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Anderson Can Clinch Second NHRA Powerade Series Pro Stock Crown With First Round Win at O'Reilly Fall Nationals Kalitta, Force and Coughlin claim No. 1 qualifying positions at Texas Motorplex ENNIS, Texas -- Pro Stock dominator Greg Anderson...

Anderson Can Clinch Second NHRA Powerade Series Pro Stock Crown With First Round Win at O'Reilly Fall Nationals

Kalitta, Force and Coughlin claim No. 1 qualifying positions at Texas Motorplex

ENNIS, Texas -- Pro Stock dominator Greg Anderson moved into position to clinch his second consecutive NHRA POWERade Series world championship by qualifying third Saturday at the O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec at the Texas Motorplex.

Anderson needs only to win his first round match against rival Kurt Johnson in Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations to secure the $200,000 season-long title. Anderson, who is enjoying one of the most impressive seasons in NHRA Pro Stock history, also could set the NHRA single-season win record at 14 with a race victory.

"Facing Kurt in the first round is perfect," Anderson said of his former teammate. "We have a lot of history together and I'm sure both of us will be looking forward to it. This is where we clinched our championship last year and I would like nothing more than to do it here this year too, especially since it's two races earlier than last year."

Should Anderson beat Johnson in their first round meeting, it would be the earliest that any NHRA driver has clinched a championship title. In 1996 John Force secured his sixth championship in the semifinals at Indianapolis with four races remaining on the schedule.

Doug Kalitta, Force and Jeg Coughlin earned No. 1 qualifying positions at the $1.7 million race, the 19th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Kalitta claimed his fifth No. 1 effort of the season and the 21st of his Top Fuel career by posting a 4.536-second run at 306.26 mph in his Mac Tools dragster.

"We just wanted to get a good run in without throwing out the rods," said Kalitta, who had engine troubles during both of his Friday passes. "We drove it on down through there with a 4.61 and it was nice and clean at the other end so we're feeling a lot better about tomorrow. We figured out we had too much compression so we put a different injector on there. Then it was just a matter of getting the fuel mixture right."

A winner at the Motorplex in 2002, Kalitta desperately needs another victory here tomorrow to keep his championship hopes alive against leader Tony Schumacher, who qualified fourth in the U.S. Army dragster.

"We need to be ready to go tomorrow because there aren't any gimmes," Kalitta added. "We could get (Tony) Schumacher in the semis so if we can take him out and win the race we'll gain two rounds back. That would be huge."

Force earned his fifth top qualifying effort of the year and the 122nd of his career in Funny Car by clocking a 4.784 at 324.20 in his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang. It was his 11th No. 1 at the Motorplex, a track Force says is one of his favorites.

Force is trying to close in on his 13th POWERade Series championship and says he is counting every single point, including the eight he earned today. He leads closest contender Gary Scelzi -- who qualified third in his Oakley Hemi Dodge Stratus -- by 208 following qualifying.

"The competition out here is the best that it's been since I've been racing Funny Car," said Force, who has earned six of his 113 career victories at the Texas track. "There isn't just three or four hitters any more, there's 16 guys who can win at this event. Every one of these guys has run 4.80s before and if you can run 4.80s, you can win races, plain and simple."

Coughlin earned his first No. 1 effort in more than a year and eighth overall by powering his Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier to a track record performance of 6.774 at 204.35.

"Our last No. 1 qualifier was last year in Memphis so this feels real good," Coughlin said. "We've had a real resurgence over the last three races. We rolled out with three new motors and have picked up each race since then. We did well in Brainerd, finished in the semifinals at both Memphis and Indy, and now here we are. We'll see if we can't go coast-to-coast tomorrow.

Coughlin, a two-time NHRA world champion, hopes his late season surge is a sign of good things to come as he and the rest of the Pro Stock community continue to try and find a way to beat Anderson.

"There have been a few other teams challenging Greg (Anderson) and now we're getting into the mix," Coughlin said. "I hope we can finish 2004 strong and get into the top five. Plus we'd like to get a win. There have only been four winners in the class this year and I'd like to be No. 5."

-nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson