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Head At Head Of Funny Car Field In Topeka

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, May 24 2015

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Second-generation driver Chad Head will chase his first career Funny Car victory from the pole position Sunday at the 27th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals.

Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) also remained at the top of their categories based upon their Friday qualifying performances heading into Sunday’s eliminations at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Heartland Park Topeka.

Head captured his second career No. 1 qualifying position and first since 2013 Saturday based on his Friday track-record 1,000-foot time of 3.967-seconds in the Head Racing Toyota Camry. No one was able to improve on his/her performance Saturday as teams got one qualifying attempt in before rain washed-out the final session. Head’s elapsed time is the fifth-quickest run in NHRA Funny Car history.

“You always want to be No. 1 but I’m not real accustomed to it,” said Head, who will meet Todd Simpson in the first round. “I’ve only done it twice and it always feels good. I’m disappointed that it rained. I would have liked to see us all make another run. We’ll just have to see how it goes (Sunday).”

Head, son of NHRA legend Jim Head who now serves as his son’s crew chief, said he was surprised that his career-best time remained No. 1 after an onslaught of three-second performances during another unseasonably cool afternoon.

“There were a lot of ‘threes’ in that last session and I expected for us to get knocked-off,” Head said. “Actually, I was very shocked. We were just trying to keep it.”

Tim Wilkerson, winner last Sunday at Atlanta Dragway, posted the quickest Saturday run and improved to second in the lineup with a career-best effort of 3.971-seconds at 322.58 mph in his Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang. Wilkerson will race former world champion Tony Pedregon in the opener. Four-time Heartland Park Topeka winner Cruz Pedregon, Tony’s brother and a two-time world champion, qualified third in his Snap-on Tools Camry with a 3.979-second pass at 316.01 mph. “The Cruzer” will face John Hale in the first round.

Although she qualified 11th, defending event winner Courtney Force posted a 325.06 mph lap in her Traxxas Chevy Camaro SS, good enough to claim the national speed record if the effort holds by the end of the race weekend.

“Once you’re going faster than 300 miles per hour you just get into a zone and you can feel when the clutch engages and the car starts pulling you to the finish line,” said Courtney, who snagged the record from her 16-time world champion father John. The elder Force set the previous mark in February 2014 at 324.12 mph.

In Top Fuel, Brown secured his second No. 1 of the season and 39th of his career with a 1,000-foot track- record time of 3.727-seconds at 313.37 mph in his Matco Tools dragster. Brown will face Luigi Novelli in the opening round as he goes for his milestone 50th victory.

“The whole team has been doing a great job,” said Brown, of Don Schumacher Racing. “We were trying to go for it on the run today, but we literally hurt the engine when we did the burnout. Even though we didn’t make the run we wanted to make, I’m glad it happened today and not on our first run Sunday. The car still ran an 0.86, but the ol’ girl was hurt.”

Brown, the series point-leader and winner of two national events this season, is riding a wave of momentum after winning last weekend at Atlanta Dragway. The 2012 world champion, Brown never has advanced to a final round at Heartland Park.

“We’re looking forward to getting after it,” Brown said. “We’re all hungry, but there is some tough competition out there. If we mess-up first round, we’re going home. We have our work cut out for us like everybody does, but we look forward to the challenge.”

Richie Crampton qualified second in his Lucas Oil dragster and will race Kyle Wurtzel in the opener, while defending world champ and 2010 Kansas Nationals winner Tony Schumacher qualified third and will meet Gas Monkey Garage driver Kebin Kinsley.

Enders claimed her third No. 1 of the season with her track-record quarter-mile performance of 6.515-seconds at 211.43 mph in her Racing In Red Chevy Camaro. It is Enders’ second pole position at Heartland Park.

“My guys tend to give me a pretty consistent race car, and that makes my job a little bit easier to where I just have to focus on driving and not wonder what the car is going to do,” Enders said. “Being low for every session is pretty exciting. We were able to do that a lot together last year and accumulate those three bonus points per round. Coming into that final race last year, every point mattered, so we’ll take ’em when we can get ’em.”

Enders was feeling a bit nostalgic in the media center as she reflected on her first career No. 1 qualifying award, recorded at Heartland Park in 2006. Now, she has 15-and-counting.

“It’s pretty cool; I thought of that coming in on Thursday,” Enders said. “It was a fun memory here, becoming the first female No. 1 qualifier ever in Pro Stock.”

Four-time Topeka winner Greg Anderson qualified second in his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro. The four-time world champion will face David River in Round 1, while Texan Chris McGaha will start third and race Deric Kramer in the opener.

ESPN2 will air three hours of eliminations Sunday starting at 10 p.m. (EDT).

Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations at the 27th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka, the eighth 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. Antron Brown, 3.727-seconds, 314.68 mph vs. 16. Luigi Novelli, 4.034, 278.00; 2. Richie Crampton, 3.744, 327.66 vs. 15. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.927, 287.66; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.748, 325.92 vs. 14. Kebin Kinsley, 3.857, 316.60; 4. J.R. Todd, 3.759, 328.06 vs. 13. Dave Connolly, 3.789, 325.69; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.760, 327.19 vs. 12. Doug Kalitta, 3.786, 316.90; 6. Brittany Force, 3.762, 325.14 vs. 11. Steve Torrence, 3.786, 325.37; 7. Spencer Massey, 3.762, 325.85 vs. 10. Clay Millican, 3.772, 321.50; 8. Leah Pritchett, 3.766, 319.52 vs. 9. Larry Dixon, 3.767, 327.90.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Pat Dakin, 4.044, 296.57; 18. Terry McMillen, 4.069, 295.98.

Funny Car _ 1. Chad Head, Toyota Camry, 3.967, 316.15 vs. 16. Todd Simpson, Chevy Camaro, 4.464, 237.09; 2. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.971, 322.58 vs. 15. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.175, 293.98; 3. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.979, 316.01 vs. 14. John Hale, Dodge Charger, 4.157, 290.69; 4. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.989, 324.12 vs. 13. Brian Stewart, Mustang, 4.132, 297.35; 5. John Force, Camaro, 3.990, 320.74 vs. 12. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.025, 319.22; 6. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.991, 322.65 vs. 11. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.015, 325.06; 7. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.994, 314.17 vs. 10. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.013, 318.69; 8. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.000, 319.22 vs. 9. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.012, 323.12.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Dale Creasy Jr., 6.267, no speed.

Pro Stock _ 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.515, 211.43 vs. 16. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, broke; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.526, 211.20 vs. 15. Dave River, Chevy Cobalt, 6.653, 206.45; 3. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.532, 211.10 vs. 14. Deric Kramer, Dodge Avenger, 6.618, 209.56; 4. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.533, 211.20 vs. 13. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.607, 209.46; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.535, 210.83 vs. 12. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 6.574, 209.88; 6. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.537, 210.93 vs. 11. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.563, 210.60; 7. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.543, 210.01 vs. 10. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.547, 210.83; 8. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.544, 211.13 vs. 9. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.546, 210.34.

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, May 24 2015
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