By Lee Elder
CHANDLER, Ariz. (Feb. 24, 2018) – Deric Kramer grabbed his first career top qualifier award in the Pro Stock category during the final round of qualifying at the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.
Kramer started the fourth round of qualifying fourth on the Pro Stock speed list, but he jumped over a pair of series champions and other cars to grab the top spot on the eliminations ladder for Sunday’s racing. Kramer’s lap lasted just 6.522 seconds. He was clocked at 210.80 mph.
Tony Schumacher was the top qualifier in Top Fuel and Courtney Force was best in Funny Car. The conditions seemed ripe for the same kind of low elapsed times and high speeds the track allowed Friday, but no records were set. The air temperature was never higher than the mid-60s during the pro sessions and the highest track temperature was around 105 degrees.
“We came up to Q4 with one goal in mind, to beat Chris McGaha,” Kramer said. “He made it easy on us.”
McGaha started the round one spot ahead of Kramer on the speed chart and was in the lane next to Kramer for the final qualifying pass. McGaha had a mechanical problem and did not run. Erica Enders qualified in the second spot and Alex Laughlin was third.
“We went back and looked at the Q3 run and saw basically how much I screwed up,” Kramer said. “So we figured we would go ahead and fix those issues.”
They did something right. Kramer will race Alan Prusiensky in round one. The remainder of the ladder looks this way: It will be Matt Hartford vs. Drew Skillman, Greg Anderson vs. Kenny Delco, Jason Line vs. Vincent Nobile, Enders vs. Steve Graham, McGaha vs. Tanner Gray, Alex Laughlin vs. Val Smeland and Bo Butner vs. Jeg Coughlin.
Schumacher made three passes in the 3.6-second range during the four qualifying sessions and, because of that consistency, he figures to be the favorite when Top Fuel eliminations start Sunday. He collected his sixth top qualifier award at the track and the 85th of his career.
“It’s been an excellent weekend,” Schumacher said. “I mean, that last round of conditions should have been good enough to take the top spot … we should have gone faster.”
The Top Fuel pairings are: Schumacher vs. Greg Carillo, Antron Brown vs. Mike Salinas, Leah Pritchett vs. Troy Buff, Richie Crampton vs. Scott Palmer, Steve Torrence vs. Steve Chrisman, Blake Alexander vs. Terry McMillen, Clay Millican vs. Brittany Force and Billy Torrence vs. Doug Kalitta.
Courtney Force wasn’t sure her 3.826-second run in Q4 would hold up as the fastest of Funny Car, but it did. She was clocked at 335.98 mph. Ron Capps and Jack Beckman qualified second and third, in that order. Jim Campbell failed to qualify.
“I saw (crew chief) Brian Corradi making some changes on the car right before we started and it flew down there,” Force said. “It was pulling hard all the way down.” Force added, “We’re hoping to turn this into a win.”
Force will race Del Worsham in the first round. The other Funny Car pairings are: J.R. Todd vs. Matt Hagan, John Force vs. Jeff Diehl, Jonnie Lindberg vs. Bob Tasca, Ron Capps vs. Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon vs. Shawn Langdon, Jack Beckman vs. Richard Townsend and Tommy Johnson Jr. vs. Robert Hight.
Professional eliminations begin at 11 a.m., local time Sunday.