Joliet: Saturday qualifying report

Scelzi sets NHRA speed record; T. Pedregon, Grubnic, Line and Hines earn top spots at Route 66 Raceway. JOLIET, Ill. -- Defending NHRA POWERade Funny Car champion Tony Pedregon earned his 28th career No. 1 qualifying...

Scelzi sets NHRA speed record; T. Pedregon, Grubnic, Line and Hines earn top spots at Route 66 Raceway.

JOLIET, Ill. -- Defending NHRA POWERade Funny Car champion Tony Pedregon earned his 28th career No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the seventh annual NHRA Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.

David Grubnic, Jason Line and Andrew Hines also earned the No. 1 qualifying positions in their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the eighth of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Pedregon made the quickest and fastest Funny Car pass in NHRA history when he blasted down the drag strip in 4.716 seconds at 331.28 mph behind the wheel of his Quaker State Chevy Monte Carlo on Friday. Pedregon will need to record a time of 4.763 to establish a national E.T. record and earn an additional 20 championship points. He can establish a national speed record if he reaches 327.96 mph or greater, but bonus points are not awarded for speed records.

Heavy rain and severe thunderstorm warnings halted the second qualifying session of Funny Car and Top Fuel.

"We dropped a cylinder down track and I shut it off early," said Pedregon, who has been the top qualifier three times this season. "We would've liked to have had tonight's session but Mother Nature took over. We're still very pleased with how the car is performing and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's race.

"We have a great team established here and I'm thrilled to have earned the No. 1 spot. Last night's run was very exciting. (Crew chief) Dickie (Venables) and Kurt (Elliott) have been doing an outstanding job on the Monte Carlo. We're going to go after it tomorrow and do our best to put four consistent runs together and see if we can get our first victory of the season."

Gary Scelzi established a national record for speed when he reached 330.55 in his Hemi-powered Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T, backing up last night's speed of 330.15. Scelzi's qualifying pass on Friday night was the first Funny Car pass to eclipse the 330-mph barrier.

"The speed is cool, but the coolest thing is the car has gotten down the race track three times in a row and it's done exactly what we wanted it to do, where we wanted it to do it," Scelzi said. "Granted, this is not a hot, slippery race track, but the humidity is a big factor and we need to be careful. Who knows what lies ahead? Right now we're extremely happy, we're pleased the car is doing everything it needs to do. And it's really fast, which is a beautiful thing."

Grubnic powered the Kalitta Air dragster to the No. 1 spot for the fourth time this year and the fifth time of his career when he covered the distance in a category-best time of 4.471 at 331.77.

"I am just a spokesman for the team, because it is Connie Kalitta, the Oberhoffer brothers (Jim and Jon, tuners), and the rest of the guys on the team because they make the car perform like it has been," Grubnic said. "If you look at the eight races we have had so far this season, Kalitta Racing has earned the No. 1 qualifying position at six of them with Doug (Kalitta) and Scott (Kalitta) each getting one too. My car is used for R&D, but whatever we run on my dragster, I'm sure it can adapt to the other two cars. We're a team and we all work together."

Line drove his KB Framers Pontiac Grand Am to the top of the Pro Stock order for the first time in his career when he shut the clocks off at 6.802 at 202.33 to pace the 16-car field. Line and teammate Greg Anderson, winner of six races and six No. 1 qualifying awards this season, have combined for seven of eight top qualifying spots in 2004. Anderson qualified in the No. 2 slot behind Line.

"The Grand Am made a really nice run and I am getting better at driving it," said Line, a leading contender for the 2004 Auto Club Road to the Future award given annually to the NHRA's top rookie. "It's a pretty cool feeling earning that first No. 1 spot and it is fun driving the car, but really I love working on it. I usually am working on Greg's car, just right now I happen to have the quicker Grand Am. Greg is very unselfish though and he is very happy that I was the top qualifier."

Line has been the runner-up to Anderson twice this season (Houston and Bristol, Tenn.) but has yet to visit the winner's circle in 2004. As the duo continues to dominate the Pro Stock class, final round meetings seem to be inevitable.

"If I could choose my final round opponent, the person I would defeat for my first career victory, it would be Greg," said Line. "Greg is the very best in this category and he is the one you would want to beat."

Hines earned his third career Pro Stock Bike No. 1 qualifying position, all coming this season, when he crossed the finish line atop his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson in 7.167 at 184.62 to lead the two-wheel category.

"The second session wasn't as good as the first one as far as the weather conditions go," Hines said. "We ran the best 60-foot time we have ran all year on that second run so I know we could have done better. I ran against (teammate) GT (Tonglet) in that last round, but I didn't even see him the whole time and was able to slip past him for the No. 1 spot. I may have bragging rights in the pits tonight, but it is all in good fun."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Gary Scelzi , David Grubnic , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Connie Kalitta