Record Falls in Mile-High Qualifying

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 11 2009
Cory McClenathan lit up the track Friday night. (NHRA photo)

Cory McClenathan lit up the track Friday night. (NHRA photo)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Brute horsepower finally broke down one of the last remaining barriers in NHRA Pro Stock drag racing Friday night, when Greg Anderson led a parade of three drivers to crack the 6-second barrier during qualifying for the 30th annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals.

Anderson, a three-time Pro Stock champion, became the first driver to post a 6-second elapsed time in the thin air of famed Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo., covering the quarter-mile in 6.993 seconds in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP. Allen Johnson, who emerged as the provisional No. 1 qualifier, and Mike Edwards joined Anderson before a day interrupted by a four-hour rain delay during the first session was completed.

Cory McClenathan (Top Fuel), Tony Pedregon (Funny Car) and Craig Treble (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also are leading their respective categories at the 13th event on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule. The final two rounds of qualifying are scheduled to begin this afternoon, weather permitting. ESPN2 and ESPN HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET) today.

Johnson posted a 7.03-second pass to lead the first session of Pro Stock, putting his J&J Racing/Team Mopar Dodge Stratus at the rear of the qualifying line for Round 2. That allowed Anderson – winless through 12 events this season – to regain some of his swagger with a pass at 6.993 seconds and 196.73 mph. “Thunder Mountain” always presents a challenge to Pro Stock drivers and tuners, as the thin air plays havoc with the ability of the carbureted V-8 engines to produce horsepower.

Still, Johnson trumped Anderson’s moment by lowering the record to 6.964 seconds at 197.10 mph, with Mike Edwards joining the club at 6.995 seconds and 196.62 mph in his ART/Young Life GXP.

“I was watching the scoreboard in front of me,” said Johnson, who won this event by beating Ron Krisher in 2007 and was runner-up to Anderson last season. “After Greg took the first 6-second run away from us, I wanted to run something that would knock his you-know-what in the dirt. I feel fortunate to run like that here to give the Mopar guys something to hold their chest out about.

“Testing out here for three days really paid dividends for us. This is an important race to us, so we want to be ready. We don’t come to this race just wanting to win – we want to qualify No. 1 and dominate.”

For the record, Kurt Johnson recorded Pro Stock’s historic first 6-second pass, 6.988 seconds, at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., on May 20, 1994 _ with Anderson as his crew chief.

McClenathan raced to the qualifying lead in Top Fuel, covering the 1,000-foot distance in 3.882 seconds and 317.05 mph in his FRAM Tough Guard Dragster, as Friday night rolled into Saturday morning.

“It was unbelievable how many fans stuck around to watch us after the delay,” McClenathan said during a midnight visit to the media center. “It was so cool to hear how many people were cheering when the first pair of fuelers pulled up after the track dried. This track is killer, and the FRAM guys did a great job. You always wonder how your car is going to run on ‘The Hill.’ (Crew chiefs) Phil (Shuler) and Todd (Okuhara) looked at the conditions and said they were going to get after it, so I can’t say I’m surprised by how it ran. I never would have thought I’d see a car go 276 mph to 660 feet at this place, though.”

This event kicks off the annual “Western Swing” of three consecutive race weekends that also includes the NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash., and the FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

McClenathan is one of only six professional drivers to have swept “The Western Swing,” which has been part of the NHRA schedule since 1989. Cory Mac defeated Tony Schumacher in 1997 en route to his sweep, and repeated as event champion in 1998 with a victory over Joe Amato. In his most recent final-round appearance at Bandimere, McClenathan lost to Darrell Russell in 2002.

McClenathan is fifth in the championship standings, trailing leader Antron Brown by 236 points, but still solidly among the top 10 who will qualify for the season-ending Countdown to 1.

Pedregon was quickest in Funny Car at 4.170 seconds and 292.33 mph in his Q-Horsepower Chevrolet Impala. “The conditions we ran in are the best conditions that you’ll see anywhere,” said Pedregon, a two-time Funny Car champion. “The challenge we face here is making enough power and downforce in the altitude. I was as excited as Dickie Venables, my crew chief, was when we saw how good the track conditions were. I didn’t think we were going to get the second session off, but what do I know? I’m from California, and we don’t get this weather. That last session made it worth the long day.”

Pedregon posted back-to-back victories at Bandimere in 1998 and 1999, beating Ron Capps and Whit Bazemore, respectively. Pedregon also was runnerup to Del Worsham here in 2002.

Treble rode his Team Scream Suzuki to a 7.358-second pass at 177.98 mph to lead Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying.

“We’re really satisfied with how the bike is running,” said Treble, runnerup to Shawn Gann here in 2004. “The first run was basically a scrub pass. We just got our motor back from Vance & Hines, and you’re not supposed to turn the wick up on it until it’s broken in. We went out there conservative, put some carbon on the pistons, and turned it up. It shot out of there on the last pass. We just gave the bike what we thought it would take. It has a couple hundredths left in it, but I’m trying to be smart about tuning it. Every round-win is more gas money to get to the next race.”

* * *

MORRISON, Colo. — Results Friday after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 30th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, 13th of 24 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

Top Fuel — 1. Cory McClenathan, 3.882 seconds, 317.05 mph; 2. Antron Brown, 3.883, 318.39; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.897, 312.28; 4. Larry Dixon, 3.932, 307.58; 5. Spencer Massey, 3.972, 284.51; 6. Shawn Langdon, 3.982, 309.63; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.986, 305.42; 8. Joe Hartley, 4.095, 292.52; 9. Brandon Bernstein, 4.098, 292.58; 10. Clay Millican, 4.125, 292.14; 11. Morgan Lucas, 4.170, 282.54; 12. Mike Strasburg, 4.280, 279.90. Not Qualified: 13. Todd Simpson, 4.485, 266.16; 14. Rob Passey, 5.996, 110.40.

Funny Car — 1. Tony Pedregon, Chevy Impala, 4.170, 292.33; 2. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.178, 288.39; 3. Del Worsham, Toyota Solara, 4.203, 291.82; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Solara, 4.210, 293.47; 5. Jeff Arend, Solara, 4.218, 295.72; 6. John Force, Mustang, 4.270, 292.52; 7. Ashley Force Hood, Mustang, 4.287, 283.49; 8. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.309, 281.36; 9. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.412, 294.37; 10. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.472, 276.80; 11. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.937, 158.22; 12. Matt Hagan, Charger, 8.205, 84.10. Not Qualified: 13. Grant Downing, broke; 14. Mike Neff, broke.

Pro Stock — 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Stratus, 6.964, 197.10; 2. Greg Anderson, Pontiac GXP, 6.993, 196.73; 3. Mike Edwards, GXP, 6.995, 196.62; 4. Ron Krisher, Chevy Cobalt, 7.014, 195.53; 5. V. Gaines, Stratus, 7.015, 194.83; 6. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 7.019, 194.77; 7. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 7.028, 195.05; 8. Johnny Gray, Stratus, 7.034, 194.18; 9. Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 7.035, 194.86; 10. Jason Line, GXP, 7.059, 195.93; 11. Greg Stanfield, GXP, 7.067, 194.41; 12. Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 7.070, 194.32. Not Qualified: 13. Rickie Jones, 7.082, 194.16; 14. Warren Johnson, 7.105, 194.88; 15. Mark Buehring, 7.232, 191.24; 16. Danny Gruninger, 7.239, 191.27.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.358, 177.98; 2. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.363, 180.43; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.372, 178.57; 4. David Hope, Buell, 7.374, 176.44; 5. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.379, 176.90; 6. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.386, 177.28; 7. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.420, 175.89; 8. Junior Pippin, Buell, 7.448, 175.71; 9. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.456, 178.71; 10. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.470, 177.93; 11. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.477, 174.64; 12. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.482, 176.51. Not Qualified: 13. Matt Smith, 7.489, 174.26; 14. Jim Underdahl, 7.516, 174.96; 15. Bailey Whitaker, 7.555, 169.53; 16. Katie Sullivan, 7.580, 174.08; 17. Douglas Horne, 7.638, 178.26; 18. Ken Van Buren, 7.743, 171.38.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 11 2009
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