Atlanta: Friday qualifying summary

McClenathan, Densham, Johnson and Savoie lead qualifying at Atlanta Dragway. COMMERCE, Ga. - After a lengthy rain delay, Warren Johnson proved there was such thing as home track advantage. Johnson grabbed the provisional No. 1 qualifying...

McClenathan, Densham, Johnson and Savoie lead qualifying at Atlanta Dragway.

COMMERCE, Ga. - After a lengthy rain delay, Warren Johnson proved there was such thing as home track advantage. Johnson grabbed the provisional No. 1 qualifying position for Pro Stock at the 22nd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway on Friday.

Johnson, from nearby Buford, set both ends of the track record with a 6.863-second run at 201.46 mph to lead the category in his GM Performance Pontiac Grand Am.

Cory McClenathan, Gary Densham and Angelle Savoie led their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the seventh of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Johnson said he has spent some quality time testing at his home track. While the rain delayed the first qualifying round, he said the conditions only helped the car get down the track quickly.

"We went up there and really walked the whole track to see what kind of condition it was in, and felt pretty confident it would hold about anything we threw at it," Johnson said. "We were really not overly aggressive. We could've used a little more RPM on the starting line but our approach was to get down the track and get qualified - we didn't need a home run, just an infield hit. It worked out pretty good."

If Johnson can hold the No. 1 spot through both qualifying sessions on Saturday, it will be his 126th No. 1 qualifier. He knew Friday's session was important, seeing how the rain had already eliminated at least one qualifying pass this weekend.

"Everyone went out there with the mindset of 'let's just get down the track'," Johnson said. "We didn't want to try and get every last inch of performance out of the car because that edge is so fine that if you shake the tires it's all over - you're a little soft in the clutch and you're a little low on RPM. This was the session where you didn't want to shoot yourself in the foot."

McClenathan is the provisional Top Fuel leader after he turned in a 4.588 pass at 324.90 in his Centennial Batteries Dragster. This will be his 27th No. 1 qualifier if it stands.

"You wait that long (because of the rain delay) to make a run and you really want to get after it," McClenathan said. "We saw the Funny Cars making some really good runs and Wes (Cerny, crew chief) said we were going to go for it. I was ready and had to pedal the car once and it reacted really well. When you make a run like that it's a lot of fun. I'm really excited for this team. We've come up a little short of No.1 a couple of times this season, but tonight we went for it.

"Hopefully it will hold tomorrow, but you never know because this is a really good track. There's some teams out here capable of running low 50s. The two beer cars can run low 50s on gravel, so we'll have to wait and see what happens."

Densham set the elapsed time track record with a 4.833 run in his Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang. No speed was recorded for his run.

"My legs were shaking before that run after the trouble we had qualifying at Bristol," Densham said. "You never know when you are going to get on a streak like that when you have trouble qualifying. That run was perfect, we couldn't have had a better tune-up. I would have liked to known what the speed was, because it was fast."

The scoreboard had Densham's speed at 355 - an obvious error. Crew chief Jimmy Prock said he downloaded the data from the qualifying pass. The estimated speed was between 326-327 - which would have erased the track record speed of 318.58 set by Cruz Pedregon in April of 1998.

"We'll take that 355, but it might be a little tough to back up," Densham joked. "I don't know what happened down there, nothing came off of my car or (opposing lane) John (Force's) car. This is the nicest track we have raced on since Pomona."

Savoie used a 7.240 pass at 189.76 on her CVEC Suzuki to pace the Pro Stock Motorcycle class. Before her run, Savoie announced her new sponsor. In the first two races of the season, Savoie raced without a primary backer and still managed to stay in second place of the point standings.

"This is almost a dream come true for me to get a new sponsor, new colors, new logo, new product with all of the principal CVEC people in attendance, watching us grab the No. 1 qualifying spot," Savoie said. "I was a little nervous because we had the leathers, helmet and a few other things that we needed shipped to us this morning. With the weather being the way it was, we were worried the planes would be delayed. But UPS got it to us and it could not have turned out better."

Qualifying continues at 10:30 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. on Saturday. Final eliminations are 11 a.m. on Sunday.


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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Gary Densham , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan