NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

John Force, Kalitta, Anderson, Matt Smith lead Friday fields at four-wides

26 Apr 2024
Posted by NHRA.com staff
Race coverage
John Force

Funny Car legend John Force set a new zMAX Dragway track record on Friday, powering to the provisional No. 1 spot at the 14th annual NHRA 4-Wide Nationals in Charlotte.

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also the provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the fifth of 20 races during the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season.

In the final Funny Car quad of the night, Force went an impressive 3.820-seconds at 330.96 mph in his 11,000-horsepower PEAK Performance Chevrolet Camaro SS, setting a track record previously set by teammate Robert Hight last September. If that holds, Force, who won the Winternationals earlier this year in Phoenix, would pick up his 167th career No. 1 qualifier and first in 2024. It’s been a strong season thus far for Force, who looks to pick up his fifth career victory at zMAX Dragway this weekend after making the 10th-quickest run in Funny Car history on Friday.

"It ran .89 the run before and they said they were going to lean on it because conditions were getting better," Force said. "They leaned on it and 'Hang on,' and it ran quicker than they thought. It moved on me and I thought I was going to lose it, but I feel really good about it and we're looking forward to tomorrow.

"I’m having a lot of fun going down the track. I’m here and I’ve got a bad hot rod right now. Luck is a big part of this game and I’m not done yet.”

Bob Tasca, who won the 4-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas two weeks ago, is currently second after going 3.849 at 335.32 and Alexis DeJoria went 3.859 at 331.69 to move into third. Ron Capps went 335.40 earlier in the day to set the track speed record.

Two weeks after winning his first career four-wide race, reigning Top Fuel world champion Doug Kalitta enjoyed a terrific start on Friday in Charlotte, making the quickest run in each session, including a 3.691 at 337.92 in his 11,000-horsepower Mac Tools dragster to close out the evening. The run also puts Kalitta in position to pick up his second straight No. 1 qualifier and 55th in his career, as he continues to ride an impressive wave of momentum. He was the quickest in each round of eliminations in Las Vegas to take the four-wide victory for the first time and Kalitta seemed to pick up right where he left off two weeks ago.

“This is exciting for all my guys. AJ [crew chief Alan Johnson] looked happy, and it’s always good to keep him happy," Kalitta said. "The guys are working their tails off and it shows. The car left strong and stayed straight. I’ve run this car for a couple of races. This is a new chassis and it drives really nice -- right down the middle of the track.”

Antron Brown moved to second with his night run of 3.698 at 332.18 and Billy Torrence’s 3.716 at 329.34 has him third heading into Saturday.

Racing close to the KB Titan Racing team shop, Pro Stock’s Greg Anderson delivered an impressive run to kick off the weekend in his HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro, going 6.500 at 210.90 to take the provisional top spot. It puts the veteran and Pro Stock’s winningest driver in line for his first No. 1 qualifier of the season and the 125th in his fantastic career. The season has started well for Anderson, a 104-time event winner, and he’s currently third in points. After winning the Lucas Oil Winternationals, Anderson and his team wants to keep building as he seeks his first Charlotte 4-Wide victory since 2012.

“Our run in Q1 was great,” Anderson said. “When you get conditions like this where it’s cool, that’s what Pro Stock cars love. You’ve got to come prepared. You can’t be shy. You’ve got to run what you brung and we used everything we brought. The track is great and it held everything. 
“Tonight [Q2] we had a computer problem and I’m still not sure what it was. I hope that’s it for the weekend as far as bad luck. I’m shocked that no one was able to get around me. Tomorrow should be good and I figure we’ll have to improve to keep it.”

Cristian Cuadra, who ran as part of a “Cuadra Quad” in the second qualifying session with his brothers, Fernando Jr. and David, and his father, Fernando, is currently second with a 6.507 at 210.18. Aaron Stanfield’s 6.508 at 209.92 puts him third after the first day.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle’s first race back since the season-opener in Gainesville, six-time world champ Matt Smith made a strong opening statement on Friday, blistering the track record with a standout run of 6.685 at 201.61 on his Denso Auto Parts Buell. It was a stellar performance at his home track and puts the veteran in line for his first No. 1 qualifier since 2022 and the 53rd in career. If Smith stays on top, it will be the first top qualifier for anyone other than Gaige Herrera since last July as well. It was exactly the type of performance Smith was after on Friday, setting a career-best in the process and making his first career run in the 6.60s.

“We’ve done a lot of testing since Gainesville,” Smith said. “We’ve been to three different tracks four times and made a lot of runs. We gained a lot but it didn’t show today. I was shaking the tire through low gear, so we’re not reaping the benefits of testing. I know there is more there, maybe a 6.66 or 6.65. Gaige went 6.69, so we’re right there with him. If we’re running within two or three-hundredths of the fastest bike, we have a shot. 
“Tomorrow is the Mission [#2Fast2Tasty] Challenge and we want to get the points and the money. I think we can run faster. This bike is mean.”

Herrera jumped to the second spot under the lights with a run of 6.696 at 201.79 and LE Tonglet grabbed the third position thanks to a run of 6.703 at 200.77.

Qualifying continues at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday at the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte.