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Brittany Force Tops Top Fuel Qualifiers At Thunder Valley

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, June 15 2014


Brittany Force earned her second Top Fuel No. 1 qualifying position of the season Saturday at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway, and will go to school Sunday against one of drag racing’s legendary characters.

Force claimed pole position for the 14th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers with a 1,000-foot pass in 3.828-seconds at 317.94 mph in her Castrol EDGE dragster. That earned Force a first-round pairing against Chris Karamesines.

Sunday’s pairing marks the first time Force and “The Golden Greek” will have faced each other in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competition. Force is 27-years-old and in her sophomore year behind the wheel of a Top Fueler; Karamesines, 83, has been barnstorming drag strips since the 1950s.

“It’ll be awesome to run in the lane next to the legendary Chris Karamesines,” Force said. “I’ve read so much about him and what he’s accomplished in drag racing over 50 years. It’ll be a good show for the fans.”

Force added that her first NHRA Top Fuel victory would be “the ultimate” Father’s Day gift for her 16-time world championship dad and team-owner, John Force. “I love coming here to Bristol,” Brittany said. “It’s one of my favorite tracks by far. It’s just beautiful and green, and I have forgotten how loud it is when you’re standing down here at Thunder Valley. I’m excited for race day, and I would love to end up in the winner’s circle.”

Del Worsham (Funny Car) and Shane Gray (Pro Stock) also will lead their categories into Sunday’s noon eliminations as No. 1 qualifiers. ESPN2 is scheduled to broadcast eliminations beginning at 11 p.m. (EDT).

Force earned her second pole in the last three races as her team continues to round into a cohesive unit. Brittany also has been improving as a driver and her third qualifying run Saturday _ 3.874-seconds at 316.60 mph _ drove that point home.

“Every time I make a pass in this dragster, I’m learning as a driver and the runs we made today and yesterday will give my team something to work with come race day,” said Force, the 2013 NHRA Rookie of the Year.“I’m so pumped for this Castrol EDGE team. To get another No. 1 qualifier is awesome. Everyone on this team is working so hard and you’re seeing the results. I know our first win is right around the corner.”

J.R. Todd qualified his Optima Batteries dragster second at 3.835-seconds and 315.12 mph and will face Terry McMillen and his Amalie Oil InstiGator dragster in the opening round. Meanwhile, seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher _ a five-time Bristol winner _ qualified third in his U.S. Army dragster at 3.854-seconds at 330.47 mph. “The Sarge” will meet Billy Torrence, driver of the Capco Racing dragster, in the opening session.

In Funny Car, Worsham set both ends of the track record with a 1,000-foot pass in 3.992-seconds at 319.45 mph in his DHL Toyota Camry during Friday’s rain-shortened time trials. Those numbers held Saturday to earn Worsham his second consecutive No. 1 qualifying position at this event. Worsham will face fellow-Californian Jeff Arend in the first round of eliminations. It was the second pole of the season for Worsham and 15th of his career, which includes the Top Fuel world championship in 2011.

“Every race seems like we’ve gotten stronger and stronger,” said Worsham, a two-time Bristol event winner now driving for Kalitta Motorsports. “Hopefully, we can maintain that strength (Sunday). It should be a great race against my good friend Jeff Arend.”

Tim Wilkerson qualified second following his career-best elapsed time of 4.013-seconds at 317.72 mph in the Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang. Wilkerson will face Bob Tasca III, driver of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Shelby Mustang, in the first round.

Three-time Bristol winner Ron Capps qualified third with a run of 4.024-seconds at 316.38 mph in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger. He will race former two-time world champion Tony Pedregon, driver of the Pedregon Motorsports Toyota Camry, in the opening round.

In Pro Stock, Gray set both ends of the Bristol track record to claim his first career No. 1 qualifying position with a quarter-mile performance of 6.621-seconds at 208.78 mph during the final session. Gray, driver of the Gray Manufacturing Chevy Camaro, will meet Curt Steinbach in the opening round as he pursues his first win of the season.

“We are living for today,” Gray said. “I wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t for all the crew guys _ my crew chief Justin Elkes _ and my engine guys back at the shop _ Paul Hoskins, Dan Cordier, Stevie Johns, Kevin Wideman and Mike Smith. They’re awesome guys and they have definitely given us the right tools and equipment to come out here and do what we just did.

“We’re just going to live for today and worry about tomorrow when tomorrow gets here. I’ve never been No. 1 qualifier before, nor have I ever held a track record, so man, this feels great.”

Gray will be joined at the track by his family, including father Johnny Gray, on Sunday. “We’re going to have a big Father’s Day,” Shane Gray said.

Jeg Coughlin Jr., the five-time/reigning Pro Stock world champion, qualified No. 2 in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Dart and will race Kenny Delco in the first round. Point-leader Erica Enders-Stevens posted the quickest run of the final qualifying session and moved up to the No. 3 spot at 6.631-seconds at 208.17 mph in her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro. She will face Larry Morgan, driver of the Lucas Oil Ford Mustang, in the opening session.

Tennessee native Allen Johnson, the 2012 world champion and driver of the Mopar/Magneti Marelli Dodge Dart, qualified fifth and will face Dave Connolly and his IDG Chevy Camaro in the opening round.

Sunday’s first-round pairings 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. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Top Fuel _ 1. Brittany Force, 3.828-seconds, 317.94 mph vs. 16. Chris Karamesines, 4.485, 190.08; 2. J.R. Todd, 3.835, 315.12 vs. 15. Terry McMillen, 4.444, 238.93; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.854, 330.47 vs. 14. Billy Torrence, 4.161, 240.25; 4. Antron Brown, 3.873, 313.07 vs. 13. Richie Crampton, 3.939, 266.58; 5. Spencer Massey, 3.876, 312.93 vs. 12. Clay Millican, 3.909, 261.42; 6. Steve Torrence, 3.879, 317.34 vs. 11. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.904, 321.12; 7. Shawn Langdon, 3.880, 316.75 vs. 10. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.900, 315.42; 8. Doug Kalitta, 3.890, 318.32 vs. 9. Leah Pritchett, 3.898, 309.13.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Pat Dakin, 5.489, 246.48.

Funny Car _ 1. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 3.992, 319.45 vs. 16. Jeff Arend, Dodge Charger, 6.460, 100.70; 2. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.013, 317.72 vs. 15. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 5.349, 306.81; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.024, 316.38 vs. 14. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.621, 192.66; 4. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.074, 315.27 vs. 13. Justin Schriefer, Chevy Camaro, 4.333, 285.17; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.074, 306.60 vs. 12. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.127, 299.86; 6. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.077, 313.07 vs. 11. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.123, 308.99; 7. John Force, Mustang, 4.099, 306.81 vs. 10. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.121, 305.29; 8. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.111, 308.99 vs. 9. Chad Head, Camry, 4.118, 313.22.

Pro Stock _ 1. Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.621, 208.78 vs. 16. Curt Steinbach, Camaro, 6.848, 200.80; 2. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Dodge Dart, 6.621, 208.62 vs. 15. Kenny Delco, Chevy Cobalt, 6.843, 201.82; 3. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.631, 208.17 vs. 14. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.822, 205.22; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.636, 208.55 vs. 13. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.690, 207.30; 5. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.636, 207.85 vs. 12. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.681, 206.35; 6. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.643, 207.94 vs. 11. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.678, 207.53; 7. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.644, 207.53 vs. 10. Shane Tucker, Cobalt, 6.669, 206.86; 8. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.659, 207.85 vs. 9. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.669, 207.43.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. John Gaydosh Jr., 6.883, 201.22.

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, June 15 2014
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