Blake Alexander and Cristian Cuadra., who have yet to secure a No. 1 qualifying berth in their young careers, and veteran Doug Kalitta, a 51-time No. 1 qualifier, are the field leaders after the opening day at the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park
Kalitta, who qualified No. 1 at this event last year, finds himself in a familiar position after the first of three qualifying sessions, blasting his Alan Johnson- and Brian Husen-tuned Mac Tools dragster to a 3.679. if Kalitta can stay atop the field it’ll be the 52nd No. 1 of his career.
“The car was strong,” he said. “Earlier in the day, I was sitting there talking to Alan and Brian. And they said, ‘Well, I don't think it'll run a 3.64, but a 3.67 we’ll probably be able to do that, and we go out there run 3.67. So that was pretty cool. My guys have been working their tails off on this thing, and we're all super hungry to make it happen. And no better place to do it than here. You know, we love coming to Phoenix.
"We've been steadily improving since we started testing, so it's been very encouraging. In testing, we ran a couple of 3.67s shutting it off, so I'm like, ‘Let's get racing, let's get it right to the track and make sure we are doing this when it counts,’ so it's pretty exciting for me.”
Kalitta is also a participant in Saturday’s Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge where he will face off with Steve Torrence in a rematch of their Gatornationals semifinal bash, which Torrence won/
Gatornationals champ Mike Salinas, who will rematch with Leah Pruett in Take 2 of their Gatornationals semifinal, qualified his Scrappers Racing digger No. 2 with a 3.689. Salinas is the defending event champ.
Teammates Austin Prock (3.696) and Brittany Force (3.722) hold down the Nos. 3 and 4 spots. Four-time world champ Steve Torrence (3.724), Justin Ashley (3.724), Pruett (3.737), and Shawn Langdon (3.755) round out the quick eight in Top Fuel.
Alexander, who had a tough outing in testing and at the Gatornationals in the Jim Head-owned and -tuned Pronto entry, rebounded nicely with a 3.927 to grab the provisional pole position in Funny Car and was just one of three drivers to make a full pass on what proved to be a tricky track for the floppers. Alexander’s 101-race career does not yet include a No. 1 qualifying berth despite two career wins in Top Fuel.
Said Alexander, “A lot of times that you come to this track, there's been a lot of preseason testing here and lots of knowledge, lots of lots of people out here prepping the track taking care of it, and we kind of came out here today with just the mindset of we didn't do that good on Friday in Gainesville. In fact, we lit the car on fire, and we want to just get on the track. So we did that. And it turned out to be a nice ending for us.
“It feels good. We do this to have good things happen. And we work really, really hard. I don't think people realize how hard everyone works out here. Even when you have a bad weekend, you work extra hard. So we're happy for Pronto. Head Contractors, everyone that we work with, to just feed this car what it needs. We have what you know what it needs, and we just need to keep going forward."
Chad Green, who will take part in Saturday’s Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge in a rematch of his Gatornationals Funny Car clash with Gatornationals runner-up J.R. Todd, grabbed the No. 2 spot with his Bond Coat entry with a 3.952 while independent Terry Haddock clocked a 4.044 for the No. 3 spot.
Behind that leading trio are Paul Lee, Gatornationals champ Matt Hagan, Todd, Arizona college student Bobby Bode, and past Arizona Nationals champ Tim Wilkerson, all of whom failed to get past haltrack.
Cuadra, running one of three cars out of the Cuadra family’s Leon, Mexicao-based Corral Boots Mustang stable, has never been a Noi. 1 qualifier in his brief 52-race Pro Stock career, but he’s one-third of the way there after piloting his yellow Ford to a 6.552 that led a pack of five cars to run 6.55 in the opening session.
“When I saw my time slip, I was excited but I thought it wasn't going to be No. 1 because the fast cars, Erica [Enders], Greg [Anderson], and T.J. [Troy Coughlin Jr.] all those cars are always really fast. I was really, really amazed. Hopefully, I can keep it for tomorrow. I'm really excited. I really want to be the first Mexican to be No. 1. That's something important for me. We want to make history in Mexico, and we're already making it.
“Since we started with Elite, It was a bit gain for us. Before we were struggling to qualify, and I have to say the engine didn't change. It's the same engine; we just have a really good team behind my back. They are helping me to learn how to drive Thank you Rick Jones for the garbage you do for me. It's awesome. It's it only has two events, and it's already flying.”
Behind Cuadra is Kyle Koretsky at 6.554, a run punctuated by a lack of a parachute blossom that gave the second-generation ace some hairy moments in the shutdown area with his Lucas Oil Camaro.
Behind Koretsky are Dallas Glenn (6.556), defending event champ Aaron Stanfield (6.557, and local favorite Matt Hartford (6.559).
Gatornationals champ and points leader Coughlin sits sixth at 6.571, followed by rookie of the year Camrie Caruso (6.571), and two-time Arizona Nationals champ Greg Anderson, who rounds out the top eight with a 6.577. Defending world champ Enders sits 10th at 6.581 and Fernando Cuadra sr. is on the provisional bump spot at 6.658.