DIXON FLIES TO TOP QUALIFYING POSITION AT CARQUEST AUTO PARTS NHRA NATIONALS Medlen, Thomas pull down No. 1 qualifiers in Funny Car, Pro Stock KENT, Wash. -- Larry Dixon highlighted a record-setting four rounds of qualifying action for the...
DIXON FLIES TO TOP QUALIFYING POSITION AT CARQUEST AUTO PARTS NHRA NATIONALS
Medlen, Thomas pull down No. 1 qualifiers in Funny Car, Pro Stock
KENT, Wash. -- Larry Dixon highlighted a record-setting four rounds of qualifying action for the 18th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals by setting both ends of the track record to earn the top qualifying position entering Sunday's final eliminations.
Track records were set across the board -- in all three pro categories for both speed and elapsed time -- at the $1.4 million race, the 14th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
In Funny Car, Eric Medlen earned the No. 1 qualifying position in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang with his 4.735-second pass while No. 2 qualifier Gary Scelzi topped the radar gun at 325.85 mph in his Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T to set the track speed record.
In Pro Stock, it was part-time racer Mike Thomas who earned the No. 1 qualifying position with a track-record 6.661-second pass in his Nitro Fish Gear Dodge Stratus, which he was driving for the injured Kenny Koretsky. The track speed record was turned in late Friday night when Greg Anderson notched a top speed of 207.24 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO.
Dixon, the all-time winningest active Top Fuel driver (37 victories), made the record-setting pass of 4.490 seconds at 331.36 mph in ideal conditions Saturday morning, the first-ever sub-4.5-second pas in Pacific Raceways history.
"The track had a lot of grip right before the sun came out for good and we were able to post a good number," said Dixon, who pilots the Miller Lite dragster for Don Prudhomme Snake Racing. "I think I'm more impressed with the speed than the E.T. That's almost 10 mph faster than the old mark (of 323.58 mph set by Kenny Bernstein in July, 2002). That's big."
Dixon (876 points) will enter Sunday's final eliminations in third place, 89 points behind Tony Schumacher (965) and the U.S. Army dragster and 69 behind Doug Kalitta (945) and his second-place Mac Tools dragster.
"I'm not going to stay up tonight and worry about racing farther than Tony or Doug. Whatever car wins the championship is the one that goes the most rounds. If I win tomorrow, then I've gone more rounds than anyone else so I will have earned more points than anyone else. That's what we're going to try and do."
Schumacher will be driving in his backup car in final eliminations Sunday because during his final qualifying run his U.S. Army dragster bowed and then snapped at the finish line. Schumacher was able to grip the steering wheel and avoid a serious accident, but his dragster was not so fortunate.
"These cars are going so fast," Schumacher said. "A crash at half-track is bad. A crash at the finish line when you're covering two football fields a second can be serious. This one was lucky. It lifted me up and I was ready for it to start turning around, but it just came back down and stopped. I've been through two bad ones. This one wasn't bad. The deal is that if you want to win races and championships, you have to be aggressive. I'm not going tell (crew chief) Alan Johnson to back it down."
Medlen entered the weekend in eighth place in the Funny Car standings and could use the momentum from qualifying to carry over to final eliminations Sunday.
"We need to get up there in the top five," Medlen said of the points chase. "That's where we want to live. The only way to get back up there is to go rounds and win races. We would love to do that (Sunday). It would be a big lift for the entire team. We all share in the wins, but we also all suffer when someone is struggling."
The CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals represent just the sixth race of the season for Thomas.
"I'm kinda shocked to be No. 1," said Thomas, who has one Pro Stock and 15 Super Stock wins. "But at the same time when you work with this crew and see how awesome (crew chief) Eddie Guarnaccia and Jerry Eckman and the rest of the guys are it's not really too surprising."
Thomas is hoping a big Sunday will open some doors for him.
"This is a lot of fun," Thomas said. "I've been part-time for the last few years, really ever since (former sponsor) Pennzoil pulled out. We've been searching for funding so it's nice to be able to perform like this and show everyone you haven't forgotten how to drive. Maybe this will open some doors for me."