Indianapolis: Saturday qualifying report

Kalitta, Force, Anderson and Ellis Snag The Top Spots During Saturday Qualifying at Mac Tools U.S. Nationals CLERMONT, Ind. - John Force drove to the top of the Funny Car category Saturday night as qualifying continued for the 50th annual Mac ...

Kalitta, Force, Anderson and Ellis Snag The Top Spots During Saturday Qualifying at Mac Tools U.S. Nationals

CLERMONT, Ind. - John Force drove to the top of the Funny Car category Saturday night as qualifying continued for the 50th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Chip Ellis (Pro Stock Bike) also led qualifying in their respective categories at the $2.6 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event.

Force went to the top of the Funny Car category with a track record pass of 4.749 seconds at 323.12 mph in his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang.

"I got out of the car and thanked ol' (crew chief) Austin Coil and he said, 'For what,' and I said, 'For making me No. 1 at the biggest race of the year,' " Force said. "For one night we got to make a statement with all the big hitters from the past watching us. Indy goes back to our roots and all the old guys I grew up idolizing are here."

Force took the top spot away from teammate Gary Densham, who was in the No. 1 position after Friday's qualifying.

"We're really communicating well within our team. I was able to talk to [Gary] Densham and [Eric] Medlen before I ran and they told me what to look out for," Force said. "There's a lot of good teamwork going on. It helped, because this wasn't just another low E.T. run to me."

Kalitta stayed ahead of the quickest and fastest category in Top Fuel with a 4.544-second run at 320.51 mph in the Mac Tools dragster.

"We had it set for kill in the evening session and it just wouldn't hold it," Kalitta said. "Normally you can feel it coming but this time it just blew the tires right off. We were going for whatever the track would give us but it wasn't feeling that generous.

"Now it's time to see how to get this car down the track in the heat. Play time is over. The opportunities to catch Tony [Schumacher] are starting to run out so we need to make the most of every round. The races we have left are on the good tracks but that's the same for everyone. We've got work to do if we want to win it all but we still have a chance."

Anderson paced the door-slammer field, driving his Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac Grand Am to a 6.794 pass at 201.88. He has earned 12 event victories this season and can tie Force for the most wins in a season (13) this weekend.

"I wouldn't say our little slump is over but I can tell you that it sure feels good to be back up here [in the media room] as the No. 1 qualifier," Anderson said. "It's Indy and everyone absolutely brings their A game with them. If you wan the pole, you have to earn it and we're not done fighting for it yet. It could certainly change tomorrow."

Anderson has earned two wins at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.

"It's such a special deal," Anderson said. "This feels every bit as good as my first pole because it's Indy and you look out at those slam-packed grandstands and you're just in awe. It's so special just to be here."

Ellis - participating in his first NHRA national event - rode his S&S Star Buell to the front of the two-wheel category with a 7.137 at 185.69.

"Basically I'm out here testing," Ellis said. "I know that nobody knows me. The guys at S&S have just put together an awesome bike that ran a great number. That's a great team over there. There's a lot of talent on that crew. I only made four runs on that bike before this race and that was a few months ago. We were actually just hoping to qualify.

"There are a lot of heavy hitters in this class and there's still two more qualifying sessions so we won't get too excited. I'll just try to hold on and give this team the pole."

Andrew Hines already earned a paycheck by winning the K&N Filters Pro Stock Bike Klash bonus event for the bikers. Hines beat his teammate, GT Tonglet, in a battle between two Harley-Davidson entries. Hines took home the $15,000 award by riding a 7.203 pass at 186.10, besting Tonglet's 7.270 at 183.99.

"It's an honor to follow in my brother's footsteps and win this event," Hines said of his brother Matt Hines, a three time NHRA champion who now serves as Andrew's crew chief. "He won it four times so I've at least got one on him now. I hope that one day I can reach his stature and accomplish some of the things he did in his career. I look up to Matt so much. It's awesome to do some of the things he's done."

If Hines can win the event on Monday too, he will earn a $10,000 double up bonus from NHRA as well.

"That's a nice paycheck and I thank the people at K&N for all they do," Hines said. "Now we need to double-up and win the race. We figured it out that when Matt doubled-up it was worth $45,000. That would be great for this team."

The longest-running race on the NHRA schedule has five qualifying sessions for all four pro categories. Teams have two more chances to qualify on Sunday before final eliminations kick off at 11 a.m. on Monday.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines , John Force , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Gary Densham , Andrew Hines , GT Tonglet , Chip Ellis , Austin Coil