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Keeping Pace

Force, Dixon and Edwards earn top qualifying honors at Las Vegas

John Force en route to top qualifying honors at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo courtesy of NHRA)
John Force en route to top qualifying honors at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo courtesy of NHRA)

John Force claimed his first top qualifying honor of the season with a 4.136-sec. pass at 309.27 mph as the NHRA heads into today's final round of the NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Larry Dixon (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also closed out qualifying with atop their respective divisions.

Courtesy: NHRA Media Relations

LAS VEGAS – John Force raced to the No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car Saturday at the NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Larry Dixon (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also will lead their categories into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.

Force, the defending and 15-time world champion, posted a 4.136 at 309.27 in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang to power past longtime rival Cruz Pedregon and take his first No. 1 of the season and 135th of his career. He is now just three short of Pro Stock racer Warren Johnson’s all-time NHRA record of 138 No. 1s.

“We got away with it,” Force said. “It makes me feel good for those two kids (Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas) who are tuning the car and they remind me of (former crew chief) Austin Coil. The key is that (by being the No. 1 qualifier) we will get to watch what everybody can do (tomorrow). We’re going to watch the ones ahead of us and then look at (first round opponent Bob Bode’s) number and try to put an edge on him. With Coil the Chi-Town Hustler was famous for consistency and that’s how we won all the championships. Dean Antonelli, he listens, and he has learned so much from Coil and it’s showing right here.”

Pedregon was second with a 4.145 at 306.19 in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry, while Robert Hight anchored the third spot in his Auto Club Ford Mustang with a 4.146 at 309.56. Series leader Mike Neff sits fourth in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang with a 4.153 at 306.46.

Dixon, a five-time winner at LVMS, earned his 50th top qualifying effort in Top Fuel, as his Friday run of 3.904 at 312.78 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster held steady at the top. It is Dixon’s second No. 1 of the season and fourth at this track. 

“They weren’t great runs today, but we’ll still get data,” Dixon said. “I am really surprised that a 3.90 stuck. I really thought some of the cars, especially (teammate) Del’s (Worsham), would actually knock that off. I think we were really fortunate. If you get a 10 degree cooler track (tomorrow) you’ll see some quicker E.T.s. For me, my job is the same whether (the track temperature) is 60 or 160 (degrees). We’ll go out there and try hard and know that the Al-Anabi team will give me a great race horse.”

Brandon Bernstein posted the quickest Saturday pass in Top Fuel with a 3.926 at 305.01 and will start second in his Copart dragster. Gainesville winner and series points leader Worsham qualified third in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster with a 3.938 at 305.42.

In Pro Stock, 2009 world champ Edwards claimed his 35th No. 1 qualifying effort and first of the season with a performance of 6.695 at 206.51 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP as he works to turn around his season after a slow start.

“I thought we ran better yesterday than we did today,” Edwards said. “Overall we’re really pleased with the way we are running. We made four solid runs down the track and hats off to all my guys. Everybody is going to run better tomorrow because the track will be a lot quicker. Hopefully we can adjust and make the right decisions.”

Edwards, who suffered a rare DNQ at the season-opener at Pomona and lost in the second round at the Gatornationals, says this effort couldn’t come at a better time.

“It was important for us to come in here and run good,” Edwards said. “We struggled the first couple of races and to come in here and run good makes you feel better. Hopefully we can take this and get our season going right at the third race of the season instead of the first race of the season.”

Jason Line, winner of the first two races of the season, improved to second overall with a 6.707 at 205.47 in his Summit Racing GXP. Team Mopar Dodge Avenger driver Allen Johnson, who is currently outside the top 10 in points, was third with a 6.711 at 206.07.

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Keeping Pace

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