By Lee Elder
CONCORD, N.C. (April 28, 2018) – You could call it The Third Sister Act.
Courtney and Brittany Force combined to give their family and team a sweep of the top qualifying positions in the NHRA Nitro classes at the NHRA’s NGK Spark Plug Nationals at zMAX Dragway. It was the third time the pair has swept the two top spots in drag racing’s fastest categories.
“That’s pretty awesome,” Courtney Force said. “It’s a great start to our weekend. I’m very excited for tomorrow.”
Courtney Force qualified first in Funny Car at 3.873 and 332.92 mph. Brittany Force was the quickest in Top Fuel with a track record 3.689 seconds, 318.39 mph.
“That feels pretty great,” Brittany Force said. “We’re number one.”
Drew Skillman qualified first in Pro Stock and LE Tonglet was tops in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
The first two times the sisters doubled up on the field was in 2014, at Topeka, Kansas and Sonoma, California. Courtney Force’s pole was the 20th of her career and her third this season. She has topped the qualifying charts four times at zMAX and done it three times for this event. Brittany Force’s top spot was the first this season, first at this track and ninth time in her career.
“I go to her for advice,” Brittany Force said of her sister. “It just feels good to do this together. It’s pretty special.”
Skillman earned his sixth career number one starting spot at 6.534 seconds and 210.37 mph. It was his first top starting position of the season.
Skillman said, “Our car has run pretty well all weekend. After the second hit, we went to the top and we’ve managed to stay there. In the last quad in Q4 we all ran within a thousandth of each other. We’re ready.”
Tonglet, returning to White Alligator Racing after not racing in the PSM opener at Gainesville, evidenced no rust during the four rounds of qualifying. If he was going to struggle, it might have been at this event, since the four-wide format takes a special level of concentration. Tonglet had that. His quick time was 6.812 seconds at 196.99 mph.
“I feel very comfortable here,” Tonglet said. “I’m looking forward to going three rounds tomorrow. This is the only track I can say that at.”
The bump spot in PSM was Jim Underdahl’s 6.942 seconds and he survived. The four riders who were sent home were Mark Paquette, Scott Bottorff, Kelly Clontz, Lance Bonham and Melissa Surber. The non-qualifiers in Pro Stock were Tommy Lee and Wally Stroupe. The bump spot going in was 6.655 seconds and neither Lee nor Stroupe bettered that mark. Jeff Diehl didn’t make the show in Funny Car. He started the final session needing to be quicker than 4.135 seconds and he didn’t. The Top Fuel non-qualifier was Terry Haddock, who was unable to surpass the 4.143-second bump in that category.
The good news was that the event attracted nine more professional entries than the eliminations ladders call for. The bad news was, as public-address announcer Alan Reinhart likes to say, it’s a what have you done for me lately kind of sport and nine professional entries had to tow home without racing on Sunday.
NOTES: The event is the 100th professional event for Don Schumacher Racing’s Leah Pritchett … Brittany Force is the only woman to win in the modern history of four-wide drag racing.