Gateway: Final qualifying report

MADISON, Ill. - Gary Scelzi held on to the top spot in Top Fuel after Saturday's final qualifying at the Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals. Scelzi's quarter-mile run of 4.563 seconds at 319.45 mph on Friday earned his second top qualifying position...

MADISON, Ill. - Gary Scelzi held on to the top spot in Top Fuel after Saturday's final qualifying at the Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals. Scelzi's quarter-mile run of 4.563 seconds at 319.45 mph on Friday earned his second top qualifying position of the season.

Bruce Sarver, Warren Johnson, Antron Brown and Todd Patterson also were No. 1 qualifiers in their respective divisions at the $1.9 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing event at Gateway International Raceway outside of St. Louis.

Scelzi is the defending event winner at the Sears Craftsman Nationals and has won at Gateway International Raceway three times. Despite his early season struggles, Scelzi is confident that he can earn his first win of the season on Sunday. "It is now or never," Scelzi said. "We need to make things happen here and we need to go to Pomona (Calif.) to continue on and we need to make the western swing in our favor. I feel good about not where we are, but where we are headed. Let the chips fall where they may."

Bruce Sarver topped the Funny Car category with a run of 4.851 at 309.34 mph. Sarver's e-moola.com Pontiac Firebird was quick enough on Friday night to hold on to the top spot for the second time in 2001. The cool weather conditions during Friday's qualifying produced the first all four-second Funny Car field in the history of Gateway International Raceway.

"If you didn't get in the field last night, it was going to be really tough to get in today," Sarver said. "I feel bad for (Ron) Capps. No one wants anyone to not qualify. It doesn't really hurt my feelings because it moves me into third (in the NHRA Winston points). Being number one, I am only 17 points behind Del (Worsham) for second."

Ron Capps failed to qualify which ended the second longest qualifying streak in Funny Car. Capps had qualified for 35 consecutive events entering St. Louis. With Capps failing to qualify, Sarver now holds the second longest streak with 27 consecutive starts. John Force holds the Funny Car record with 265 consecutive starts and will face Frank Pedregon in Sunday's first round.

Johnson moved to the top of the Pro Stock division with a Saturday morning pass of 6.865 at 200.65 in his GM Goodwrench Pontiac Grand Am. Johnson will enter Sunday's eliminations as the top qualifier for the 124th time in his career. "It was probably as good of a run as we could make this morning, said Johnson, five-time NHRA Winston Pro Stock champion. "I don't think there was much left on the table on that run. We're happy with it and we'll be alright tomorrow."

Brown's Team 23 Suzuki anchored the Pro Stock Motorcycle field with a pass of 7.203 at 187.83. Brown had not qualified in the top spot all last season but Saturday night in St. Louis was his fourth of the season. "The difference is that my crew chief Mark (Peiser) has been working on the bike real hard," said Brown, the current NHRA Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader. "(Engine builder) Freedom Motorsports stepped up the horsepower program for a lot of teams. We are just trying to maintain consistency and stay consistently fast."

Patterson set the Gateway International Raceway Pro Stock Truck elapsed time record with a run of 7.452 at 180.81 in his Dodge Motorsports Dodge Dakota R/T. Patterson's top qualifying position is the first of his career and marks the second time a Dodge truck has been at the top of the Pro Stock Truck order since 1998.

"It's great for the Pro Stock Truck class," said Patterson. "I think it's great for all the loyal Dodge and Mopar fan across the country. This gives them something to root for. We would like nothing more than to put this Dodge in the winners circle tomorrow night."

Final eliminations for the Sears Craftsman Nationals will begin at 11 am on Sunday.

-NHRA

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Warren Johnson , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Todd Patterson