Pomona II: Thursday qualifying report

OLD SPICE PILOT MIKE NEFF SECURES PROVISIONAL POLE IN FUNNY CAR Todd, Connolly and Krawiec round out provisional pole-sitters POMONA, Calif. -- NHRA Rookie of the Year favorite Mike Neff powered his Old Spice Ford Mustang to the provisional...

OLD SPICE PILOT MIKE NEFF SECURES PROVISIONAL POLE IN FUNNY CAR
Todd, Connolly and Krawiec round out provisional pole-sitters

POMONA, Calif. -- NHRA Rookie of the Year favorite Mike Neff powered his Old Spice Ford Mustang to the provisional No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car at the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway on Thursday.

The other provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the sixth and final race in the NHRA Playoffs, the Countdown to 1, were J.R. Todd (Top Fuel), Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle). There will be one more round of qualifying on Friday and two on Saturday before the 16-car fields are set for Sunday's race.

Neff's 4.105-second pass at 299.13 mph put the Old Spice Ford on the provisional pole in Funny Car for what would be, if it holds up, his second career No. 1 qualifying position.

"That was a very important run, getting down the track on that first run and getting down there solid," Neff said. "There's three runs left, but that was pretty solid. It's a big run because now you're not sweating it out (Friday) and Saturday."

The same can be said for Funny Car points leader Cruz Pedregon who will go into the second day of qualifying not yet qualified. Seeking his second POWERade Series championship and first since 1992, Cruz Pedregon opened the big weekend with a balky 4.478 in his Advance Auto Parts Toyota Solara on the steamy Auto Club Raceway drag strip that left him temporarily on the outside looking in.

Second-place Tim Wilkerson (-12) opened with a 4.169 (No. 8), third-place Robert Hight (-39) led off with a 4.122 (No. 4), fourth-place Tony Pedregon (-62) opened with a 4.122 (No. 3) and fifth-place Jack Beckman (-64) slipped to a 5.451 to also go into Day 2 not yet qualified.

Last year, Cruz's brother Tony Pedregon just needed to qualify to for all intents and purposes clinch the Funny Car championship and he just eked into the field at No. 16 in a dramatic late-Saturday afternoon qualifying session that Cruz obviously would just as soon not repeat.

Todd raced down the track in 3.851 seconds at 308.14 mph to earn the provisional top spot in Top Fuel. It was a glimmer of hope in an otherwise difficult season for Morgan Lucas's tag-team partner on the Lucas Oil team.

"Besides the win in Dallas, I'd just as soon forget this season. It's been a long season," Todd said.

The season hasn't been much more memorable for Lucas, but he lit up the Auto Club Raceway scoreboard with his own 3.855 at 306.46 to lock up the top two spots for the Lucas Oil team.

"That's how we planned it and you can't get much closer than that," Todd said. "I don't know if that will hold up through the weekend, but it'll get us in the show and that's what it's all about."

Connolly, also flying Lucas Oil colors on his Chevy Cobalt, ran a 6.660 at 207.75 to claim the provisional pole in Pro Stock. It would be his third No. 1 of 2008 and the eighth of his career.

"That was a good way to hit California with a good pass and take the No. 1 spot," Connolly said. "But we're definitely talking premature especially with that good session coming up Saturday morning."

Krawiec, in second place in the Pro Stock Motorcycle standings, directed his Screamin Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to the provisional No. 1 position on the strength of a 7.017-second pass at 187.23.

"The most important thing of course is to come in and, right from the beginning, run well," said Krawiec, whose gunning for his fourth No. 1 of the season. "We were able to grab the No. 1 spot and hopefully the heat will come in and that will stay No. 1. There are a lot of guys and girls out there who can go to the No. 1 spot who can step in there and play a big part of this deal, so it's important to stay on top and not let Mat (Smith) get that extra one point that gives him a 20-point lead on us."

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Cruz Pedregon , Tim Wilkerson , Jack Beckman , Morgan Lucas , Robert Hight , J.R. Todd , Eddie Krawiec , Mike Neff