Brittany Force, Bob Tasca III, and Greg Anderson locked down the No. 1 qualifying spots in their respective classes on a hot afternoon at the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways outside of Seattle.
After smoking the tires on her lone qualifying pass Friday and then having her dragster shut off just feet off the line in Q2 due to an electronic gremlin, Force and crew chief David Grubnic showed the championship form they’ve flexed all season by rocketing the Flav-R-Pac dragster to a jaw-dropping 3.753 in the 95-degree heat to kick off the final session.
"That was really important for this Flav-R-Pac team to be able to make a killer run, get the car down the racetrack and safely qualified in the show for tomorrow,” she said.
“Grubnic said he wanted to push, to get us in the top top of the field, top three or top five, which is always what we're aiming for, and we went No. 1, so pretty outstanding for the Flav-R-Pac team. There's a lot of pressure on this weekend and we make the boss happy.”
Force’s run was more than a half-tenth quicker than world champ Steve Torrence’s Friday-leading 3.819, and the Capco car couldn’t fire back in its final attempt. It’s Force’s fifth No. 1 of the year and the 37th of her career. She’ll face Jim Maroney in round one.
Tony Schumacher will have his best start of the season from the No. 3 spot – only his third top-half qualifier of the year – after posting s 3.830 in the Maynard Family dragster. Doug Kalitta is a thousandth back at 3.831 to round out the top four with Antron Brown (3.837), Shawn Langdon (3.847), Justin Ashley (3.851) and Josh Hart (3.865) filling out the top half of the field.
Tasca was the only one of Friday’s low qualifiers to hold onto the No. 1 spot and reinforced that with a solid 3.969, just off his 3.965 run of record in the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford. No one else ran in the threes but they’re all nipping at Tasca’s heels with double-handfuls of 4.0-second passes but he still holds a four-hundredths advantage on the field.
"That was no surprise to us,” he said of the second 3.95. “The conditions were the same as last night and I asked [my crew chiefs],' What's it going to run?' and they said 'the same.' When you look at the rest of the field, that's a dominant run. I don't know the last time a Funny Car was four hundredths faster than the field right on a 134-degree track.
“I'm excited about where this team is right now. And you know, we're gonna go out tomorrow, we gotta land the airplane, right, and get it done again. The old saying is ‘You don't kick the guy when that down,’ but in drag racing, when you get a car like this, you want to kick them as much as you can when they're down. We’ve got a good car right now. We're gonna go out there and do as much damage as we can to the rest of the field."
Alexis DeJoria, whose Tequila Bandero Toyota is the only other car qualified in the threes (3.994) could only run 4.05 on her final pass, and the rest of the pack closed in. Tightly bunched behind the top two are John Force (4.001), Cruz Pedregon (4.002), Robert Hight (4.003), Blake Alexander (4.012), J.R. Todd (4.020), and Ron Capps (4.024).
After losing the top spot to Enders on Friday due to speed after identical runs of 6.608, Anderson fired back in the day’s opening session with an improved 6.604 to take over No. 1 and push her down to second while Aaron Stanfield crept into third with a 6.609. Anderson also had low e.t. of the final qualifying session with a 6.612, as the result of burning the midnight oil at the KB Racing shop between races.
“Seven days ago, I certainly never thought that things would go on as well this weekend,” said Anderson. “We took a red-eye flight home from Sonoma and went right to work, and we found a couple of things. It didn't look like a huge gain, but it looked like a gain, and apparently has been worth more than I thought.
“I absolutely feel the best I’ve felt all year. I think the car’s ready. Now can the driver come through? I hope I can. It's absolutely the best hot rod I've had all year, without a doubt. We've been playing catch up, we haven't deserved to win all year and, to be honest with you, we haven't had a racecar driver prepared to win. Any win prior to this would have been a lucky day, to be honest with you.”
Anderson qualified No. 2 behind Enders last weekend in Seattle and looked like he had the car to beat but was defeated by her on a holeshot in the final round, 6.57 to 6.56. The last time that Anderson qualified No. 1 was at the Auto Club NHRA Finals last year, a race that he won, and he’ll get a first-round bye this time with a 15-car field, giving the team a chance to experiment, according to Anderson.
Anderson’s pole position is the 119th of his career but, surprisingly, his first of the year after qualifying in the top spot 12 times last season.
Behind the leading trio are a steady Troy Coughlin Jr. (runs of 6.63, 6.62, and his 6.611 run of record), Cristian Cuadra (6.620), Anderson teammates Kyle Koretsky (6.630) and Dallas Glenn (6.633), and Fernando Cuadra Jr. (6.636)