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Keeping Pace


Cory McClenathan, NHRA Top Fuel driver. (Photo courtesy of NHRA) (The Spokesman-Review)
Cory McClenathan, NHRA Top Fuel driver. (Photo courtesy of NHRA) (The Spokesman-Review)

Cory McClenathan posted the top speed in first round NHRA Full Thottle Top Fuel qualifying action at the NHRA Nationals being held in Brainerd, Minn.

Courtesy: NHRA Media Relations

BRAINERD, Minn. – Cory McClenathan raced to the Top Fuel qualifying lead Friday at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.



Bob Tasca III, Mike Edwards and Karen Stoffer also were qualifying leaders in their classes at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event, the 16th of 18 races in the NHRA regular season.



McClenathan powered his FRAM dragster to a 3.910 second run at 305.36 mph to lead the field. By making a qualifying attempt earlier in the day, McClenathan became the fifth driver in his category to secure a top 10 position in the Countdown to 1, NHRA’s six-race championship playoffs which begins Sept. 18 at zMax Dragway near Charlotte, N.C.


“I just can’t discount this team at all,” said McClenathan, who has 33 No. 1 qualifying positions in his career and earned his only one this season at Bristol, Tenn. in May. “They’ve done such a good job for being such a new team. A lot of emphasis was made at the beginning of the season about the Al-Anabi team being completely different, but with all my guys going to Tony [Schumacher’s team], this just goes to show that [team owner] Don [Schumacher] made the right call. [Crew chiefs] Todd [Okuhara] and Phil [Shuler], those guys have been around for a long time. Towards the end of last year, they started spending a lot of time with Mike Green, and I think that’s where they really picked up on it. The window of opportunity in a dragster is bigger than a Funny Car, and the guys are able to throw the whole trailer at it and take bigger chances. I like that about these guys. I’m not afraid when we go up and they say, ‘We’re going to be a little aggressive; we’re going to go for it.’ I get excited when they say that. Every time you come out here as a driver you want to do the best you can for them. I want to win a race before we get to Indy and [the Countdown to the Championship] starts. Todd, Phil and I all talked and we said we want to be in full stride by the time we get there, and that’s still our goal.”



Antron Brown, winner of the last three races and current points leader, was fifth overall in his Matco Tools dragster, posting a 3.947 at 304.46. Defending race winner and six-time world champ Schumacher was second with a 3.926 at 300.53 in his U.S. Army dragster.



Tasca led Funny Car with a performance of 4.214 at 282.01 in his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Shelby Ford Mustang, while defending series champ Cruz Pedregon, who is in a tight battle to make it into the NHRA playoffs, was second in his Advance Auto Parts Toyota Solara with a 4.238 at 283.79.


“I heard that Cruz took over the No. 1 spot [with a 4.238] while I was in the staging lanes, and [crew chief] Chris [Cunningham] didn’t change a thing,” Tasca said. “We then went out and got the No. 1 position back with a 4.214. That meant that Chris was aggressive from the get-go and had the car set up to run a low 4.20, and I admire him for that. Our attitude is that we want to be in the top five of every session, because that puts you in the position to win a lot of races. To be No. 1 in both rounds today was a real bonus. The improved track conditions made a big difference. The sun came off the racing surface, and the track came around, especially by the time that we ran at the end of the session. If we had run in the first pair, we couldn’t have gone the 4.21.”



John Force, who has won a record 11 times at BIR, was third in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Mustang, posting a 4.245 at 281.19. Tony Pedregon, who split with longtime crew chief Dickie Venables earlier in the week, was fifth in his Q-Horsepower Chevy Impala, now tuned by Tony Shortall.



Edwards continued his strong season in Pro Stock, posting a leading effort of 6.732 at 204.94 in his ART/Young Life Pontiac GXP. If the time stands through tomorrow’s qualifying, it will be Edwards’ eighth No. 1 qualifying position of the season.


“Today was pretty good, and the first run of the day was actually better than our afternoon pass, not just by the numbers, but with how it looked on the computer," Edwards said. "We missed the tune-up a little bit on the second run with a couple of adjustments that we made, but my crew still did a great job overall today in making the right calls. After the Western Swing, we needed to get all of our engines back to the shop and freshened up. I think we might have taken a half day off for a little bit of rest for ourselves, but that was about it. This class is so tough with competition like Jeg Coughlin, the two Summit cars, Allen Johnson, and the others. They don’t let up at all, so that makes it a 24-7 deal for us.”



Johnson was second with a 6.741 at 204.26 in his J&J Racing/Team Mopar Dodge Avenger, while Minnesota native Greg Anderson was third in his Summit Racing GXP with a 6.742 at 204.01.



In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Stoffer guided her GEICO Powersports Suzuki to the top spot with a 7.084 at 187.57. Hector Arana clocked the same time on his Lucas Oil Buell, but was second by virtue of his slower speed of 187.52.


“It’s really nice to have a good pass,” said Stoffer, whose last No. 1 qualifying effort was more than a year ago, in Sonoma, Calif. “I won’t say it was a perfect pass, because there is no such thing, but it was pretty darn near. And it’s good to do that when you have a single. The track out here is phenomenal; they’ve done a lot of work on it and you can really tell if you look at the e.t.s of all the bikes.”



Series points leader Eddie Krawiec, who is carrying a seven-race final round streak into this event, was third on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson with a 7.107 at 188.28. His teammate, three-time world champ Andrew Hines, was fourth on his Harley-Davidson with a 7.109 at 188.23. Combined the two have won the last three bike races.




“I was really surprised that we held onto that No. 1, because had those Screamin’ Eagles and Hector Arana behind us,” Stoffer said. “But it shows the performance we have in that Vance & Hines motor. They gave us good quality work and good quality motors. The team has done a good job. This is only Friday. It’s great, I’m elated, and it was nice to close a day on a good run. We’ve got two more tomorrow, and then the plan is for four on Sunday.”



Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at and 2:15 p.m. Sunday’s eliminations start at

Top Fuel -- 1. Cory McClenathan, 3.910 seconds, 305.36 mph; 2. Tony Schumacher, 3.926, 300.53; 3. Morgan Lucas, 3.942, 300.26; 4. Larry Dixon, 3.944, 289.45; 5. Antron Brown, 3.947, 304.46; 6. Brandon Bernstein, 3.965, 304.05; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.976, 306.95; 8. Joe Hartley, 3.984, 306.19; 9. Clay Millican, 4.017, 301.13; 10. Shawn Langdon, 4.101, 254.86; 11. David Grubnic, 4.157, 270.97; 12. Spencer Massey, 4.234, 257.04. Not Qualified: 13. Chris Karamesines, 4.325, 225.48; 14. Luigi Novelli, 4.410, 204.73; 15. Scott Palmer, 4.455, 217.39; 16. Terry Haddock, 4.487, 243.11; 17. Tim Cullinan, 7.477, 81.83.

Funny Car -- 1. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 4.214, 282.01; 2. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Solara, 4.238, 283.79; 3. John Force, Mustang, 4.245, 281.19; 4. Mike Neff, Mustang, 4.267, 273.50; 5. Tony Pedregon, Chevy Impala, 4.284, 278.58; 6. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.285, 277.83; 7. Jim Head, Solara, 4.286, 278.06; 8. Jerry Toliver, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.348, 283.79; 9. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.351, 269.35; 10. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.352, 274.00; 11. Bob Bode, Chevy Impala SS, 4.377, 277.77; 12. Dale Creasy Jr., Impala, 4.398, 274.05. Not Qualified: 13. Del Worsham, 4.594, 218.94; 14. Justin Schriefer, 4.647, 261.42; 15. Robert Hight, 4.666, 206.13; 16. Matt Hagan, 4.755, 175.62; 17. Jeff Arend, 4.956, 219.97; 18. Ashley Force Hood, 5.177, 148.22; 19. Jack Wyatt, 6.393, 109.14.

Pro Stock -- 1. Mike Edwards, Pontiac GXP, 6.732, 204.94; 2. Allen Johnson, Dodge Stratus, 6.741, 204.26; 3. Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.742, 204.01; 4. Ron Krisher, Chevy Cobalt, 6.754, 204.29; 5. Vinnie Deceglie, Stratus, 6.771, 203.46; 6. Jason Line, GXP, 6.774, 203.52; 7. Warren Johnson, GXP, 6.780, 203.89; 8. Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 6.781, 203.49; 9. Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 6.791, 204.01; 10. Steve Spiess, Cobalt, 6.796, 202.42; 11. Greg Stanfield, GXP, 6.798, 203.28; 12. Johnny Gray, Stratus, 6.802, 202.94. Not Qualified: 13. Kurt Johnson, 6.809, 203.34; 14. V. Gaines, 6.843, 201.58; 15. Rickie Jones, 6.849, 201.70; 16. Larry Morgan, 6.870, 201.28; 17. Bob Benza, 6.886, 200.71; 18. Mark Hogan, 6.910, 197.54; 19. Dave River, 7.124, 191.97.

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.084, 187.57; 2. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.084, 187.52; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.107, 188.28; 4. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.109, 188.23; 5. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.145, 186.12; 6. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.153, 188.49; 7. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.156, 185.69; 8. Matt Smith, Suzuki, 7.185, 182.72; 9. Douglas Horne, Buell, 7.190, 187.65; 10. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.224, 187.03; 11. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.225, 187.31; 12. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.262, 182.85. Not Qualified: 13. Junior Pippin, 7.274, 182.55; 14. Bailey Whitaker, 7.274, 178.38; 15. Redell Harris, 7.287, 182.21; 16. Mike Berry, 7.309, 180.98; 17. Buddy Robinson, 7.354, 178.45; 18. Wesley Wells, 7.391, 180.26; 19. David Hope, 7.492, 170.47; 20. Joe DeSantis, 33.708, 63.09.


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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.