Norwalk: Saturday qualifying report

TOP FRIDAY TIMES HOLD AS FIELD IS SET FOR INAUGURAL RACE IN NORWALK NORWALK, Ohio -- Clear, sunny weather conditions in Northern Ohio kept elapsed times and top speeds in check Saturday during the final day of professional qualifying for the...

TOP FRIDAY TIMES HOLD AS FIELD IS SET FOR INAUGURAL RACE IN NORWALK

NORWALK, Ohio -- Clear, sunny weather conditions in Northern Ohio kept elapsed times and top speeds in check Saturday during the final day of professional qualifying for the inaugural Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.

All four of Friday night's professional category leaders remained in control of their respective categories, including Funny Car top gun Robert Hight, the son-in-law of 14-time world champion John Force, who posted a best of 4.713 at 313.73 mph.

Top Fuel's "Hot Rod" Fuller (4.533), Pro Stock's Greg Anderson (6.654), and Pro Stock Motorcycle's Matt Smith (6.965) joined Hight on the low qualifier's podium at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park.

Fuller scored his third No.1 qualifier of the season with his 4.533 at 323.50 mph pass from Round 2. He remains one of only three racers to have qualified fourth or higher at every race this season. This was Fuller's fifth career low qualifying effort.

"Five is my lucky number," Fuller said. "I'm number five, five was my number in both football and soccer and I'm 5-foot-5. I'm just really impressed by this facility and the fans. The place just has a feeling of home to it, like I'm at a bracket race. I just feel really comfortable here."

Clay Millican's second-place seeding is the best of the year for the driver of the RATT -- Back for More dragster. Budweiser's Brandon Bernstein (4.554) and SkyTel's Larry Dixon (4.561) rounded out the top four.

Considering his racecar hasn't been running on all eight cylinders, Funny Car leader Hight continues to impress in his Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang, ringing up his fourth low qualifier award of the year with a 4.713 at 313.73 mph.

"With the exception of one run in Gainesville, we haven't made a full pass all year on all eight cylinders," Hight said. "It's been dropping one every pass and now it's trying to drop two. Jimmy [Prock] decided to make some giant moves today to fix that and we're really encouraged by what it showed us."

Hight's sister-in-law Ashley Force, a huge favorite among the capacity Norwalk crowd, is a strong second in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang after a best of 4.734 at 320.13 mph. Tony Pedregon follows with a third-best 4.757 in his Q Horsepower Chevrolet Impala SS.

Points leader Ron Capps is seventh in the Brut Test Drive Dodge Charger. He'll face legend Kenny Bernstein and his Monster Energy Drink Charger in Round 1.

Del Worsham barely bumped into the field in the third round in his Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Chevrolet Impala SS, running a 16th-best 4.873. The drama came when he reached the top end as his car exploded into several pieces, which relegated him to the sidelines for the final session. Nevertheless, his time held and he'll race Hight in the morning.

Even when he struggles, Anderson, the Pro Stock points leader, still tops his category. Anderson's opening pass of 6.654 at 207.59 mph earned his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO team the No. 1 qualifying position for the eighth time in 11 races this year. They've converted six of those top starts into wins. Anderson failed to make it down the track in Rounds 2, 3, and 4.

"Spirits were high after Round 1 but it's been all downhill since then," said Anderson, who will open against Erica Enders. "We pride ourselves on consistency and we don't have it here. It's not a real confidence builder. I think we just need to forget about today. It was just a bad day at the office. We've got to move on because this is our sponsor's race and we need to do well tomorrow."

Mopar Racing teammates Richie Stevens and Allen Johnson are second and third here. Stevens' Dodge posted a 6.659, while Johnson was a thousandth back at 6.660.

Smith's third low qualifying effort of the season and seventh of his career makes the Torco Buell V-Twin rider the early favorite for Sunday's race. Only one rider, Paul Gast, bumped into the field Saturday, changing Smith's first-round foe to fellow Buell pilot Matt Guidera. Guidera's more than a tenth of a second back of Smith's 6.965 at 189.60 mph with a best of 7.084 at 185.13 mph.

"As soon as we got here I figured no one would run quicker than us so I just started trying other things out," said Smith, who tunes both his bike and that of teammate Chris Rivas. "I tried some things with the timing in the early session and scuffed in a new tire in the afternoon. I just wanted to make sure we were totally prepared for tomorrow."

Andrew Hines, who has raced to two finals in a row, has the quickest Harley-Davidson in the field with a third-best 6.995. Angelle Sampey is the cream of the Suzuki crop in fourth place with a 6.997 at 190.86 mph on her U.S. Army mount.

-credit: nhra

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Clay Millican , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , Ashley Force , Brandon Bernstein , Allen Johnson , Chris Rivas , Andrew Hines , Robert Hight , Matt Guidera , Paul Gast , Matt Smith