Championship Drag Racing

Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals
Denver, Colo.
(July 11-13)

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Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals
Anderson, Krawiec set track records; Cory Mac, T. Ped maintain nitro leads

By Brad Littlefield,

Four drivers stood tall after the conclusion of final qualifying on Saturday at the 29th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals. Cory McClenathan (Top Fuel), Tony Pedregon (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock, pictured), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) blistered the new, all-concrete surface at Bandimere Speedway in Denver en route to respective top qualifier efforts.

McClenathan and Pedregon became the first No. 1 qualifiers to do so with nitro racing being contested to the 1,000-foot mark. They stayed on top with runs they made during the spectacular Friday night session. Meanwhile, Anderson and Krawiec surpassed the Friday leaders with track record elapsed times recorded during Saturday's action. Anderson lowered the boom twice and set a new track speed record in the process.

Cory McClenathan

Cory Mac stayed put atop the Top Fuel pack with his Friday blast of 3.929 at 308.07 mph in the Fram dragster. McClenathan competed at his very first national event in a Top Alcohol Dragster at this event in 1989 and won, and he also won in Top Fuel in 1997 and 1998. McClenathan was one of two drivers to record a three-second pass on Saturday; the other was his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher. With 15 cars in the field, he will have a single in the first round.

"We're very excited about the way things have turned out," said McClenathan, who earned his 32nd career top spot. "Our teammate outran us by a little bit today, but that's okay because we had the two quickest cars. With the 1,000-foot race track and the new tire all being put into effect at this race, I couldn't be happier with how my team has responded. I can sleep a little easier tonight knowing that I'll have the invisible man in the other lane tomorrow, but I won't sleep too easy because I've found a lot of ways to lose in 16 years.

"It's nice to do well in front of sponsors, and at this track we host a lot of people from Gates Hose & Fittings. Gates took us all out to dinner the other night. Between four Funny Car teams, two dragster teams, and one bike team, I'm glad I didn't have to pick up that tab."

Schumacher's U.S. Army dragster was the class of the field on Saturday, running low e.t. of both sessions with a 3.993 and a 3.987. He starts from the second spot from his earlier 3.946 at 307.16 mph. Larry Dixon's U.S. Smokeless dragster was strong throughout qualifying, and he stayed in the top three spots for the fifth time this season.

Final eliminations will feature three instances of competition between teammates in the first round. No. 4 qualifier Antron Brown will battle David Powers Motorsports teammate Rod Fuller, sixth qualifier J.R. Todd will pick his lane against Lucas Oil teammate Morgan Lucas, and Kalitta Motorsports drivers Dave Grubnic and Doug Kalitta will match up from the eight and nine positions.

Tony Pedregon

Many Funny Car drivers made strong runs that challenged for the No. 1 spot, but Tony Pedregon held on to the pole position with his 4.212 at 286.50 mph from Friday. Pedregon grabbed his second No. 1 of the season and 33rd of his career with his Q Horsepower Chevy Impala SS covered with a special paint scheme honoring his longtime sponsor, Herzog Construction.

"I'm not superstitious; I'd much rather start from the No. 1 spot than anywhere else in the field," said Pedregon. "Qualifying up near the top is something we lacked for the last month and a half. It was our intention to run quicker today, but I'm glad we ran close to our earlier time in conditions that stayed pretty good."

"If the weather forecasts are correct, it will be a bit warmer tomorrow. I think the cooling system underneath the racetrack will gave us a chance to be more aggressive during the first 150 feet of the run than we would under normal conditions. I have to credit the track for the new cooling system and the great preparation they've done all weekend."

No. 2 qualifier Melanie Troxel made the two best runs of the day with a 4.244 during the heat of the day and a 4.226 during the final session. She also leads the Funny Car drivers in speed at 297.42 mph, making her a favorite to earn her third top speed award of the season. Based on incremental numbers from her run on Friday night, the ProCare Rx driver might have been sitting No. 1 if not for an inadvertent early shutoff. She faces a potential second-round matchup with husband Tommy Johnson Jr., who qualified seventh in Kenny Bernstein's Monster Energy Dodge Charger.

Cruz Pedregon improved from an earlier 4.237 to grab the third spot with a 4.227. His Rahn Tobler-tuned Advance Auto Parts Toyota Solara will start from the top half for the ninth time in 13 races this season. Bob Tasca III jumped from the bump spot to sixth in the final session, running a 4.238 at 292.27 mph in his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Shelby Mustang on crew chief Chris Cunningham's 43rd birthday. The only alternate was Tony Bartone, whose Canidae Pet Foods Chevy Monte Carlo was plagued by engine damage throughout the weekend.

Greg Anderson

After the Dodges dominated the first day of Pro Stock qualifying, the Pontiacs answered back as Anderson put the hurt on the competition. Anderson's Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GXP reset the track records with a 7.020 at 196.30 mph and then lowered the track e.t. record further in the final session with a 7.010, inching closer to the track's first six-second Pro Stock run. Anderson, who reclaimed the points lead one race ago following two consecutive event wins, now has 65 No. 1s to his credit.

"The performance has picked up here because the track is awesome," said Anderson, who has qualified No. 1 four times at Bandimere Speedway. "The Bandimere family and Larry Crispe did a great job with the concrete surface, and the cooling system underneath the track is definitely the way to go.

"It's a great feeling to put this Pontiac on top, because it's a Mopar event and those Mopars are running hard. It's almost like they got a weight break for the race. This class is so tight that there is no way I could pick a winner tomorrow. Whoever wants the trophy tomorrow will have a lot of bullets coming at them."

Mike Edwards earned his highest starting position of the season. He will start second in the Penhall/YoungLife Pontiac GXP after posting a 7.021 at 195.62 mph. Allen Johnson will carry the Mopar flag from the third spot with a strong 7.025 that he ran in the final session.

Larry Morgan and Ron Krisher made big moves in the final session as they both jumped up into the top half of the field. Morgan's Lucas Oil Dodge Stratus R/T will start sixth with a 7.032 while Krisher's Valvoline Chevy Cobalt is seventh with a 7.037. Local favorite V. Gaines will have his work cut out for him on Sunday, because the Kendall Dodge will face Anderson from the bump spot.

Eddie Krawiec

Krawiec notched his second consecutive top spot aboard the Vance & Hines/Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson by posting a new track record e.t. of 7.328 at 181.74 mph during the first Saturday session. Oddly, he bumped Steve Johnson out of the top spot with his best runs at the last two events. Also odd is the fact that the last two riders to qualify No. 1 in Pro Stock Motorcycle (Krawiec and Chris Rivas) had never accomplished the feat before and repeated it in consecutive races.

"The difference for me has been more mental confidence," admitted Krawiec. "I have a great tuner in Matt [Hines] who won four events here as a rider. A few weeks ago, we had Andrew [Hines] ride my bike during testing, and I went just as fast afterwards. That helped me a lot. This is even more of a special day due to having so many people from Harley-Davidson at this event and the opening of the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee."

"I want to win," emphasized Krawiec, who has yet to reach a final round this season. "I've had the taste, and I want it. I'm not here to go home after the first, second, or third round. I have a special spot on top of my fireplace set aside for that first Wally."

Chip Ellis, who leads all Professional racers in average qualifying despite having not qualified No. 1 this season, continued the trend by getting the No. 2 spot with a 7.328 at 181.28 mph aboard the Schumacher Electric Suzuki. Defending event and world champ Matt Smith made a positive vertical move in the final session by running a 7.331 for the third spot. Friday's top performer, Johnson, fell to fifth on the Snap-on Tools/WyoTech Suzuki.

Angelle Sampey was pushed back during the final qualifying session and qualified No. 10 with an earlier 7.418 on the Rush Racing Products S&S Buell V-Twin. She qualified in the bottom-half of the field for the second event in a row and only the 13th time in her 174-race career.

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