Pomona: Saturday qualifying report

FORCE CLOCKS QUICKEST FUNNY CAR RUN IN NHRA HISTORY Schumacher and Anderson also are No. 1 qualifiers at CARQUEST Winternationals POMONA, Calif. -- John Force posted the quickest Funny Car pass in NHRA history Saturday to close qualifying for...

FORCE CLOCKS QUICKEST FUNNY CAR RUN IN NHRA HISTORY
Schumacher and Anderson also are No. 1 qualifiers at CARQUEST Winternationals

POMONA, Calif. -- John Force posted the quickest Funny Car pass in NHRA history Saturday to close qualifying for the 46th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals.

Fellow NHRA POWERade Series world champions Tony Schumacher and Greg Anderson also ended the day as No. 1 qualifiers in Top Fuel and Pro Stock, respectively. The $2 million race is the first of 23 in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

It was Force's 126th No. 1 qualifying effort, but one of his most memorable, especially if he manages to collect the 20 extra bonus points a national elapsed time record is worth. By rule, Force will need to clock another run of at least 4.710 seconds to certify the run as an NHRA national record. Force's run of 4.664 seconds at 329.91 mph in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang also tops the quickest Funny Car field ever.

"I've got a good old hot rod here," Force said. "I'm almost embarrassed. We used to look at Houston as the place to set world records. Now we're doing it here. Quickest don't win you championships and it don't win you races. But it sure makes you feel good. I'll sleep real good tonight."

Force benefited by an extended final session that allowed him to run after the sun had set over the west side grandstands and both the air and track temperature had cooled.

"No doubt about it," he said. "The further back you are in the field the later it gets, it cools off and these old racecars grow muscles. My car is making great power, especially in the middle of the track, and the new Ford Mustang body is working great."

Schumacher and his U.S. Army Top Fuel crew tuned for a world-record run of their own after realizing what the track would hold. In hindsight, they were a little too aggressive and his final pass was lost in a cloud of smoke. His performance of 4.490 at 317.34 mph from earlier in the day earned him the No. 1 position.

"A 4.49 should not be what earns No. 1 in these conditions," said Schumacher of his 23rd career top qualifying effort. "I'm sure Alan (Johnson, crew chief) saw what Force did and tried to run a 4.45. It sounds good to try that and it looks good on paper, but it doesn't always work when you just try to rev it up in the staging lanes."

With a victory tomorrow, Schumacher can extend some Top Fuel records. He finished the 2005 season with five consecutive victories, seven consecutive final round appearances and 20 straight round wins.

"If we don't see an outstanding drag race tomorrow I'll be stunned," Schumacher said. "All these new sponsors we see out here are proof this sport is right where it needs to be. People are realizing how exciting it is and it's awesome to be a part of it."

Top Fuel rookies J.R. Todd and Hillary Will ended up third and fourth on the ladder. Todd's best pass was a 4.508 in his Menards dragster, while Will posted a 4.515 in her KB Racing dragster.

Anderson's track-record 6.665 in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO earned him his 41st career low qualifier award.

"This race is going to be all about lane choice," said Anderson, who was quickest once again Saturday with a best of 6.677 seconds. "It puts a lot of pressure on you because even in the first round you have to go for a big number so that you can maintain lane choice in the second round. I wish it wasn't like that, but it is."

Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Tony Schumacher , Hillary Will , J.R. Todd