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Courtney Force Races To Top In Maple Grove

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, September 15 2018

Courtney Force took the provisional pole in Maple Grove. (File photo)


Regular-season Funny Car point-leader Courtney Force raced into the provisional qualifying lead Friday at Maple Grove Raceway during the 34th annual Dodge NHRA Nationals, Round 1 of the six-event Countdown to the Championship playoffs. 

Force took aim at her 11th No. 1 qualifier of the season at the facility near Reading, Pa., after a 1,000-foot run of 3.907-seconds at 323.27 mph in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS.

“We went for it on that second run and I was excited,” said Force, who is chasing her first world championship. “I knew we were going to go for it and it was awesome. It’s amazing to pick up some of those bonus points. It would be huge to go into race day in the No. 1 spot. We’ve got two more runs (Saturday) and hopefully a long day on race day. But our focus coming into this race is obviously to try and keep that points lead.”

Tim Wilkerson sits second after the first day of time trials via a lap of 3.912-seconds at 324.20 mph in his Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang.  Tommy Johnson Jr.’s run of 3.939-seconds at 326.00 mph has him third in a Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger R/T.

Force, of John Force Racing, was the only No. 1 playoff seed to start the postseason with a provisional pole. The other top seeds are Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Bike) also emerged provisional No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the first event of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown.

Top Fuel’s Millican is in position to secure his eighth pole of 2018 and P1 at Maple Grove Raceway for a second straight year following his 1,000-foot pass of 3.723-seconds at 330.72 mph in the Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster. A pole at Maple Grove would be the 18th of Millican’s career.

“Our group of guys are pretty incredible,” said Millican, the No. 2 playoff seed. “Our goal (Saturday) is to outrun everybody and get those three bonus points per qualifying session. Our whole thing is these little points right now and then on Sunday, it’s win lights. Without a doubt, the goal for everybody involved in this entire team is the championship, hands-down. That’s what we’re looking for right now.”

Leah Pritchett sits second with a run of 3.758-seconds at 312.50 mph in her Mopar Dodge 1320 “Angry Bee” dragster, while Mike Salinas is third after his pass of 3.764 at 328.46. Point-leader Torrence, a five-time national event winner this season, ran 3.785 at 327.74 in his Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster and is sixth on the ladder.

Two-time Pro Stock world champion Enders currently holds the top spot after covering the traditional quarter-mile in 6.550-seconds at 209.88 mph in her Melling/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro SS. Enders is looking to secure her second pole in the past three races and 20th overall.

“We have the Elite Performance cars at the top of the pack, and the really cool part for me was hearing the confidence back in the voice of our crew chief, Rick Jones,” said Enders, who started the Countdown in third place. “That gives me confidence and helps me drive better, and it was awesome. Our goal is obviously to run strong through these Countdown races and hopefully secure a third championship.”

Enders’ teammate/five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. _ a four-time winner at Maple Grove _ is second after his run of 6.552-seconds at 208.81 mph in the JEGS.com/Elite Camaro. Drew Skillman is one spot back at 6.560 at 210.24 in his Camaro. Point-leader Gray sits fourth after running 6.563 at 209.69 in the Valvoline/Nova Services Camaro.

Smith, a two-time world champ, finished atop the qualifying order in Pro Stock Motorcycle after his quarter-mile pass of 6.828-seconds at 198.20 mph aboard the Elite Motorsports/Denso Auto Parts EBR. Should his lap hold, it would mark the third straight pole and fourth overall in 2018 for Smith, who last won at Maple Grove in 2013 and sits sixth in the playoff seeding.

“We’ve got a good hot rod and we’ve had a good hot rod the last two races, so we just have to perform better on Sunday,” said Smith, who has 29 career poles. “We can go 200 (mph) if we can get the weather right. We want to become part of that elite team and I want to be the No. 3 guy to get it done.”

Hector Arana Jr., the first PSM rider to crack the 200 mph barrier, is second after his lap in 6.832-seconds at 197.33 mph aboard the Lucas Oil EBR. Five-time world champion Andrew Hines is third with a run of 6.847-seconds at 196.02 mph aboard his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Street Rod. Four-time/reigning world champ Krawiec, the No. 1 seed, is fourth aboard his H-D with a pass of 6.859-seconds at 196.22 mph.

Professional qualifying is scheduled to continue at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. Saturday.FOX Sports 2 will air 2-hours, 30-minutes of “NHRA Saturday Nitro” beginning at 4 p.m. FS1 will pick up the coverage with “NHRA Sunday Live” at 1 p.m. for one hour, followed by three hours of eliminations beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Friday’s provisional qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of time trials for the 34th annual Dodge NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, 19th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and Round 1 of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations:

Top Fuel _ 1. Clay Millican, 3.723-seconds, 330.72 mph; 2. Leah Pritchett, 3.758, 312.50; 3. Mike Salinas, 3.764, 328.46; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.776, 329.67; 5. Antron Brown, 3.779, 325.37; 6. Steve Torrence, 3.785, 327.74; 7. Richie Crampton, 3.791, 316.30; 8. Dom Lagana, 3.798, 308.85; 9. Terry McMillen, 3.809, 324.12; 10. Brittany Force, 3.812, 324.51; 11. Scott Palmer, 3.817, 327.27; 12. Doug Kalitta, 3.863, 322.42; 13. Audrey Worm, 5.048, 143.70; 14. Dan Mercier, 8.728, 79.98; 15. Jim Maroney, 8.760, 64.16; 16. Bill Litton, 10.655, 77.76.

Funny Car _ 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.907, 323.27; 2. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.912, 324.20; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.939, 326.00; 4. Shawn Langdon, Toyota Camry, 3.944, 327.90; 5. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.948, 326.56; 6. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.951, 324.36; 7. John Force, Camaro, 3.953, 331.12; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.954, 322.88; 9. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.960, 321.12; 10. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.981, 320.81; 11. J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.015, 314.83; 12. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.707, 175.84; 13. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.860, 168.68; 14. Mike Smith, Dodge Stratus, 7.691, 87.72; 15. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 7.970, 86.96.

Pro Stock _ 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.550, 209.88; 2. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.552, 208.81; 3. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.560, 210.24; 4. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.563, 209.69; 5. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.572, 209.75; 6. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.574, 208.62; 7. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.575, 210.05; 8. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.578, 209.43; 9. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.582, 208.36; 10. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.584, 209.75; 11. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.585, 208.78; 12. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.602, 208.46; 13. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.637, 208.17; 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.653, 207.50; 15. John Gaydosh Jr., Camaro, 6.668, 207.27; 16. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.693, 204.01.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Matt Smith, EBR, 6.828, 198.20; 2. Hector Arana Jr. EBR, 6.832, 197.33; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.847, 196.02; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.859, 196.22; 5. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.888, 193.46; 6. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.889, 191.78; 7. Joey Gladstone, Victory, 6.897, 194.27; 8. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.903, 191.40; 9. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.912, 190.83; 10. Mark Paquette, Buell, 6.944, 191.35; 11. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.947, 176.74; 12. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.956, 192.14; 13. John Hall, Buell, 6.976, 193.02; 14. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.992, 191.29; 15. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.004, 191.35; 16. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.035, 188.41.

Not Qualified _ 17. Kelly Clontz, 7.127, 189.47; 18. Ron Tornow, 7.195, 188.41; 19. Hector Arana, 14.279, 54.30.


| , RacinToday.com Saturday, September 15 2018
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