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Final Foursomes Set At zMAX

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, March 27 2010

Cory McClenathan is on the pole at zMAX. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)


Cory McClenathan (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won the poles for Sunday’s historic Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C.

Sunday’s final eliminations also will follow a unique format in which the first two drivers across the finish line first in each four-car pairing will advance to the next round until the four-car final round, making it possible for a driver to win the race despite “losing” the first two rounds to the first-through finisher.

McClenathan on Saturday held the top spot in Top Fuel he earned Friday with a 3.790 to take his second pole of the season with the Fram dragster and the 35th of his career.

“I think we have a car that they are going to have to step up to beat us. We’ve had the same car all year long,” McClenathan said. “We have either shined or taken someone for granted this year. Todd said we were going to try and run 3.79 again but I was happy with an 81. That’s the perfect package for tomorrow. Thought it was a gutsy call, though. The track temp jumped up but at the same time, Todd [Okuhara] and Phil [Shuler, crew chiefs] were swinging for fences and I like that.

“As for the four lane, it is very interesting. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from fans, all positive. Everything is different from the track to the time slip but it’s all been handled very well. All four lanes are raceable. Everything is smooth. I do like lane two better but maybe that’s because we won in that lane last year. At the same time, I’m good with all of them.”

Larry Dixon pushed his Al-Anabi dragster to the second position in Top Fuel with a 3.812 on his final pass in qualifying, which came alongside Cory Mac’s session-best 3.810. Antron Brown’s special-edition Valvoline machine is third at 3.819 and world champ Tony Schumacher makes it three Don Schumacher cars in the top four with a 3,827.

Teammates Doug Kalitta and Dave Grubnic ranked fifth and sixth after respective passes of 3.848 and 3.856. Behind them, Steve Torrence (3.878) and Rhonda Hartman-Smith (3.888), in the Hartley Family dragster, round out the top eight. It’s Hartman-Smith’s first NHRA start since Atlanta 2006.

Brandon Bernstein ended up unexpectedly on the bump spot with a 3.998, ahead of non-qualifiers Ron August, Luigi Novelli, and Chris Karamesines.

First-round Top Fuel foursomes: 
Cory McClenathan-Brandon Bernstein-Rhonda Hartman-Smith-Morgan Lucas
Tony Schumacher-Pat Dakin-Doug Kalitta-Doug Foley
Larry Dixon-Bobby Lagana Jr.-Steve Torrence-Shawn Langdon
Antron Brown-Terry McMillen-Dave Grubnic-Doug Herbert

Hight stayed atop the Funny Car field with his Auto Club Ford based on his Friday 4.024, which is just shy of the 4.023 national record. He and several drivers have backups to better the record Sunday.

Ron Capps, who holds that national record, is qualified No. 2 behind Hight with a 4.039 from his NAPA Auto Parts Charger and his teammate, Jack Beckman, is just behind him with a 4.040 in his Valvoline/MTS Charger and Ashley Force Hood is fourth with a final-session 4.062. Del Worsham is fourth with a 4.064 in the Al-Anabi Toyota and is followed in the top eight by John Force (4.067), Tim Wilkerson (4.088), and Jeff Arend (4.091). Force has never won a round at zMax Dragway.  He failed to qualify at the inaugural Carolinas Nationals in 2008 and lost in the first round last year.

Paul Lee qualified for his second race of the season with Jim Dunn’s Canidae entry, finishing on the bump spot.

First-round Funny Car foursomes: 
Robert Hight-Paul Lee-Jeff Arend-Matt Hagan
Ashley Force Hood-Bob Gilbertson-Del Worsham-Cruz Pedregon
Ron Capps-Jeff Diehl-Tim Wilkerson-Melanie Troxel
Jack Beckman-Bob Tasca III-John Force-Tony Pedregon

Coughlin, the first session Pro Stock leader Friday, finished qualifying where he started it, stealing back the No. 1 spot from Mike Edwards on his final pass with a 6.520, the third quickest pass in history. By bumping Edwards out of the top spot, he ended the world’s champ’s dizzying streak of 12 straight pole positions dating back to the middle of last season. Coughlin’s speed of 212.29 is the fourth fastest in class history.

“It feels fantastic and it’s an honor to be first low qualifier for the Four Wide Nationals,” said Coughlin. “It gives us great momentum going into tomorrow. We had a car that struggled for the first three races of the year and now we’ve got a little momentum built. My dad, Jeg Sr., came back out in Gainesville and helped us. We made a couple of test runs before Gainesville, and made quite a few changes. Once we got there, we had a car that qualified No. 2.

“I’ve been a drag racer my entire life, and this [four wide] is definitely more of a challenge for a driver I’ve made thousands of runs in many kinds of cars and this is more of a challenge but I’m looking forward to it. I’ve tried to prepare over the last few weeks. We’ve talked about how the format works. Mentally I’ve put a lot of time and thought into it as far as how we will handle different situations. I had a lot of them play out on four my qualifying runs this weekend. Coming in, I’d say my comfort level was about 60-percent but it’s now well above 90 percent.”

Edwards had leaped into the No. 2 spot in Saturday’s first session with a 6.548 but finished second with his Penhall Pontiac, just ahead of Friday leader Jason line, who improved to a 6.551. Greg Stanfield is fourth at 6.560.

Like teammate Jason Line last event in Gainesville, Greg Anderson entered the final session not qualified, but made up for it with a stout 6.570 for the fifth spot. His speed, 212.46 is the fastest ever in class history and a new national record, bettering his own 212.36 set in Richmond last year.

Allen Johnson’s Doidge sits sixth with a 6.580, just ahead of veteran Warren Johnson (6.590) and Phoenix runner-up Bob Yonke (6.592). Rodger Brogdon ended up on the bump with a 6.616. Perennial qualifiers like Johnny Gray, V. Gaines, Ron Krisher, and Ronnie Humphrey all failed to qualify.

First-round Pro Stock foursomes: 
Jeg Coughlin-Rodger Brogdon-Bob Yonke-Shane Gray
Greg Stanfield-Kurt Johnson-Greg Anderson-Rickie Jones
Mike Edwards-John Nobile-Warren Johnson-Vinnie Deceglie
Jason Line-Larry Morgan-Allen Johnson-Erica Enders

Local hero Smith’s Al-Anabi Buell fronts the quickest field in Pro Stock Motorcycle history, his late-session 6.875 bettering his Friday 6.884 just in time to hold off the Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley Davidsons of Eddie Krawiec and Andres Hines, who ran 6.882 and 6.883 alongside him.

“I can’t say enough about those Harleys and the power they have,” said Smith. “They run such big speed and I knew if they got hold of the track in 60 foot they would give me a run for my money, and they did, 6.88s a pair.

“We struggled at the first race [in Gainesville] but we’ve worked on it quite a bit and made a lot of strides. As long as nothing mechanical happens, we have the bike that can win. We should be in the final four and we’ll see what happens there.”

Douglas Horne ended up on the bump with a 7.025, bettering the 7.032 mark first set in Englishtown 2007 and duplicated two weeks ago in Gainesville to make this the quickest field of 16 bikes ever assembled. Fourteen of the 16 qualified in the sixes.

World champ Hector Arana sits in the No. 4 spot with a 6.897 with his Lucas Oil Buell while Jim Underdahl made a career-best 6.90 to grab the No. 5 spot as the field’s quickest Suzuki with a 6.906. Steve Johnson’s Suzuki is right behind him with a 6.924,an e.t matched by Shawn Gann’s Buell, but Johnson earned the higher spot with a superior speed, 194.86 to 192.33. Craig Treble’s Suzuki rounds out the top eight with a 6.954.

First-round Pro Stock Motorcycles foursomes: 
Matt Smith-Doug Horne-Craig Treble-Junior Pippin
Hector Arana-Karen Stoffer-Jim Underdahl-David Hope
Eddie Krawiec-Mike berry-Shawn Gann-LE Tonglet
Andrew Hines-Angie Smith-Steve Johnson-Michael Phillips

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, March 27 2010
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