Memphis: Saturday qualifying report

HOT ROD RETURNS TO SITE OF FIRST CAREER TOP FUEL WIN, CLAIMS SECOND CAREER NO. 1 QUALIFIER Hight, Anderson and Smith round out No. 1 qualifiers at 19th O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Defending Memphis champion Rod Fuller held...


Hight, Anderson and Smith round out No. 1 qualifiers at 19th O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Defending Memphis champion Rod Fuller held the No. 1 position in Top Fuel through Saturday's heat to claim the second low qualifier award of his career with a 4.575 at 318.54 mph.

Fuller will lead fellow low qualifiers Robert Hight (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) into Sunday afternoon's elimination action at the $1.6 million O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals, the 17th of 23 races on the $50 million POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Although the final Top Fuel session went into the twilight hours, all attempts to unseat Fuller's Valvoline/David Powers Homes dragster from the top spot came up short. Red-hot racer Tony Schumacher had to settle for a No. 2 start here after a best of 4.578 at 321.35 mph. He still gained five points on championship leader Doug Kalitta, who qualified 10th with a 4.678. Kalitta's lead shrinks to 76 points heading into race day.

Fuller and Hight will now try to break a season-long streak of No. 1 qualifiers in the two nitro classes failing to win the race where they started eliminations as the top qualifier. So far, No. 1 qualifiers in Top Fuel and Funny Car are a combined 0-for-32 in their attempts to convert the top spot into a win.

"They're saying it's bad luck to be No. 1 qualifier but I don't believe that stuff at all," Fuller said. "Drag racing is drag racing. Weird streaks like that happen from time to time and that makes it exciting but I don't think it's a jinx. It's more coincidence than anything."

"It's been my experience that there are certain tracks that certain drivers always do well at for whatever reason and Memphis is one of those tracks for me. I like the heat, I grew up in it, and I have a real level of comfort here. I feel like this is my home track and I want to protect it," said Fuller, who is sixth in points.

Hight was joined at the top of the Funny Car ladder by teammates Eric Medlen and John Force, making for the seventh career 1-2-3 qualifying effort for Team Force. Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang teammates get the glory this time with their seventh low qualifier of the year.

"We've got two streaks to end now," Hight said. "The No. 1 guy not winning deal and also the fact we've never won as a team when we've qualified 1-2-3. Let's just get both of those behind us at one time."

Ron Capps, who has led the POWERade Series points in Funny Car since the second race of the year, made the cut in his last attempt, running a 4.950 Saturday night in his Dodge Charger R/T to secure the 13th position. He's lost in the first round at four of the last five races and he will open Sunday with No. 4 qualifier Cruz Pedregon.

Anderson's track record (for elapsed time) pass of 6.742 at 203.83 mph from Friday's opening round held but he did get a serious last-minute challenge from Mike Edwards, who posted a 6.750 Saturday evening to lead Day 2 action. Nevertheless, Anderson bagged his first Memphis pole, his ninth low qualifier of the year, and the 49th of his career.

"Our goal is to get as many points as possible in qualifying and to try and get Jason (Line) on the other side of the ladder," Anderson said. "We accomplished both of those things so Plan A is done. Now we need to get through another awesome field of cars and try to get another win for this race team."

As improbable as it was, the track record in Pro Stock Motorcycle did get lowered in Saturday's heat as Friday leader Smith fine-tuned his late-night set-up to squeeze another .026 seconds out of the track in Round 2. His 7.060 at 188.02 mph earned the Torco Buell V-Twin rider just the second low qualifier award of his career.

"Today was pretty impressive," Smith said. "Putting up a 7.06 in that heat was something, and I even clutched it early. If I had run it out I would have put up a 7.04 or something."

POWERade points leader Antron Brown also improved in the second session, leapfrogging his way to second with a 7.083 at 187.05 mph on the U.S. Army Suzuki. Brown's teammate Angelle Sampey was next with a 7.090, while back-to-back series champ Andrew Hines followed a thousandth of a second back with a 7.091 on the Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Cruz Pedregon , Andrew Hines , Matthew Smith , David Powers , Robert Hight , Rod Fuller , Angelle Sampey , Mike Edwards