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Force’s Comeback Continues

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, February 20 2010
John Force facing loyalty dilemma. (File photo courtesy of Elon Werner)

John Force facing loyalty dilemma. (File photo courtesy of Elon Werner)


John Force continued to show that he’s back to his old form Saturday at the NHRA Arizona Nationals as the 14-time NHRA Funny Car world champion raced to his first No. 1 qualifying position in more than two years.

Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also earned No. 1 positions in their respective categories at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.

Due to rainy weather conditions throughout the day, NHRA officials were forced to cancel one of the two scheduled qualifying sessions.

The 60-year-old Force sped to a 4.063-second run at 308.78 mph in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang to claim his 132nd No. 1 of his career, seventh at Firebird International Raceway and his first since Sept. 2006. He will meet arch-rival Cruz Pedregon, a two-time series champ, in the opening round of Sunday’s 11 a.m. (MT) eliminations.

“It feels great considering the last few years have been kind of tough,” Force said. “We shook up our teams a little bit with [crew chiefs] Mike Neff, Austin [Coil], and Bernie [Fedderly], and I’ve got the new Eric Medlen chassis built by Ford Motor Co. and John Medlen and the Boss 500. I’ve finally got an all-Ford car and I’m still getting her down the lane, so I’m pretty excited.”

Force was a little surprised that he was able to move past Matt Hagan’s leading effort from Friday. Hagan’s 4.068 at a track record speed of 311.34 in his DieHard Dodge Charger held on to the second spot in the 16-car starting order.

“Conditions weren’t what they were [for Friday’s second session],” Force said. “I knew it’d run an 0, but I didn’t think it’d run an .06. I saw Neff turning on some screws when he went over the car after I backed up from the burnout. He took a long time and I said, ‘Don’t run me out of gas.’ I don’t know what he did – they never tell me – but I have a lot confidence.”

Schumacher powered his U.S. Army dragster to a 3.818 at 317.05 to earn the 59th No. 1 effort of his career and fourth at this event. He grabbed the top spot away from Friday leader Doug Kalitta, whose performance of 3.825 at 317.05 in his Technicoat dragster was good enough for second.

Schumacher said crew chief Mike Green set his car up for a conservative run given the conditions and the opportunity for only one qualifying pass for the day. In hindsight, he said they both wished they would have turned up the wick just a bit.

“Man, we’re the No. 1 qualifier, but it was so off,” said seven-time world champ Schumacher, who will meet four-time FIA European Top Fuel champ Andy Carter in the first round. “We missed it by a mile – everybody did. The track is better than we’ve been giving it credit for. The .81 was still a pretty darn good run for how soft it was. That was one of those runs where we should’ve gone for a 3.75.”

In Pro Stock, defending world champ Edwards took his second-straight No. 1 of the season and 11th in a row dating back to the final nine races of last season. He earned the 24th No. 1 of his career and the third at FIR with his Friday performance of 6.609 at 209.46 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP. He will face veteran Warren Johnson in the first round.

Sunday’s first-round pairings for professional eliminations at the 26th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway, the second of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Top Fuel — 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.818 seconds, 317.05 mph vs. 16. Andy Carter, 8.687, 72.00; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.825, 317.05 vs. 15. Chris Karamesines, 4.098, 261.12; 3. Larry Dixon, 3.837, 317.57 vs. 14. Steven Chrisman, 4.048, 287.29; 4. Antron Brown, 3.838, 315.34 vs. 13. Troy Buff, 3.987, 282.60; 5. Cory McClenathan, 3.841, 310.63 vs. 12. Mike Strasburg, 3.975, 301.60; 6. Shawn Langdon, 3.857, 315.12 vs. 11. Morgan Lucas, 3.935, 297.55; 7. Brandon Bernstein, 3.863, 312.57 vs. 10. David Grubnic, 3.933, 309.63; 8. Steve Torrence, 3.871, 308.92 vs. 9. Terry McMillen, 3.896, 303.43.

Funny Car — 1. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.063, 308.78 vs. 16. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Solara, 4.364, 286.44; 2. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.068, 311.34 vs. 15. Paul Lee, Chevy Impala SS, 4.238, 298.34; 3. Del Worsham, Solara, 4.084, 305.56 vs. 14. Tony Pedregon, Impala, 4.211, 303.23; 4. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.094, 302.96 vs. 13. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.200, 298.67; 5. Ashley Force Hood, Mustang, 4.119, 298.40 vs. 12. Melanie Troxel, Charger, 4.187, 285.77; 6. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.120, 305.22 vs. 11. Gary Densham, Impala, 4.178, 290.69; 7. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.133, 307.30 vs. 10. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.160, 301.20; 8. Jim Head, Solara, 4.145, 302.89 vs. 9. Jeff Arend, Solara, 4.150, 303.37. Did Not Qualify: 17. Jeff Diehl, 7.930, 276.52; 18. Terry Haddock, broke.

Pro Stock — 1. Mike Edwards, Pontiac GXP, 6.609, 209.46 vs. 16. Warren Johnson, GXP, 6.668, 206.76; 2. Ron Krisher, Chevy Cobalt, 6.627, 208.07 vs. 15. Shane Gray, GXP, 6.668, 207.11; 3. Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 6.632, 208.04 vs. 14. Vinnie Deceglie, Dodge Avenger, 6.666, 207.21; 4. Allen Johnson, Avenger, 6.635, 208.88 vs. 13. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.663, 207.53; 5. Jason Line, GXP, 6.638, 209.20 vs. 12. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.662, 207.85; 6. Bob Yonke, GXP, 6.639, 208.20 vs. 11. Rickie Jones, GXP, 6.660, 206.57; 7. Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 6.641, 208.94 vs. 10. Greg Stanfield, GXP, 6.660, 208.17; 8. Ronnie Humphrey, GXP, 6.647, 208.20 vs. 9. Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.652, 208.39. Did Not Qualify: 17. Danny Gruninger, 6.683, 205.69; 18. Johnny Gray, 6.684, 206.29; 19. Steve Spiess, 6.703, 206.16; 20. V. Gaines, 12.492, 206.39; 21. Justin Humphreys, 14.960, 206.99; 22. John Nobile, broke; 23. Gordie Rivera, broke.

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, February 20 2010
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