Day two of the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com will be a crucial one for drivers in the Camping World Drag Racing Series classes as the day’s first qualifying session, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. local time will be the only pre-elimination run where teams can actually learn anything that may aid their quest for a Winternationals crown.
Friday’s runs, held under the lights in the cool air and on the cooling track at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, taught the teams little about what they’ll face Sunday when eliminations play out in the heat of California summer. And, at best, today’s first run, scheduled for 3:30 p.m., will approximate the conditions that teams fortunate enough to reach the late rounds Sunday may experience. Today’s second and the event’s final qualifying session will again take place at 6:30.
Leah Pruett and her Sparkling Ice team dominated Top Fuel qualifying Friday, leading the pack by six-hundredths over Mike Salinas who, as he did in Sonoma, has a Blaine Johnson tribute paint scheme on his Scrappers Racing entry. Those two teams were the only ones to make representative runs in the Top Fuel session as the rest of the pack struggled to find the right combination on a track that hasn’t seen nitro-level horsepower in 18 months.
Among those not making a full pull were reigning Top Fuel champ and points leader Steve Torrence, who is hoping to become the first driver to sweep the Western Swing in a dozen years. Torrence, who won the first two legs, in Denver and Sonoma, is currently qualified No. 12.
Blake Alexander has never been the No. 1 qualifier, but he’ll enter today leading the Funny Car field after a 3.961 in Jim Head’s machine Friday night. Alexander, who grew up in Southern California but currently lives in North Carolina, edged out another SoCal favorite, Sonoma winner Robert Hight, by just .001-second Friday night for the top spot.
Cruz Pedregon and Ron Capps also found the three-second zone Friday and many more are expected to make sub-four-second passes today, including reigning world champ Matt Hagan, traditional Pomona powerhouse John Force, and red-hot Alexis DeJoria.
Greg Anderson is no stranger to No. 1 qualifying berths with 113 already to his credit, and he hopes that his Friday pole position in the Hendrickcars.com Camaro will lead to a long Sunday where he could collect career win No. 97 t tie class legend Warren Johnson as the winningest driver in factory hot rod history. Anderson has had great success in Pomona, with a dozen wins spread evenly between the Winternationals and the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals.
Erica Enders and Matt Hartford are breathing down his neck, followed by the class’ young guns -- Kyle Koretsky, Aaron Stanfield, Mason McGaha, and Troy Coughlin Jr.
Matt Smith grabbed the pole in Pro Stock Motorcycle for the second time in three races —his wife, Angie, was the low qualifier at the other – and about the only thing he couldn’t do was crack the 200mph barrier that he’s done so many times recently, including a stunning 205-mph blast last weekend in Sonoma.
Smith’s speed of 199.20 was close and he expects that he could breach 200 mph in tonight’s final run. Scotty Pollacheck, Smith’s third teammate, sits No. 2 behind the boss, both just ahead of Joey Gladstone and Andrew Hines.
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NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Saturday qualifying will feature the final two rounds of qualifying, at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. Final eliminations start Sunday at 10 a.m.
Qualifying: Saturday, July 31, 2-3:30 p.m. Eastern, FS1
Qualifying: Sunday, Aug. 1, 10-11 a.m. Eastern, FS1
Eliminations: Sunday, Aug. 01, 4- 7 p.m., FOX