Saturday's action at the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals was intense with two more rounds of Camping World series professional qualifying with Justin Ashley, Robert Hight, Greg Anderson, and Angelle Sampey as the provisional leaders.
Ashley started the day in first with his Friday 3.716 and lost the lead to Steve Torrence early in the day, then regained the No. 1 spot with a 3.671 blast from his Mike Green-tuned Phillips connect dragster. Ashley’s speed on the pass, 335.22 broke Brittany Force’s year-old track mark of 334.57 mph.
“To got out there and run that 3.67 at 335 miles per hour, that's the type of run where you’re really excited to see the time slip,” said Ashley. “I mean, 335 miles per hour at Indy, where there's so much history and strategy, so much history, really means so much to us. It's, it's really an amazing feeling.
“I think, all in all, it was actually a great day. Obviously, we didn't accomplish what we wanted to -- we wanted to win that [Pep Boys Callout], and we wanted to win it bad -- but we really went up there with a plan and we executed on that plan.”
Callout winner Torrence, who stole Ashley’s pole in the second qualifying session with a 3.701, ran even quicker in the Callout final, but his 3.692 was well short of Ashley’s top spot.
Mike Salinas moved the Pep Boys dragster into the No. 3 spot with a 3.701, just ahead of Callout runner-up Brittany Force, who entered the third qualifying session 21st out of 25 cars after two aborted passes but fired off a 3.704 in what was also the Callout final.
Clay Millican took his new Rick Ware racing/Parts Plus dragster to a stout 3.707 for fifth with Antron Brown (3.712), Billy Torrence (3.717), and Josh Hart, who started the day third, slipped down to eighth despite improving on his 3.726 with a 3.722.
Doug Foley (3.722), Dodge Power Brokers shoe Leah Pruett (3.725) and Doug Kalitta (3.749) followed on his heels, while Austin Prock, like John Force Racing teammate Force, went from near zero to near hero with a 3.750 that lifted his Montana Brand dragster from 22nd to 11th.
Kyle Wurtzel sits on the bump with a 3.795 in a field that’s just three cars away from setting a new-record field of qualifiers (3.775, Indy 2019). Several unqualified drivers, led by 10-time U.S. Nationals champ Tony Schumacher, can run better than that 3.775 in the final two sessions to establish a new record.
The top three in Funny Car remained unchanged from Friday with points leader Hight leading the way with a 3.870, Bob Tasca III second at 3.878, and Hight’s teammate, John Force, third at 3.881. Ron Capps slipped into fourth with a matching 3.881, but Force’s superior speed allowed him to hold onto the top spot.
“That's three runs in a row [3.870, 3.924, and 3.896] that the Auto Club Chevy’s made very respectable runs,” said Hight, “and that's what you got to do to win races, whether it's a Callout race or the race on Monday. You've got to be consistent, so hat’s off to the team.”
“We were hoping for more tonight, we were really trying to run better than our .87 we ran last night, I honestly thought we were going to have to. I thought that a lot of other cars would step up and knock that .87 out. The conditions are pretty good out there. We were amazed that nobody got it. So we’re in a good place going into race day for the [Pep Boys] Callout and excited about that.”
Matt Hagan sits fourth with a 3.892 in the Dodge Power brokers Charger, with J.R. Todd (3.894) and Blake Alexander (3.899) rounding out the 3.8-second runners.
Fourteen drivers are qualified in the three-second zone, just one shy of the record set at this event in 2019 when Justin Schriefer anchored a field with a record 4.005 bump spot. Schriefer is on the bump of this race, too, with a 4.132, with John Smith (4.034) being the only other non-three-second runner.
In a class where gains are typically measured by thousandths of a second, Greg Anderson has a sizable lead over the rest of the Pro Stock field after a strong 6.567 run in his HendrickCars.com Camaro on Saturday afternoon at Indy. Anderson, seeking his 100th Pro Stock victory, jumped to the front of the quick field and in the process, picked up three additional qualifying bonus points on the day. Anderson dominated qualifying during the 2021 season, where he won his fifth Camping World Pro Stock championship, but so far this year he’s been the leader just twice. That could change if he can hold on through Sunday’s final two qualifying rounds.
“I wasn’t necessarily expecting that, but wishing and hoping we could do it,” said Anderson. “We had a weather change today and the temperature dropped and the deeper you were in the order, the better is was going to be. We knew going in that this would be the pole run, without a doubt. It’s not very often you hear a driver say they made a perfect run, but that was pretty darned close. I hit all the shift points and the car went straight down the lane.
“I was watching the cars before me and I was surprised to see no on was really lighting up the scoreboards. I don’t have a radio in my car so I didn’t know what we ran until they handed me the time slip. We all know I’m trying to get my 100th win and I couldn’t think of a better scenario than to win it here. I love this race more than anything. It’s bigger, better, and its so hard to win.”
Anderson bumped Friday leader Erica Enders from the top spot and then Anderson’s teammate, Dallas Glenn, pushed the Elite driver to the No. 3 spot with a 6.578 in his RAD Torque Systems Camaro. Glenn ran side-by-side in Q3 with Enders, who managed to improve her elapsed time with a 6.582 to keep the top of the field tightly bunched. Matt Hartford, Cristian Cuadra, and Aaron Stanfield are also in the 6.5s.
One other driver who also made a significant improvement is Bo Butner, who recently debuted a new Rick Johns Race Cars Camaro, and ran a 6.601 for the No. 8 spot. There was also plenty of bumping in the middle and back end of the field as all 16 qualifiers are currently in a 6.661-seconds or quicker. Heading into Sunday, the two non-qualifiers are Larry Morgan and Alan Prusiensky, who are looking to bump No. 16 qualifier Fernando Cuadra Sr.
The qualifying order also changed significantly in Pro Stock Motorcycle where three-time world champ Angelle Sampey took over the top spot from her teammate, Friday leader Eddie Krawiec. Sampey ran a 6.796 on her Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki on Saturday’s first run and that number held through the second session, but just barely. Reigning champ Matt Smith is just four-thousandths of a second back with a 6.800. Smith has already exercised his right to swap bikes, as he’s parked in Suzuki in favor of last year’s Denso Buell.
“Last night, my teammate Eddie was No. 1 and I came out here and took it from him,” said Sampey. “We knew last night there was more left in my bike and there is still more left. I don’t think I did the best job of riding it. This race is different because my crew chief, Andrew [Hines] hasn’t been feeling well so he’s been tuning the bike from home. I’ve become spoiled because this year, Andrew isn’t riding. He’s a full-time crew chief and I’ve gotten used to having him by my side whenever I make a run. He’s expected to come back tomorrow and I’m looking forward to that.
“Eddie is now a thorn in my side because we’ve gotten his bike figured out but he also tuned my bike and obviously he did a good job,” Sampey said. “I’m proud of him. This is Indy and I know it’s the biggest race but to be honest, I’m greedy. I want to win them all.”
Sampey’s teammate, Eddie Krawiec, remains in the No. 3 spot with Friday’s 6.826 run while Angie Smith moved to fourth after a 6.828 on her Denso Buell. At this point, the husband-wife team of Matt and Angie Smith are the only two riders in the field who have topped 200-mph with Matt setting the pace at 201.16.