FULLER AND BRADFORD ARE FIRST-TIME NO. 1 QUALIFIERS Hight and Anderson also earn top qualifying positions at O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals MADISON, Ill. -- Top Fuel driver Rod Fuller and Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Tom Bradford will lead...
FULLER AND BRADFORD ARE FIRST-TIME NO. 1 QUALIFIERS
Hight and Anderson also earn top qualifying positions at O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals
MADISON, Ill. -- Top Fuel driver Rod Fuller and Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Tom Bradford will lead their respective categories into final eliminations for the first time after securing the No. 1 qualifying positions Saturday night at Gateway International Raceway.
Funny Car's Robert Hight and Pro Stock's Greg Anderson also raced to top qualifying positions at the $1.3 million O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Castrol, the 12th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Fuller watched a handful of drivers bump him down the ladder from the No. 1 slot he earned Friday night, but he answered them all and returned to the lead position with a final pass of 4.551 at 328.30 mph in his Valvoline/David Powers Homes dragster.
"To come up through the sportsman ranks and to be standing here now as the No. 1 qualifier makes me very grateful," Fuller said. "A lot of people said I'd never make it to this level. It took a lot of hard work and even some nights sleeping in my truck but it was worth it all. That's why I want to relish these moments."
Entering Saturday outside the field, Top Fuel points leader Melanie Troxel earned the No. 11 position in the Skull Shine/Torco Racing Fuels dragster with a 4.692 at 315.27 mph.
Two dozen races into his NHRA career, Bradford waited until the final pairing of the last round to make his surprise move, clicking off a track-record 7.083 at 188.86 mph on his Hal's Speed Shop Buell V-Twin.
"I've been racing 12 years and it's been a goal and dream of mine to race and qualify over here," said Bradford, a five-time world champion in the All Harley Drag Racing Association (AHDRA). "To qualify No. 1 is surreal. This has put a stake in the ground for us. It shows we have the team and crew to compete at this level."
Hight will try to win from the No. 1 spot for the fourth time this year after his 4.803 in his Auto Club Ford Mustang propelled him to the front of Funny Car.
"I want to win from the top spot and I think we have the team to do it," Hight said. "The heat is the great equalizer here. If you can survive the first round and make the big changes it'll take to get the car ready for the second round, you'll have a chance. I'd love to win and finish the first half of the season strong. If we can do that and then have a second half as strong as Ron Capps' first half, we'll be right there at the end."
Anderson powered his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO to a 6.692 at 206.23 to earn the three-time and defending series champion his 46th No. 1 effort in Pro Stock, and sixth of the season.
"I'm not whining or crying but we're tired of losing," Anderson said, "and if we perform the way we did today it'll be another short day on Sunday. I'm being hard on myself but I just expect more. We have to be perfect because the competition has been all year. We have the talent to win this thing but we need to use this (tapping his head)."
Six-time NHRA champion Warren Johnson, who has two wins at this facility, will not race on Sunday after failing to make the field for the first time this year.
Sunday's final eliminations start at 3 p.m. (CT).