Columbus: Friday qualifying report

DIXON, BAZEMORE, JOHNSON AND TONGLET LEAD QUALIFYING AT PONTIAC PERFORMANCE NHRA NATIONALS HEBRON, Ohio - Three-time event winner Larry Dixon led all Top Fuel competitors Friday at the 41st annual Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals at National...


HEBRON, Ohio - Three-time event winner Larry Dixon led all Top Fuel competitors Friday at the 41st annual Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals at National Trail Raceway.

Whit Bazemore, Warren Johnson and GT Tonglet also were the provisional qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the $2 million race, the eighth of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Dixon took advantage of the early evening's cool temperatures to power his Miller Light dragster to a leading qualifying performance of 4.510 seconds at a track record speed of 331.94 in his first attempt.

"A lot of fans came by and they were excited about (the speed)," Dixon said. "The car went out there and quivered a little bit, got through that and ran on through. You're listening to the engine. It ran on eight cylinders all the way out.

"I think (crew chief) Dick LaHaie, it all goes to him. He's done real well, and fortunately he's in our corner."

The final two rounds of professional qualifying are scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Final eliminations are Sunday at 11 a.m.

Dixon chose not to make his second run after most of the Top Fuel field struggled to complete their second qualifying runs on a rapidly cooling track.

"We had the car set up for a certain track temperature, and it started cooling off rapidly," Dixon said. "As cars were not going down the track, it kind of reconfirmed where we were at. We're here a month earlier. Last year it'd be hot and humid and you'd be wishing you were running the sessions at 10 p.m. so it would be nice and cool."

This year's event was moved to May from its traditional June date in the hopes of avoiding the state's rainy season. Rain did arrive during the early morning hours Friday, but the professional rounds went on as scheduled.

Bazemore powered his Matco Tools Dodge Stratus down the track in 4.762 seconds at 322.34 mph to lead Funny Car.

"It's a real good start for the weekend," said Bazemore, who has yet to qualify No. 1 this season despite winning two events. Bazemore was second in the point standings to John Force after Atlanta last weekend. "Our team hasn't qualified that well all year, so hopefully it's not a jinx. We've done fairly well. We're second in the championship, and we've won two races, but all from qualifying eighth and 12th. Hopefully, if we can stay low tomorrow it won't be a jinx. It's what our team's needed. We've worked really hard trying to right our ship and eventually hard work pays off. Qualifying is a tribute to our Matco Tools team. It's (crew chief) Lee Beard making the right call, it's the guys doing a perfect job, and here we are. It felt good to run that quick, because we hadn't done that in quite a while."

Johnson covered the quarter-mile distance with a track record time of 6.749 seconds at 204.48 mph in his GM Performance Parts Pontiac to pace Pro Stock.

"We had a few problems on our first run that could have had an adverse effect on the evening session," Johnson said. "We had a malfunction with the throttle linkage which prevented the second carburetor from fully opening, which was compounded by our not getting any computer data from the run. Therefore, we pretty much had to wing it for our second attempt.

"We actually made a significant amount of changes based on something Kurt (Johnson's son and driver of the ACDelco Cobalt) had done with his car in testing. Considering our predicament, we felt it was a good time to try it, and fortunately, it seems to have worked well enough to place us in the No. 1 position at the moment. Overall, I was pleased. It was a good, straight run, and our sixty foot time was back in the hunt, so I think we're getting this GM Performance Parts Pontiac to where it needs to be."

Tonglet rode his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson down the track in 7.090 seconds at 187.03 mph to lead Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying after forfeiting his first run due to a battery malfunction. Tonglet came to Columbus fresh off of a win at Atlanta, his first victory of 2005 and the second of his career. The win put him on top of the point standings.

"It's been a real good week," Tonglet said. "First I win Atlanta and now I'm No. 1 here. I'm real happy with the run. We had a 1.08 (-second clocking) to 60 feet plus the tire was spinning downtrack so I know we have room to improve.

"It's good to have a teammate because I didn't get to run in Round 1 but our bikes are identical so we were able to use his data to tune me up for tonight. (Team crew chief) Matt Hines is a three-time champion; he can get any bike down any track."


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Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines , Larry Dixon , Warren Johnson , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Dick LaHaie , GT Tonglet