Reading: Friday qualifying report

WORSHAM, FULLER, ANDERSON AND SAMPEY TOP FIELDS AFTER FIRST DAY OF QUALIFYING IN READING MOHNTON, Pa. - Funny Car veteran Del Worsham began his last-gasp fight for the eighth and final spot in the Countdown to the Championship by leading ...


MOHNTON, Pa. - Funny Car veteran Del Worsham began his last-gasp fight for the eighth and final spot in the Countdown to the Championship by leading Friday's action at the 23rd annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.

Worsham's 4.800-second pass at 323.97 mph placed him alongside fellow low qualifiers "Hot Rod" Fuller (4.521 in Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (6.685, Pro Stock), and Angelle Sampey (6.987, Pro Stock Motorcycle) at the midway point of professional qualifying.

Fighting for his playoff life, Worsham pulled out all the stops in his Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevrolet Impala SS Friday, blasting to the provisional pole with a 4.800 at 323.97 mph. Should Worsham stay No. 1 and win the race, and No. 8 points earner Jim Head -- who is qualified seventh here -- retain his position and lose in the first round, Worsham would make the Countdown to the Championship field by one point.

"I'm not going to say it's too little, too late, but I think we're down to needing a miracle at this point," Worsham said. "We've had miracles happen before with this team so we won't quit."

Mail Terminal Services Dodge Charger driver "Fast Jack" Beckman matched Worsham's elapsed time but settled for second on the grid with a slightly slower 322.81 mph top speed.

Ashley Force is sixth in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang with a best of 4.870 at 306.67 mph, while her father John Force is 10th with a 4.902 at 305.91 mph.

Gary Densham posted a ninth-best 4.893 in his Torco/Racebricks Impala but ended up deep in the sandtrap after his parachutes failed to deploy. Densham was uninjured but his crew is in for a long night.

Top Fuel points leader Fuller looked sharp in both Friday rounds in his Ransome Caterpillar dragster. He started the day with a 4.606 at 314.68 mph, which led the first session, and then uncorked his 4.521 at 327.19 mph under the lights.

"It was a great day even though I can pretty much guarantee you it won't hold through tomorrow," Fuller said. "Of course, you never know what Mother Nature will throw at you but everyone from this area has been telling me it'll be cooler.

"The last three or four races we've been testing some different things but we went back to our tried and true tune-up for this race to get ready for the Countdown to Four. It's exciting that the car has responded."

Schumacher seemed relieved to miss the top qualifying spot, with the U.S. Army racer pointing to the fact that none of the low qualifiers have won a race this year. His 4.526 at 332.75 mph places him second.

Second-place points earner Brandon Bernstein missed Friday's action due to acute pain in his abdomen brought on by a kidney stone. Bernstein spent the day at Reading Hospital and Medical Center under the watchful eye of an urologist hoping to pass the stone. Bernstein, who has already secured a spot in the Countdown field, may be replaced by a fill-in driver if he's not able to qualify on Saturday.

Anderson's 6.685 at 206.26 mph was the only 6.6-second pass of opening day in the Pro Stock class. The Summit Racing Pontiac GTO driver led both sessions, opening with a 6.703 at 205.38 mph before improving under the lights. He also hinted of things to come for the GM professionals.

"This GTO has been a great car for me and I'm going to hate to see it go," Anderson said. "This old car is holding together well for us. I hope she has seven more races in her. She's beat-up and worn out, but it's still a fast piece."

Defending series champion and Anderson teammate Jason Line is second with a 6.702 at 205.51 mph in his identical GTO. Kurt Johnson, a three-time Maple Grove champion, is third in his ACDelco Chevrolet Cobalt after a 6.709 at 206.01, while Vieri Gaines has the quickest Dodge with a 6.710 at 204.57 in his Kendall Stratus R/T.

Sampey recorded the only two six-second passes in Pro Stock Motorcycle of the day on her U.S. Army Suzuki, following her opening 6.987 at 190.35 mph with a 6.988 at 191.59 mph in the cooler evening session. Sampey always seems to do well at Maple Grove Raceway, as her six national event wins at this facility indicate.

"We say 'gris-gris' in Louisiana, and I definitely got 'gris-gris' at this racetrack," said Sampey, referring to magical amulets of good fortune in Cajun society. "I had a rodeo ride there after the finish line and it was probably the freakiest thing I've ever experienced. The track goes down right there and I must have been opening my hand to shut it off right at that point because the wind got under my hand and it just flew off the handlebars. I thought I was coming off. I don't know how I stayed on there."

Andrew Hines only made one pass Friday, a Round 1 run of 7.018 at 189.44 mph, but it was quick enough to slot his Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod second overall. Hector Arana is off to his best start of the year after his 7.040 at 189.29 mph moved his Lucas Oil Buell up to third place.

-credit: nhra

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Kurt Johnson , Del Worsham , John Force , Greg Anderson , Gary Densham , Ashley Force , Brandon Bernstein , Vieri Gaines , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Angelle Sampey