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Force, Pedregon, Anderson, and Sampey lead in Pomona after Friday qualifying

The opening day of the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals produced a lot of drama as Brittany Force, Cruz Pedregon, Greg Anderson, and Angelle Sampey are the provisional low qualifiers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle, respectively.
11 Nov 2022
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage
Britanny Force

The opening day of the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals produced a lot of drama as Brittany Force, Cruz Pedregon, Greg Anderson, and Angelle Sampey are the provisional low qualifiers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle, respectively.

Top Fuel points leader Force picked two bonus points in the first session with a third-best 3.178 that was identical to the 3.718 by Josh Hart (but at a slower speed) then grabbed four more in the final session with a field-leading 3.641 at 338.94 mph, the fastest speed in class history. Her lead has blossomed from just seven points to 13 points over Justin Ashley, who earned no bonus points in the two sessions.

"We want to go low each at each session and try to get those points wherever we can get them and then reset on race day and look at who we're running and how the whole thing is gonna fall together," she said. "It comes down to raceday. And we're only just so many points apart that anything can change on qualifying. So it's good that we are getting those points. We just want to be ahead, however it ends up. But you know, our team won this in 2017, and we were behind [in points]. So I mean, it could go either way,

"That is a great start for our team to really be able to grab those points wherever we can. and it was pretty awesome to run the 338 and get that track record here at home. It's my home racetrack that I grew up running, and I love it here."

Ashley is currently ranked seventh after a best of 3.706 and realistically can’t do anything to get the points lead back during Saturday’s two qualifying runs,

Force’s “monster” run took the No. 1 spot away from defending world champ Steve Torrence, who also still is technically in the title battle for what would be a fifth straight championship and briefly led the field with a 3.656 that was just a thousandth of a second off his personal best.

Behind Force and Torrence in the top eight are Leah Pruett (3.669), Mike Salinas (3.679), Doug Kalitta (3.699), Austin Prock (3.705), Ashley (3.706). and Clay Millican (3.715).

Maurice DuPont, competing in his first Top Fuel race in 30 years, sits on the soft bump spot of just 4.422.

With Robert Hight’s Funny Car lead teetering at just over two rounds worth of points, everyone knows that Ron Capps and Matt Hagan would be shooting to pick up points in qualifying to get that lead under two rounds

None of the top-three Funny Car drivers earned any bonus points in the opening session as all three failed to make it down the racetrack but Hagan picked up four big points -n Q2 with the best run of the round, a 3.844, while Hight and Capps were skunked again. Hagan moved past Capps into second place in the standings, just 59 points –- less than two rounds -– behind Hight.

As good as Hagan’s run was, it wasn’t enough to dislodge Cruz Pedregon from the No. 1 spot he earned in the first session with a career-best 3.840 that he followed with a 3.849 in the second session.

"We went testing in Las Vegas and ran 3.88 and I thought if we could run close to the .88 I'll be happy, but when they said 84 ... to say I'm happy and excited and relieved all in one would be an understatement," said Pedregon. "I've been surprised before at the finish line but not like that.

"it was such a great run and honestly, the car had a cylinder out about three-quarter track on that [first] one so had we been able to put the back half of this [second] run with the first one I would have been a little bit better."

Bob Tasca III (3.856), John Force (3.864), Hight (3.866), Tim Wilkerson (3.882), Alexis DeJoria (3.897), and J.R. Todd (3.917) round out the top eight.
Twelve drivers ran in the threes and Capps sits on the bump spot with a 4.897. Eighteen teams are shooting for a spot in the 16-car field.

Greg Anderson, in his last racer as the reigning Pro Stock champion, put his HendrickCars.com Camaro on the provisional pole in Pro Stock with a solid 6.509 day one effort. Anderson opened with a 6.525 to lead both sessions and add eight points to his total. Anderson, the final Pro Stock car down the Parker Avenue quarter-mile on Friday night, bumped his teammate Dallas Glenn from the top spot. Glenn had earlier run a 6.514 in his RAD Torque Systems Camaro.

“There is a lot of history at the place, both here [at the Auto Club Finals] and the Winternationals. That’s where you used to show up in February and see how you stack up against everyone else,” said Anderson. “Nine out of 10 times the championship is decided here. Obviously, that didn’t happen this year. The championship is over but there is a lot of crumbs to fight for. Championships are great but we come to the track to win races and that’s our goal this weekend.

“I made two good runs today and now we just need to keep it up the rest of the weekend,” said Anderson. “I spent the day at [Hendrick Motorsports] the other day and I didn’t have the right answers as to why we weren’t able to get it done this weekend. I told them I want to try as hard as I can to bring home the last race of the season.”

Troy Coughlin Jr. made two solid runs with a 6.520 and 6.526 in his JEGS.com Camaro while Deric Kramer is also both quick and consistent with runs of 6.526 and 6.524 in his Camaro, capably tuned by Michael Hiner.

Erica Enders, who wrapped up her fifth title at the most recent event in Las Vegas, finished the day in the No. 7 spot at 6.541 while Fernando Cuadra Jr. rounds out the top half of the field with a 6.549. The Pro Stock bump is currently an off-pace 7.099 by Alan Prusiensky, but the field as the potential to get much quicker as there are already 13 cars in the 6.5s. Saturday’s conditions are likely to be equal to, or better than Friday’s

Three-time world champion Angelle Sampey lit up the scoreboard in the opening round of Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying with a track record 6.703 to lead what is shaping up to be a very quick field. Sampey, who nearly eclipsed her career-best 6.696 from Sonoma this year, currently holds a lead over Matt Smith, who made the quickest pass of the season session with a 6.791 on his Denso Buell. Sampey added seven points to her total while Smith extended his lead over Joey Gladstone from 104 to 108 points and needs to do little more than win the opening round of eliminations in order to secure his sixth Camping World NHRA championship.

Sampey backed up her earlier run with a very competitive 6.723 on her Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki, giving her a great baseline headed into Saturday’s two qualifying rounds.

“I was very excited to see that run because this weekend I’m on a Mission to change things,” Sampey said. “My team has given me a Suzuki to win the race; I’ve had the best bike at almost every race this year but haven’t delivered like I should have. This team deserves a championship and I didn’t deliver. My goal is to win this race, and then be able to have a relaxing off-season knowing that we turned things around. I want to erase the past and gain some momentum.

“That run was probably better than my [6.69 career best from Sonoma],” said Sampey. “It wasn’t as quick, but it was straighter. As soon as I left the starting line I knew we had a great sixty-foot time and I barely had to make any corrections. The bike probably didn’t move eight inches from side to side the entire run. I definitely didn’t expect a 6.70. The second run was good, but not quite as good. I was on the centerline a little and that scrubbed off some speed. I also shut if off a little early because I wanted to make sure I stayed in my lane.”

Sampey and Smith are joined in the 6.7s by Angie Smith, who sits third after a pair of 6.747 runs on her Denso Buell while former world champ Jerry Savoie is currently fourth with a 6.797 on his White Alligator Suzuki. The rest of the top-half qualifiers include Karen Stoffer, Marc Ingwersen, Steve Johnson, and rookie Gaige Herrera, who rode to a career-best 6.871.

Two riders who expected to be in the top half, but struggled on Friday include four-time world champ Eddie Krawiec, who is chasing an electrical gremlin in his Vance & Hines Suzuki, and Hector Arana Jr., winner of the last two Camping World Series events in Dallas and Las Vegas. Krawiec currently occupies the bump with a non-competitive 7.263.