ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals
John Force clinched his record 13th Funny Car championship and Dave Grubnic scored his first NHRA win in the $100,000 Budweiser Shootout Saturday as qualifying for the fourth annual ACDelco NHRA Nationals came to a close. Scott Kalitta, Del Worsham, Jason Line, and Andrew Hines also made news as the No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories.
By qualifying for his 345th consecutive race, Force mathematically eliminated all challengers to the 2004 crown. Ten-year Top Fuel veteran Grubnic reveled in his first visit to the winner's circle, which came courtesy of a ride on the famous Budweiser Clydesdales. Top guns Kalitta, who posted a 4.49, Worsham (4.75), Line (6.77), and Hines (7.13) also found reasons to smile as this event turns to elimination racing.
The Kalitta Motorsports stranglehold of the top three positions on the Top Fuel ladder remained intact Saturday as no one managed to improve on the trio's previously posted elapsed times. Scott Kalitta's best pass of 4.491 at 333 mph was the quickest of the gang, handing him his 20th career pole, $4,000 from Budweiser, and a nice headstart on next year's Shootout field.
"I keep telling Jim-O [Oberhofer, crew chief] that I wish we had broken out this new chassis three months ago," Kalitta said. "It's working so well with his tune-up and that's become pretty obvious with the way we're running this weekend. We'll just have to make the most of what's left this year and try to win tomorrow and win Pomona.
"Like everyone else at this point we're pretty much preparing for next year. I never won Pomona so it's on my to-do list, and this place wasn't around when I won my championships, so it's on my list also."
Scott's cousin Doug stayed second in his identically-prepared Mac Tools race car. His quickest run was a 4.499 at 330.47 mph. Grubnic, soaring high after his big victory in the Budweiser Shootout, will begin his quest to win this race and collect a $50,000 "Double-up" bonus from NHRA out of the No. 3 qualifying slot.
David Baca roared to the No. 4 position with a last-gasp 4.526 at 325.92 mph, his best run of the year.
Menards racer Gary Ormsby Jr., the son of late 1989 Top Fuel champ Gary Ormsby Sr., will compete in his first Top Fuel elimination Sunday after sneaking into the 15th position in the final session with a career-best pass of 4.710 at 291.57 mph.
Scott Weis anchored the sweet 16 with a 4.735 at 299.93 mph in his Race Girl rail. Top Fuel results
Worsham used the last pairing of time trials to steal away $4,000 in Skoal money and the No. 1 position on the eliminations ladder with a stout 4.751 at 328.22 mph. This marks just the third time in Worsham's 15-year career that he's qualified on top. The Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Monte Carlo driver's best start this year prior to this race was in Chicago, where he was the No. 2 qualifier.
"We've ended up qualifying second quite a few times," Worsham said. "That's what happens when you have a guy named John Force in your class. The last time we were No. 1, at Houston in 2001, we ended up winning the race. That was really the turning point for this team in my mind. We had won before them but that really is the point where we turned the corner and became a team that could contend for the championship each year.
"We came here to test the Thursday after Reading. The guys were tired and everyone else on the other teams was home on vacation but I couldn't sleep and neither could my dad so we came here and tested. It looks like that was a good move for us."
Eric Medlen was shoved down one position to second when he couldn't improve on a 4.770 at 322.11 mph, which he posted Friday night in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang. Medlen's John Force Racing teammate, Gary Densham, followed close behind in third with a 4.771 in his special-edition Popeye car. Whit Bazemore came to life in the final sessions also, driving his Matco Tools Dodge Stratus R/T to fourth place with a 4.772 at 326.95 mph.
Force joined in on the 4.77 fun but ended up seventh on the grid, which completed his charge to yet another POWERade championship.
Frank Pedregon of Underdog Racing ended up 16th with a 4.885 at 300.46 mph. He'll square off with his former boss, Worsham, in Sunday's opening round of eliminations. Funny Car results
For the seventh time this year, KB Racing teammates Line and Greg Anderson are first and second on the qualifying sheet. This time it's Rookie of the Year candidate Line edging out his boss, something that's only happened once before. Line made it look easy with a 6.775 at 202.55 mph, which earned him a second career No. 1 start and $3,000 from King Demon Crown.
"It's an ideal circumstance for us whenever Greg and I finish 1-2 on the ladder," Line said. "That way we know we're on opposite sides of the ladder and we can both go all-out to get to the final. I seem to do better too whenever he's on the other side of the ladder. I'm not sure why, but I'm just more relaxed.
"We have some goals left. We all want to see Greg win his 14th race and break that record. I'd like to do enough to stay second in the points. If Greg and I get to the finals again we'll race straight up, just like we did in Reading. That's the way we do it on this team. He'll try to beat me and I'll try to beat him."
Anderson had to settle for second place this time through his team owner's backyard but he's still one of the favorites to win Sunday, which would make him the most prolific single-season racer of all-time with 14 victories. His best pass in the Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac Grand Am was a 6.790 at 202.85 mph. He also posted a top speed of 203.09 mph, a LVMS record.
Looking to solidify his first top-10 finish in the points, Kenny Koretsky stayed sharp in his Nitro Fish Wear Dodge Stratus R/T with a third-best 6.790. Steve Johns rounded out the top four with a 6.797 in his Bourget's Bike Works Chevrolet Cavalier.
Exotic leather dealer and boot maker Fernando Cuadra will make the first Sunday appearance of his 30-race professional career. His 6.827 at 201.88 mph places him 12th on the grid. Ben Watson qualified for the first time in 14 starts this season with a 16th-best squirt of 6.841 seconds at 200.59 mph.
Notables on the DNQ list include "Tricky Rickie" Smith, six-time champion Warren Johnson, and two-time series winner Jim Yates. The new Ford entries of Bob Panella and Scott Geoffrion also failed to crack the top 16. Pro Stock results
Pending POWERade champion Hines thundered to the No. 1 slot in Pro Stock Bike when he blasted to a track-record elapsed time of 7.130 at 182.21 mph on his Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod in Saturday's first round. This marks the eighth time this season Hines has collected low qualifier honors and the $1,000 check from Ringers Gloves that accompanies the deed.
"I saw what Tony Schumacher did in Reading, clinching the championship and winning the race in the same weekend, and I thought that would be an awesome way for this team to get it done," Hines said. "But I can't worry about what Antron does because I can't control that. All I know is that we have a great bike and it appears we've finally overcome the 40 pounds they added to us a few months back.
"I'd love to clinch here and win the race because then we'll have a full five months to enjoy it before we have to worry about next season. If I had my choice I'd race Antron in the final and beat him for both trophies."
Hines, 21, can become the youngest NHRA champion ever by surviving one round more than second-place points earner Antron Brown, who has struggled so far and managed only a 10th-place qualifying finish.
Chip Ellis, who was not allowed to run Friday as he served a two-round suspension for violating the rule that prohibits racers from running at national event venues for a week leading into a race, rebounded well in Round 3 with a 7.131 at 182.58 mph. The G-Squared S&S Buell V-Twin will start race day in the No. 2 position.
Reigning class champion Geno Scali put the Trim-Tex Suzuki in third place with an improved 7.181 at 185.61 mph, while Friday leader GT Tonglet slipped to fourth place despite stepping up to a 7.185 at 181.30 mph on his Harley. Pro Stock Bike results
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