on the nose.
"And Grump (Bill Jenkins, engine builder) has been tuning on the engine. We ran good speed right out of the trailer here and we've got a lot of horsepower right now. It's always a challenge at Indy. It's a challenge trying to get horsepower, but after you've got it, the next challenge is trying to get it to the track because this is a very tricky racing surface. I think it takes experience and I think Jamie and Grump both did a great job."
Yates was the quickest car in today's third-round qualifying session, and the two-time POWERade Pro Stock champ is feeling pretty good about his chances to go rounds in Monday eliminations.
"I don't know how close that will keep us to the front of the pack, but it will definitely keep us with lane choice first round so we'll be able to get over in that left lane. We get the left lane again tomorrow afternoon in the heat of the day which will be very similar to first round, so it's going to play into our game plan. I think you race Pro Stock like you play chess. You've got to plan your moves three or four moves ahead, and this will work out really well for us. We'll be in that left lane tomorrow afternoon in the heat of the day and it will be a pretty good imitation of what we're going to get first round. And if we end up in the right lane later in the day, maybe we lose lane choice, we've made a couple of good runs over there so we'll be able to hit it over there too."
Dave Connolly in his Torco Racing Fuels/Seelye Wright Chevy Cobalt was the highest-qualified Chevy with an elapsed time of 6.662 seconds at 205.88 mph, good for No. 4 qualifying position on the Pro Stock grid.
"So far, so good," Connolly said. "The left lane is better and we'll be in that lane in Sunday's first session. We tried some things that didn't work out but we learned from it. We are happy being fourth right now at the U.S. Nationals."
The NHRA Sport Compact Series makes its second visit of the year to O'Reilly Raceway Park this weekend for the 53rd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, and it's the first time that the Pro FWD category has competed at the Labor Day Classic. Just as importantly it gives a trio of Chevy Cobalt drivers another opportunity to stake their claim to the 2007 Xplod Championship with only four races remaining on their calendar.
Gary Gardella in the Red Bull Chevrolet drove to an elapsed time of 7.156 seconds at 201.91 mph to put himself atop the Pro FWD qualifying ladder after two qualifying sessions. With his first NHRA win of the season in Pro FWD two weeks ago here at O'Reilly Raceway Park, he becomes more than a wild card in the Xplod Championship chase, and now the Team Chevy driver finds himself entrenched in a three-way, red bowtie battle with fellow Chevy drivers Marty Ladwig and Jason Hunt. Fittingly, points leader Ladwig has his Lucas Oil Chevy qualified second with a 7.287 e.t. at 199.29 mph, and Hunt, No. 2 in the points standings, is qualified No. 3 at 7.309 seconds at 201.67 mph.
"What great conditions," Gardella said. "Perfect air, great track prep. These are probably the best track conditions we've ever run under. I just want to see everybody in the class run well here, both Pro FWD and RWD. Hopefully folks in the stands will like seeing us run and come see us race when we're in their area. Now, if we can put a few more good runs together we might be able to get two wins in a row at Indy."
"It's definitely very, very exciting to be here and the adrenaline is up a little," Ladwig said. "This is the biggest race, period, all year long. It's got a lot of history, so to have a chance to race here is just awesome. Hopefully we can get the win - that would be the biggest thing ever."
-credit: gm racing