Topeka: Force, Scelzi take top qualifying honors

TOPEKA, Kan. - John Force closed qualifying for the 12th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Nationals by logging the best Funny Car lap of the weekend, and in the process earned his ninth No. 1 qualifying award of the season and 98th of his career. ...

TOPEKA, Kan. - John Force closed qualifying for the 12th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Nationals by logging the best Funny Car lap of the weekend, and in the process earned his ninth No. 1 qualifying award of the season and 98th of his career. Gary Scelzi, Jeg Coughlin and Bob Panella also will lead their respective categories into Sunday's 10 a.m. eliminations at the $1.9 million race, the 19th of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Force, from Yorba Linda, Calif., clocked a 4.853 second run at 307.23 mph in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to lead the 16-car lineup. The all-time NHRA win leader will face Phil Burkart in tomorrow's first round as he goes for his 90th career victory. "That really surprised us because we weren't trying to run that number," said Force, a six-time winner at Heartland Park. "But the conditions are good out there and she just motored on down there. We'd like to get by the first round and get some confidence. I'm a little nervous because of Reading (first round loss). It's just going to be a matter of making the right call for the conditions we've got." Scelzi, from Fresno, Calif., claimed his 8th No. 1 qualifying position of the season and the 26th of his career in Top Fuel, covering the quarter-mile distance in 4.604 at 309.98 in his Team Winston dragster. The six-time season winner will face Luigi Novelli in the first round. "We're pleased with the car," said Scelzi, who has never won at Heartland Park. "Hopefully it will go four rounds tomorrow. We're gonna try and run low 4.60s all day long no matter if it's against Luigi Novelli or Tony Schumacher. I'm a little surprised that we didn't go after it and try to run a high 4.50. All I can say is that you better be on your game tomorrow. Hopefully I won't be on the losing end in of any of those dead heats like we've been having here lately." Coughlin, from Columbus, Ohio, took his second top qualifying award of the season in Pro Stock, posting a 6.922 at 197.39 in an Oldsmobile Cutlass. Panella, from Stockton, Calif., scored his seventh top qualifying position in Pro Stock Truck, driving his Chevy S-10 to a 7.585 at 176.95. TOPEKA, Kan. - Sunday's first-round pairings for the 12th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka, the 19th of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. Top Fuel -- 1. Gary Scelzi, 4.604 seconds, 309.98 mph vs. 16. Luigi Novelli, 4.835, 298.60; 2. Tony Schumacher, 4.612, 314.02 vs. 15. Rhonda Hartman-Smith, 4.818, 302.62; 3. Doug Kalitta, 4.612, 311.34 vs. 14. Paul Romine, 4.816, 299.86; 4. Kenny Bernstein, 4.616, 313.15 vs. 13. Joe Amato, 4.749, 296.44; 5. Cory McClenathan, 4.639, 309.98 vs. 12. Tim Gibson, 4.724, 307.23; 6. Larry Dixon, 4.643, 306.95 vs. 11. Doug Herbert, 4.723, 287.72; 7. Melanie Troxel, 4.645, 313.94 vs. 10. David Grubnic, 4.703, 315.05; 8. Don Lampus, 4.677, 306.19 vs. 9. Bob Vandergriff, 4.693, 309.06.

Funny Car -- 1. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.853, 307.23 vs. 16. Phil Burkart, Camaro, 5.093, 301.60; 2. Frank Pedregon, Pontiac Firebird, 4.903, 301.20 vs. 15. Al Hofmann, Firebird, 5.076, 288.27; 3. Ron Capps, Chevy Camaro, 4.905, 300.73 vs. 14. Bob Gilbertson, Camaro, 5.056, 299.00; 4. Tony Pedregon, Mustang, 4.927, 303.64 vs. 13. Gary Densham, Firebird, 5.043, 289.57; 5. Tim Wilkerson, Firebird, 4.958, 292.96 vs. 12. Jerry Toliver, Firebird, 5.018, 297.48; 6. Scotty Cannon, Camaro, 4.973, 293.35 vs. 11. Cristen Powell, Camaro, 4.985, 286.98; 7. Bruce Sarver, Firebird, 4.973, 289.38 vs. 10. Del Worsham, Firebird, 4.984, 303.43; 8. Whit Bazemore, Camaro, 4.979, 302.28 vs. 9. Jim Epler, Camaro, 4.983, 297.94.

Pro Stock -- 1. Jeg Coughlin, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 6.922, 197.39 vs. 16. Larry Morgan, Dodge Avenger, 6.987, 196.96; 2. Ron Krisher, Pontiac Firebird, 6.926, 197.94 vs. 15. Rickie Smith, Chevy Camaro, 6.984, 196.56; 3. Kurt Johnson, Camaro, 6.950, 198.00 vs. 14. Troy Coughlin, Cutlass, 6.981, 197.08; 4. Warren Johnson, Firebird, 6.951, 198.00 vs. 13. Brad Jeter, Firebird, 6.978, 196.76; 5. Jim Yates, Firebird, 6.953, 197.33 vs. 12. George Marnell, Firebird, 6.976, 196.27; 6. Darrell Alderman, Avenger, 6.953, 196.62 vs. 11. V. Gaines, Camaro, 6.975, 196.16; 7. Mark Pawuk, Firebird, 6.962, 197.13 vs. 10. Richie Stevens, Firebird, 6.973, 195.53; 8. Bruce Allen, Firebird, 6.967, 196.87 vs. 9. Scott Geoffrion, Avenger, 6.972, 196.56.

Pro Stock Truck -- 1. Bob Panella Jr, Chevy S-10, 7.585, 177.32 vs. 16. Jeff Naiser, S-10, 7.638, 175.05; 2. Steve Johns, S-10, 7.593, 176.79 vs. 15. John Coughlin, S-10, 7.635, 175.50; 3. Greg Stanfield, S-10, 7.596, 176.86 vs. 14. Brian Self, S-10, 7.632, 175.32; 4. Randy Daniels, S-10, 7.599, 176.93 vs. 13. Don Smith, S-10, 7.628, 175.59; 5. Jeff Gracia, S-10, 7.606, 176.97 vs. 12. Larry Kopp, S-10, 7.627, 176.33; 6. David Spitzer, GMC Sonoma, 7.609, 175.52 vs. 11. Mark Whisnant, S-10, 7.623, 175.84; 7. John Lingenfelter, Sonoma, 7.610, 175.64 vs. 10. Todd Patterson, Dodge Dakota, 7.621, 175.59; 8. Bart Price, S-10, 7.617, 176.67 vs. 9. Mike Coughlin, S-10, 7.621, 176.84.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Paul Romine , Doug Herbert , Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Bob Panella , Larry Dixon , Darrell Alderman , Kenny Bernstein , Brad Jeter , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Bob Gilbertson , Jim Epler , Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Rhonda Hartman-Smith , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Ron Krisher , Larry Morgan , Larry Kopp , Jeff Gracia , Mike Coughlin , John Lingenfelter , David Grubnic , Gary Densham , Scotty Cannon , Cory McClenathan , Greg Stanfield , Bruce Allen , Tim Wilkerson , Phil Burkart , Scott Geoffrion , Melanie Troxel , George Marnell , Luigi Novelli , Don Lampus , Rickie Smith , Mark Whisnant , Brian Self , Bob Vandergriff , Steve J , Cristen Powell