Top Fuel driver Clay Millican raced to his first career No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock), and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also will lead their respective categories into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations as No. 1 qualifiers at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
The Parts Plus Top Fuel team ran low e.t. of the event during Friday evening’s qualifying session, and the 3.792-second pass at 321.27 mph held up as the No. 1 qualifying position throughout Saturday’s two sessions, which were ran under warm weather conditions. It is Millican’s first No. 1 qualifying position in his 156-race career. Now the veteran driver will try to earn his first career victory. He has raced to five career final rounds but has yet to earn a win. His latest runner-up finish came earlier this season in Gainesville.
“The No. 1 qualifying spot is incredible,” said Millican, who will race Brandon Bernstein in the opening round. “The credit goes to a combination of people that helped make this happen. The heat here I was not too worried about it. I’m so proud of this whole team. It’s really cool, but anyone can win it doesn’t matter where you qualify. Tomorrow, we got to do it one run at a time. I’m certainly going to do my best.”
No one in Funny Car was able to better Hagan’s Friday pass of 4.050 seconds at 315.64 mph. The Magneti Marelli/Rocky Footwear Dodge Charger will start from the No. 1 position for the second time this season and 12th time of his career. The 2011 world champ has yet to win in Englishtown, and he will face fellow Virginian Blake Alexander in round one.
“I’m just tickled to death that we’re sitting No. 1,” Hagan said. “Sometimes, it’s a curse to be No. 1. We’ve got to treat everyone with respect and just make sure we don’t underestimate anybody. We have to be cautious of what we’re doing. I’m super proud of my boys. They deserve a pat on the back for putting a No. 1 on the board this weekend.”
Del Worsham was second in his DHL Toyota Camry and will race Paul Lee in the opening round, and defending world champion Jack Beckman qualified third in his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger and will meet rookie Chad Head in the first round.
In Pro Stock, series points leader Edwards secured the No. 1 spot; no one was able to outrun the Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro’s Friday evening performance of 6.545 seconds at 211.36 mph.
“It’s hot, but I like it hot,” Edwards said. “These conditions are not normal for Englishtown. But it makes it challenging when it’s hot. We hope we have all of our pieces in order to hit the Western Swing, and I think we are up to the task. We’ve been fortunate to get the top spot in eight races. I’m going to try to ride this wave as long as I can.”
This is Edward's eighth No. 1 of the season and 49th of his career. He has one win in Englishtown (2010) and two runner-up finishes (2009, 1998). Edwards will race former Stock national champion Lee Zane in the first round.
Shane Gray powered his Gray Motorsports Chevy Camaro to the No. 2 qualifying position and will meet Mark Martino, and Erica Enders-Stevens took the third spot in her Black iGuana Chevy Camaro and will face Frank Gugliotta in the opening round. In one of the most interesting first-round pairings in Pro Stock, defending event champ Greg Anderson will take on his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro teammate Jason Line.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, veteran rider Johnson claimed his first No. 1 qualifying position in three years and the third of his career with his Friday run of 6.931 seconds at 192.22 mph on his Steve Johnson Racing Suzuki.
“It’s nice to qualify No. 1,” said Johnson, the 2010 runner-up at this event who has five career victories in his 27-year career. “When we come to race, we look at the conditions and get an idea of where we’ve run good and apply all that. The rules did make it more competitive. But at the end of the day, it’s all good. To come to the Toyota NHRA Summernationals in Englishtown and be No. 1 qualifier and have the chance to win a race, it’s all good.”
Johnson will face No. 16 qualifier Shawn Gann in the opening round of eliminations, and second qualifier Hector Arana Jr. will face his father, Hector Arana Sr. Defending event winner and Englishtown native Eddie Krawiec will face Sreamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammate Andrew Hines in the opening round.
Defending Toyota NHRA Summernationals Pro Mod winner Troy Coughlin was among the drivers who earned victories in the first round of eliminations.
Coughlin powered his JEGS.com Corvette to a performance of 6.083 seconds at 242.98 mph to defeat Harold Martin in the first round of the NHRA Pro Mod Series portion of the event.
Other first round winners included Mike Janis, Pete Farber, points leader Kenny Lang, Chip King, Rickie Smith and local favorite Mike Castellana.
Event No. 1 qualifier Danny Rowe returned to Southern California late Friday to attend his youngest daughter’s high school graduation and was eliminated when he did not take the tree in the first round.
Second round pairings for Sunday’s continuation of NHRA Pro Mod Series eliminations (approximately 2:30 p.m.) include Lang vs. King, Coughlin vs. Castellana, Farber vs. Smith and Janis gets a first round bye.
Friday: Millican, Hagan, Edwards, Johnson lead Friday Englishtown fields