Friday's Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals live photo gallery
Friday, October 05, 2012

News and views from the 
Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals
Last update: 7:25 p.m.
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Beautiful blue skies and comfortable temperatures with a high of 80 have drawn a large crowd of fans to Maple Grove Raceway for the opening day of the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals, race four of the Countdown to the Championship.

Drivers in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series are kicking off today's activities with qualifying and time runs in advance of the first NHRA Full Throttle qualifying session, which is slated for 1:15 p.m.

Pro Stock legend Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins, who passed away earlier this year, will be honored throughout the weekend. Among the things honoring Jenkins is a "Grumpy" car corral set up near the staging lanes, which is drawing large crowds of fans.

[2:15 p.m.] The Hectors and the Harleys are once again pacing Pro Stock Motorcycle, nabbing the top four spots in the first qualifying session. Hector Arana Sr. (below) is at the top of the sheets with a 6.834, and Eddie Krawiec (left) is second with a 6.842. Hector Arana Jr. (6.853) and Andrew Hines (6.854) are third and fourth, respectively.

[2:25 p.m.] Pro Stock points leader Allen Johnson added to his advantage, jumping to the early lead in qualifying with a 6.545. Jason Line (6.553) and Vincent Nobile (6.570) also earned bonus points in the first session.

[2:50 p.m.] Fans continued to pour through the gates of Maple Grove Raceway throughout the morning and early afternoon, and by the time the first Full Throttle qualifying session rolled around, the grandstands were packed, and fans were stacked up against the fence to take in their first doses of nitro for the weekend.

[3:20 p.m.] Mike Neff fired the first shot of the weekend in Funny Car, wheeling his Castrol GTX entry to a 4.026 to take the provisional No. 1 spot. Cruz Pedregon's 4.034 ranked second overall.

[3:20 p.m.] October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and many within NHRA are recognizing it with special paint schemes and fund-raising promotions, including VP Racing Fuels, which produced special-edition pink containers. (Left) VP's Freddie Turza, second from left, kicked off the program today with help from some of NHRA's female Pro drivers: from left, Erica Enders, Courtney Force, and Alexis DeJoria. Force is also running a special pink paint scheme on her Traxxas Mustang (below) this weekend, and she is already looking pretty in pink, powering to a 4.091 that has her No. 3 after one session.

[3:30 p.m.] Shawn Langdon is the early leader in Top Fuel, posting a strong 3.762 on his opening pass. Langdon's name next to the No. 1 slot has been a common sight as of late; if he remains atop the order, it would be his fourth top start in the last five events. Doug Kalitta (3.789) and Tony Schumacher (3.792) rank second and third, respectively, entering Q2.

[5:35 p.m.] Eddie Krawiec piloted his special-look pink Harley-Davidson around Hector Arana Sr. to the No. 1 spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle, clocking a 6.821 on his second attempt. Krawiec's teammate, Andrew Hines was second quickest of Q2 but remained fourth.

[5:35 p.m.] Matt Smith moved up a spot in the order, to fifth, with his 6.855 that ranked third of the second Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying session.

[5:45 p.m.] V. Gaines took the initial steps toward earning his first ever No. 1 start in Pro Stock, running a 6.544 that has him atop the order after the first day. Gaines' runs moved Allen Johnson and Jason Line, who were the two next quickest of Q2, down to second and third, respectively.

[5:45 p.m.] Though he didn't make a perfect run as evidenced by his 200.38-mph speed, Greg Anderson was able to make a move up the Pro Stock order on his second attempt, jumping from 14th to fifth thanks to his 6.569 clocking.

[6:45 p.m.] Jack Beckman (below) became just the third Funny Car driver in history to dip into the three-second zone (left), blasting to a 3.989 as part of the final pair of floppers to make a run on Friday. Beckman will enter Saturday as the No. 1 driver on the ladder.

[6:45 p.m.] Rookie Alexis DeJoria, who is carrying pink accents on her car and pink parachutes in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, gave an early hint of the great performance potential early in the second Funny Car session when she clocked a career-best 4.032 at 319.07.

[7:25 p.m.] With they second qualifying session being pushed a little later by a few delays during the day, 3.7s were commonplace during Top Fuel. The top three drivers 

— Morgan Lucas (pictured), Spencer Massey, and Doug Kalitta 

 posted 3.76s with the best time coming from Lucas' GEICO dragster, which posted a 3.760 for the No. 1 spot at the end of Friday.

[7:25 p.m.] Title contender Spencer Massey had an eventful second run in Top Fuel. He was second quickest at 3.763, but his engine expired and caught fire near the top end.