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Worsham Leads Funny Car Qualifying In Bristol

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, June 14 2014


Former world champion Del Worsham raced to the qualifying lead in Funny Car Friday during a rain-shortened day of action at the 14th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway.

Persistent rain showers forced NHRA officials to cancel the day’s second session midway through Funny Car’s final attempt. Brittany Force (Top Fuel) and Shane Gray (Pro Stock) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.

Worsham, the 2011 Top Fuel world champion, set both ends of the track record in his DHL Toyota Camry with a 1,000-foot performance of 3.992-seconds at 319.45 mph. Worsham, the No. 1 qualifier at Bristol last season, is seeking a third career win at the state-of-the-art Speedway Motorsports Inc., facility.

“To come back here at Bristol and do it again is pretty exciting,” said Worsham, of the Kalitta Motorsports stable. “The run was smooth and clean. Everybody on the team went after it. This is definitely a great track at Bristol with great fans.”

Worsham has shown championship form this season with two semifinal finishes and one runnerup result. The veteran Californian, currently fourth in the point standings, feels he is in position to repeat his winning effort this weekend.

“We’ve been making some great runs this season,” Worsham said. “It’s bittersweet that a few guys did not get a run because of the rain, but we hope we can continue where we left off (Saturday).”

Tim Wilkerson’s Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang holds the second position with a 4.013-second pass at 317.72 mph. Three-time Bristol winner Ron Capps sits third with a performance of 4.024-seconds at 316.38 mph in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger.

Force, the 2013 Auto Club Road to the Future Award winner, set the pace in Top Fuel in her Castrol EDGE dragster with a 1,000-foot performance of 3.828-seconds at 317.94 mph.

“I didn’t think we ran that fast,” said Force, who is chasing her second pole of 2014. “The car actually felt kind of sluggish and slow. I felt the car shake around the 700 to 800-foot mark as it started dropping cylinders and I was expecting it to start smoking the tires. For a moment, I wasn’t sure if I should lift and get out of it or keep my foot planted on the accelerator. I decided to stay in it until the end but I didn’t think it was that great of a run. I was shocked when I found out I was No. 1 qualifier.

“It’s unfortunate the rain came before our second session as I was anxious to get up to the lanes and make the second pass. We’ll get two runs tomorrow so maybe we’ll step it up even more.”

J.R. Todd is second at 3.835-seconds and 315.12 mph in his Optima Batteries/Bounty Hunter dragster followed by 2012 world champion Antron Brown with a 3.873-second pass at 313.07 mph in the Matco Tools dragster.

Seven-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army team will start Saturday in a precarious position. On the team’s only run Friday, what appeared to be a run good enough to put “The Sarge” solidly into the top-16 was disallowed after officials determined debris on the track caused an incorrect elapsed time reading.

Gray topped the Pro Stock field with a quarter-mile pass of 6.644-seconds at 207.88 mph at the controls of his Gray Manufacturing Chevy Camaro. A fifth-year pro, Gray is seeking his first career No. 1 qualifying position.

“This is really neat. I’m thrilled for the program put together by my dad,” said Gray, the No. 3 qualifier at the three most recent national events. “All the guys back at the engine shop are awesome, too. We have a great team, that’s for sure. If it (his time) holds…it’s hard to say because you have a tough field out there. It’s a work in progress and anybody’s race.”

Local favorite Allen Johnson, the 2012 Pro Stock world champion, was second on the provisional ladder at 6.657-seconds at 207.73 mph in his Mopar/Magnetti Marelli Dodge Dart. Johnson’s teammate, reigning world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., was third in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge at 6.657-seconds at 206.64 mph.

As natives of Greenville, Tenn., Johnson and his father/engine-builder, Roy, treat this event as their home race. While both the elder and younger Johnson previously have won Sportsman races at Bristol Dragway as drivers _ Roy did it twice in the early 1970s in Stock and Super Stock classes, while Allen won as a teen in 1981 in Super Stock _ a Pro Stock win has eluded them.

In 2012 the duo came as close to a win as is technically possible with the closest finish in NHRA history when Johnson’s Mopar finished runnerup to competitor Mike Edwards by less than 0.0000-seconds. Johnson earned three consecutive pole positions from 2010 to 2012 and added a No.2 qualifier position last season. With three wins so far this year _ two in the new Dart _ Johnson is hoping to add another this weekend.

“This is the year,” Allen Johnson said. “The first run was a little conservative and the second one we got after it and had a little left. We’ve been close to a win here before but I’m feeling pretty confident with a good test here last week and with the Mopar team riding a good streak right now. It took some work to figure out the new car but we’re seeing great progress. We’ve got a great product. We’ve got the tools. We just have to go out and do it on Sunday.

“It’s no ordinary race for us. We appreciate being able to have the people who support me and this team here to let them have a little fun and give them a good show. That’s what this race is about. A win would be great for them but I really want to do it worse for my dad because it is Father’s Day. A win would make it special and a day neither of us will ever forget.”

Pro Stock point-leader Erica Enders-Stevens, who reset both ends of the Pro Stock national record (6.464-seconds, 215.55 mph) in Englishtown, N.J., is sixth overall after two rounds of time trials in her Camaro.

Qualifying is scheduled to continue Saturday with rounds at 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. (EDT). Sunday’s eliminations will start at noon.

Friday’s qualifying results for the 14th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers at Bristol Dragway, 10th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel _ 1. Brittany Force, 3.828-seconds, 317.94 mph; 2. J.R. Todd, 3.835, 315.12; 3. Antron Brown, 3.873, 313.07; 4. Spencer Massey, 3.876, 312.93; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.893, 316.75; 6. Leah Pritchett, 3.898, 309.13; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.900, 315.42; 8. Clay Millican, 3.909, 261.42; 9. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.913, 321.12; 10. Richie Crampton, 3.939, 250.97; 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.969, 292.84; 12. Chris Karamesines, 4.485, 190.08.

Not Qualified _ 13. Pat Dakin, 4.644, 163.89; 14. Billy Torrence, 4.771, 162.63; 15. Terry McMillen, 5.150, 137.39; 16. Tony Schumacher, 28.000, no speed.

Funny Car _ 1. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 3.992, 319.45; 2. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.013, 317.72; 3. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.024, 316.38; 4. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.074, 315.27; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.074, 306.60; 6. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.077, 313.07; 7. John Force, Mustang, 4.099, 306.81; 8. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.111, 308.99; 9. Chad Head, Camry, 4.118, 313.22; 10. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.121, 305.29; 11. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.123, 308.99; 12. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.127, 299.86.

Not Qualified _ 13. Bob Tasca III, 4.143, 306.81; 14. Tony Pedregon, 9.230, 72.90; 15. Justin Schriefer, 9.475, 73.52; 16. Jeff Arend, 11.442, 64.41.

Pro Stock _ 1. Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.644, 207.88; 2. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.657, 207.37; 3. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Dart, 6.657, 206.64; 4. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.668, 206.89; 5. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.673, 207.02; 6. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.673, 206.86; 7. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.677, 207.21; 8. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.680, 206.51; 9. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.681, 206.07; 10. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.689, 206.92; 11. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.691, 206.54; 12. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.693, 207.18.

Not Qualified _ 13. Shane Tucker, 6.723, 206.04; 14. Larry Morgan, 6.736, 203.98; 15. John Gaydosh Jr., 6.951, 198.93; 16. Kenny Delco, 7.076, 197.68; 17. Curt Steinbach, 7.562, 158.46.

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, June 14 2014
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