Millington: Saturday summary

Cowin, T. Pedregon and W. Johnson earn top honors at O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals. MILLINGTON, Tenn. - Andrew Cowin earned his third career Top Fuel No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals at Memphis Motorsports ...

Cowin, T. Pedregon and W. Johnson earn top honors at O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals.

MILLINGTON, Tenn. - Andrew Cowin earned his third career Top Fuel No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park.

Tony Pedregon and Warren Johnson also were the top qualifiers of their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the 19th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Cowin's Yankees dragster sped down the track in 4.594 seconds at 319.75 during Friday's evening session to lead the Top Fuel field heading into eliminations. After qualifying No. 1 at the season-opener this year, Cowin suffered through nine straight first round losses, persuading team-owner Darrell Gwynn to bring on Mike Green and Tommy Delgado to tune the car.

"Ever since Mike and Tommy have come on board this thing's been a rocket ship," said Cowin. "We had a pretty tough first half of the season. We had a car that, when it stuck, could rotate the earth. But it wasn't as consistent as it needed to be. Mike and Tommy got us consistent and now, in the last three or four races, they've gotten us consistently quick.

Cowin's top qualifying effort gives the team another boost of confidence after advancing to the second round twice and the semifinals three times in the last five events, moving Cowin into eighth place in the NHRA POWERade Top Fuel standings.

"We'd like to win a couple of these things before we're through this year. If you're not having fun there's no point in doing something and we're really having some fun now. Drag racing's funny because it all comes around full circle. If you have a bad stretch you know you just have to work through it because the good times are right around the bend. I think we're getting there now."

Current point leader Larry Dixon qualified No.3 in his Miller Lite dragster and will face Chris Karamesines in the opening round while rival Kenny Bernstein scored the No. 2 position and will face Mitch King.

Pedregon's performance in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang of 4.879 at 316.23 from Friday held up to lead all Funny Car competitors, earning him his fifth top qualifying spot of the year and 15th of his career.

Pedregon qualified two spots ahead of points leader and team-owner John Force and three spots ahead of teammate Gary Densham, giving Force Racing's Ford Mustangs three of the top four spots in the ladder. Pedregon trailed Force by 122 points entering the race.

"Any opportunity we have to gain (points) on John, it's a good thing," said Pedregon. "I can't remember the last time any team was this close to him this late in the season. Guys have shown flashes of being able to hang with him but no one has done it week in and week out. Of course we'd like to gain another round or two on him tomorrow. If that happens then there's definitely some blood in the water.

"Of course it could go the other way. We could lose early and he could go rounds. I don't see that happening, but it could.

Pedregon will meet Todd Paton in the opening round of competition. Paton eliminated Force in the first round at Reading, Pa., last week as Pedregon scored the win and cut into Force's lead in the POWERade standings.

"The competition is there no matter how you slice it. Anyone that qualifies can beat you, and that goes for John too. I'd like to say the pressure is on John, but nobody's been there more than him and we all know he thrives on pressure. Still, come Sunday night, we might have another twist in this story."

Johnson secured his 126th career Pro Stock No. 1 qualifying position and first of the season when he stopped the clocks in 6.840 at 201.31 in his GM Goodwrench Pontiac Grand Am and will line up against Allen Johnson (no relation) in the first round.

Johnson's vehicle was damaged en route to Memphis Motorsports Park and it suffered damage to the front end when it came loose in the trailer it was being transported in.

"I've been beat up worse than that," Johnson said of his car's damage. "There was no structural damage at all, just flesh wounds. It really looks a lot worse than it is. I've never been paid to be pretty so why should this weekend be any different?

"We've picked up our performance because we've finally had a chance to work on our own stuff. We've spent so much time this year on new bodies and the DRCE 3 and DRCE 4 cylinder heads that we haven't had the time to work on and develop our own stuff. It's all about cubic hours and we haven't had enough cubes lately."

Current points leader Jim Yates qualified fourth while Greg Anderson, who is second in the standings, struggled and made the field in the No. 15 spot. In a significant first round matchup, Anderson will meet No. 2 qualifier Jeg Coughlin who is third in the NHRA POWERade Pro Stock standings.

Eliminations begin Sunday at 11 a.m.

-nhra-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Greg Anderson , Chris Karamesines , Andrew Cowin , Gary Densham , Todd Paton , Mitch King , Darrell Gwynn , Allen Johnson