Sonoma: Friday qualifying report

HERBERT, ASHLEY, ANDERSON AND HINES LEAD QUALIFYING AT FRAM-AUTOLITE NHRA NATIONALS SONOMA, Calif. -- Doug Herbert raced to the qualifying lead Friday in Top Fuel at the FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals. Mike Ashley, Greg Anderson, and Andrew...

HERBERT, ASHLEY, ANDERSON AND HINES LEAD QUALIFYING AT FRAM-AUTOLITE NHRA NATIONALS

SONOMA, Calif. -- Doug Herbert raced to the qualifying lead Friday in Top Fuel at the FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals.

Mike Ashley, Greg Anderson, and Andrew Hines also were qualifying leaders in their respective categories at Infineon Raceway.

Herbert posted a leading performance of 4.556 seconds at 315.15 mph in his Snap-on Tools dragster to earn the top spot, however 10 Top Fuel racers didn't get to run in the second session after a lengthy oil clean-up forced NHRA officials to stop racing at the mandatory 10 p.m. track curfew. Herbert will try to hold the position through Saturday's action to see if he can claim his first low qualifier award in almost two years.

"We obviously got a lucky break but luck is like a bank and it seems like we've made a lot of deposits this year so we'll take it," Herbert said. "It was a good run and maybe it would have been good enough any way. Probably someone would have passed us but we'll never know now."

POWERade points leader "Hot Rod" Fuller made two runs but still hasn't been down the track under power as of yet and is outside the field in 18th place.

Funny Car leader Ashley continues to impress, setting a track speed record with his top-qualifying 4.743 at 326.79 mph in his Torco Dodge Charger. The New Yorker has three previous No. 1 qualifying efforts this season.

"I've been No. 1 before and it's great but I'd rather win the race," Ashley said. "We need the points for the Countdown deal. I have to tell ya, when you pull up to the line for Friday night qualifying your stomach is in knots. You either run a hero number or smoke the tires and end up staying up all night worrying if you can make the field Saturday. This Friday night session is as important as any single round of racing. There's a lot of pressure."

Ashley Force rebounded well from her crash last Sunday in Seattle with a 4.791 at 324.12 mph in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. Her father John is 11th with a 4.871 in his Castrol High-Mileage Mustang.

Looking to become the sixth driver in NHRA history to earn a sweep of the Western Swing, "Fast Jack" Beckman is second on the grid after a 4.759 at 324.67 mph in the Mail Terminal Services Dodge Charger R/T.

Anderson and Allen Johnson both recorded 6.612s in Pro Stock but Anderson's Summit Racing Pontiac GTO gets the top spot due to his faster top speed of 208.07 mph. Johnson topped out at 207.21 mph in his J&J Racing/Team Mopar Dodge Stratus.

"It seems like four years, not four races," Anderson said of the time between his top qualifying efforts. "We've been struggling lately. That's no secret. Since we got a bit of a lead in the points we thought we'd try some things. But we've gotten way off pace and I can't blame it all on experimental parts. Plus I haven't been driving very well."

Three-time and reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Hines was the quickest of both Friday sessions on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, claiming the provisional pole with a 6.962 at 190.03 mph. He opened with a 7.001 at 189.50 mph.

"It's definitely good to get back to sea-level conditions," Hines said. "We've been No. 1 here the last two years so we're trying to make it three in a row. There's a great fan base here that really likes the motorcycles and that makes it so fun."

Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Greg Anderson , Ashley Force , Allen Johnson , Mike Ashley , Andrew Hines