Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson raced to the qualifying lead Friday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries at zMAX Dragway.
Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the first of six NHRA playoff events.
Wilkerson led the Funny Car field with a time of 4.048 seconds at 309.70 mph in his Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang and continued his momentum from the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus, where he made a late charge to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
“We’ve had a good car the last two or three races, and we’re trying to capitalize on it starting in qualifying,” Wilkerson said. “I think qualifying points will play a big part of this. Bonus points got me into the Countdown when you look at Brainerd and Indianapolis. I curse them when I’m doing bad and applaud them when I’m doing well. I’m a perfect politician.”
In Top Fuel, Langdon powered his Al-Anabi dragster to a performance of 3.807 at 324.12. This would be his second top qualifying position in a row and third of the season if his performance stands after Saturday’s final qualifying rounds (12:15 and 2:45 p.m.).
“I guess right now would be the perfect time to peak,” Langdon said. “We’ve been making a lot of changes to the car, and it’s been responding very well. We saw a bunch of cars smoke the tires in front of us on the last run. I saw Alan [Johnson, tuner] and Brian [Husen, crew chief] get busy making adjustments, and whatever they did held. There’s a possibility we could improve on that tomorrow, but hopefully it will stick.”
In Pro Stock, Nobile claimed the top position by powering his Mountain View Tire Dodge Avenger to a performance of 6.548 at 211.03. If his time stands, this would be his first career No. 1 qualifying position.
“I’m new to this. I’ve never been No. 1 before,” Nobile said. “I knew it was a great run. I’m shocked at how fast we went. We went back, looked at our computer graph, and it was literally a perfect run. I have to thank the crew for giving me a great car.”
Hines, who has earned two No. 1 qualifying positions this season in Pro Stock Motorcycle, earned the qualifying lead with a performance of 6.851 at 195.82 on his Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson.
“Both runs today were very exceptional,” Hines said. “The bike ran perfectly straight, and that’s when it puts up big elapsed times. We credit that to the testing we did before Indy. With our set-up, we run a good 330-foot number, and that translates to our quarter-mile runs.”
Don Walsh raced to the qualifying lead in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx portion of the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries.
Walsh powered his late-model Ford Mustang to a 5.868-second run at 254.52 mph to lead the 16-car field after two qualifying sessions. If his run holds through tomorrow’s final qualifying session, it will be his second consecutive No. 1 of the season.
Donald Martin was second with a 5.878 at 247.84 in a ’68 Camaro, and Danny Rowe was third overall in his ’68 Camaro with a 5.885 at 247.66.
Series points leader Mike Castellana was sixth in his Al-Anabi Racing Chevy Camaro with a 5.984 at 240.08.
Qualifying continues for the NHRA Pro Mod Series Saturday with the final session at 2 p.m. followed by the first round of eliminations at 4:30 p.m.