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Keeping Pace

Force, Schumacher, Humphrey and Tonglet lead Houston NHRA qualifying

John Force powered his Castrol High Mileage Ford Mustang to a 4.097 second run at 310.27 mph to lead the category. If his performance holds during Saturday’s final two qualifying sessions, Force will earn his third consecutive No. 1 effort of the season and inch closer to Pro Stock great Warren Johnson’s all-time NHRA No. 1 qualifying record of 138.


Courtesy: NHRA  Media Relations

BAYTOWN, Texas – Three weeks after being inducted into the Texas Motor Sports Hall of Fame, John Force gave fans in the Lone Star state a great performance Friday as he raced to the No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car Friday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Royal Purple Raceway.

Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Ronnie Humphrey (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event near Houston.

Force powered his Castrol High Mileage Ford Mustang to a 4.097 second run at 310.27 mph to lead the category. If his performance holds during Saturday’s final two qualifying sessions, Force will earn his third consecutive No. 1 effort of the season and inch closer to Pro Stock great Warren Johnson’s all-time NHRA No. 1 qualifying record of 138.

“I don’t drive Pro Stock so I don’t chase Warren Johnson,” said Force with a grin, who has 136 top qualifying efforts entering this event. “He is one of my heroes and I like having those records out there. I do what I do in Funny Car and that is about it.”

Force, the 15-time world champ, is more concerned with getting his first win of the season and moving up in the Full Throttle point standings.

“I haven’t had a win this year, Robert (Hight) has gotten two in the Auto Club Mustang and (Mike) Neff has one in the Castrol GTX Mustang, but I am excited to be with the young team,” Force said. “Ashley (Force Hood) started with these guys a few years back. (Co-crew chief) Dean Antonelli was taught by (former crew chief) Austin Coil and he is the best. He reminds me so much of his thinking like Austin. Teaming him up with Ron Douglas they just really get the job done. It is a young team but it is my daughter’s hot rod. She (Ashley) always lets me know that.”

Seven-time world champ Schumacher led Top Fuel qualifying with a 3.817 at a track record speed of 323.81 in his U.S. Army dragster. His run was two-hundredths of a second quicker than teammate Spencer Massey’s second-best effort of 3.838 at 319.45 in the Prestone/FRAM dragster.

“That was pretty impressive,” Schumacher said. “I'm really not surprised at how well the car ran. Like I've stated for weeks, we've had a better car than our numbers have shown.”

 

The run certainly gives Schumacher, a two-time winner at Royal Purple Raceway, and his U.S. Army team led by crew chief Mike Green a lot of confidence going into the weekend.

 

“We have a car that's more than capable of winning a bunch of races,” Schumacher said. “We just need for it to run with some consistency and we'll be more than fine.”

 

Humphrey was quickest in Pro Stock with a 6.571 at 211.16 in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP. If his run holds it would be the first No. 1 of his career, at any level of drag racing.

“I have been around drag racing a long time and this is my first (qualifying lead) in any type of motorsports, so this is a new day for Ronnie Humphrey,” said Humphrey, who took the top spot by vitrute of his faster speed over local favorite Rodger Brogdon of nearby Tomball, who ran an identical elapsed time. “Tomorrow’s first session should be a faster session but we’ll see what happens. I am glad day number one is over. We’ll be race ready for round three qualifying.”  

Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ LE Tonglet led the two-wheel division with a track-record time of 6.849 at 195.45 on his Nitro Fish Suzuki.

“We were trying to dial in the clutch,” Tonglet said, “and it looks like it’s coming around.  We are excited about it. The track conditions were not as good as you might think, but we were running big numbers out there.”


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

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