Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) took the No. 1 qualifiers in their respective divisions on Saturday at the Amalie oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto Plus Raceway at Gainesville, Florida.
Kalitta’s No. 1 was his second straight in 2013, beating 2012 Top Fuel champ Antron Brown on his final run (3.779 seconds/326.32 mph). Brown (3.787 seconds/324.20 mph) starts second, followed by Shawn Langdon, Clay Millican and Tony Schumacher. Kalitta faces rookie Leah Pruett in round one of eliminations on Sunday.
“I was surprised when Antron went out there and ran that .78 because everybody was bunched closer than that,” said Kalitta. “Hats off to Jim (Oberhofer, crew chief) and all my guys and the decision they made at the end to get it to run like that. It was nice and straight and planted to the middle of the grove and I am really looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully the conditions will be the same as today and we won’t have to mess with our tune-up much and put a string of runs together tomorrow.”
Pedregon used his Friday night run (4.047 seconds/296.05 mph) to earn his first No. 1 of the season and the 51st of his career. Pedregon has problems on his final qualifying attempt, shutting it down on the starting line prior to the run.
“We had some kind of mechanical problem,” said Pedregon, who faces Paul Lee in the first round Sunday. “You just have to put it behind you. Tomorrow is another day. You just have to shake it off. We’ll put the car back where it was and just let it rip. We’re going to have to press the issue a little bit because there are a couple of cars that can run with us. That 4.04 isn’t going to buy us any round wins tomorrow. We are going to have to take it to them.”
Johnny Gray, Matt Hagan, John Force and Del Worsham completed the top five in Funny Car.
Edwards claimed his third straight No. 1 of 2013 and the 44th of his career with his national record time of 6.473 seconds (214.31 mph) set on Friday. He faces Warren Johnson in the first round of eliminations.
“We feel like we have a good shot at it and we’re going to do our best to pull it off tomorrow,” said Edwards. “We made a really good run this morning and we were trying to run a little better in the afternoon. All of my guys have done a tremendous job and we’ve done a lot of testing. I feel like we’re going in the right direction. I can’t say how happy I am with my new Camaro, it is just phenomenal. We weren’t consistent last year at all. This year we are making better decisions and making better runs. Confidence goes a long way in this class because it is so competitive. All things being equal, I feel really good about our chances.”
2012 Pro Stock champ Allen Johnson sits second in Pro Stock while four-time Gatornationals winner Jason Line will start third. Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Greg Anderson round out the top five.
Smith earned his 18th No. 1 qualifying position in Pro Stock Motorcycle with his Friday performance of 6.804 seconds (197.28 mph). “The Hectors,” Arana Jr. and his father, are second and third respectively, followed by Steve Johnson and Andrew Hines.
“You have all three makes in the top five,” said Smith, who faces Chip Ellis in the opening round on Sunday. “We’ll just have to see what happens tomorrow.”
Quotes in this piece provided by the NHRA.
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