After four thrilling rounds of qualifying, Brittany Force, Bob Tasca III, Matt Hartford, and Gaige Herrera are the top qualifiers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle for the Circle K Four Wide Nationals.
In front of a packed house at zMax Dragway, qualifying wrapped up for the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals and Brittany Force, Bob Tasca III, Matt Hartford, and Gaige Herrera emerged as the top professionals in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle, respectively.

Force grabbed her third No. 1 position in the season’s first five races and the 45th of her career with a jaw-dropping, track-record 3.651 in Saturday’s first session in her David Grubnic-tuned Flav-R-Pac dragster. Last year Force had an amazing 10 No. 1s in 22 starts and seems to be on a similar pace this year.

“That .65 was an incredible run,” she said. “It was more than I think our team expected. A. 65 is just outstanding, and then to be able to run at .74 in that last time [in Q4], ao we have three solid runs, three of the four, which is great going into raceday. It gives us enough information that hopefully carries over to go some rounds tomorrow.

“No. 1 qualifiers are great — they give us points and set us up great for a great ladder on raceday — but we’re looking for more wins than we had last season. That’s the ultimate goal. We want to go into the Countdown in that No. 1 position and then carry it all the way to the end.

Even Justin Ashley’s career-best pass, a 3.662 also recorded in Q3 was not enough to earn his Phillips Connect dragster a second No. 1 of the season, and after a frantically fast day, even Friday leader Josh Hart slipped down four spots, with Leah Pruett (3.678) and Steve Torrence (3.679) moving past his Friday 3.689.

Six drivers qualified in the 3.6-second range with Doug Kalitta’s strong 3.699 the final pass and Austin Prock (3.701) and Las Vegas four-wide winner Antron brown (3.711) rounding out the quick eight.

Fifteen drivers qualified at 3.79 or better with Doug Foley sitting on the bump spot with a 3.803, just behind rookie Jacob McNeal, who qualified in his class debut in Scott Palmer’s dragster.

Tasca collected his second No. 1 of the season to go with his Phoenix pole and the 11th of his career with a stout 3.852 in the day’s first session that was just shy of the 3.850 track record and his 3.851 personal best, and it came on a run where the engine shut off early.

“The car shut off at 920 feet, we had a malfunction with the wheel counter — which shuts the car off in the event the driver can’t — and it was crazy, because I was wide open throttle,” he said. “The car felt like it was a rocket ship, and then it just quit which is why I only ran 324 mph and cost me now my career-best run and the track record.

“That was on an .84 run and, truthfully, that was the one we’ve been looking for since we put this program together. We’re very pleased with that run.”

Cruz Pedregon’s bid for a third straight No. 1 qualifying effort fell just .007-second shy as his Snap-on Tools Dodge clocked a swift 3.859 for the No. 2 spot.

Robert Hight, whose Flav-R-Pac Camaro was the only car to run in the threes on all four passes, slid into third with a 3.865 also recorded in Q3. Matt Hagan bounced back from a Friday trip into the catch net with a 3.866 for the No. 4 spot.

Friday leader Alexis DeJoria was not able to improve on her 3.876 and fell to fifth. Toyota teammate J.R. Todd showed no signs of the foul luck that led to his first career DNQ in Funny Car in Las Vegas with three three-second passes and a best of 3.888 that slots his DHL Supra No. 6.

Two-time and reigning Four-Wide champ John Force is qualified No. 7 with a 3.898 and Tim Wilkerson rounds out the quick eight with a 3.899

Ron Capps (3.899), Blake Alexander (3.914), and privateer Mike McIntire Jr. (3.981) also qualified in the threes.

There was quite a bit of shuffling among the Pro Stock ranks on Saturday as racers jockeyed for not only a spot in Sunday’s final eliminations but also the upcoming NHRA Allstar Pro Stock Callout next month in Joliet. After missing last night’s run due to a rear brake malfunction, Hartford stormed to the top spot by wheeling his Total Seal Camaro to a 6.538. Hartford had never been the low qualifier in the first 160 races of his career, but he’s now been the top seed at the last two events including the Las Vegas Four-Wide. Hartford, who was also the No. 2 qualifier in Pomona and No. 5 in Phoenix, will have lane choice in a quad that also features Deric Kramer, Troy Coughlin Jr., and newcomer David Cuadra, who qualified on the bump in his debut with a 6.596.

“Last night, getting out of here late, none of us were in a good mood,” said Hartford. “We were really disappointed because we knew we could go to the pole. Then again, luck was on our side. If that [brake issue] had happened during the run it would have been a different outcome and I’m not sure the car would be in one piece. We came out this morning, the first car out and we said, ‘Let’s just make a good run.’ We have a great team and our car is a rocketship right now. This is the best car I’ve ever had and the best team I’ve ever been on. Now, we just need to capitalize on it.”

Hartford admittedly hasn’t had much success in Four Wide races, but he’s determined to change his luck during tomorrow’s final eliminations. He realizes that the balance of power can change quickly in Pro Stock so he’s determined to take advantage of his current window of opportunity.

“The way I see it Dallas [Glenn] and I have had the best two cars in the class since Gainesville, but he’s already got two wins and I have zero,” said Hartford. “We need to fix that. “This car is too good to not be winning races right now. It’s all on the driver and that’s me. My record in Four Wide races isn’t something I’m proud of but we can fix that pretty quickly.”

The entire Pro Stock field is separated by just .058-second, meaning that any driver can win on Sunday. Red-hot Dallas Glenn, winner of the last two events and the current championship leader, is the No. 2 qualifier with a 6.553 while Kyle Koretsky finished No. 3 at 6.557 giving the KB Titan team a clean sweep of the top three spots.

Friday leader Cristian Cuadra slipped to No. 4 with a 6.558 best while Greg Anderson finished fifth at 6.559, one-thousandth of a second ahead of current champ Erica Enders, who missed Friday’s evening run due to an electrical malfunction but recovered nicely with a 6.560.

One-and-a-half races into his tenure with the Vance & Hines team, and Herrera has done virtually nothing wrong. Herrera is now two-for-two in qualifying after riding the Mission Foods Suzuki to a 6.735 on Saturday. Herrera has swept all the available qualifying points and the Vance & Hines team swept the top two spots as Eddie Krawiec remained the No. 2 seed with his 6.765 from Friday. Herrera will race in a quad that also includes Ryan Oehler, Kelly Clontz, and Marcus Hylton, who is making his NHRA debut aboard the Gann Speed entry.

“Vance & Hines has both bikes flying and I’m just happy to be a part of it,” said Herrera. “We improved on [Friday’s runs] but you’re always trying to outdo yourself each round. Andrew [Hines, crew chief] has both of our bikes on rails and it’s showing. The pressure is on my shoulders right now.”

Herrera has made just 12 runs in NHRA competition since joining the Vance & Hines team and all of them have been quick, but he acknowledges that he’s not exactly mistake-free and still has a lot to learn in his first full season in the class.

“On the first run we made this weekend on Friday, I was lined up straight, but when I threw the [clutch] lever, the bike didn’t go straight. I wrung out low gear too long and that caused a transmission issue. That was totally on me. Coming from no [wheelie] bar background, there was going to be a few adjustments that I had to make. Andrew has been good about coaching me and fixing a few bad habits.”

As quick as the Vance & Hines bikes have been, they’re not exactly running away from the rest of the field. Steve Johnson and Matt Smith, two veterans who are expected to contend for the title this season, ran 6.804 and 6.806 for the No. 3 and No. 4 spots while Chase Van Sant, Hector Arana Jr., Joey Gladstone and Kelly Clontz round out the top eight.


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