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Top Fuel title contender Brittany Force piloted her Monster Energy dragster to the quickest pass in Auto Club Raceway at Pomona history during qualifying at the 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals.
Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Chip Ellis (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also preliminary qualifiers in their respective categories at the final event of the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
Force, who entered the race only 20 points behind first, put down a 3.667-second pass at 330.31 mph in the second qualifying session to take over the Top Fuel qualifying lead.
“Obviously we’re trying to push the car,” Force said. “To jump up to the No. 1 spot was huge for us but that’s where we need to be. We’re chasing down that No. 1 spot and to have a killer run like that sets us up good for tomorrow and gets us ready for race day. It’s not just a confidence builder for me but for my entire team. It pushes us forward and gives us that momentum.”
Clay Millican is in the second spot with his 3.671 pass at 328.22 while reigning Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown sits in the third position. Current points leader Steve Torrence is in the fifth position.
Southern California native Beckman raced to the top of the Funny Car field with his 3.835 pass at 334.98 in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T during the second session.
“In the Summer we found a groove on hot race tracks and then we decided to park that car and unload a new one, which took us a little while to get a handle on,” Beckman said. “A few months ago, in good conditions we were not a top three car, but I think we are now a top three car no matter what the conditions are so we are very satisfied.”
Courtney Force debuted her Advance Auto Parts/Big Machine Records Chevrolet Camaro SS with a 3.871 pass at 334.57 to put her in the second qualifying spot. Tommy Johnson Jr. sits in third. Championship front runner and Force’s teammate, Robert Hight is currently unqualified while reigning world champion and second in points Ron Capps is seventh.
Anderson, who is leading the championship chase in Pro Stock, raced his Chevrolet Camaro to a 6.561 pass at 210.67 in the first qualifying session.
“It was big showing the world we have a great car this weekend. It builds confidence in me,” Anderson said, “It was a great, great day. We got all the points you could possibly get. We’re on top of the pack, on top of the heap. We’ve got a great car and, I’ve been saying all year, you have to peak at the right time. We’ve had a great playoff run. If this could be the best race of the six-race Countdown for me that would be a dream come true, without a doubt. We’re off to a great start.”
Drew Skillman is currently in the second spot after racing a 6.555 at 211.69 and veteran Jeg Coughlin Jr. is in third. Championship contenders Jason Line and Bo Butner are currently qualified sixth and seventh, respectively.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Chip Ellis rode to a 6.805 pass at 196.53 to lead the field. Ellis was quickest in both of the qualifying sessions. Ellis is racing to secure his first No. 1 of the season and first since the 2015 Chicago event.
“It’s a great bike with a great tune up and I was just able to ride it well,” Ellis said. “That was only my second lap ever on that motorcycle. It’s brand new. The bike is working good. I’m glad I’m able to do this. I’m just privileged to be able to ride and fortunately, so far, we’ve done pretty good so far.”
Ellis’ Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammates Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec are qualified second and third, respectively. Krawiec needs only to qualify for the event to clinch his fourth NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship.
Qualifying at the 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals continues Saturday at 11:50 a.m. Catch the action live on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) at 6 p.m.