|Results| Notebook | Event news|
Courtney Force powered to the Funny Car No. 1 qualifier Saturday at the 10th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway. She, along with the rest of the No. 1 qualifiers, stood on runs from Friday to claim the top spots. Sunday eliminations begin at 12 p.m. Eastern to kick off the six-race Countdown to the Championship.
Force claimed the top spot after a run of 3.891 seconds at 330.07 mph in her Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro during her second pass Friday. She clinched her category-best seventh No. 1 qualifier on the year as she continues to chase her first victory this season. Force will face off with Bob Gilbertson in round one of eliminations on Sunday.
“I’m really proud of my team for giving me a great race car, it’s been a lot of fun to drive this car and get these No. 1 qualifiers,” Force said. “We know we have to bring that same success into Sunday, and I am just looking forward to tomorrow as we try to end up in the winner’s circle.”
J.R. Todd qualified second with a 3.898 at 329.18 in his DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car, and is set to face-off with Jeff Diehl in the first round. Tommy Johnson Jr. rounds out the top three after a 3.901 at 325.06 as he prepares for Dave Richards on Sunday.
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also top qualifiers in their respective categories at the first of six playoff events during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Kalitta started out his Countdown to the Championship run with a 3.723 pass at 329.50 in his Mac Tools dragster on Friday. He now has two No. 1 qualifiers on the season as he chases his first victory of the 2017 season. Kalitta also earned the No. 1 qualifying position at last year’s NHRA Carolina Nationals before finishing as the event’s runner-up. Kalitta faces Chris Karamesines in the first round of eliminations on Sunday.
“This is one track I have yet to win at, so I would definitely love to get a win here at one of the nicest facilities we get to compete at,” Kalitta said. “I think we have a good set-up for tomorrow with the conditions we are going to get, but I’m very fortunate to have the team I’ve got and I’m looking forward to getting out there tomorrow.”
Points leader Steve Torrence qualified second after a 3.724 at 327.51 in his Capco Contractors dragster, and he will take on Terry Haddock in the first elimination round. Leah Pritchett sits at third in qualifying with a 3.725 at 327.98 as she gets ready to take on Wayne Newby in round one of eliminations.
In Pro Stock, Gray held onto the top spot after driving to a 6.559 at 210.50 in his Gray Motorsports Valvoline Chevy Camaro during his first pass on Friday. He now has four No. 1 qualifiers in his rookie season as he looks to improve upon his category-best four victories on the year.
“Today was all about setting up for tomorrow’s run since we will have similar track conditions, but we feel pretty good about where we’re at,” Gray said. “A lot of my opponents have experienced the Countdown before, so I’m definitely a little nervous but I’m also confident in my car and driving so I feel like there’s no reason we won’t win tomorrow.”
Four-time world champion Greg Anderson is in second with a 6.567 at 210.73 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro, as he prepares for Alan Prusiensky on Sunday. Points leaders Bo Butner secured the third qualifying slot after a 6.573 at 210.77 before he faces off with Shane Tucker in eliminations.
Hines finished atop the Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying order with a 6.825 at 196.50 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson in his first pass on Friday. He locked down his 39th career No. 1 qualifier and first of this season.
“With conditions being ideal this weekend, we have been looking at today as our own tune-up for tomorrow,” Hines said. “I feel strong about the tune-up our team has put together, and now we have to make sure we do it again tomorrow when it really counts.”
Teammate Eddie Krawiec sealed up the second position with a 6.836 at 195.00 in his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, as he will take on Mark Paquette first on Sunday. Reigning world champion Jerry Savoie rounds out the top three after his 6.838 at 196.10, as Savoie will go up against Melissa Surber when eliminations get underway.
Eliminations begin at 12:00 p.m. on Sunday. Catch the action live on FS1 beginning at 2:30 p.m.
Here are the brackets and first-round parings for tomorrows eliminations: