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Kalitta On Top In Top Fuel After First Day Of Qualifying In Pomona

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 15 2014

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Doug Kalitta earned the provisional pole in Top Fuel Friday at the 50th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

If he can hold his lead through Satuday’s final two rounds of qualifying, Kalitta will win his seventh pole of the season.

“That was a nice run for us tonight,” Kalitta said. “The temperatures are great here this weekend. There should be some good qualifying runs the rest of the weekend and it should be exciting for the fans. I love running at this place because it has so much history. We’ll try to qualify up front and let it all hang out on Sunday and see how it goes.”

Kalitta, who led the series standings for most of the regular season and entered the Countdown as the second seed, has been officially eliminated from title contention since series points leader Tony Schumacher is already qualified near the top of the 16-car field. Kalitta took the top spot with a performance of 3.754 seconds at 326.87 mph in his Mac Tools dragster.

“The pressure is off, we’re just here to win this thing on Sunday,” Kalitta said. “It’s one of the best years we’ve had and we’ll keep at it. I’m real proud of my guys.”

Tony Schumacher, who has the Top Fuel points lead and just needs to win one round on Sunday, had the the third-fastest run on Friday.

“The U.S. Army car made two great runs and it’s good enough to win the race Sunday, and that’s what our goal is this weekend,” Schumacher said. “Every time we are on the track, this U.S. Army Racing team demonstrates the same attributes the Army looks for in its Soldiers – putting the mission first, a never-quit attitude and a refusal to accept defeat. Everyone keeps saying the goal is just to qualify and I keep saying, ‘No, we’re here to win the race.’ The last thing you want to do is win a championship by watching on Sunday. We’ve got to win this race and show why you get to give a speech Monday. You don’t want the last race to be a letdown. We’re too good of a team. We’ve got to go out and win this thing. Tomorrow, we’re going to go out and get ready to win a race.

Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders in their classes at the final race of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.

Johnson Jr. powered his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger to a 4.003 at 317.34 to take the qualifying lead in Funny Car.

“We were shooting for the threes,” Johnson Jr. said. “We were hoping the conditions would’ve been a little better. We had a tune up in there to run (a three-second time). We got close. I am having a good time, enjoying myself. The car’s running great. We have a very steady car that’s getting better and better. All season long we’ve got better. The team is starting to jell and the team chemistry is coming together.”

Meanwhile, John Force trimmed Matt Hagan’s points lead by two by posting the second-quickest time in the first qualifying session. Force qualified fourth in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang at 4.015 at 316.60, and Hagan sits eighth in his Mopar Express Lane Charger with a 4.063 at 314.83. Following the first two sessions, Hagan now leads Force by 19.

Ron Capps raced to the No. 2 spot in his NAPA Auto Parts Charger with a 4.005 at 317.79 and two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon is anchoring the third spot in his Snap-on Tools Toyota with a 4.011 at 311.77.

Gray paced the Pro Stock field with a performance of 6.522 seconds at 211.26 mph in his Gray Manufacturing Chevy Camaro. Gray is one of the drivers still in contention for the championship in the 200 mph factory hot rod category, but he trails series leader Erica Enders-Stevens by a large margin. She qualified second with a 6.526 at 211.99 in her Elite Motorsports Camaro as she attempts to become the first female driver to win an NHRA Pro Stock world championship.

“I’d like to win kind of like we did it here in 2010,” Gray said. “We’re here to have fun. If you stress yourself out to where it’s not fun anymore then you need to rethink the game. I want to be out here and race for multiple years. I thought I would change my attitude and outlook and start having fun. When you do that, things start happening a lot easier for you.”

Second-place Jason Line qualified third at the controls of his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro with a 6.532 at 211.46. Line, who entered the race 17 back of Enders-Stevens, now trails by 19 points following today’s two sessions. Defending world champ Jeg Coughlin is fourth with a 6.538 at 211.13 in his JEGS.com Dodge Dart.

Arana Jr. led the two-wheel category with a 6.832 at 197.62 on his Lucas Oil Buell. If the time holds it will be his third of the season and 16th of his career.

“My goal was to solve our issues leaving the starting line,” said Arana Jr. “Because we’ve done that we were more consistent and we’ve been able to jump back to the top of the field. It’s still not over since it is Friday. There are a lot of bikes out there that can catch us. I still want to get a win since this is the last race of the season and finish on a good note.”

Series points leader Andrew Hines qualified third on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson with a 6.859 at 195.99, while his closest competition for the championship, Eddie Krawiec, qualified second on his Harley-Davidson with a 6.834 at 195.76.

Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 50th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, final of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel — 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.754 seconds, 326.87 mph; 2. Spencer Massey, 3.770, 324.67; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.770, 323.81; 4. Antron Brown, 3.773, 318.62; 5. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.776, 322.58; 6. Larry Dixon, 3.786, 324.83; 7. Steve Torrence, 3.790, 324.83; 8. J.R. Todd, 3.790, 322.81; 9. Bob Vandergriff, 3.794, 321.42; 10. Billy Torrence, 3.805, 321.12; 11. Richie Crampton, 3.807, 319.82; 12. Morgan Lucas, 3.819, 272.34. Not Qualified: 13. Terry McMillen, 3.827, 321.04; 14. Clay Millican, 3.830, 312.64; 15. Troy Buff, 3.852, 314.90; 16. Brittany Force, 3.856, 286.01; 17. Dom Lagana, 3.927, 286.19; 18. Steven Chrisman, 4.065, 284.75; 19. Jenna Haddock, 4.816, 151.14; 20. Shawn Langdon, 5.105, 139.86; 21. Steve Faria, 8.152, 71.09.

Funny Car — 1. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.003, 317.34; 2. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.005, 317.79; 3. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.011, 311.77; 4. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.015, 316.60; 5. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.020, 314.39; 6. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.036, 317.87; 7. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.062, 314.97; 8. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.063, 314.83; 9. Chad Head, Camry, 4.078, 313.88; 10. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.126, 287.05; 11. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.196, 266.27; 12. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.199, 291.45. Not Qualified: 13. Shane Westerfield, 4.229, 233.20; 14. Tony Pedregon, 4.259, 297.02; 15. John Bojec, 4.300, 287.78; 16. Jack Beckman, 4.409, 206.61; 17. Bob Bode, 4.465, 210.97; 18. Jon Capps, 4.837, 165.60; 19. Bob Tasca III, 7.495, 79.69; 20. Courtney Force, 8.095, 70.57; 21. Gary Densham, 8.348, 92.68; 22. Terry Haddock, 12.252, 77.59.

Pro Stock — 1. Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.522, 211.39; 2. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.526, 211.99; 3. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.532, 211.46; 4. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.538, 211.13; 5. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.547, 211.49; 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.548, 210.70; 7. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.550, 211.03; 8. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.555, 211.46; 9. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.574, 210.37; 10. Matt Hartford, Pontiac GXP, 6.583, 210.67; 11. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.583, 209.30; 12. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.589, 211.20. Not Qualified: 13. Greg Stanfield, 6.600, 209.14; 14. Jeff Isbell, 6.747, 205.44; 15. Vincent Nobile, 6.785, 161.05; 16. Greg Anderson, 6.851, 163.89; 17. Joey Grose, 7.163, 194.21.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.832, 197.62; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.834, 195.76; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.859, 195.99; 4. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.863, 194.88; 5. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.888, 195.62; 6. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.924, 193.27; 7. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.931, 192.49; 8. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.936, 193.24; 9. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.940, 188.89; 10. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.945, 192.17; 11. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 6.952, 191.05; 12. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.966, 192.60. Not Qualified: 13. Freddie Camarena, 6.968, 194.32; 14. Shawn Gann, 6.968, 191.57; 15. Elvira Karlsson, 6.970, 185.72; 16. Steve Johnson, 6.971, 188.86; 17. Michael Ray, 7.012, 177.88; 18. Rhett Lougheed, 7.076, 186.77; 19. Gert-Jen Laseur, 7.192, 180.45; 20. Bill Burkhart, 7.388, 180.16; 21. Lance Bonham, 7.455, 181.18; 22. Redell Harris, 11.459, 71.08.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 15 2014
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