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Keeping Pace

Sun., April 11, 2010, 2:42 a.m.

Force Just Five Shy After Earning 133rd Career No. 1 Qualifying Position

John Force en route to his 133rd top qualifying position in the NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car division. (Photo courtesy of NHRA Media Relations) (Nd Photographer)
John Force en route to his 133rd top qualifying position in the NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car division. (Photo courtesy of NHRA Media Relations) (Nd Photographer)

John Force ran a 4.021-sec. pass in Houston pn Friday night and made it stand up pn Saturday to move ever closer to Warren Johnson's NHRA qualifying record of 138 top starting positions in a career.

Courtesy: NHRA Media Relations

BAYTOWN, Texas – NHRA legend John Force inched one step closer to the one major NHRA milestone that eludes him – all-time No. 1 qualifiers – when he set the Funny Car pace at the 23rd O’Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil on Saturday.


The other No. 1 qualifiers at the fifth of 23 races in the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season were Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle).


The No. 1 qualifier for Force – a 4.021-second pass at 316.08 mph from Friday night – was his second this season and the 133rd of his career, pulling the driver of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to within five of Warren Johnson (138) for first place on NHRA’s all-time No. 1 qualifiers list.


Force, who has been the Funny Car points leader all season, will open with No. 16 qualifier Tony Pedregon and the NitroFish Chevy team when final eliminations begin Sunday at 11 a.m. and he’ll have a shot at the national record.


He needs to make a pass of 4.061 or better to back up his 4.021, which is two-hundredths quicker than Ron Capps’ 4.023 mark set at Phoenix in February, 2009.


Warren’s a true legend, but I’m thinking about, I get two shots at that record,” Force said. “There’ll be two shots, first round when it will be coolest and (if I don’t get it there) I’ll have to make it to the final to get another shot. If the condition’s are right, we will go for it first round.”


After a lengthy delay to clean the track after the penultimate Top Fuel pass, Larry Dixon (3.772 at 323.19) and Antron Brown (3.777, 318.09) combined for the quickest side-by-side race at 1000 feet. It was Dixon’s first No. 1 of 2010 and the 41st of his career in the Al-Anabi dragster.


“There was enough time sitting there. The track tightened up. Alan (Johnson) went into his magic box, twisted a few knobs and man it stuck,” Dixon said. “It was pulling before 300 feet. I was just hoping it would hold on and it certainly did.”


In Pro Stock, Edwards led the quickest field in NHRA history with his 6.539-second pass at 211.93 mph from Friday in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP. The No. 1 was Edwards’ 14th in the last 15 races dating back to last season.


Edwards capped the strong qualifying run with the second-fastest run in NHRA history, a 212.43 mph pass in Q4, and he will meet Rickie Jones (6.584) who rounded out the quickest field in Pro Stock history, in R1 Sunday.


In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hector Arana’s 6.856 at 193.49 from Friday remained No. 1. The time was the fourth-quickest Pro Stock Motorcycle pass in NHRA history and it continues a remarkable run that includes of course the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Series championship.


“All I can say is I’ve been blessed and I haven’t gotten lost … yet,” said Arana, who rides the Lucas Oil Buell. “I’m really pleased and hoping for the best on Sunday.”


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Keeping Pace

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