TODD, FORCE AND ANDERSON ARE FRIDAY QUALIFYING LEADERS AT CARQUEST AUTO PARTS WINTERNATIONALS POMONA, Calif. -- Top Fuel rookie J.R. Todd's professional debut couldn't be going better as the 24-year-old outran all the veterans Friday at the...
TODD, FORCE AND ANDERSON ARE FRIDAY QUALIFYING LEADERS AT CARQUEST AUTO PARTS WINTERNATIONALS
POMONA, Calif. -- Top Fuel rookie J.R. Todd's professional debut couldn't be going better as the 24-year-old outran all the veterans Friday at the 46th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
John Force and Greg Anderson also were leaders in their respective categories at the $2 million dollar race, the first of 23 in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Force was the only leader to remain on top of his class, while Anderson quickly overcame a forgettable start with a track-record performance in Pro Stock.
Todd powered his Dexter Tuttle-owned Menards dragster to a quick time of 4.508 seconds at 321.65 mph to lead the 16-car Top Fuel order.
"I just wanted to come and here and qualify," Todd said. "We weren't thinking about running low e.t. but we'll take it. If I do my job and don't screw up we might have some fun on race day.
"This is what I've always wanted to do. I don't let the pressure of running against guys like Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon get to me. I try not to even think about it. But it is very cool."
With a partisan crowd cheering him down the strip, Force edged former teammate Tony Pedregon by one-thousandth of a second in the last professional pairing of the day to maintain the Funny Car lead. Force drove his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a performance of 4.712 at 327.35 mph. Pedregon had to settle for second with a 4.713 at 327.19 mph in his Q-Racing Chevy Monte Carlo.
"Pedregon set the pace," Force said. "We had it set up soft but after we saw what Tony and those guys did ahead of us [crew chief Austin] Coil got in the box and made it a little more aggressive.
"Qualifying good is great for the ego and if you qualify No. 1 it puts the slowest car in the pack against you in Round 1. But the problem these days is the slowest car isn't that slow and that guy can beat you as easy as anyone else. That's just the way it is so you have to be up for it."
Mike Ashley had a wild ride after completing a 4.839-second, 308.43-mph pass when his parachutes malfunctioned and his car ended up in the top-end sand trap. Ashley was uninjured.
There were six other racers in the 4.7-second zone but they were all more than four-hundredths of a second behind the two leaders. Series champ and chief Force rival Gary Scelzi was the last of the 4.7-second runners with his eighth-best 4.798.
Defending event champion Tommy Johnson Jr. is not qualified.
Anderson didn't make it two feet off the starting line Thursday before his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO overpowered the racetrack. Friday he went all 1,320 feet in 6.665 seconds to set an Auto Club Raceway record. His 207.43 mph top speed also was impressive.
"It was a long trip down the quarter-mile yesterday at about 30 mph," Anderson said. "I was tempted to just keep on driving right out of the back door to go hide. It was embarrassing. But my guys turned all the right screws and it went straight down there today.
"We were lucky to be in the left lane and we took advantage of it. Tomorrow morning's round should be the best as far as conditions go so we'll have to figure out what to do on the right side."
Erica Enders improved dramatically in her Slammers Ultimate Milk Chevrolet Cobalt, running a 6.678 at 206.80 mph to move from 14th place to second.
Six-time champion Warren Johnson, the most prolific driver in the history of the class with 95 victories, failed to get down the track Friday and was bumped out of the field.
Saturday's final two professional qualifying sessions are schedule to begin at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.