Top Fuel qualifying at the 65th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals kicked off with one of the all-time great sessions with 13 cars running 3.83 or quicker, led by former world champ Brittany Force’s 3.670 in the Dave Grubnic-tuned Advance Auto Parts dragster.
Force’s low-qualifying pass came alongside the second-best run, a 3.688 by points leader and 2017 Indy champ Steve Torrence.
“It definitely felt fast,” she said. “You could tell it was a good racetrack. I saw some cars ahead of me not get down that lane, but we went right down there.
“I think that run will hold up [for the No. 1 spot]; it was a pretty awesome run and tomorrow we run earlier. The next few days are really going to be the important ones. We’re really looking for consistency because that’s where we’ve been struggling in qualifying. It’s a good start to the weekend and we’ll push it the next couple of runs to see what it will do.”
Torrence’s father, Sonoma winner Billy Torrence, sits right behind him in the second Capco Contractors dragster after clocking a 3.715 while Brainerd champ Leah Pritchett was solidly in the No. 4 spot with a 3.726.
Eighteen of the 21 entered cars made passes Friday night under the lights, and 12 of them were under the record bump spot of 3.808 set at this event in 2017.
Rounding out the top qualifiers were Antron Brown – the only person to win Indy in both Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle – who ran a 3.729 and teammates Richie Crampton (3.738) and Doug Kalitta (3.743).
Rookie Jordan Vandergriff’s first official trip down the historic track netted him a 3.746 to fill out the top half of the field, with Countdown hopefuls Scott Palmer (3.759) andTerry McMillen (3.780) getting off to much-needed strong starts. Shawn Reed (3.797) and Australian Wayne Newby (3.803) also had strong opening laps.