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J.R. Todd, Brittany Force, Andrew Hines leads Friday qualifying at Arby's NHRA Southern Nationals

A group of former champions took the provisional poles at the Arby's NHRA Southern Nationals after a brief rain delay at Atlanta Dragway.
03 May 2019
Jacob Sundstrom, NHRA National Dragster Associate Editor
Race coverage
J.R. Todd

Former champions hold the provisional poles at the Arby's NHRA Southern Nationals, the seventh of 24 stops on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series tour. J.R. Todd (2018 Funny Car champ), Brittany Force (2017 Top Fuel champ) and Andrew Hines (multi-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champ) are the current pole sitters in Atlanta after one day of qualifying. 

Stevie "Fast" Jackson leads Pro Mod qualifying after two sessions at Atlanta Dragway with two more sessions in both the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Series as well as the Mello Yello Pro Series. Those are set to begin at Noon Eastern Saturday. 

CURRENT TOP FUEL LOW QUALIFIER BRITTANY FORCE: "We already won once and were runner up in Vegas. We've had a few No. 1 qualifiers and we're hoping to get another one at this race. That was a killer pass. Grubnic said it was going to do one of two things: It's either not going to make it down the track or it's going to fly. It moved around a little bit at 800 feet, but it hung on until 1,000 feet and we made it.

"I love working with Grubnic as a driver, but he's always very determined and he always wants to go No. 1. That's just who he is. He wants to win every single race. That mindset is... you can't win all of them, obviously, and coming off of last weekend where we got taken out early he just comes out here and wants to dominate."

CURRENT FUNNY CAR LOW QUALIFIER J.R. TODD: "I know going into a race that I have a great team behind me that can adapt to a lot of different conditions -- that's what makes Todd Smith and Jon Oberhofer so special. It was sketchy out there tonight, I just struggle driving out there when it's dark. You add that humidity and everything else and it gets very tricky. I think we just hit it right and a lot of other people didn't."

Every race is the same to me, the only pressure I feel is what I put on myself. It was cool to get my jacket and ring last night (at the Coke Championship Dinner) and it was really special to get that from the past champions and people I have looked up to for a long time."

CURRENT PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE LOW QUALIFIER ANDREW HINES: “We’ve been working on our tune-up the past couple of races and Charlotte on Sunday had very similar conditions to what we ended up having here. I was confident coming into this event that what we had there would carry over here. Our bikes were fast off of the truck and we were separated by just a thousandth in the first qualifying run and three thousandth in the second run. 

It’s fun to be able to try stuff at certain times but right now we can just see what weather conditions want what things. So, our motorcycles are consistent enough and good enough to see what we need to do to get a couple hundredth here or there."
 

QUALIFYING ROUND RECAPS

TOP FUEL

Top Fuel round one: Southern California Auto Club Road to the Future candidate Jordan Vandergriff ran five-hundredths quicker than the rest of the field to earn three points and take the Top Fuel pole; at least, for now. That’s better than three-time champion Antron Brown (two points) and Doug Kalitta (one point). 

There are a whole lot of race wins chasing Vandergriff, who is racing for the same team (Bob Vandergriff Racing) that reached the final round at the Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals a year ago. The car was driven by Blake Alexander at the time and fell to Leah Pritchett, who is currently qualified No. 9. 

Brittany Force and Clay Millican, now linked by tuner Dave Grubnic (currently tuning Force and formerly tuner of Millican) are qualified fifth and sixth, respectively. Those are all the dragsters in the 3-second range as many dragsters struggled with a tricky track on a hot, humid day in the southeast. There is one more session scheduled for 8 p.m. Eastern. 

Top Fuel round two: Brittany Force snagged the No. 1 spot with a 3.72-second pass in her Advance Auto Parts Top Fuel dragster, besting defending world champion Steve Torrence by .007-second. The last two world champions are stacked in the top two spots as we head into the second day of qualifying at the Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals. 

Doug Kalitta is in the third qualifying position after making a 3.737-second pass, a tenth-of-a-second improvement on his run from the first qualifying session. That, combined with a solid pass from Leah Pritchett (3.764), bumped Jordan Vandergriff off the pole. 

Cooler conditions gave teams an opportunity to make big improvements – like Richie Crampton, who got into the quick half of the field just in front of Clay Millican. Terry McMillen is on the bump spot with two cars yet to run (Lex Joon and Chris Karamesines). 

FUNNY CAR

Funny Car round one: Shawn Langdon made the only 3-second run in the first Funny Car qualifying session at the Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals. That earned the most recent winner in the category three bonus points and the added bonus of getting to go last in the second qualifying session, which is coming up at 8 p.m. Eastern. 

He is followed by Bob Tasca III, who had an adventurous ride down the track. The True Car Funny Car racer landed in the sand when his parachutes failed to deploy. His car was (it appears) undamaged, but there will be a little extra work for the team between sessions. Tommy Johnson Jr. earned the final bonus point in the session. 

John Force, who is celebrating a birthday this weekend, did not make it to the other end of the race track because of an explosion before he made it to the Christmas Tree. He was unhurt, but his Chevy Camaro had to be towed to the other end of the strip. 

Funny Car round two: J.R. Todd is in position to capture his second No. 1 qualifier in a Funny Car after making the quickest pass in the second qualifying session. The driver of the DHL Funny Car ran a 3.944 to pass John Force (3.958) to score three points and move to the top of the heap. 

He’s also ahead of Tim Wilkerson, who made a 3.959-second run. That earned Wilk one point and moved him into the third qualifying session. Bob Tasca III, who like Wilkerson also drives a Ford Mustang, joined Shawn Langdon (who led the first qualifying session) in the 3-second club with a 3.981. 

Cruz Pedregon chose to sit out the second qualifying session, which was delayed due to rain, but he is now on the bump spot. Jim Campbell is on the outside looking in after suffering an explosion right at the hit. 

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

Pro Stock Motorcycle round one: Andrew Hines’ revenge tour continued in the first qualifying session of the Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals. He ran a 6.875 to lead the pack, including teammate Eddie Krawiec by .001-second, right on the heels of winning the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals a week ago. 

So, the Harley-Davidson duo of Hines and Krawiec earned five of the six available bonus points in the first qualifying session. Steve Johnson, a Suzuki rider, picked up the final bonus point with a 6.894-second hit. Ryan Oehler, who rides an EBR, ran top speed of the session (197.45 mph) and is qualified No. 4. 

Pro Stock Motorcycle round two: Andrew Hines scored another three points in the second qualifying session and remained on top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle heap by improving on his time by nearly two-hundredths of a second. His teammate, Eddie Krawiec, also improved, but by .002-second fewer. That kept the Harley-Davidson Street Rods at the top of the qualifying sheet. 

Hector Arana Jr. made a big move to the third qualifying slot. The winner of the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals ran a 6.861 and is just .005 second behind Hines as the Pro Stock Motorcycle class readies for two more runs on Saturday. 

Andie Rawlings is currently outside of the field after breaking at the starting line. She was passed by Kelly Clontz, who ran a 7.081 to get into the field. She improved from a 17.222-second pass in the first session.