For the first time in more than six years, Cruz Pedregon is the No. 1 qualifier in Funny Car, as the veteran claimed the top spot on Saturday to close out qualifying at the 36th annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Maple Grove Raceway.
Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also qualified No. 1 at the 14th of 20 races during the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and the first race in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Pedregon last qualified No. 1 in 2015, but that changed during Saturday’s final qualifying session, as he powered to a run of 3.875-seconds at 326.00 mph in his Snap-On Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. It is the 62nd career No. 1 qualifier for Pedregon, who is seeking his third career victory at Maple Grove Raceway.
“I didn’t even realize it was that long ago,” said the former two-time Funny Car champ. “We’ve been steady and knocking on the door. John Collins, my crew chief, definitely thought there’s great rewards and it would pay off to get that No. 1 spot and get on the right side of the ladder. Sometimes winning these races, you have to get on the right side of the ladder and avoid the big hitters, until the later rounds. That’s how it worked out. The car really responded, and it really has been responding the last six races. The car is just so consistent. I don’t know if I’ve ever driven a car as consistent as this one. It’s not easy to drive, but it’s going places, that’s for sure.”
Robert Hight qualified second with his 3.883 at 330.39 from Friday, while Indy winner Tim Wilkerson jumped to third with a 3.884 at 332.67. Points leader Ron Capps is fifth with a 3.896 at 328.66.
Force stayed No. 1 in Top Fuel, but lowered her already impressive time, going 3.660 at 334.07 in her 11,000-horsepower Flav-R-Pac dragster. That gives Force an incredible seven straight No. 1 qualifiers, nine this year and 29 for her career. She made the quickest run in each of the three qualifying sessions, giving the team plenty of confidence heading into raceday. She became the first driver since 2007 to have seven straight No. 1 qualifiers and the first in Top Fuel history to have seven No. 1 spots in a row in the same season.
“That’s a pretty outstanding record to have,” Force said. “But, really, looking at today and yesterday, that Q2 run that we had today, to be able to step it up was pretty outstanding. That was a big run for us and that’s the run I’m most excited about. But we laid three solid passes down and that’s pretty outstanding. I’m proud of this team and I can’t wait to get this Countdown going. We’re all pumped and we’re all excited, and we’re all delivering. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
Following her impressive victory last weekend at the U.S. Nationals, Enders stepped up on Saturday in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, qualifying No. 1 with a run of 6.524 at 209.56. For the defending back-to-back world champ, it’s her first No. 1 qualifier this season and 23rd in her standout career. It also puts her on a good path heading into eliminations, where she’ll open raceday against veteran Larry Morgan.
“We’ll need all the points we can get (in the Countdown) and those qualifying points will definitely matter. They have in our past championship runs and we’ll take all we can get, but having a great race car going into Sunday definitely gives you confidence,” Enders said. “After the Friday night session, we felt like we left some on the table, so we felt like there was more. I definitely feel like we’re all clicking. We have our work cut out for us and the competition is stout, but I’m ready to get down to business.”
Sampey stayed No. 1 in Pro Stock Motorcycle, but got better on Saturday on her Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki, taking the top spot with a run of 6.745 at 196.64. It hands her the No. 1 position for the second time this season and 53rd time in her career and she’ll open raceday against Jianna Salinas. Coming off a final round appearing in Indy, Sampey will try to finish the job this weekend at Maple Grove Raceway.
“It was a great start to the weekend and I’m excited about it because it’s the same motorcycle I’ve had all year long,” Sampey said.
36th Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals
Qualifying Results, Elimination Pairings
Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the 36th annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Maple Grove Raceway, the 14th of 20 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.
Top Fuel — 1. Brittany Force, 3.660 seconds, 334.07 mph vs. Bye; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.692, 327.19 vs. 13. Joe Morrison, 4.027, 249.90; 3. Clay Millican, 3.696, 322.65 vs. 12. Doug Foley, 3.856, 297.55; 4. Mike Salinas, 3.699, 332.18 vs. 11. Shawn Langdon, 3.813, 321.27; 5. Billy Torrence, 3.699, 327.98 vs. 10. Josh Hart, 3.756, 322.65; 6. Justin Ashley, 3.721, 328.78 vs. 9. Doug Kalitta, 3.743, 325.69; 7. Antron Brown, 3.731, 329.34 vs. 8. Leah Pruett, 3.733, 323.89.
Funny Car — 1. Cruz Pedregon, Dodge Charger, 3.875, 326.00 vs. Bye; 2. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.883, 330.39 vs. 13. Cory Lee, Ford Mustang, 4.229, 298.93; 3. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.884, 332.67 vs. 12. John Force, Camaro, 4.096, 256.84; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.895, 333.82 vs. 11. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.093, 310.20; 5. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.896, 328.86 vs. 10. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 4.036, 308.50; 6. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.913, 328.22 vs. 9. Paul Lee, Charger, 3.941, 330.47; 7. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.916, 330.31 vs. 8. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.940, 327.98.
Pro Stock — 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.524, 209.56 vs. 16. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.665, 207.72; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.530, 209.79 vs. 15. John Gaydosh Jr, Camaro, 6.640, 208.10; 3. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.534, 209.88 vs. 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.629, 206.45; 4. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.537, 208.39 vs. 13. Bob Benza, Camaro, 6.614, 208.62; 5. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.547, 209.98 vs. 12. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.603, 208.65; 6. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.552, 208.42 vs. 11. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.575, 207.02; 7. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.556, 209.69 vs. 10. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.573, 210.21; 8. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.563, 209.56 vs. 9. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.565, 206.92.
Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.745, 196.64 vs. 16. Jianna Salinas, Suzuki, 7.005, 191.43; 2. Matt Smith, EBR, 6.750, 201.91 vs. 15. Ron Tornow, Victory, 6.981, 188.33; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Buell, 6.763, 201.67 vs. 14. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.969, 192.99; 4. Scotty Pollacheck, EBR, 6.803, 198.96 vs. 13. Chris Bostick, 6.942, 191.57; 5. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.812, 198.15 vs. 12. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.928, 193.85; 6. Angie Smith, EBR, 6.817, 199.23 vs. 11. Andrew Hines, Buell, 6.920, 196.67; 7. Cory Reed, Suzuki, 6.840, 195.79 vs. 10. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.907, 195.87; 8. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.854, 196.70 vs. 9. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.875, 192.80. Did Not Qualify: 17. Marc Ingwersen, 7.212, 186.98; 18. David Barron, 7.379, 150.72.
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