Denver: Friday qualifying report

KALITTA LOOKS TO CONTINUE CHARGE ON TOP FUEL POINTS LEAD; ROCKETS TO PROVISIONAL NO. 1 IN DENVER MORRISON, Colo. - Doug Kalitta continued to close the gap on NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Top Fuel points leader Melanie ...

KALITTA LOOKS TO CONTINUE CHARGE ON TOP FUEL POINTS LEAD; ROCKETS TO PROVISIONAL NO. 1 IN DENVER

MORRISON, Colo. - Doug Kalitta continued to close the gap on NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Top Fuel points leader Melanie Troxel during Friday's qualifying action at the Mopar Mile High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway.

Kalitta rocketed to the provisional No.1 qualifying spot with a 4.631-second finish at 319.60 mph in his Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster. Kalitta has won four of the last seven national events but has yet to qualify No. 1 this year.

"It was a big relief to get down the track tonight," Kalitta said. "We have a brand new car and we smoked the tires earlier just trying to figure it out. It's always nice to get that first full pass in. The fact we got the pole is just a bonus."

Local favorite Troxel struggled in the heat and finds herself 12th after posting a performance of 4.785 at 312.42 mph in her Skull Shine/Torco Race Fuels dragster.

Gary Densham is the surprise leader in Funny Car. The former schoolteacher posted a 4.893-second pass at 292.20 mph to join Kalitta, Pro Stock veteran Allen Johnson, and Pro Stock Motorcyclist Chip Ellis on the provisional low qualifier's podium.

Densham earned eight low qualifier honors when he raced for 13-time world champion John Force, but he's never earned one in his own racecar. That could change this weekend if his Racebricks Chevy Monte Carlo survives Saturday's final two sessions, scheduled for 3:30 and 6 p.m.

"It's a challenge to race here and I never have done well on Friday at this track," Densham said. "I always have to sweat it out overnight. Not now. I'll sleep like a baby tonight."

Teammates Gary Scelzi and Ron Capps are fourth and fifth, respectively. Scelzi, the defending series champion, posted a 4.932 in his Oakley/Mopar Dodge, while Capps, the current points leader, ran a 4.941 in his Brut Charger.

Nine Pro Stock racers bettered the one -year-old track record of 7.106 with Johnson the quickest of the group with a 7.064 at 194.60 mph in his J&J Racing/Team Mopar Dodge Stratus R/T. Johnson's first ever No. 1 qualifying effort came just five races ago in Columbus.

"If we keep this [ No. 1 qualifying position] we'll have three in the last six races," Johnson said. "Things are just going our way right now. Dad [crew chief and engine builder Roy Johnson] is on a roll with the motors and it seems like we're getting better every race. It would be awesome to get the pole for Mopar at their race."

Former Rookie of the Year Jason Line is second with a 7.069 at 195.19 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO. Line's speed was a track record. His teammate, three-time and current series champion Greg Anderson , is fifth with a 7.094.

Ellis set the elapsed time record for the Pro Stock Motorcycle class when he cruised to a 7.383 at 178.92 mph on his Drag Specialties Buell V-Twin. The mark was .053 seconds quicker than Andrew Hines ' year-old E.T. record. Ellis has been top qualifier at three of the last four races.

"It's good to be fast today and tomorrow, but it's way more important to be fast on Sunday," said Ellis, the most recent winner on tour. "We're getting a target on our backs but everybody's a target in this class. It's so tight out there."

Points leader Angelle Sampey is third overall with a 7.427 at 177.91 mph on her U.S. Army Suzuki. Reigning series champ Hines is fifth with a 7.450 on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Gary Densham , Melanie Troxel , Allen Johnson , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Chip Ellis , Angelle Sampey , Roy Johnson