Rain threatened to interrupt the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals for most of the day but held off long enough to allow the professional fields at Gateway Int’l Raceway to begin to take shape. One full round of qualifying was completed for competitors in all four NHRA Full Throttle Pro classes and rain hit midway through the second Pro Stock session before activities were halted for the evening based on the less-than-favorable forecast for the rest of the evening.
Tony Schumacher, John Force, Mike Edwards, and Craig Treble will head into Saturday as the provisional low qualifiers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle, respectively. Of the four, only Treble got in two passes on the day. Qualifying resumes Saturday with the final two qualifying sessions at this, the seventh event of the 23-race 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, to set the fields for Sunday's final eliminations.
Just four Top Fuel dragsters posted three-second runs on Friday but Schumacher was able to put nearly a tenth on No. 2 qualifier Brandon Bernstein with a stout 3.82 from his Mike Green-tuned U.S. Army dragster. If he were to remain in the top spot, it would mark Schumacher’s first low qualifier at Gateway Int’l Raceway.
“That was an outstanding run by the U.S. Army team,” said Schumacher. “The car left great and we shot right through the shake zone. I didn’t know the number, but I felt like it was a pretty good lap.
“It’s only one run, but it looks like the test we had right after the Las Vegas race is producing the kind of results we wanted. We tried a lot of things to try and get the car to run consistently. We need to go some rounds this weekend to try and turn this thing around. Before too long, we’ll start moving up in the standings.”
Bernstein, who celebrated the birth of his daughter, earlier this week, is currently No. 2 with a 3.90 while Morgan Lucas and Doug Kalitta are also solidly in the show with runs of 3.91 and 3.92 respectively.
Force, who has already qualified in the top spot at two events this season, is on track for a third after a 4.10 in his Castrol Mustang. Force’s run was especially impressive as on other driver in Funny Car ran quicker than 4.26. Like Schumacher, Force has also never qualified No. 1 in Madison.
“We learned how to run on good tracks with cool air and we have learned how to run in the hot air,” said Force. “We are also able to learn from the other two [John Force Racing] Mustangs. I watched Robert [Hight] go out and spin his tires and then saw Ashley [Force-Hood] do almost the same thing.
"[Crew chiefs] Mike Neff, Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly got together and made some adjustments on my Castrol hot rod. Getting everyone in the top half of the ladder when you have weather coming in is important.”
Ron Capps is currently No. 2 with a 4.26 while Del Worsham (4.27), Paul Lee (4.34), Jack Beckman (4.36) and Cruz Pedregon (4.39) are the only other drivers to make anything resembling a competitive run during Friday’s lone session. Bob Tasca III, Tony Pedregon, and Jeff Diehl are currently not among the top 12 qualifiers.
The broken record that has become Pro Stock qualifying did not skip a beat as Edwards once again showed the way with a 6.64. Edwards has been the low qualifier at 13 of the last 14 events dating back to the middle of the 2009 season. In Madison, Edwards wheeled his Penhall Pontiac to a 6.64 in the opening round and although he was one of six drivers who did not get to run the second session, he remained in the top spot.
Allen Johnson, who earlier boasted that his Mopar team has closed the gap on Edwards, stated his case with a 6.661 that is currently good for the second spot.
Like Edwards, he did not get to complete his second run before the rains hit. Ron Krisher, Johnny Gray, Shane Gray, V. Gaines, Greg Stanfield and Ronnie Humphrey round out the top eight.
Justin Humphreys currently holds down the No. 12 spot with a 6.709 and the long list of drivers who will have to make the field on Saturday includes former world champions Jeg Coughlin, Jason Line, and Warren Johnson.
Treble, in his first full season aboard Don Schumacher’s Valvoline Suzuki, could grab his first No. 1 qualifier award since the 2003 Auto Club Finals if his 6.90 can hold up through Saturday’s two scheduled qualifying rounds. Treble opened qualifying with a 6.92 and then became one of the few riders to improve his elapsed time under the lights Friday night.
“Conditions are lacking. It’s real wet but have a stout tailwind so that helped,” said Treble. “I can’t say enough about [crew chief] Steve Tartaglia. I don’t want to say we’re flopping around, but we are certainly not on our A-game. We have to get used to a new [engine] combination. We knew this bike would be stout, and Steve has slowly but surely snuck up on it. This bike is a pleasure to ride.
“Actually, I could have ridden better on that [6.90] pass. I short shifted the 1-2. I’m still learning how to ride it the way it’s supposed to be ridden. I guess I’m happy because this team got put together in February. I was gonna go work construction in Phoenix when Don Schumacher called me and I wasn’t going to say no to him. At the same time, we got a big increase for the Suzuki engines. We also had to put our rig together, and order parts. We didn’t do any testing until after Houston. Steve is still not concerned about rotating the earth. He’s just trying to get it down the track."
Former national champ and past Gateway winner Matt Smith piloted his Al-Anabi Buell to a 6.94 for the second spot while reigning champ Hector Arana is third with a 6.96. After two runs, there are eight riders in the six-second zone and the 12-bike bump spot is an impressive 7.03 by Douglas Horne.
Competitors in the Get Screened America Pro Mod Series completed both of their scheduled qualifying sessions and Houston champion Danny Rowe is the provisional low qualifier with a 5.955 from his Sterling Bridge/Hottinger Group Camaro. Three other drivers -- Jay Payne, Mike Janis, and Brad Personett -- are also qualified in the five-second zone. The current bump is held by Houston runner-up Melanie Troxel with a 6.137 from her In-N-Out Burger Corvette. Pro Mod racers are scheduled to receive one additional qualifying run tomorrow morning before moving to eliminations later Saturday afternoon.