Seattle: Saturday qualifying report

RAIN-SOAKED QUALIFYING COMPLETE AT SCHUCK'S AUTO SUPPLY NHRA NATIONALS Top qualifiers at Pacific Raceways are JR Todd, Robert Hight and Dave Connolly KENT, Wash. -- Due to persistent rain in the Seattle area, NHRA officials were forced to set...

Top qualifiers at Pacific Raceways are JR Todd, Robert Hight and Dave Connolly

KENT, Wash. -- Due to persistent rain in the Seattle area, NHRA officials were forced to set the elimination fields for the 20th annual Schuck's Auto Supply NHRA Nationals Saturday evening after just one round of professional qualifying was completed.

Drivers in the POWERade top 10 who were not qualified after the lone round were placed in the bottom of the 16-car grids per rule. David Grubnic replaced Morgan Lucas in Top Fuel, while Jim Head, Cruz Pedregon, and Gary Scelzi will take the spots of Gary Densham, Tim Wilkerson, and Jerry Toliver.

J.R. Todd's Skull Shine dragster team ran the only 4.5-second pass of the day at Pacific Raceways, so his 4.577 at 318.39 mph was enough for his first career low qualifier award. John Force Racing pro Robert Hight broke in a brand-new Ford Mustang with a 4.800 at 300.53 mph for his sixth pole of the year for the Auto Club team. In Pro Stock, Dave Connolly took another step toward securing a berth in the Countdown playoffs by placing his Torco Racing Chevy Cobalt on top with a 6.664 at 206.42 mph.

Todd went to the starting line expecting a wild ride down the freshly-scrubbed racetrack. Instead, his Kevin Poynter-tuned hot rod went straight down the groove in 4.577 seconds at 318.39 mph. The reigning Rookie of the Year is just 33 races into his career but he already has five wins, two runner-up finishes, and one low qualifier honor.

"It kind of stinks that we only got one run but it's my first No. 1 so I guess I'll take it any way I can," Todd said. "We're all in the same boat heading into race day. No one really knows what to expect. The rain washes away the rubber and Top Fuel's going to be first out there so it'll be crazy. At least we get to pick what pair we're going to go so I'm sure we'll be back in the back."

Grubnic gets in on the bump, replacing hard-luck pro Morgan Lucas.

Hight was pleased with his first ride in his new Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang, which was put into service for the first time Saturday. The car looked strong in its debut, carrying the No. 2 man in the POWERade points to his sixth low qualifier of the year.

"We were a little nervous coming in with a brand-new car," Hight said. "We knew this morning that the most we could hope for was having two runs and with a new car you get anxious because you expect there to be bugs. But this thing drove just like the old car we had, the one I crashed in Topeka.

"One run definitely wasn't enough, especially with a new car. I think we could have gone much quicker. If we had another session probably a lot of cars would have gone quicker than a 4.80, our team included. It's really hard to guess what's going to happen tomorrow. We get Scelzi now in Round 1 and we know they're capable of big numbers. It'll be exciting."

Kenny Bernstein is second on the grid in his Monster Energy Drink Dodge Charger R/T after a 4.854 at 307.44 mph, the best effort for the "King of Speed" since his return to Funny Car. He will meet Cruz Pedregon, who is holding onto the eighth and final playoff berth in Funny Car, in one of the marquee first-round matchups Sunday. No. 10 in points Tommy Johnson Jr. vs. No. 13 in points Del Worsham will be a near elimination match with the loser's chances of making the playoffs diminishing significantly.

Ashley and John Force both earned bottom-half berths. Ashley is 10th in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang and she draws points leader Ron Capps in Sunday's first round as she looks to reverse a recent trend that has seen her drop from seventh to 11th in points. John was on the bump but he moved up to 13th so officials could insert the three top-10 runners who were outside the field and he will look to continue his resurgence against Tony Bartone. He's entered this race ninth in the points, 16 behind Cruz Pedregon.

Currently third in the Pro Stock points, Connolly is next in line to earn one of the eight spots in the Countdown playoffs as teammate and No. 2 Jeg Coughlin and points leader Greg Anderson have already clinched their playoff berths. His first low qualifier of the year will help his Torco/Seeyle Wright Chevrolet Cobalt team move closer to earning a slot.

Allen Johnson, who shared the winner's circle in Denver with Beckman and Fuller one week ago, is second with a 6.671 at 206.95 mph in his J&J Racing Dodge Stratus.

Points leader Greg Anderson is fifth overall in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO after a 6.688 at 207.18 mph.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Jeg Coughlin , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Bartone , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Greg Anderson , Tommy Johnson , Gary Densham , Cruz Pedregon , Tim Wilkerson , Allen Johnson , Morgan Lucas , Jerry Toliver , Robert Hight , J.R. Todd