Mike Neff raced to the qualifying lead in Funny Car Friday at the 12th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Neff paced the Funny Car class with a 4.070 at 313.73 mph in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to move around Cruz Pedregon, who was second overall with a 4.084 at 308.21 from his Snap-on Toyota Camry. Countdown to the Championship points leader Jack Beckman was fourth at the end of Friday’s qualifying sessions with a 4.093 at 306.88, and Ron Capps, who is currently second in points, landed fifth with a pass of 4.098 at 308.78 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger.
“You’ve got to be cautiously aggressive; it’s the way I’m having to approach it,” Neff said. “I know what I have to do: I need to have two pretty great races these last two events, and I’m coming off a great race. I’ve just got to race smart. My car’s running great right now, so I think I’ve got a legitimate chance at it. If I can just keep running good and keep the pressure on those guys, anything can happen. We’ve been in this situation before.”
Schumacher powered his U.S. Army dragster to a leading performance of 4.046 at 315.56 to hold off Doug Kalitta for the top spot in Top Fuel. Kalitta was second with a 3.800 at 324.75 from his Mac Tools dragster. Countdown to the Championship points leader Antron Brown landed 10th in his pink Matco Tools dragster with a time of 3.869 at 313.88, and Spencer Massey, who sits third in the standings, was third with a 3.807 at 323.43.
“We’re going to race in the middle of the day, and going down the track when the sun is out is great,” Schumacher said. “More often than not, you’re No. 1 because of the night run, but it’s actually more comforting knowing that it was the Friday day run that did it. We made a good, clean run. We made it down the track and wore clutch like we’ve been asking the car to do for a long time.”
Johnson, who has earned 10 No. 1 qualifying positions this season, led Pro Stock with a 6.618 at 207.85 in his Team Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Avenger. Jason Line, who sits second in the points standings, landed third in the qualifying order with a 6.621 at 208.68 from his Summit Racing Camaro, and GK Motorsports driver Erica Enders sits seventh with a pass of 6.644 at 208.01.
“Our goal was to get every little point that we could get and get that lead further away from 80 points,” Johnson said. “We’re setting out to be the No. 1 car in every qualifying round and put ourselves to be in a position to win on Sunday, and that’s what I think we’ve done.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle competition, Krawiec, who currently leads the standings, earned the qualifying lead with a time of 6.938 at 193.88 on his Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. If his time stands, this will be his fifth No. 1 of the season and 14th of his career. Teammate Andrew Hines, who’s second in the Countdown points standings, was fifth after two rounds of qualifying with a time of 7.001 at 191.65. Hector Arana Jr. was second with a 6.968 at 191.51 on his Lucas Oil Buell, and his father, Hector Arana Sr., landed 15th with a pass of 7.076 at 190.83.
“Our goal coming into this race was to get some of the extra qualifying bonus points to increase the 17-point gap between Andrew Hines and myself,” Krawiec said. “So by being No. 1 in both sessions, we gained three points from each round and now have a 23-point lead.”
Qualifying continues on Saturday with two sessions scheduled to take place at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Eliminations will take place on Sunday at 11 a.m.