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Field Is Set For Winternational Eliminations

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, February 11 2012

Morgan Lucas held onto the pole in Top Fuel at the Winternationals on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)


Rain shortened the final day of qualifying for the NHRA’s season-opening O’Reilly Auto Parts Winternationals Saturday, but it did not wash it out all together.

All three classes got in one of the scheduled two rounds of qualifying at the Pomona, Calif. strip.

Morgan Lucas raced to the No. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel while Robert Hight and Jason Line also were No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories – Funny Car and Pro Stock respectively – at the first of 23 races in the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing season.

Lucas powered his GEICO / Lucas Oil dragster to a 3.783-second run at 325.06 mph to take the top spot in the field as teams took advantage of cooler track and air temperatures. It was Lucas’ fifth No. 1 qualifier of his career and first at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals, where he raced to the Top Fuel victory one year ago.

“We’ve made some good runs in the past, but I’ve never driven a car like this one,” Lucas said. “The way it drives and the way it steers is so nice it’s crazy. To start the year like this is tremendous. We found two really good guys with our crew chiefs Aaron (Brooks) and Rod (Centorbi) that have shown what our core group is capable of.”

Lucas will face Rod Fuller in Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations. Tony Schumacher, a six-time winner at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, qualified sixth, while 2011 NHRA Top Fuel world champion runner-up Spencer Massey qualified second in the field.

In Funny Car, Hight also took advantage of the cool conditions and drove his Auto Club Ford Mustang to the top of the field with a run of 4.060 at 316.52 to take his third No. 1 qualifier at this event and 40th of his career.

“It’s amazing how things can change so fast,” Hight said. “We went in this morning not qualified and ended up going to the No. 1 spot. We lost a run the first run here; it broke a blower drive shaft. We put that behind us, but we went out the next run, and it shook. So there were big, big decisions today. The temperature dropped, and the track got even better. I would have liked to have gotten another run. Jimmy (Prock, crew chief) looked at the run, and he thought we would have run better.”

Hight will line up against rookie Todd Lesenko in the first round of eliminations. Hight’s teammate, Courtney Force, who is making her Funny Car debut at this event, qualified 12th. Defending Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan qualified ninth in the field, while 14-time Auto Club Raceway at Pomona winner John Force qualified sixth.

Pro Stock defending world champion Jason Line continued his success from 2011 by racing to the top spot in the category. Line’s run in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP of 6.535 at 212.23 was strong enough to give the defending event winner his third No. 1 qualifier at Pomona and 25th of his career.

“We finally made a better run today,” Line said. “There’s more left, and we’re struggling a little bit with Greg’s (Anderson, teammate) car right now, but it’s good that we made a solid run with at least one of our cars. We didn’t test much this winter because we’ll be taking delivery on our new Camaros at about the time of the Atlanta race. It’s tough at the first of the year without much testing, but we were able to pick up where we left off from last year.”

Line will face Grace Howell in the first round of eliminations Sunday while Line’s teammate Anderson qualified fifth in the field. Four-time Pro Stock world champion Jeg Coughlin qualified 14th for his first event back after sitting out the 2011 season.

Sunday’s first-round pairings for professional eliminations for the 52nd annual O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the first 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. Morgan Lucas, 3.783 seconds, 325.06 mph vs. 16. Rod Fuller, 9.343, 294.05; 2. Spencer Massey, 3.820, 325.14 vs. 15. Steve Faria, 4.302, 266.11; 3. Bob Vandergriff, 3.832, 322.65 vs. 14. Terry McMillen, 4.126, 314.09; 4. Antron Brown, 3.833, 322.81 vs. 13. Cory McClenathan, 4.025, 310.13; 5. Brandon Bernstein, 3.836, 314.90 vs. 12. David Grubnic, 3.895, 315.42; 6. Tony Schumacher, 3.837, 321.42 vs. 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.887, 314.53; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.838, 321.42 vs. 10. Clay Millican, 3.884, 309.34; 8. Shawn Langdon, 3.841, 322.50 vs. 9. Steve Torrence, 3.850, 318.39.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Troy Buff, 14.667, 39.74; 18. Steven Chrisman, broke.

Funny Car — 1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.060, 316.52 vs. 16. Todd Lesenko, Chevy Impala, 4.306, 277.03; 2. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.068, 315.71 vs. 15. Bob Bode, Impala, 4.244, 295.08; 3. Johnny Gray, Charger, 4.098, 313.15 vs. 14. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.226, 291.45; 4. Mike Neff, Mustang, 4.103, 309.77 vs. 13. Tony Pedregon, Impala, 4.200, 291.51; 5. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.109, 309.34 vs. 12. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.199, 307.44; 6. John Force, Mustang, 4.126, 312.28 vs. 11. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camary, 4.198, 300.40; 7. Jeff Arend, Toyota Solara, 4.139, 304.32 vs. 10. Gary Densham, Charger, 4.155, 303.71; 8. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.144, 305.70 vs. 9. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.154, 310.91.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Cruz Pedregon, 4.313, 254.95; 18. Jim Head, 4.387, 274.78; 19. Jack Wyatt, 4.490, 275.73; 20. James Day, broke.

Pro Stock — 1. Jason Line, Pontiac GXP, 6.535, 212.23 vs. 16. Grace Howell, Ford Mustang, 7.486, 207.43; 2. Mike Edwards, GXP, 6.545, 211.86 vs. 15. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.688, 208.78; 3. Ronnie Humphrey, GXP, 6.548, 211.96 vs. 14. Jeg Coughlin, Avenger, 6.637, 209.20; 4. Allen Johnson, Avenger, 6.548, 211.39 vs. 13. Erica Enders, Chevy Cobalt, 6.597, 209.43; 5. Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.556, 211.49 vs. 12. Larry Morgan, Mustang, 6.593, 210.50; 6. Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.569, 210.97 vs. 11. Greg Stanfield, GXP, 6.588, 209.56; 7. Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 6.570, 210.50 vs. 10. Kurt Johnson, GXP, 6.587, 209.92; 8. Shane Gray, GXP, 6.571, 210.18 vs. 9. Ron Krisher, GXP, 6.586, 210.67.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Warren Johnson, 7.554, 208.20; 18. Steve Kent, 13.688, 51.54.

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, February 11 2012
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