Bristol: Friday qualifying report

FUNNY CAR DRIVER WILKERSON GRABS NO. 1 SPOT; SCHUMACHER AND LINE ALSO NO.1 FRIDAY NIGHT AT BRISTOL BRISTOL, Tenn. -- The largest crowd in Bristol Dragway history watched independent Funny Car racer Tim Wilkerson knock off all the...

FUNNY CAR DRIVER WILKERSON GRABS NO. 1 SPOT; SCHUMACHER AND LINE ALSO NO.1 FRIDAY NIGHT AT BRISTOL

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- The largest crowd in Bristol Dragway history watched independent Funny Car racer Tim Wilkerson knock off all the heavyweights to lead Friday's qualifying action at the seventh annual O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Q.

Wilkerson's 4.819 at 321.42 mph placed him alongside Top Fuel leader Tony Schumacher and Pro Stock's Jason Line on the top qualifiers podium.

Racing without the benefit of a teammate or a big-name sponsor, Wilkerson showed the little guy can still hang with the big dogs, if only for a day. If his run stands, Wilkerson will have a chance at his first No. 1 qualifying award since the Brainerd race in 2004.

"The people are usually pretty excited when they see an independent guy run good," said Wilkerson, who received an ovation from his peers when he towed back to the pits. "There are a lot of teams in the Funny Car and Top Fuel ranks that give us a lot of help. Don Schumacher has been letting me run his blower dyno here lately. He'll probably lock the doors now on me but I hope not. There's a group out here that pulls for the little guy and I think that's cool."

John Force continues to qualify well, earning the fifth spot here with a 4.853 at 292.46 mph in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang. Daughter Ashley is 15th with a 4.923.

Points leader Ron Capps crossed the centerline in Round 2 in his Dodge Charger, which voided what looked to be a good run. His earlier 4.949 second run places him on the bump.

Schumacher, the four-time champion, finished the night with a 4.544 at 321.12 mph to gain the No. 1 position heading into Saturdays session.

"I had the 'chutes out early because I got over by the wall," Schumacher said. "I joked with Alan [Johnson, tuner] that I pulled them early so we wouldn't be No. 1 qualifier, since we can't seem to win from the No. 1 spot. We saw what happened in front of us and if Lee Beard [Bazemore's crew chief] can run a number Alan's sure going to try and top it. I knew we'd either get to No. 1 or smoke the tires."

Bazemore had to settle for second with a 4.547 at 327.43 mph in his Matco Tools dragster. Series points leader "Hot Rod" Fuller was fourth with a 4.592.

Pro Stock leader Line didn't come close to his track record pass of 6.708 and 205.35 mph from last year, but his 6.789 at 203.86 mph in his Summit Pontiac GTO was more than enough to lead the Friday action.

"I'm excited to be up here [as top qualifier]. It's been awhile," said Line, who last qualified No. 1 in February in Phoenix. "We've had some busy days lately. We made what I call a series of bad decisions starting in Chicago and we're not really out of the woods yet. Unfortunately, my goal right now is to make it through this weekend without breaking anything else. We already have enough to do before the Western Swing."

Norwalk winner Dave Connolly broke a motor in Round 1 but rebounded well in the evening session, qualifying a lofty second on the grid with a 6.795 at 202.88 mph in his Chevrolet Cobalt. Points leader Greg Anderson is third with a 6.797 at 202.97 mph, the last of the 6.7-second passes on the day.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Greg Anderson , Tim Wilkerson , Jason Line , Don Schumacher , Dave Connolly