BROWN MAKES STRONG OPENING STATEMENT WITH PROVISIONAL NO. 1 IN TOP FUEL Cruz Pedregon, Mike Edwards and Hector Arana round out provisional pole-sitters CONCORD, N.C. -- The Countdown to 1, NHRA's six-race playoff, officially got underway ...
BROWN MAKES STRONG OPENING STATEMENT WITH PROVISIONAL NO. 1 IN TOP FUEL
Cruz Pedregon, Mike Edwards and Hector Arana round out provisional pole-sitters
CONCORD, N.C. -- The Countdown to 1, NHRA's six-race playoff, officially got underway Friday with Top Fuel points leader Antron Brown earning the provisional pole in Top Fuel at the Second annual NHRA Carolinas Nationals.
The other provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the 19th of 24 races in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series were Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
The NHRA Carolinas Nationals is the first race in NHRA's six-race playoff and it is the first of a four-races-in-four-weeks blitz through Dallas, Memphis and Richmond to begin the Countdown to 1.
This race also marked the debut of the 3-2-1 bonus for the Top 3 qualifiers in each qualifying session.
Brown, in only his second year in Top Fuel after a decade competing in Pro Stock Motorcycle, earned the provisional No. 1 with a 3.847-second pass at 317.87 mph in Friday night's second session at zMax Dragway.
"With the new point structure, our goal is to run consistent and fast," Brown said. "That was a good run. Actually, we made two runs and got five bonus points. That's really important in the Countdown (to 1). This new point structure is mind-boggling for the crew chiefs because you need to get down the track on each run, but you have to try and be in the top three. It's very tricky."
It was quite an opening statement by Brown and the Matco Tools team to their two nearest chasers -- Larry Dixon and Al-Anabi and Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army -- who have combined to win the last seven Top Fuel championships.
Eleventh-place Cruz Pedregon, the last man out in the frantic race for the 10th and final playoff berth in Funny Car, exacted a small slice of revenge with a 4.087 at 303.91 in his Advance Auto Parts Toyota to earn the provisional No. 1.
"We just didn't get things going this summer and we missed the Countdown. I still think that, run for run, we've got one of the best cars out here," Pedregon said. "We worked all summer to make this Advance Auto Parts car as good as it is. Now, we're just keeping track of our own points so we can see how we stack up against everyone else."
If nothing changes in Pro Stock Saturday, Edwards (6.614 at 208.36 mph), the third-place driver entering the Countdown to 1, would collect his NHRA-leading 11th No. 1 qualifier of the season in his A.R.T. Pontiac.
"The (qualifying bonus points) are going to help you if you can go out there and run good every session," Edwards said. "I'm excited about it. Anytime you pick up one point it's crucial. We got a couple of points tonight, four counting both runs. It makes you want to go out there now and instead of maybe having, I wouldn't call it a 'throwaway' session, but you better go out there and get it going. Three points is three points and that can add up huge."
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, third-place Arana (6.965 at 189.98) picked up where left off at the recently completed Mac Tools U.S. Nationals where he qualified No. 3 and won for the third time this season.
"As soon as I got home (from Indy), we didn't waste any time. On Tuesday morning, we were taking the motor apart, and we sent parts back to Larry Morgan, so they went over the engine again. I just hope they don't get upset with me for the extra work because I do have a great chance to win the championship, and I definitely want to put this Lucas Oil (Buell) in the winner's circle," Arana said.
Qualifying resumes Saturday with Rounds 3 and 4 before the 16-car fields are set for Sunday's final eliminations.