(NHRA press release)

In the thick of the battle to earn another NHRA Funny Car world championship, John Force raced to the qualifying lead Friday at the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
 
Force powered his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang to a 4.039 second pass at 318.54 mph to top the field, completing the pass alongside championship rival Matt Hagan, who entered this event with a 36-point lead over the 16-time champ. Jack Beckman, whose car is now tuned by former Force crew chief Jimmy Prock, was the top qualifier until Force's run knocked him off.
 
"We got down there so we feel good about the run," said Force, whose 10,000-horsepower machine is now tuned by John Medlen. "You've got to get every point you can. Hagan picked up points too. When it gets down to the end, points do count. He picked up a point the last session and I don't want him to get another round ahead of me."
 
Hagan sits No. 2 following a 4.044 at 318.02 in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger. Hagan, the 2011 Funny Car world champion, gained a point in the first session of qualifying and two in the second session to stay 36 ahead of Force.
 
Beckman ran a 4.045 at 318.84, good enough for third after two sessions. His pass held until the Force/Hagan run that ended the day in Funny Car. This is the first race that longtime Force crew chief Prock is now involved with Beckman's Infinite Hero Dodge Charger team.
 
Crampton, a winner at Englishtown and Indianapolis earlier this season, raced to the top spot in Top Fuel with a 3.764 at 322.42 in his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster. Crampton, who is in the running for the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, is two sessions away from claiming his first career No. 1 qualifying position.
 
"It's pretty exciting to leave here Friday night sitting on the top of the ladder," said Crampton. "We've done that before but ended up getting bumped on Saturday. We'll see how tomorrow pans out. I think we are going to have fantastic weather to lend itself to some great elapsed times. We will see how we do."
 
Larry Dixon raced to the provisional No. 2 position following career best numbers with a 3.766 at 326.71 in the Casedhole Solutions dragster. The run came at an important time for Dixon, who was announced as one of two full-time drivers at Bob Vandergriff Racing next season. He is a three-time world champion.
 
Doug Kalitta was third with a 3.772 at 322.81 in the Mac Tools dragster. Kalitta, who led the Top Fuel points standings for most of the regular season, trails Tony Schumacher by 136 points with two races remaining.
 
In Pro Stock, Enders-Stevens is racing for her third consecutive No. 1 qualifying position with her 6.647 at 208.01 in a Chevy Camaro. Enders-Stevens gained three points on series leader Jason Line and now trails by 32 going into Saturday's final two qualifying sessions.
 
"I'm really proud of my team," Enders-Stevens said. "Those baby points are going to matter. They're very significant especially with as tight as Jason, myself and Dave [Connolly] are right now. We were really conservative the first session. If you look at our 60 foot time, we were ninth and then went straight to the top of the page. We'll throw something at it tomorrow and see what happens."
 
Reigning world champ Jeg Coughlin was second-quickest during opening day, piloting his JEGS.com Dodge Dart to a 6.653 at 207.69. Coughlin, who got off to a slow start during the Countdown this season, is looking for a third win on the season.
 
Line is third with a 6.555 at 207.59 in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro. His run tied him with third place Connolly, who ran an identical 6.555, but went 207.30 in speed, giving Line the lead.
 
Savoie, who recently secured his first Pro Stock Motorcycle win at St. Louis last month, ran a 6.946 at 192.55 on his Savoie's Alligator Farm Suzuki to move to the top of the leaderboard.
 
"We struggled at the first of the year," Savoie said. "Fuel injection is a really funny thing. It can help you and it can hurt you. Beginning of the year we were hurting and now it's helped. It's a good thing, we've been blessed."
 
Michael Ray raced his Arrow M Ranch Suzuki to the provisional second spot with a 6.956 at 193.82. Reigning world champ Matt Smith raced his Stockseth Racing Buell to a 6.974 at 193.02 to claim the third provisional spot. Points leader Andrew Hines is fourth while Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammate Eddie Krawiec sits seventh. Krawiec trails Hines by 25 points for the championship.
 
Qualifying concludes on Saturday for the NHRA Toyota Nationals with sessions at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday's eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m.
 
***

Friday's results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 14th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 23rd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.  Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday's final eliminations.
 
Top Fuel -- 1. Richie Crampton, 3.764 seconds, 322.42 mph; 2. Larry Dixon, 3.766, 326.71; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.772, 322.81; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.784, 326.63; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.787, 320.66; 6. Spencer Massey, 3.802, 325.45; 7. Leah Pritchett, 3.806, 317.42; 8. Billy Torrence, 3.809, 326.24; 9. Steve Torrence, 3.820, 323.04; 10. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.824, 313.95; 11. J.R. Todd, 3.833, 322.58; 12. T.J. Zizzo, 3.835, 316.15.  Not Qualified: 13. Troy Buff, 3.836, 309.77; 14. Brittany Force, 3.893, 314.90; 15. Clay Millican, 3.934, 306.46; 16. Noah Stutz, 3.970, 298.14; 17. Antron Brown, 3.976, 248.98; 18. Bob Vandergriff, 3.988, 302.82; 19. Terry McMillen, 4.218, 206.76; 20. Steve Faria, 4.357, 203.52; 21. Steven Chrisman, 5.003, 153.58; 22. Kebin Kinsley, 6.104, 107.53.
 
Funny Car -- 1. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.039, 318.54; 2. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.044, 318.02; 3. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.045, 318.84; 4. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.058, 318.62; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.065, 311.41; 6. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.076, 308.35; 7. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.089, 316.52; 8. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.090, 311.13; 9. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.122, 310.55; 10. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.145, 290.69; 11. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.147, 306.88; 12. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.160, 309.13.  Not Qualified: 13. Cruz Pedregon, 4.164, 294.05; 14. Tony Pedregon, 4.192, 278.98; 15. Paul Lee, 4.273, 279.73; 16. Terry Haddock, 4.309, 284.33; 17. John Bojec, 4.415, 232.51; 18. Jeff Diehl, 4.536, 199.58; 19. Jon Capps, 4.790, 194.72.
 
Pro Stock -- 1. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.647, 208.01; 2. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.653, 207.69; 3. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.655, 207.75; 4. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.655, 207.72; 5. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.659, 207.59; 6. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.662, 207.62; 7. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.667, 206.92; 8. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.670, 207.15; 9. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.671, 207.46; 10. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.676, 207.43; 11. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.683, 206.86; 12. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.696, 207.85.  Not Qualified: 13. Matt Hartford, 6.698, 206.32; 14. Larry Morgan, 6.731, 205.38; 15. Aaron Stanfield, 6.746, 204.79; 16. Deric Kramer, 6.794, 203.31; 17. Steve Schmidt, 6.930, 199.64; 18. Jeff Isbell, 6.944, 196.56.
 
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.946, 192.55; 2. Michael Ray, Suzuki, 6.956, 193.82; 3. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.974, 193.02; 4. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.979, 191.59; 5. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.989, 194.07; 6. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.992, 192.30; 7. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.010, 191.95; 8. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 7.015, 190.92; 9. Adam Arana, Buell, 7.016, 192.08; 10. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.025, 189.10; 11. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.035, 188.41; 12. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 7.040, 188.70.  Not Qualified: 13. John Hall, 7.048, 190.62; 14. Shawn Gann, 7.050, 188.38; 15. Freddie Camarena, 7.057, 191.67; 16. Steve Johnson, 7.080, 189.50; 17. Scotty Pollacheck, 7.099, 188.86; 18. Mike Berry, 7.104, 186.85; 19. Redell Harris, 7.115, 190.22; 20. Elvira Karlsson, 7.125, 183.74; 21. Angelle Sampey, 7.127, 187.05; 22. Rhett Lougheed, 7.413, 165.19; 23. Lance Bonham, 7.787, 172.94.