John Force finished qualifying Friday night where he started, in the No. 1 spot for what, with warming temperatures expected Saturday, will be the fifth of the season and the 160th of his career after a sizzling 3.834 at 337.33 mph in his Peak Camaro. The speed is a career-best for the 16-time champ, whose previous best was 337.16, set two years ago in Sonoma.
“I talked to [crew chief] Brian Corradi and Daniel Hood and [Tim] Fabrisi – I call them ‘Corradi’s kids’ – and told them that there were only three races left and we can’t go up there and just put it in the show like we usually do,” said Force. “He hung it out this morning and ran 3.87 and then Robert [Hight] ran 3.85 and I figured that was that because I didn’t know if it would do it again. I got a little over next to the guardwall and that woke me up. There was a lot of vibration that Corradi is going to look at tonight.”
Force had led the day’s first session with a 3.879 but had been bumped to the third spot by the time he staged in the final pair of the nighttime session. His own teammate, defending event champ Hight, had been the first to pass him, powering the AAA Camaro to a 3.851 and he was followed up the charts by reigning world champ J.R. Todd, who booted the DHL Toyota to a 3.866.
Only five cars ran in the three-second zone in the tricky opening session, but by the end of the day, there were 12 cars running below four seconds.
Ron Capps (3.881), Bob Tasca III (3.883), Matt Hagan (3.890), Paul Lee (3.912), Tommy Johnson Jr. (3.920), Shawn Langdon (3.921), Blake Alexander (3.925), Jack Beckman (3.937), and Jonnie Lindberg (3.963) joined the performance parade under the lights at the fabled facility. Alexander’s run was particularly impressive as he was recovering from an aborted first pass after the throttle stop came loose, causing the engine to over-rev on the burnout and backfire the supercharger.
Texas privateer Todd Simpson, who sat out the opening session, made a strong early shutoff pass of 4.298 in his Toyota-bodied machine, but brushed the wall past the finish line, flattening the headers and doing minor damage to the body.