By Lee Elder
COMMERCE, Ga. (May 3, 2019) – J.R. Todd topped the Funny Car standings after the first day of qualifying for the Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals, the 39th annual NHRA event at Atlanta Dragway.
Todd’s 3.044-second pass came in the rain-delayed second session Friday. John Force was next at 3.948 seconds. Brittany Force was first in Top Fuel and Andrew Hines topped Pro Stock Motorcycle. Steve Jackson topped the Pro Mod charts after two sessions at 5.768 seconds.
Hines finished the first day of qualifying atop the Pro Stock Motorcycles chart with a 6.856-second pass in the second session. Eddie Krawiec was second at 6.859 seconds. The PSM teams completed their second session before the rain came and the second session for the nitro classes was delayed. The first Funny Car to stage for the second session was Jim Campbell, who promptly suffered a mechanical problem, dropping fluids on the track and causing another delay.
The unexpectedly-late nitro session came during humid conditions following the rain. The end plates on the wings of the Top Fuel cars produced contrails during the night session.
Force posted the best Top Fuel time during the night session, 3.720 seconds. Steve Torrence finished the night in the second spot.
Bob Tasca’s Mustang did not deploy parachutes after his 4.027-second, 314.75 mph pass during the first round of qualifying. Tasca kept the car headed straight while using his handbrake to slow the car down. Tasca’s racer went about a car’s length into the gravel at the end of the racing surface. He told the fans via the public address system, “In Houston my chutes came out early, we needed to fix that. It looks like they did a little too good a job.” For the night session, Tasca’s team replaced the body, which was damaged by the trip beyond the racing surface. The driver was not hurt.
Mike Janis topped the Pro Mod competitors in the first qualifying session at 5.840 seconds. Andrew Hines topped the PSM entries in the first qualifier at 6.875 seconds. Shawn Langdon topped the first-session charts in Funny Car at 3.987 seconds. Jordan Vandergriff led Top Fuel after the first session at 3.788 seconds.
Qualifying continues Saturday.
NOTES: The entry lists for this event include 18 Top Fuel cars, 17 in Funny Car and 17 Pro Stock Motorcycles. One of the Top Fuel cars was a John Force Racing entry driven by category rookie Austin Prock. There were 26 Pro Mod cars. … Last year’s winners in this event were Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle). The Pro Stock category will not be contested in Atlanta this year, a victim of the NHRA phase-down of the Pro Stock classes. … Fox Sports 1 will carry Sunday’s eliminations, starting at 6 p.m. … John Force will turn 70 Saturday, May 4, as he seeks his 150th Funny Car victory. Motor racing’s greatest ambassador, Force began the weekend third in Funny Car points. … Assuming that he makes Sunday’s 16-car final eliminations field, Tim Wilkerson will have his 500th career start. Wilkerson has 20 career wins. … Funny Car driver Blake Alexander will compete in three straight races, starting in Atlanta this weekend. … The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series points leaders are Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) as the Southern Nationals began.