Force, Kalitta and Coughlin Qualifying Leaders at O'Reilly Fall Nationals ENNIS, Texas - John Force raced to the qualifying lead in Funny Car Friday at the O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec at the Texas Motorplex. Doug ...
Force, Kalitta and Coughlin Qualifying Leaders at O'Reilly Fall Nationals
ENNIS, Texas - John Force raced to the qualifying lead in Funny Car Friday at the O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec at the Texas Motorplex.
Doug Kalitta and Jeg Coughlin also were qualifying leaders in their categories at the $1.7 million race, the 19th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Force powered his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang down the famed all-concrete quarter-mile in a leading time of 4.784 seconds at 324.20 mph to pace the 16-car field.
"Billy (Meyer, track owner) was a Funny Car guy so he built a track that he knew would work good for Funny Cars," Force said. "The track was good tonight and so was the air so we were able to put a good number up there. Plus, we ran a 4.91 in the opening round so we knew we could push it tonight and still be safe if we smoked the tires."
Force, a six-time winner at the Motorplex, is trying to put the finishing touches on a record 13th NHRA world championship and he says every point counts this late in the season.
"(Crew chief Austin) Coil says I've got the best car I've had in the last 10 years," Force said. "It runs good at night and it runs good in the day, in the heat. That's important. We need the best car because we need to earn points, even in qualifying, and get this championship done. That's what we're thinking about right now."
Tony Pedregon was second with a 4.810 at 318.02 in the Quaker State Chevy Monte Carlo, while Whit Bazemore drove his Matco Tools Dodge Stratus to a third place effort of 4.834 at 322.04.
Kalitta raced to the front of the Top Fuel lineup with a 4.536 at 306.26 in his Mac Tools dragster, however at the end of both of his qualifying attempts today his car suffered minor engine explosions.
"We tried a different (set up) with the injector and blew it up pretty good," Kalitta said. "But until it threw the rods out we were running strong. The car quit at about 1,000 feet that time so it probably had a lot more in there. We're upset about blowing up but happy to get a good number up there and put our team in a good position for Sunday."
Like Force, Kalitta hopes to maximize points earning opportunities in the last five races. However, unlike Force, he is chasing series leader Tony Schumacher, who experienced mechanical problems on the second of two runs today and is currently ninth with a 4.633 at 317.57 in his U.S. Army dragster.
"We can't be blowing anything up on race day," Kalitta said. "Our chances of catching Schumacher are getting pretty scarce. If we don't gain a big chunk at each of these last few races we're in trouble. But I have a great group and we'll stay after it and see what happens."
Kalitta teammate David Grubnic is second with a 4.540 at 322.11 in the Red Line Oil dragster, while Cory McClenathan posted a 4.585 at 305.70 in his Carrier Boyz/Berryman dragster for third overall.
Coughlin drove his Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier to a track record performance of 6.775 at 204.20 to lead the Pro Stock order.
"From daytime to night this track gets so much better," Coughlin said. "And today, especially after the fuel cars ran a round and filled in the bare spots, this track was great from start to finish. My guys did a good job of hitting the set-up just right and we were able to open strong. We're happy. We've got a new motor in the car and it's satisfying and a real credit to our guy's labor that we've been able to close the gap on Greg Anderson and the two Grump-powered cars. Like I said, we're pretty happy right now."
Anderson, who could clinch his second POWERade Series world championship this weekend, was second with a 6.786 at 203.55 in his Summit Racing Pontiac Grand Am. Anderson needs to qualify in the top four and advance to the second round in order to claim the series crown.
Qualifying continues Saturday at noon and 2:30 p.m. Eliminations start Sunday at 11 a.m.