CHANDLER, Ariz. (February 25, 2017) The professional qualifying fields are set for the second stop on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series tour, the NHRA Arizona Nationals. The first of Saturday’s qualifying sessions provided a hot racetrack and fast racecars. But once the sun started to fall during the second session less and less cars started to make it down the racetrack. However, many of those that did had a message to send to the rest of their field.
Leah Pritchett’s national record time of 3.658 second pass could not be beat during the third and fourth rounds of qualifying. This is Pritchett’s third number one qualifier of her career. Most recently she qualified number one in Pomona and went onto win the race. While today she couldn’t get close to her to run from yesterday, her teammate Antron Brown threw down a 3.667 second run at 328.78 mph, putting him in second. Fellow Don Schumacher Racing driver, Tony Schumacher also made an identical run ET-wise as Antron Brown, his speed of 323.89 mph will have him third. It’s not all that uncommon to see DSR dominate qualifying, locking out the top three qualifying spots is a great feat. “To DSR’s efforts, it shows. We’re one, two, and three. I’m sure Don’s happy,” Pritchett put simply. She will have a bye-run in the first round of competition. Steve Torrence, Doug Kalitta, Troy Coughlin Jr., Brittany Force, and Clay Millican round out the top half of the field.
In the closing moments of the fourth and final qualifying session, Tommy Johnson Jr. made a stellar run of 3.837 seconds at 329.10 mph. He was one-thousandth of a second better than Courtney Force, who wound up second on the qualifying ladder based on the pass she made in Q1. This is Johnson’s fifteenth number one qualifier of his career. “We knew the conditions were there and we did some things on that run that we wouldn’t normally do, it’s not how we would tune the car. But what we were doing wasn’t working so we thought we’d go in a different direction. We knew that the track conditions were good and that if you wanted to try that type of setup that this is the time. So we did and during the run I could tell that the car was a bunch better, you could feel it hold really well earlier in the run so I knew it was on a good one,” Johnson explained. His team underwent a chassis change in between Pomona and this event. This is the chassis that we did the wheel stand here with [in testing.] We sent it back and put a whole new front end on it. I love this car, this car drives so much better than the one we ran in Pomona,” Johnson revealed. “It gives us confidence to have such a comfortable car, it handles so well. Going into raceday I’m not worried about the car getting out of the groove, I’m worried about how quick can we go,” he continued. Johnson’s teammate, Ron Capps is third with his time of 3.839 seconds at 333.58 mph. Matt Hagan, Tim Wilkerson, Jack Beckman, J.R. Todd, and Del Worsham are also qualified in the top half of the field.
KB Racing’s Jason Line and Greg Anderson stayed on the top two rungs of the qualifying ladder with their times from yesterday, 6.509 and 6.522. This is the second race in a row that Line and Anderson have gone into raceday qualified one and two, respectively. This is the 51st career pole for Jason Line. Despite running a fantastic time during yesterday’s qualifying, Line was modest on his struggles to make a better lap during today’s two sessions, “It needs a little work before I bring it out.” Only two races into his Pro Stock career, Tanner Gray is qualified third, which four positions better than his dad, veteran Pro Stock driver, Shane Gray. The North Carolina high-schooler’s 6.538 second run was good enough to carry over from yesterday’s first session. Vincent Nobile, Jeg Coughlin Jr., Bo Butner, Shane Gray, Chris McGaha are the top eight qualifiers heading into final eliminations on Sunday.