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Brittany Force stays on top of Top Fuel qualifying

June 14th, 2014 6:23 pm by Jeff Birchfield

Brittany Force stays on top of Top Fuel qualifying

BRISTOL — Brittany Force earned No. 1 Top Fuel qualifier for the second time in three races Saturday at the NHRA Ford Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.

Force’s elapsed time of 3.828 seconds (317.94 mph) set in Friday evening qualifying held up through two Saturday sessions.

Del Worsham’s track record time and speed of 3.992 seconds and 319.45 mph in a Toyota Camry also kept him as the No.1 Funny Car qualifier. Shane Gray stayed the No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock, but it came after losing the top spot to Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Erica Enders-Stevens earlier in the day. Gray’s Chevrolet Camaro and Coughlin’s Dodge Dart ended with identical times of 6.621 seconds. The tiebreaker was Gray’s speed of 208.78 slightly faster than the 208.62 posted by Coughlin.

Once temperatures reached 131 degrees on Saturday afternoon, the 27-year-old Force figured her time was safe in the rail cars.

“We were really looking forward to the run last night before it rained,” she said. “We figured the cooler temperatures was where everyone would make a run. But if it turned out that way, maybe we wouldn’t be No. 1. It was definitely hot today, but we made three pretty good passes so we have to work off that.”

Force will be looking for her first career national-event win today and join sisters, Ashley and Courtney, as winners in the Nitro classes. Her final pass on Saturday was a mixture of trying to go fast and trying to work on the set-up for race day. 

“It’s always a little bit of both anytime that car goes down the track,” she said. “I’m learning as a driver in the car and it’s something our team can work on for race day.”

Worsham also knew his record time was safe. 

It was the second straight year he was No. 1 qualifier at Bristol. It was his second No. 1 qualifer of the season and the 15th of his career. 

The 44-year-old California driver is yet to win after returning to the Funny Car ranks. He won the 2011 Top Fuel World Championship and then served as a crew chief for Alexis Dejoria the next season. However, he is coming off his 52nd career final-round appearance after losing to Cruz Pedregon in the final round at the series’ last race in Englishtown, New Jersey.

“For whatever reason, you can build momentum in drag racing and carry it like other sports,” Worsham said. “Every race, we’ve gotten stronger and stronger to the point we got runner-up. There’s only one spot left and hopefully at Bristol, we get that spot.”

Gray had predicted his car and others would be capable of reaching the 6.63-range after his Friday qualifying run. The fact he was able to go even lower and hit the 6.621 elapsed time was a surprise.

“The thing just rattled the tires a little bit at the top of low gear,” he said. “I thought that might have knocked a little out of it. It was a very surprising run. I think the engines were running better where it dried out and there wasn’t so much water in the air. They don’t run too well in the water, and it was about right for today.”

Eliminations for the professional classes start at noon today with Top Fuel and Funny Car. Pro Stock eliminations begin at 1 p.m.

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