NHRA: Kalitta (Top Fuel), Johnson (Funny Car), Line (Pro Stock) lead way in first day of Winternationals qualifying

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After a long off-season, fans looking for speed at the 55th annual and season-opening Circle K NHRA Winternationals sure got what they hoped for during Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying.

Blistering mph and blink-of-an-eye quick elapsed times were certainly the story of the day at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.

In Top Fuel, after recording a first run of 3.809 seconds at 323.12 mph, Doug Kalitta stepped it up significantly in his second run, posting a field-best 3.733 second pass at 327.59 mph to take the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot.

“We’re real happy with those two runs,” Kalitta said in an NHRA media release. “I’m not sure with the weather, I think it might be a little cooler tomorrow (Saturday). There’s just a lot of good running cars that can run better than we did. So, hopefully I’m hear again tomorrow talking to you guys. We’ll see how it goes.”

Reigning Top Fuel champ Tony Schumacher was the No. 2 provisional qualifier with a run of 3.757 seconds at 320.20 mph. Don Schumacher Racing teammate Spencer Massey qualified third at 3.761 seconds, but with the fastest run of the day of any car at 328.30 mph.

In Funny Car, another DSR driver, Tommy Johnson Jr., set the pace and earned the provisional No. 1 qualifier spot with a 4.018 second, 314.46 run down the 1,000-foot dragstrip.

“The team has just picked up right where we left off and gives me a lot of confidence,” said Johnson, who finished third in the Funny Car standings last season. “I know we have a very competitive team. We can roll it right off of the box at Pomona and pick up right where we left off. I think we’re on the right track to have a great season.”

Chad Head recorded the second-quickest time, 4.060 seconds, at 309.63 mph.

MORE: Multitasking: Drag racer tees up Funny Car and then tees off (video)

Sixteen-time Funny Car champion John Force had a successful debut for both his new sponsor (PEAK Anti-Freeze) and new manufacturer (Chevrolet), with a run of 4.061 seconds at 313.66 mph, good for No. 3 in the provisional qualifying.

Matt Hagan, reigning Funny Car champ, had a stout first run (4.090 seconds at 310.70 mph), but suffered a spectacular engine fire in the second round. Hagan escaped from his car uninjured.

In Pro Stock, three-time Winternationals winner and runner-up in last season’s championship bid, Jason Line, was quickest at 6.523 seconds at 212.76 mph.

“It was a good run,” Line said. “It was a nice run. I know I usually whine and say it wasn’t perfect but it was a nice run. It’s nice to be up here and I’m pretty happy about that. It’s fun to start Day One of the 2015 Mello Yello drag racing season this way.”

Drew Skillman was second quickest (6.527 seconds at 212.09 mph), followed by Greg Anderson (6.535 seconds, 211.99 mph).

One of the biggest surprises of the day involved reigning Pro Stock champ Erica Enders-Stevens, who failed to complete either of her two qualifying passes, losing traction both times.

Enders-Stevens will have two more rounds on Saturday to make Sunday’s final eliminations. There will also be two more rounds of qualifying Saturday for all other drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock.

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FRIDAY’S RESULTS:

Top Fuel: 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.733 seconds, 327.59 mph; 2. Tony Schumacher, 3.757, 323.35; 3. Spencer Massey, 3.761, 328.30; 4. Richie Crampton, 3.764, 323.97; 5. Larry Dixon, 3.776, 321.35; 6. Brittany Force, 3.779, 323.97; 7. Steve Torrence, 3.788, 325.45; 8. Leah Pritchett, 3.797, 320.81; 9. Shawn Langdon, 3.803, 320.36; 10. Antron Brown, 3.803, 313.73; 11. Troy Buff, 3.815, 310.77; 12. J.R. Todd, 3.914, 242.54.  Not Qualified: 13. Terry McMillen, 3.996, 285.41; 14. Steven Chrisman, 4.338, 221.20; 15. Steve Faria, 4.506, 182.55; 16. Clay Millican, 4.767, 151.97; 17. Dave Connolly, 13.570, 23.48.

Funny Car: 1. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.018, 314.46; 2. Chad Head, Toyota Camry, 4.060, 309.63; 3. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.061, 313.66; 4. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.066, 299.73; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.067, 300.93; 6. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.085, 305.84; 7. Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.086, 314.09; 8. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.090, 310.70; 9. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.097, 302.75; 10. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.102, 311.34; 11. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.106, 309.34; 12. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.131, 274.55.  Not Qualified: 13. Gary Densham, 4.182, 306.12; 14. Jeff Arend, 4.223, 263.56; 15. Terry Haddock, 4.286, 293.03; 16. John Hale, 4.440, 224.02; 17. Jack Beckman, 4.485, 204.35; 18. Bob Bode, 12.819, 41.70.

Pro Stock: 1. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.523, 212.76; 2. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.527, 212.09; 3. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.535, 211.99; 4. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.538, 212.26; 5. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.538, 212.03; 6. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.540, 212.43; 7. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.546, 211.89; 8. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.551, 212.69; 9. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.553, 211.93; 10. Jimmy Alund, Pontiac GXP, 6.568, 211.46; 11. Deric Kramer, Dodge Avenger, 6.614, 210.37; 12. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.623, 210.57.  Not Qualified: 13. Joey Grose, 6.625, 209.20; 14. Jeff Isbell, 6.677, 207.78; 15. Matt Hartford, 6.736, 206.92; 16. Vincent Nobile, 7.907, 123.05; 17. Erica Enders-Stevens, 9.708, 113.01.

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