Nighttime drama wrapped up the second day of the Texas NHRA FallNationals with a frills-filled day of racing and special events and the promise of lucrative Stampede of Speed bonuses for the drivers who made the best runs in the night qualifying session.
In three cases, the low qualifier and the bonus winner were the same as Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) swept both honors on the night and Steve Johnson held onto his Pro Stock Motorcycle lead from Q1.
Force had the second-best run of Q1, a 3.761 that was behind Mike Salinas’ 3.729, but she and crew chief Dave Grubnic have a long history of unloading a monster shot at night and they didn’t disappoint, powering to a double-track-record 3.637 at 335.32 mph, the fifth quickest and seventh fastest passes in history, to collect the $15,000 qualifying bounty.
"You know that killer run, .63, we were going for mid-.60, so when I got out on the top end and they told me what we ran, it was really impressive," she said. "But with David Grubnic, Mac Savage, you can't put that past them. They're capable of running crazy numbers like that, putting crazy numbers on the board, grabbing points and setting records. It's pretty awesome that we were able to double up and when this check with Robert [Hight]; we seem to have left together and we've done it in the past. So we're off to a good start this weekend and the great thing is we get two more runs tomorrow."
Points leader Steve Torrence gave it a ride on the last pass of the night but his 3.678 and Salinas’ 3.680 fell well short of displacing her from the top spot she has occupied most of the year.
Justin Ashley exactly matched his 3.687 career best -– recorded, ironically, at this event last year -– for the No. 4 spot. Behind him to round out the top eight are Billy Torrence (3.715), Josh Hart (3.728), Antron Brown (3.743), and Shawn Langdon (3.754).
Only two Funny Car drivers –- Hight and Bob Tasca III – made three-second passes in the daytime session, but nine drivers powered to sub-four-second passes in the evening session led again by Hight’s AAA of Texas Chevy, who improved on his opening 3.970 by almost a tenth of a second with a 3.878 to not only regain his top spot but also pocket the $15,000 Q2 qualifying bonus.
Hight’s run was not without drama.
“We had a cluster up there,” said Hight. “When we backed up, one of the guys noticed we had a fuel leak. I think Jimmy [Prock, crew chief] even might have burned himself in reaching over the header to try to fix it but it was a long time and, honestly I thought NHRA may shut us off. We sat there, both of us used a lot of fuel, heating the clutch -- just something you don't like to do -- but and then when I was rolling up Jimmy threw his radio and I lit both lights -- I wanted to get in there quick and not want to waste any more time and hold up Tasca -- but I lit both lights; not even sure I was shallow stage perfectly.”
Hight’s last-run heroics stole the big check and the No. 1 spot from Ron Capps, who had just posted a 3.882.
Cruz Pedregon, who won this for the first of four times almost 30 years ago (1992), qualified his Socket It to Breast Cancer Snap-On Tools Dodge No. 3 with a 3.892 with points leader Matt Hagan fourth at 3.897.
Tasca III (3.911), Alexis DeJoria (3.917), Tim Wilkerson (3.936), and Jim Campbell (3.974) round out the top eight. Blake Alexander is ninth with a 3.986.J.R. Todd lost a nice 3.936 when his DHL Toyota scraped the left-side wall before the finish line.
Anderson started the second qualifying session with the Pro Stock lead after gathering three important bonus points in the first qualifying session with a 6.588, then watched KB Racing teammate Dallas Glenn and world champ Erica Enders surpass him with respective runs of 6.567 and 6.571. Class rookie Glenn seemed poised to collect the $2,500 Q2 bonus until Anderson’s HendrcikCars.com Camaro snatched it and the lead from his squadmate on the final run of the session with a 6.553.
“That was a pretty impressive run that Dallas made so I knew I had to make a good run,” said Anderson. “It went a little bit right, and I had the wheel cranked hard and thought I might have to give the run up, but she came around and got the job done.
“I knew it was gonna take something special, and obviously my car is just blazingly fast. I never thought I could run .55. And it did. So it's, it's impressive. It's fun to drive. It's an honor to drive it right now, and it's just a rocketship, so it's up to me now to do the rest with it and do a good job piloting it, but I've certainly got the horse underneath me.”
Rodger Brogdon, who for a short time early in the session had the lead for the bonus bucks with a 6.580 finished the day No. 4 in his RoofTec Camaro, just ahead of Aaron Stanfield (6.591), Chris McGaha (6.602) and Kyle Koretsky (6.603) to round out the top eight.
Richie Stevens sits on the bump spot of the 16-car field with a 6.680 with two qualifying sessions to go Saturday.
Johnson held onto the Pro Stock Motorcycle No. 1 qualifying spot he earned in the first qualifying session with a 6.756 as he guns for his second straight No. 1 qualifying spot aboard the Brady Mechanical Services/Mac-Rak Suzuki.
Although Johnson remained No. 1 through the second session, it was world champ Matt Smith who collected the $1,500 Q2 Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying bonus with a 6.772 that kept him in the No. 2 spot overall he had after his opening run of 6.822. Smith’s Denso EBR also exceeded 200 mph on both of his passes today. Johnson could only muster a 6.827 in his shot at the cash.
“I didn’t think we could run 6.75 but I thought we could run 6.77,” said Smith. “I threw everything I had at it and it was either going to spin the tire or hook, and it hooked.”
Angelle Sampey, whose Q2 6.809 had the bonus money almost in her pocket, finished No. 3 just ahead of hector Arana Jr. (6.854) and a surprising Chris Bostick, who charted a 6.878 on his opening pass.
Karen Stoffer sits sixth with a 6.890. just ahead of former teammate Jimmy Underdahl (6.890) and current teammate Jerry Savoie (6.894).
Michael Phillips holds down the last spot in the 16-bike field with a 6.991 with three riders behind him hoping to bump him out on Saturday.