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Brown Speeds To Top Qualifying Spot

| , RacinToday.com Friday, June 5 2009
Antron Brown tops in Top Fuel qualifying on Friday.

Antron Brown tops in Top Fuel qualifying on Friday.


Antron Brown, Tony Pedregon, Mike Edwards, and Doug Horne finished in the top spots after the opening day of qualifying at the United Association Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Chicago. The event is the 10th of the 24-race 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule.

While Horne’s position atop the Pro Stock Motorcycle field was a surprise, the other frontrunners certainly were not. Edwards’ lofty place at the head of the Pro Stock field certainly was not as he was the No. 1 qualifier at the last two events on the tour as well, while Brown in shooting for his fourth No. 1 of the year in Top Fuel and Pedregon, low qualifier earlier this year in Las Vegas, for his second pole position of the season.

Brown’s Mark Oswald- and Brian Corradi-tuned Mike Ashley Racing dragster is halfway to earning its second straight No. 1 qualifying berth after pounding out a 3.826 late in the day’s second session to steal the thunder from early-day leaders Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon.

Schumacher and Dixon got the evening’s final shot at unseating Brown, and while both fell short, Dixon’s Al-Anabi ride ran quicker than Schumacher’s U.S. Army dragster, 3.85 to 3.86, setting up what could be a tight conclusion to final qualifying in Saturday’s predicted cooler temperatures. Morgan Lucas, the No. 1 qualifier in Madison three races ago, sits fourth with the GEICO Powersports dragster after charting a 3.857.

J.R. Todd and Rod Fuller, both making their season debuts, ran strong in their first 2009 outings. Fuller, in Bob Vandergriff Jr.’s dragster with backing from Patten Cat, chalked up a fine 3.89 to qualify No. 7, while Todd, in David Baca’s Mach 1 dragster, recorded a 4.00 in the day’s first session and finished the day in the No. 11 spot.

Hard-running independent Terry Haddock holds down the No. 12 spot with a 4.023, his e.t. being the last to transfer to Saturday’s sheets. Among those who will need to make a quick-16 pass Saturday are perennial qualifiers Cory McClenathan, Brandon Bernstein, and Joe Hartley.

Pedregon’s Dickie Venables-tuned Quaker State Chevy was the quickest Funny Car of both of the day’s session, leading after the first run with a 4.118 and then improving on that pass by almost three-hundredths of a second with a strong 4.089 on the final pass of the evening session alongside Mike Neff, whose 4.110 on that pairing was the day’s second best.

“These were very good conditions,” said Pedregon. “I’m actually surprised more cars didn’t adapt to them. I’ve had a couple of butt kicking’s the last couple of races, and it has reminded me that we can’t be too conservative. Last year, we’d already won a couple of races by this point and we maybe got a little spoiled.

“I really like this track. In the heat, it does not deteriorate, which is one of the reasons why I’m really excited about coming back here. As for the No. 1, I’m just going to enjoy it for now and if it holds, great. If it doesn’t, I still made a pretty good run.”

Neff’s Drive One Ford is the first of four Mustangs hot on the heels of Pedregon’s Chevy. John Force (4.124), Bob Tasca III (4.125), and Ashley Force Hood (4.125) fill out spots three through five in the field. Matt Hagan’s new-look Fram Tough Guard Charger is the No. 6 car at 4.16.

Jim Head’s 4.27 holds the all-important No. 12 spot, which leaves six drivers — including local favorite John Lawson (a 13th-quick 4.315) and Justin Schriefer, who is making his NHRA debut this weekend — to battle their way into the field Saturday, Points leader Ron Capps is the biggest name not among the quick 12 as his NAPA Auto Parts Charger could muster just a 14th-quickest 4.321 Friday.

Edwards, who has qualified No. 1 fives times in the season’s first nine events, seems well on his way to a sixth pole position after meting out a monster run of 6.587 in Friday’s second session with his ART/Young Life GXP to steal the pole from first-session leader Jeg Coughlin.

“I think it’s premature for me to be up here tonight,” said Edwards. “Tomorrow, conditions look really good to go really fast for our class. But we made a really nice run tonight, and hats off to my guys; they’ve done a great job. I’m really happy, and I want to thank everybody, my partner, Roger Stahl. It’s pretty fun right now. I get real joy from this kind of success and I tell you what, I’m having a real good time.

“I was shocked it ran that fast, I really was. I knew it was good, but I didn’t know it was that good. Tomorrow is another day and conditions are going to change all around. That .58, no telling, that might be eighth or ninth in the pack. I’m going to come out here tomorrow, and I’m going to race the track and see what we can do and where we wind up.”

Greg Anderson’s 6.613 in the second session also slipped by Coughlin’s 6.616 when Coughlin could only register a 6.644, which was not even among the round’s best eight times. Coughlin slipped to third behind mail-order rival Anderson’s Summit Pontiac with two sessions to go. Allen Johnson, winner last weekend in Topeka, continued his strong charge with a fourth-qualifying 6.22 in his Mopar-backed Dodge.

Ronnie Humphrey’s 6.671 finished in the No. 12 spot, and 15 drivers will take their shots tomorrow at making the program. Among those whose Friday runs will not transfer are regular qualifiers like Steve Spiess, Larry Morgan, Ron Krisher, and Warren Johnson. Ryan Ondrejeko, making his Pro Stock debut in Jim Yates’ Wiley X Pontiac, ran a decent 6.708 that was 19th quickest.

Rookie Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Horne just keeps adding to his first-year résumé as the Maryland-based Buell pilot is halfway to his first career No. 1 spot halfway through qualifying after posting a 6.936 on his opening lap Friday. In an unusual second session in the cooler evening air, not one of the 21 qualifiers was able to better his or her time from earlier in the day.

“It was good to come right off the trailer and put that kind of lap on the board,” said Horne. “We’ve done some testing in the four weeks we’ve been off with Rick Maney and Junior Pippin, working on the fuel maps and did something different with the clutch, and it seems to have really paid off. It gives us all the confidence in the world.

“The weather was the same for the second session, but everyone slowed up a tenth or more. Rick Maney told us that’s just the way Chicago is. It’s really uncalled for. The weather should be cooler tomorrow, and so I think everyone will run better tomorrow. I wish could put some bigger numbers on the board for Junior Pippin and DragStar and go some rounds Sunday.”

Gainesville winner Hector Arana remained in the No. 2 spot with his Lucas Oil Buell with a 6.954 and is followed on the sheets by Karen Stoffer’s GEICO Powersports Suzuki, who is third with a 6.971 but had the quickest time of the second session with a 7.03. Former world champ Matt Smith rounds out the top four aboard the Nitro Fish Suzuki with a 6.977. Andrew Hines, in the first race out since NHRA added 20 pounds to the minimum weight for Harley Davidson entries, is fifth with a 6.989, the last of the six-second runners.

Mike Berry ended up in the No. 12 spot, the final one to transfer to Saturday, with a 7.067. Michael Phillips, Matt Guidera, Junior Pippin, and six other riders will need to qualify for the field Saturday.

– Courtesy the NHRA

| , RacinToday.com Friday, June 5 2009
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