Allen Johnson sets track record to lead NHRA top qualifiers in Denver
A sunny Saturday made the going tough for the NHRA Full Throttle teams at Bandimere Speedway, as hot temperatures made Saturday’s final round qualifying a search for a correct Sunday tuning setup.
Friday leaders Spencer Massey, Jack Beckman, Allen Johnson and Hector Arana Jr. all earned poles after today’s final rounds, with all except Pro Stock qualifying monster Allen Johnson standing on their Friday times.
Pro Stock polesitter Allen Johnson continued his dominance of the class as Mopar-powered pilot made it a clean sweep of the four qualifying rounds while setting a new track-record E.T. of 6.951 seconds on his final pass of the day.
Johnson earned his seventh pole in the year’s 13 races and punched his ticket for the Countdown to the Championship by storming through the qualifying rounds.
“It just speaks to the quality of our entire team to put our Mopar Dodge in the Countdown with four races to spare,” said Johnson, who is seeking his first career Pro Stock championship. “It’s great to know we’re locked into the six-race playoff, but we won’t change our strategy. Our motto all year has been, ‘Be Consistent,’ and that won’t change.”
Johnson and Edwards stayed in the top two spots while V. Gaines and Ron Krisher found speed on their last passes to snare the third and fourth spots respectively. Deric Kramer qualified for his first NHRA National event after posting a time of 7.060 seconds at 194.80 mph as 16 cars in the class meant that – like the Top Fuelers – no one got sent home on Saturday evening.
Top Fuel points leader Spencer Massey saw his Friday time hold up for his second top-qualifying spot of the season, nipping his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown by .009 seconds after a final round where the majority of the field had trouble getting the power down.
“The track was hot today, and obviously everyone was struggling,” Massey said. “I was surprised when we ran a 3.91 in the first session, and I was surprised again when it held on for number one. We’re going to stick with our philosophy that we had since last year by trying to run down the racetrack and not beat ourselves tomorrow.”
The only driver to make any serious moves in the final round was the guy that has made a living at answering the final bell as Tony Schumacher carded a 4.013-second run to earn lane choice in his opening-round tilt with Khalid alBalooshi.
Jack Beckman paced the Funny Car class after his Friday time of 4.131 seconds at 304.05 mph held up through Saturday’s efforts to give Beckman his first pole of the year and the fifth of his NHRA career.
“The fact that we ran well three times in the heat is great for tomorrow. To qualify No. 1, it’s awesome that we got those bonus points, it’s awesome that we can say that we got a pole,” Beckman said. “But nothing replaces how that number cropping up on the board made those nine guys who work on the car feel. That’s the greatest thing, and it’s the same thing when you get a trophy.”
The final round was an uneventful one as Johnny Gray was the driver in the top 14 qualifiers to improve his time, and his quicker time failed to gain him any spots. The drama was saved for the bottom of the queue at Todd Lesenko bumped in, only to get trailered as Jeff Diehl’s final run was enough to put him in the show.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, the Arana family led the way as their Friday times held up as well, giving Hector Jr. the top qualifying spot as his Buell swept all four rounds. Hector Sr. dodged a bullet as his machine would not fire for his last pass, but his first-day time was enough to give him the second position.
“Getting all 12 of the bonus qualifying points was real big for us this weekend,” Arana Jr. said. “We need to do everything we can do to try and sneak up on those Harleys. They’re a real strong team and they’re doing an excellent job. It’s all turning around and coming together at the right time before the Countdown and we’re really excited. With the experience that I gained from last year, hopefully we can get the championship this time. Tomorrow I hope that I can be just as consistent as I was in qualifying. All of our runs were between a 7.23 and a 7.25 in both the heat and cool [Friday evening] weather, so we’re really excited.”
Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec held serve at third and fourth while Jerry Savoie made the big move to vault into fifth on the ladder, after a Saturday run of 7.300 seconds. Angie Smith came back from a harrowing ride into the Norwalk corn two weeks ago to take the last spot on the ladder, while her husband Matt snared the seventh spot.
1) Spencer Massey 3.914/309.49
2) Antron Brown 3.923/305.98
3) Doug Kalitta 3.925/307.44
4) Terry McMillen 3.930/314.75
5) Brandon Bernstein 3.947/285.83
6) Shawn Langdon 3.957/303.03
7) Morgan Lucas 4.002/279.27
8) Tony Schumacher 4.013/297.42
9) Khalid alBalooshi 4.021/275.90
10) Bob Vandergriff 4.035/296.96
11) Steve Torrence 4.091/294.24
12) David Grubnic 4.101/275.34
13) Scott Palmer 4.184/276.52
14) Clay Millican 5.447/179.76
15) Rob Passey 5.804/127.94
16) Steve Chrisman 6.006/137.62
1) Jack Beckman 4.131/304.05
2) Robert Hight 4.135/304.53
3) Ron Capps 4.137/301.54
4) Cruz Pedregon 4.165/297.02
5) John Force 4.188/302.82
6) Mike Neff 4.208/301.20
7) Courtney Force 4.212/297.94
8) Jeff Arend 4.218/298.40
9) Matt Hagan 4.224/288.15
10) Tim Wilkerson 4.237/275.00
11) Johnny Gray 4.313/283.97
12) Tony Pedregon 4.381/264.34
13) Bob Tasca III 4.386/275.28
14) Alexis DeJoria 4.631/220.76
15) Jeff Diehl 4.905/276.69
16) Todd Simpson 4.951/229.27
Did Not Qualify
17) Todd Lesenko 5.088/176.53
1) Allen Johnson 6.951/198.29
2) Mike Edwards 6.966/197.80
3) V Gaines 6.968/197.88
4) Ron Krisher 6.973/197.77
5) Jason Line 6.988/197.10
6) Erica Enders 6.989/196.39
7) Vincent Nobile 6.998/196.67
8) Jeg Coughlin Jr. 7.010/196.73
9) Greg Anderson 7.011/196.44
10) Warren Johnson 7.037/195.22
11) Larry Morgan 7.046/196.07
12) Deric Kramer 7.060/194.80
13) Shane Gray 7.065/194.69
14) Kurt Johnson 7.067/195.19
15) Steve Kalkowski 7.130/192.93
16) Paul Pittman 13.844/81.21
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1) Hector Arana Jr. 7.238/184.57
2) Hector Arana Sr. 7.243/183.62
3) Andrew Hines 7.283/184.04
4) Eddie Krawiec 7.298/183.42
5) Jerry Savoie 7.300/180.69
6) Steve Johnson 7.313/181.76
7) Matt Smith 7.321/182.21
8) Mike Berry 7.321/180.31
9) Michael Ray 7.347/180.74
10) Karen Stoffer 7.351/180.96
11) Scotty Pollacheck 7.359/180.00
12) LE Tonglet 7.361/182.18
13) Shawn Gann 7.375/181.15
14) Michael Phillips 7.388/182.30
15) Matt Guidera 7.429/178.50
16) Angie Smith 7.434/178.38
Did Not Qualify
17) John Hall 7.450/177.84
18) James Surber 7.451/176.24
19) Katie Sullivan 7.478/177.09
20) Charles Sullivan 7.701/170.92
Massey, Beckman, Allen Johnson and Arana Jr. pace Friday Denver quals
Arana overcomes starting-line failure to take second in Bandimere quals