Las Vegas: Saturday qualifying report

JOHN FORCE'S AMAZING NHRA POWERADE SERIES QUALIFYING STREAK ENDS AT 395 RACES Schumacher, Ashley and Coughlin earn No. 1 qualifying positions; Kalitta also sees qualifying streak end at 164 races LAS VEGAS -- One of the most impressive...


Schumacher, Ashley and Coughlin earn No. 1 qualifying positions; Kalitta also sees qualifying streak end at 164 races

LAS VEGAS -- One of the most impressive streaks in motorsports came to an end Saturday in Las Vegas when 14-time Funny Car champion John Force failed to qualify for eliminations for the first time in 395 races.

Force and Top Fuel contender Doug Kalitta, whose class-leading streak of races also ended this weekend, will be observers when the NHRA Nationals begin Sunday morning at 11 a.m.

Friday leaders Tony Schumacher, Mike Ashley, and Jeg Coughlin remained on top of their respective fields at the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Force last failed to qualify in 1987 at the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif.

"Whatever ends here, ends," said an upbeat Force, who received a standing-ovation from an appreciative crowd. "There's still a Force (daughter Ashley, qualified third) out there so that's good. We've climbed mountains lately; this is nothing. We'll be fine. It was bound to happen, so now it has and we'll start over."

Schumacher's third No. 1 qualifying effort of the year and the 38th of his career, which he earned with a 4.479 at 329.83 mph in his U.S. Army dragster during Friday's racing, was overshadowed by the shocking DNQ by rival Kalitta.

"This class is tough top to bottom," Schumacher said. "We've got J.R. Todd in Round 1 and he's already won two races this year. Doug Kalitta didn't even make the show. It's brutal."

Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools/Foose Design dragster, posted a best run of 4.641, which was well off the pace needed to make the 16-car starting lineup. His class-leading streak of 164 consecutive races, dating back to the Phoenix race in 2000, was snapped.

"It's terribly disappointing, but no one here will hold their head down," Kalitta said. "We didn't make it, and that's that. We just had a bad weekend. It happens, and we'll move on. I really think this will just make us a lot stronger. We'll be okay."

Brady Kalivoda remained in second place with his 4.490 in the Marnell and Moorefield Construction dragster. David Powers Motorsports teammates "Hot Rod" Fuller and Whit Bazemore were third and fourth with identical 4.498s.

Ashley's first career No. 1 qualifying performance was impressive as his 4.725 second run at a category-best speed of 334.32 mph was well ahead of his peers' best efforts. The driver of the Torco Racing Fuels Dodge Charger, who moonlights as a New York mortgage broker, has raced in just 32 national events as a professional.

"I can't even comprehend John (Force's) streak," Ashley said. "It really just shows you how tough it is out here. That team has everything but even they can get tripped up. It happened to us in Gainesville. Man, I feel bad for him but they'll be fine."

Ashley will open against Vegas' most recent winner, Jack Beckman, who was the man responsible for bumping Force when he posted a 4.837 at 321.73 mph in his Mail Terminal Services Charger. The run placed him 16th overall. Force ended up 17th with a best of 4.852 at 311.41 mph in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang.

Coughlin earned his 10th career top qualifying award and his second in as many races. His 6.733 at 204.26 mph from Friday afternoon kept his Slammers/ Chevrolet Cobalt on top as no one was able to challenge the pass in Saturday's sunshine.

"We're absolutely pumped about the performance of these Slammers racecars," Coughlin said. "Of course the win is the thing we're all after but it's always exciting to know you have a good, consistent, and very quick race car heading into eliminations. Now it's time to turn some of these great qualifying efforts into wins. Victor (Cagnazzi, team owner) needs a few trophies on his desk to remind him why we do this crazy stuff."

Coughlin's teammate at Cagnazzi Racing, Dave Connolly, is second in his Torco/Slammers Cobalt with the same E.T. but a slightly slower 203.49 mph top speed. Greg Anderson was the quickest of the day, moving up to third with a 6.737 at a track record speed of 205.26 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Jack Beckman , Mike Ashley , Brady Kalivoda , David Powers , Dave Connolly