Las Vegas: Friday qualifying report

ASHLEY LEADS FUNNY CAR FIELD AT LAS VEGAS WITH FASTEST SPEED IN HISTORY Schumacher and Coughlin also are early race leaders in their categories LAS VEGAS -- Mike Ashley raced to the fastest Funny Car speed in drag racing history Friday night...

ASHLEY LEADS FUNNY CAR FIELD AT LAS VEGAS WITH FASTEST SPEED IN HISTORY
Schumacher and Coughlin also are early race leaders in their categories

LAS VEGAS -- Mike Ashley raced to the fastest Funny Car speed in drag racing history Friday night at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals.

Tony Schumacher and Jeg Coughlin also were leaders in their respective categories at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Ashley powered his Torco Racing Fuels Dodge Charger to a category-best speed of 334.32 mph during a 4.725-second run to claim the top spot in Funny Car. Ashley has been the provisional No. 1 qualifier twice before but he's never held on to the No. 1 spot through all four rounds.

Ashley's interview after his record run was almost as blurred as his stunning top speed as the fast-talking New Yorker excitedly described his class-leading pass.

"It's really exciting," Ashley said. "This is something that's been in the works for us. We were the quickest and fastest car in Houston on race day and now that's carried over to here. I think we have a quality team and that's exciting because I haven't been able to win yet for our sponsor Evan Knoll. I really want to do it for him because he's been with me from the start."

Robert Hight shut his Auto Club Ford Mustang off early but still managed a 4.740 at 288.70 mph, the best of the three John Force Racing cars, which returned to action this weekend. Hight's teammate Ashley Force was fourth overall with a 4.793 in her Castrol GTX Mustang, while her father John, who was No. 1 after the opening round, slipped to 14th place with his 4.888 second run in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Mustang.

Schumacher's Friday night run of 4.479 at 329.83 in his U.S. Army dragster put the four-time champ at the front of the Top Fuel starting order.

"We've built a great sport here," Schumacher said. "There's going to be lots of side-by-side racing down this beautiful track Sunday. You can already tell because the field is tight. The bump's a 4.65 and let me tell you, if you're not in, that's an uncomfortable feeling when you know it's going to be 80 degrees tomorrow."

Brady Kalivoda is making the most of his debut with Coghlin Motorsports, driving their Marnell and Moorefield Construction dragster to a career-best run of 4.490 at 329.42 mph to hold the No. 2 position in the field.

Local favorite "Hot Rod" Fuller, the current NHRA POWERade Series points leader, is third in his all-white David Powers Homes dragster after a 4.498 at 328.94 mph, the final 4.4-second car in the field.

Coughlin had the quickest car in Pro Stock, powering his Slammers/Jegs.com Chevy Cobalt to a 6.733 at 204.26.

"That was one of those Pro Stock sessions where every car that went down the track was getting quicker and quicker," said Coughlin, a three-time winner at LVMS (2000, '01, and '02). "We were getting bumped down the ladder and that's always an uneasy feeling but the good news is as the session went along the sun kept going down. By the time we got up there the track was totally shaded."

Dave Connolly had the exact same elapsed time as teammate Coughlin but was slightly slower with a top speed of 203.49 mph, relegating his Torco/Slammers machine to second.

Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at noon and 3 p.m.

-credit: nhra

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