Gainesville: Friday qualifying summary

Russell, Bazemore, Morgan and Scali Lead Qualifying at Mac Tools Gatornationals. GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Darrell Russell earned the provisional No. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel Friday during the 35th annual Mac Tools NHRA Gatornationals at ...

Russell, Bazemore, Morgan and Scali Lead Qualifying at Mac Tools Gatornationals.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Darrell Russell earned the provisional No. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel Friday during the 35th annual Mac Tools NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.

Whit Bazemore, Larry Morgan and Geno Scali also led their respective categories at the $2 million race, the third of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. It is the first of 15 national events for the Pro Stock Bike category.

Russell went 4.644-second run at 317.57 mph to go to the head of the Top Fuel category in his Keystone-Dee Zee dragster. While he admits he might not be the No. 1 qualifier after tomorrow's sessions, he will enjoy tonight's placement on the ladder.

"It's nice to know we were low today and I don't think it will hold as the No. 1 time, but I will sleep better tonight," Russell said. "I think we were a little too aggressive on the first pass, but if there is one thing we all know about (crew chief) Wayne Dupuy, it's that he likes warm tracks."

Bazemore ran a 4.909 at 291.82 in his Matco Tools Dodge Stratus to lead the Funny Car class. None of the Funny Car drivers made a pass in the 300-mph range.

"Halfway through the day I was hoping to crack the 230-mark, let alone 330," Bazemore said. "We're at the Gators and only two cars are in the fours? It's a challenge for us all. The track is nice and smooth and it is going to be good, but it doesn't have any rubber on it yet."

Morgan drove his Team Mopar Dodge Stratus to the top in Pro Stock, setting the elapsed time track record with a 6.764 pass at 204.03. Kurt Johnson set the track record for speed with a 6.798 run at 204.96 in a Chevy Cavalier. "Today's my lucky day," Morgan said. "We're not surprised that we ran this good. We actually thought that we could run a few one-hundredths quicker. We're really satisfied with the last run. It just feels good to be here. Apparently all of the cars are so close that anybody can win."

Scali paced the two-wheel category, setting a track record time of 7.104 at 187.85 on his Trim-Tex Suzuki. Scali is the defending champion in the Pro Stock Bike category.

"In the offseason people told me it was going to be tougher this season so I really wanted to come out here and show them that last year wasn't a fluke," Scali said. "We went and tested a few weeks ago and we learned what not to do when we got here. It was nice to finish the (2003) season as the champion and then come out here and run the No. 1 qualifying runs. It may not stay tops, but it feels good to continue the momentum."

Three-time Pro Stock Bike champion Angelle Savoie is not qualified after two sessions. On the second run of the day, her U.S. Army Suzuki skated to the side and she hit the retaining wall. Because Savoie crossed the centerline, her second run was disqualified. Savoie suffered minor bruises and scratches on her right leg.

"It looks like the tire wall collapsed both times," Savoie said while icing her leg. "We tested with this tire and didn't have any problems but [teammate] Antron [Brown] said these things can just pop up and be a problem.

"I'm okay. I hit really hard and my leg is hurting but I'm more upset about messing up my brand new leathers. I hope the guys can get the bike fixed. The handlebars are bent and the side is scraped up a little. They tell me we should be OK."

Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations are set for 11 a.m. Sunday.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Whit Bazemore , Larry Morgan , Geno Scali