BAYTOWN, Texas – Persistent rain showers forced NHRA officials to cancel the majority of Saturday’s qualifying for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway. The only racing of the day in the NHRA Mello Yello Series included one round of Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying and 12 Pro Stock cars made an attempt before the rain became steady in the afternoon.
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock), and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will start Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations as the No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories.
Kalitta claimed his third No. 1 qualifying position of the year in Top Fuel with his Friday run of 3.791 seconds at 321.65 mph in his Mac Tools dragster. This is his third No. 1 qualifying position at Royal Purple Raceway and he will face Troy Buff in the opening round as he tries to earn his first win since the 2010 season and his second at the facility.
“This is our third low qualifier and now we can see if we can hopefully get to the final and deliver a win,” Kalitta said. “This rain will clean the track off and that should change our set-up a bit. I’m sure the track will be good but I can tell you that we probably won’t be the first pair out. We have a good car and I would have liked to see what we could have done today but we’re solidly in the field and so are all of our team cars so we didn’t have to deal with [the possibility of not qualifying]. We’re ready to go.”
Points leader Tony Schumacher qualified 14th and will face Shawn Langdon in the opening round. Antron Brown, currently second in points, will race Bob Vandergriff in the first round. Rookie Brittany Force failed to qualify for eliminations for the first time.
In Funny Car, Pedregon raced his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry to his third No. 1 qualifying position on the strength of his 4.086 second pass at 310.41 mph on Friday. Pedregon has two career wins and nine No. 1 qualifying positions at Royal Purple Raceway. He will face Terry Haddock in the first round of eliminations.
“When I heard them say nine number ones in Houston, that stands out,” Pedregon said. “ I just wish we had that many wins here. When I got up in the morning and saw that the forecast was for about 30 to 40 percent, I thought that this would be no big deal. But it ended up being 100 percent later in the day, and that was it. Running under the cloud cover would have been ideal for us. I think you would have seen a 4.06 or a 4.07.”
Notable first round matchups include Don Schumacher Racing teammates Matt Hagan and Ron Capps squaring off in their Dodge Chargers. Hagan currently leads the Funny Car points with Capps lurking in fifth. Courtney Force and Alexis DeJoria will go head-to-head for the third time in their careers, while No. 2 qualifier Tim Wilkerson will meet versatile Del Worsham in another pivotal opening round matchup.
In Pro Stock, Coughlin took his first No. 1 position in two years by powering his JEGS.com / Mopar Dodge Avenger to a performance of 6.569 at 211.20 to claim his 18th No. 1 qualifying position of his career. His first round opponent will be Steve Kent as Coughlin looks for his fifth career win at the facility.
“I think this speaks volumes about the operation of Roy and Allen Johnson, which we decided to team up with at the end of last year,” Coughlin said. “We communicate with them very well, along with Vincent Nobile, who also uses Roy Johnson engines, and to be number one in qualifying for the first time in two years is just fantastic.”
Current points leader Mike Edwards, who came into this event riding a five-race No. 1 qualifying streak, qualified third and will face Greg Stanfield in the opening round of eliminations. Houston area natives Erica Enders-Stevens and Rodger Brogdon both qualified. Enders-Stevens will race Larry Morgan, while Brogdon will take on defending world champ Allen Johnson in the first round.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Jr. secured his second consecutive No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 12th of his career with a run of 6.876 at 195.39 on his Lucas Oil Buell. He will face Shawn Gann in the first round of eliminations as he goes for his third straight win of the season.
“I do have a lot of confidence after winning those two races,” Arana Jr. said. “Right now, I don’t feel as tense as I normally would. I’m very relaxed and that makes riding a lot easier. I was hoping to improve in the third session but we missed the tune-up a bit. We were really looking forward to the last run because we wanted to get some data. The weather also changed and all that rain will make the track tighten up.”
Scotty Pollacheck qualified second and will race Chip Ellis, while third place qualifier Andrew Hines will try to win his fourth consecutive title at this event as he takes on teammate and defending world champ Eddie Krawiec in a very rare all-Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson first round match up.