Force Jumps To Top At Bandimere
Funny Car icon John Force rocketed to the quickest run in Bandimere Speedway history Friday to take the provisional qualifying lead at the 35th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals.
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event in Morrison, Colo., near Denver. The event is the first stop of the annual Western Swing of three races in three weeks.
Additionally, four competitors – Doug Kalitta and Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) – clinched spots in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. The six-event playoff will begin at ZMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., on Sept. 12.
Brut Force set the pace in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang, shattering both ends of the track record with a 1,000-foot time of 4.049-seconds at 318.39 mph. If the pass stands after the final two qualifying sessions on Saturday, it will be the 16-time world champ’s fifth career No. 1 qualifier at Bandimere and third of the season.
“I ran 300 mph here years ago in a Funny Car and I even out-ran the dragsters,” Force said. “However, Bandimere put in a cooling system in the track surface and extended it over 200 feet and it gave us confidence and we took advantage of that. My car will run fast at the other end but it’s getting it to leave early without smoking the tires is the key. It wasn’t that hot today but everyone was programmed on how to run. Robert (Hight) and me were at the end of that final session and we stepped-up and went for it.
“You know, (JFR crew chiefs) Jimmy Prock, Mike Neff, Ron Douglas and all these kids have been working hard getting our Funny Cars tuned-up to run up on the mountain. There’s no air up here so we build our superchargers to run up here. We thank the guys at the shop for giving us good stuff so we can run fast.”
JFR teammate and Funny Car point-leader Hight, the 2009 world champion, sits second with a 4.055-second pass at 313.15 mph in his Auto Club Mustang. Tim Wilkerson is third in his Levi Ray & Shoup Ford at 4.071-seconds and 310.77 mph. Defending event champ Cruz Pedregon, a two-time world champion, sits fourth with a 4.078-second pass at 304.80 mph in his Snap-On Tools Toyota Camry.
Schumacher, a seven-time Top Fuel world champion, claimed the current top spot with his 1,000-foot pass in 3.823-seconds at 319.75 mph Friday night – obliterating Bandimere Speedway’s elapsed time record in the category. If the performance holds, it will be Schumacher’s first pole position of the season and 73rd of his career. “The Sarge” is seeking his first career pole at Bandimere.
“We’ve won here a few times, we just haven’t qualified No. 1,” Schumacher said. “I think you really have to find your niche. This is a tough place. It’s a different combination for up here on the mountain.”
Steve Torrence’s Capco Contractors dragster is in the second spot at 3.831-seconds and 322.96 mph while three-time world champion Larry Dixon is third at 3.848-seconds and 315.64 mph in his Casedhole Solutions dragster.
Following the first qualifying session Friday, Top Fuel point-leader Kalitta and 2012 world champ Brown clinched spots in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
In Pro Stock, defending event champ Allen Johnson powered his Magneti-Marelli Dodge Dart to a 6.972- second pass at 198.90 mph, setting the track’s quarter-mile record for speed. If his time holds, it will be Johnson’s fourth pole of the season and fifth in a row at Bandimere Speedway. The 2012 world champion has five wins at Bandimere, including 2012 and 2013.
“When it’s your sponsor’s race you have to step-up and do it,” Johnson said. “We’ve really worked our tails off at this track, testing over the years, and trying to come up with a package that is superior so we can impress all the Mopar and Chrysler executives who come out to see us. We want to put that 50th anniversary Hemi into the winner’s circle on Sunday.”
Two-time world champ Jason Line currently sits second with a 6.929-second pass at 197.97 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro. Line is followed by category point-leader Enders-Stevens, who posted a 6.934-second pass at 198.29 mph in her Elite Motorsports Camaro. With her first session run, Enders-Stevens secured a spot in the Countdown to the Championship.
Colorado native and 2013 event runner-up V. Gaines grabbed the fourth spot with a performance of 6.944-seconds at 198.15 mph in his Kendall Oil Dart.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Jr. powered his Lucas Oil Buell to the qualifying lead with a quarter-mile performance of 7.178-seconds at 185.97 mph, setting a track record for ET. Arana Jr., runnerup here last season, is looking for his first pole position of the season.
“The motor is running really strong,” Arana Jr. said. “The combination just all came together. Hopefully, we can keep this momentum we have here on the mountain and seal the deal finally. The track is awesome. It’s consistent and I love the scenery. I love to come out here.”
Three-time world champion Hines _ the current Pro Stock Motorcycle point-leader _ is second aboard his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson with a run of 7.198-seconds at 185.51 mph. With his qualifying pass, Hines officially clinched the first PSM spot in the Countdown. Defending event winner Shawn Gann powered his Pirana Z Racing Buell to the third spot at 7.230-seconds at 184.88 mph.
The final two qualifying sessions are scheduled for Saturday at 3:15 and 5:45 p.m. Sunday’s eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m.
ESPN2 will air two hours of qualifying highlights on Saturday starting at 11 p.m. (EDT). Three and a-half hours of elimination round coverage will air Sunday starting at 2:30 p.m. (EDT).
Friday’s qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of time trials for the 35th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, the 14th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.
Top Fuel _ 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.823-seconds, 319.75 mph; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.831, 322.96; 3. Larry Dixon, 3.848, 315.64; 4. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.861, 316.82; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.868, 315.34; 6. Antron Brown, 3.881, 310.63; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.893, 312.86; 8. Brittany Force, 3.902, 314.02; 9. J.R. Todd, 3.925, 307.09; 10. Terry McMillen, 3.940, 314.31; 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.967, 297.42; 12. Spencer Massey, 4.181, 217.46.
Not Qualified _ 13. Richie Crampton, 4.269, 213.03; 14. Steven Chrisman, 4.286, 243.24; 15. Jenna Haddock, 5.322, 133.09; 16. Clay Millican, 5.380, 136.34.
Funny Car _ 1. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.049, 318.39; 2. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.055, 313.15; 3. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.071, 310.77; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.078, 304.80; 5. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.087, 311.92; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.102, 308.21; 7. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.111, 312.42; 8. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.111, 300.73; 9. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.113, 301.81; 10. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.151, 302.75; 11. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.153, 304.32; 12. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.164, 304.39.
Not Qualified _ 13. Jeff Diehl, 4.263, 283.79; 14. Todd Simpson, 7.537, 83.62; 15. Tony Pedregon, 8.494, 67.44.
Pro Stock _ 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.928, 198.90; 2. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.929, 197.97; 3. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.934, 198.55; 4. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.944, 198.15; 5. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.949, 197.65; 6. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.972, 197.68; 7. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.979, 196.90; 8. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.982, 197.62; 9. Matt Hartford, Dodge Avenger, 6.984, 197.31; 10. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.984, 197.10; 11. Deric Kramer, Avenger, 6.993, 196.87; 12. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 7.019, 196.16.
Not Qualified _ 13. Jeg Coughlin Jr., 7.024, 197.02; 14. Jonathan Gray, 7.056, 197.05; 15. Tommy Lee, 7.100, 194.30; 16. Steve Kalkowski, 7.201, 190.22.
Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 7.178, 186.72; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.198, 185.51; 3. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.230, 184.88; 4. Michael Ray, Buell, 7.234, 184.90; 5. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.250, 184.88; 6. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.251, 183.24; 7. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.263, 183.34; 8. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.270, 185.28; 9. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 7.297, 183.32; 10. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.299, 181.86; 11. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.301, 184.35; 12. Adam Arana, Buell, 7.337, 182.53.
Not Qualified _13. John Hall, 7.405, 179.61; 14. Angie Smith, 7.406, 181.57; 15. Freddie Camarena, 7.448, 182.80; 16. James Surber, 7.520, 176.49; 17. Charles Sullivan, 7.534, 175.57; 18. Steve Johnson, 7.682, 148.58.No Comment