Commerce: Saturday qualifying report

JOHNSON CLAIMS RECORD 133RD No. 1 QUALIFYING POSITION AT SUMMIT RACING NHRA SOUTHERN NATIONALS Lucas, Scelzi and Hines also are leaders at Atlanta Dragway COMMERCE, Ga. -- It was a day of records and a day of firsts at the Atlanta Dragway...

JOHNSON CLAIMS RECORD 133RD No. 1 QUALIFYING POSITION AT SUMMIT RACING NHRA SOUTHERN NATIONALS

Lucas, Scelzi and Hines also are leaders at Atlanta Dragway

COMMERCE, Ga. -- It was a day of records and a day of firsts at the Atlanta Dragway Saturday at the 25th Anniversary Summit Racing NHRA Southern Nationals, the seventh of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

At one end of the spectrum, you had 61-year old Warren Johnson earning his record 133rd No. 1 qualifying position in Pro Stock while at the other end of the spectrum you had 21-year old Morgan Lucas earning his first-ever No. 1 qualifier in Top Fuel.

Johnson's top qualifying run in his GM Performance Parts Pontiac was a 6.749-second pass at 204.54 mph. That was good enough for the Buford, Ga. native, racing at his adopted "home" track, to merit favorite status entering Sunday's final eliminations beginning at 11 a.m.

"The idea is to win the race regardless of what track we're racing at on a given weekend," said Johnson, the NHRA POWERade Pro Stock points leader who entered the event 50 points ahead of Dave Connolly, who failed to qualify.

"When the closest person to you in the points doesn't qualify you certainly want to maximize the points potential you could gain," he said. "I still don't like to see it happen. They'll recover and probably be better than ever. A little adversity goes a long way in teaching you how to be mean."

The Top Fuel and Funny Car classes saw new No. 1 qualifiers emerge from an unscheduled evening session -- caused by a two-plus hour rain delay -- that featured more favorably cool conditions.

In Top Fuel, 21-year old Morgan Lucas, driver of the Lucas Oil Top Fuel Dragster and the youngest driver in his class, turned in a 4.541-second pass at 326.40 mph to earn his first-ever No. 1 qualifying position.

He set the number midway through the round and then had to wait it out in his pits.

"The anticipation of waiting out those last few pairs of cars to see if we'd stay No. 1 was too much," an excited Lucas said. "I'm pretty wound up. I can't even explain it. The guys are so pumped up right now. For me watching Joe for all those years and then Wayne tuning the car, to be able to get this with them is so cool."

In Funny Car, Gary Scelzi drove his Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus down the track in the ideal early-evening conditions posting a time of 4.782 seconds at 326.87 mph to vault to the top of the qualifying board.

"We're really glad it rained," Scelzi said. "We were lined up to race (teammate Ron) Capps in Round 1 if they had rained out the last sessions which would have sucked. But then it stopped raining and they came around and told us to get ready, that we were gonna run. Zippy (crew chief Mike Neff) said right away, 'We're going for the pole.' I told everyone a few years ago Mike Neff was a name everyone would know before long and it's coming true.

Scelzi will not have it easy Sunday with John Force and Del Worsham on his side of the draw, but he likes his chances.

"We just might have the best car right now. It's very, very good, as good as anybody else's car. But the best car doesn't always win on Sunday. I don't have that feeling like I did back in the day in Top Fuel when I knew we would win every race but we're getting awfully close to that."

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Andrew Hines delivered another terrific run, besting his then-track record and top qualifying run from Friday (7.094) with an even better 7.092 on Saturday afternoon in his Vance & Hines Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson.

"As long as I can be myself at the starting line I think I have the bike to beat," Hines said. "One of the goals I set for myself this year was to be the No. 1 qualifier at all the tracks where we weren't No. 1 qualifier last year and this was the first one so I'm happy. It's just one more thing I can rub my brother's (crew chief and three-time champion Matt Hines) nose in, which is always a good thing."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Morgan Lucas , Andrew Hines , Mike Neff