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Millican On Pole At Maple Grove

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, September 16 2018

Clay Millican will begin the NHRA Countdown playoffs from the pole position in Top Fuel.


Top Fuel title contender Clay Millican added to his qualifying prowess Saturday at Maple Grove Raceway, securing pole position as time trials concluded for the 34th annual Dodge NHRA Nationals. 

Additionally, Courtney Force (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) emerged as No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories for the first of six events comprising the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Millican claimed his eighth No. 1 qualifier of the season, 18th in his career and second straight at the track near Reading, Pa., via his 1,000-foot pass of 3.723-seconds at 330.72 mph from Friday. Millican, seeded second in playoff points, also posted the best run during the final qualifying session. The resident of Drummond, Tenn., will face Jim Maroney in the first round of eliminations on Sunday.

“If we make four runs like we’ve made the last two days, I like our chances,” said Millican, driver of the Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster tuned by David Grubnic. “I’m pretty happy with how the car has run this weekend. During these last six races, every point matters. It’s all points right now and it’s vitally important we go down the racetrack (Sunday).”

Eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher of Don Schumacher Racing jumped to second during his final qualifying pass in the U.S. Army dragster with a lap in 3.754-seconds at 328.66 mph. “The Sarge” will race Dan Mercier to start eliminations.

“We have a great U.S. Army car and closed qualifying with a great run,” Schumacher said. ”We’ve been gun-shy and finally it was time. In that last run we had the opportunity we needed. The conditions were good. We already knew how to make an average run, but we needed to make a fast one. We made a lot of changes and the car was extremely fast.

“I give a lot of credit to (crew chief) Mike Neff and (assistant crew chief) Phil Shuler and all the U.S. Army guys. They never gave up and continued to work. I’m so happy to be here in Reading. This is a great place to start the Countdown. We want to win this race. To win a championship, you have to win races and we have a great opportunity tomorrow.”

Point-leader Steve Torrence qualified fourth with a pass in 3.762-seconds at 330.88 mph in the CAPCO Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster. A five-time national event winner this season, Torrence has a first-round match against Bill Litton.

Funny Car top seed Force claimed her 11th pole of the season and 28th in her career via a 1,000-foot  run of 3.907-seconds at 323.27 mph from Friday in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS. Seeking her first career win at Maple Grove, Force will race Mike Smith to open eliminations.

“It’s exactly how we wanted to start things off,” said Force, who is aiming to join father John (Funny Car) and sister Brittany (Top Fuel) as NHRA world champions. “Our goal is try to get those bonus points and stay ahead, and we were able to do that last night. To go into the first race of the Countdown No. 1 feels pretty great for my Advance Auto Parts team. I feel like we’ve really got a great handle on the car and that gives our entire team a lot of confidence going into race day.”

Veteran campaigner Tim Wilkerson finished second overall after his 3.912-second pass at 324.20 mph from Friday in the Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang. Wilkerson will meet Terry Haddock in Round 1. As per his norm, Wilkerson was testing for Sunday in Saturday’s early qualifying round. But in the fourth session, he was finished before he started _ veering to the left as he launched from the line.

“The first run was a test, but that second run we had a malfunction,” said Wilkerson, the 2003 winner at Maple Grove. “We figured out what’s wrong, we just have to figure out why it did it. It was a malfunction in the command module that runs the fuel system. It didn’t like that one bit, but I think we’ll get it figured out now. I was a little greedy that first run today, but it was running good ’til it wasn’t. I think Sunday will be a lot of fun. The guys are excited, I’m excited and we’ve got a good car for this first Countdown race.”

Pro Stock point-leader Gray secured his sixth career top qualifier and second in 2018 after his quarter-mile run of 6.542-seconds at 210.47 mph in the Valvoline/Nova Service Chevrolet Camaro SS during the final session on Saturday. Gray, who has five wins this season, will open opposite Val Smeland.  

“We’ve really been making good runs both days and that one had a little bit of an edge,” Gray said of his final pass. “It definitely gives us some confidence, but I’m not going to try to change too much. I feel like I’ve done a good job of hitting the (starting line) Christmas tree here, so all in all I’m pretty excited. I’m just trying to keep the same mindset.”

Five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. qualified second in his JEGS.com/Elite Camaro after a run of 6.546 at 210.11 on Saturday. A four-time Maple Grove winner, Jeggie will open against John Gaydosh Jr.

Two-time world champ Smith locked up his third consecutive pole in Pro Stock Motorcycle after a quarter-mile pass in 6.828-seconds at 198.20 mph from Friday aboard his Elite Motorsports Denso Auto Parts EBR. Smith now has four No.1 qualifiers in 2018 and 30 for his career. The two-time Maple Grove winner will face John Hall and his Buell in the first round.

“It’s good to start from the No. 1 spot,” said Smith, seeded sixth in playoff points. “We got a lot of bonus points so far this weekend, so hopefully we can go some rounds tomorrow and improve so we can put ourselves in position to win this championship. That’s what we’re trying to do. We just have to go some rounds (Sunday) and see what happens.”

Top seed Eddie Krawiec, the four-time/reigning world champion and defending event winner, moved up to second Saturday aboard his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Street Rod after a pass of 6.828-seconds at 197.08 mph. Krawiec, who has scored back-to-back wins at Maple Grove, will race Jim Underdahl and his Suzuki in the opening round.

Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. (EDT) Sunday.FOX Sports 1 will start its coverage with “NHRA Sunday Live” at 2 p.m. (EDT) for one hour, followed by three hours of eliminations at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations at 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. Pairings based upon results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings:

Top Fuel _ 1. Clay Millican, 3.723-seconds, 330.72 mph vs. 16. Jim Maroney, 8.760, 64.16; 2. Tony Schumacher, 3.754, 328.86 vs. 15. Dan Mercier, 4.242, 215.41; 3. Leah Pritchett, 3.758, 312.50 vs. 14. Audrey Worm, 4.169, 231.40; 4. Steve Torrence, 3.762, 330.88 vs. 13. Bill Litton, 3.908, 298.93; 5. Mike Salinas, 3.764, 328.46 vs. 12. Terry McMillen, 3.809, 324.12; 6. Antron Brown, 3.767, 328.22 vs. 11. Brittany Force, 3.802, 326.63; 7. Scott Palmer, 3.779, 321.19 vs. 10. Dom Lagana, 3.792, 304.19; 8. Doug Kalitta, 3.790, 326.63 vs. 9. Richie Crampton, 3.791, 316.30.

Funny Car _ 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.907, 323.27 vs. 16. Mike Smith, Dodge Stratus, 5.871, 124.28; 2. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.912, 324.20 vs. 15. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.166, 299.20; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.921, 324.90 vs. 14. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.116, 311.85; 4. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.939, 328.22 vs. 13. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.062, 314.61; 5. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.942, 321.19 vs. 12. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 4.035, 320.43; 6. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.944, 327.90 vs. 11. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.981, 320.81; 7. John Force, Camaro, 3.945, 328.86 vs. 10. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.960, 321.12; 8. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.947, 322.50 vs. 9. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.951, 324.36.

Pro Stock _1. Tanner Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.542, 210.47 vs. 16. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.693, 204.01; 2. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.545, 209.79 vs. 15. John Gaydosh Jr., Camaro, 6.668, 207.27; 3. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.550, 209.88 vs. 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.653, 207.50; 4. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.551, 210.80 vs. 13. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.608, 209.43; 5. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.557, 209.20 vs. 12. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.602, 208.71; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.558, 210.34 vs. 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.582, 208.36; 7. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.562, 209.69 vs. 10. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.578, 209.43; 8. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.564, 210.34 vs. 9. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.575, 210.05.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Matt Smith, 6.828, 198.20 vs. 16. John Hall, Buell, 6.966, 189.87; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.828, 197.08 vs. 15. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.954, 192.91; 3. Hector Arana Jr., EBR,  6.832, 197.33 vs. 14. Ron Tornow, Buell, 6.953, 191.38; 4. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.847, 196.02 vs. 13. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.941, 193.57; 5. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.863, 195.99 vs. 12. Mark Paquette, Buell, 6.919, 192.33; 6. Joey Gladstone, Victory, 6.878, 193.54 vs. 11. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.903, 193.21; 7. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.879, 193.10 vs. 10. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.893, 192.49; 8. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.888, 193.46 vs. 9. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.889, 191.78.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Kelly Clontz, 6.971, 192.19; 18. Hector Arana, 6.999, 193.24; 19. Karen Stoffer, 7.035, 188.41.

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, September 16 2018
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