Topeka: Friday qualifying report

HARTLEY, HIGHT, ANDERSON SITTING NO. 1 AT HEARTLAND PARK TOPEKA TOPEKA, Kan.--Little known part-time racer Joe Hartley is the surprise Top Fuel leader at Heartland Park Topeka Friday after one round of qualifying with a stunning 4.518 seconds at...

HARTLEY, HIGHT, ANDERSON SITTING NO. 1 AT HEARTLAND PARK TOPEKA

TOPEKA, Kan.--Little known part-time racer Joe Hartley is the surprise Top Fuel leader at Heartland Park Topeka Friday after one round of qualifying with a stunning 4.518 seconds at 323.12 mph.

In his first time as the No.1 qualifier in the Top Fuel category, Hartley is joined by Funny Car heavyweight Robert Hight and Pro Stock points leader Greg Anderson on the leader board..

Friday's action of the 19th annual O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals presented by Castrol GTX was trimmed by on-and-off rain showers. Only one round of nitro and about a round and a half of Pro Stock made it into the books.

Blowing past the likes of four-time champion Tony Schumacher, current points leader "Hot Rod" Fuller, and the rest of a stout Top Fuel field, Hartley was the talk of the pits after what was easily the best run of his career. Even Hartley was surprised when he climbed from his rail at the top end of the racetrack.

"I can't believe it," the 30-year-old Hartley said. "We were hoping for a low 4.60 so to go almost a tenth of a second quicker is really exciting. It snapped the front end up right away and just went straight down the track nice and easy. The smooth ones are definitely the quickest ones and that one was very smooth."

After four first-round losses in a row, Schumacher hopes a quick start here will help him shake off his current clump. His 4.529 at 303.09 mph in the U.S. Army dragster placed him second overall.

David Powers Motorsports teammates Whit Bazemore (4.534) and Fuller (4.566) followed in third and fourth place, respectively.

Hight hasn't qualified lower than second on the elimination ladder all year and he looks strong again here, racing his Auto Club Ford Mustang to the top spot in Funny Car with a 4.754 at 320.66 mph.

"It felt great to get back in the car after that long break," Hight said. "I'm happy to be here and happy to be driving this car. Evidentially, [crew chief] Jimmy Prock didn't take a vacation because the car was perfect."

Hight's boss John Force also ran a 4.7-second pass, ending up third with a 4.796 at 302.28 mph in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford. Ashley Force is ninth with a 4.902.

As the first professional-level cars on the track, many Pro Stock drivers complained of the lack of rubber on the starting line, but Anderson managed to get the job done, running a double-track-record 6.709 at 206.48 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO to earn top billing after Day 1. Anderson was one of the lucky few who got to make two passes Friday.

As the first professional-level cars on the track, many Pro Stock drivers complained of the lack of rubber on the starting line, but Anderson managed to get the job done, running a 6.744 at 204.85 mph in his ACDelco Chevrolet Cobalt to earn top billing after Round 1.

Round 1 leader Kurt Johnson slipped to second with a best of 6.744 at 204.85 mph in the ACDelco Chevrolet Cobalt. He didn't make a second run. Dave Connolly, the most recent winner on tour, is third with a best of 6.749 at 204.45 mph in his Torco Chevy.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Ashley Force , Joe Hartley , David Powers , Robert Hight , Dave Connolly
Teams HART