Sonoma: Saturday qualifying report

NHRA FUNNY CAR SOPHOMORE ASHLEY FORCE EARNS FIRST CAREER NO. 1 QUALIFIER Brown, Edwards and Stoffer round out provisional No. 1 qualifiers SONOMA, Calif. -- In a year of career-first milestones, NHRA sophomore Ashley Force checked off another...

NHRA FUNNY CAR SOPHOMORE ASHLEY FORCE EARNS FIRST CAREER NO. 1 QUALIFIER
Brown, Edwards and Stoffer round out provisional No. 1 qualifiers

SONOMA, Calif. -- In a year of career-first milestones, NHRA sophomore Ashley Force checked off another on Saturday when she earned her first career No. 1 qualifier at the FRAM-Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway.

The other No. 1 qualifiers at the 15th of 18 regular season races (24 total) in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series were Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Force's 4.096-second pass at 301.60 mph in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang from Friday night held up and she will meet No. 16 qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr. and the Monster Energy Drink team in the first round of eliminations on Sunday. Force is bouyed by the fact that she not only set the pace on Friday night, but her team also had the quickest car in both qualifying sessions in the heat on Saturday.

"I already knew I had a great team but it really shows that (the No. 1) is not a fluke (from one good run) down the track in good conditions," said Force, who earlier this year earned her first career win and led the point standings for the first time in her career. "On race day, if you have a car that's gone A to B every qualifying run, you know you've got a good chance. It gives you that much more confidence on Sunday."

The first career No. 1 qualifier for Force came in her 36th career race, 23 better than her legendary father John, who needed 59 races to earn his first career No. 1 qualifier (Baton Rouge, 1986).

"I would have only been four (so) I wouldn't remember even if I was there. I was probably at the hotel pool, swimming," Force said.

Force and Stoffer became the second pair of ladies to jointly qualify No. 1 at the same race -- the first pair were Melanie Troxel in Top Fuel and Erica Enders in Pro Stock at Topeka 2006.

Brown glided down the track in his Matco Tools dragster in 3.805 seconds at 316.45 mph to earn the top spot in Top Fuel. It's his third No. 1 qualifier in 2008, one shy of Top Fuel-leader Tony Schumacher's four poles.

"Great job by our Matco team," Brown said. "No wine for me tonight. I'm going to tune it up tonight and be ready for a battle tomorrow with that U.S. Army car."

Points leader Tony Schumacher, pilot of "that U.S. Army car," is shooting for a sweep of the Western Swing by closing out Sonoma on Sunday after celebrating wins at Denver and Seattle. He qualified second and will open with Doug Kalitta.

For Edwards, his 6.609 at 208.71 from Friday night in his Young Life Pontiac GTO held up Saturday. It was the sixth No. 1 qualifier of his career but his first since Dallas of 2001, a span of 146 races.

"We were fortunate we made a really nice run (Friday)," said Edwards. "It's a great position to be in, but (Sunday's) a different day. That No. 1 is a bulls-eye as far as I'm concerned. I'm going to race like I do every (Sunday), like an underdog."

Edwards will meet No. 16 Larry Morgan in the first round having already moved past V Gaines into sixth position in the standings by virtue of his 8-to-1 advantage over Gaines in qualifying points.

"They're giving away 118 (points Sunday) and I'm the only one who can get 118," Edwards said. "Real happy with the weekend so far and hopefully we can keep it going."

Stoffer earned the first No. 1 qualifier of her career -- in her 96th career start -- on her Geico Suzuki with a third-round qualifying pass at 6.962 at 191.21. She will meet No. 16 qualifier Fred Camarena of Placentia, Calif. in the first round of Sunday's race.

"I started out as a bracket racer in Division 7 so this is a track I call home," said Karen Stoffer. "We also have a lot of fans her so it's neat to give them a treat of getting my first No. 1 qualifier ... ever."

Final eliminations begin Sunday at 11 a.m.

-credit: nhra

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Larry Morgan , Karen Stoffer , Ashley Force , Melanie Troxel , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr.