Johnson City Press: Quick times hold up for Force and Kalitta
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Quick times hold up for Force and Kalitta

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Jun 15, 2019 at 9:17 PM

BRISTOL — John Force has added another number to the NHRA record book.

The 16-time Funny Car world champion’s fast pass of 3.911 seconds at 326.95 mph in his Chevrolet Camaro on Friday night held up through two rounds of Saturday qualifying for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. It gave the 70-year-old Force his third No. 1 qualifier of the season and extended his all-time record to 158 poles.

“I remember one time telling (former crew chief) Austin Coil at Dallas, ‘We’re again up on the stage, another winners circle,’” Force said. “We were used to winning all the time, every race it seemed like. Once these kids started knocking me off and Coil left, it was like, ‘I would love to be back there.’ I’m so glad now when I win or am low qualifier.”

It is Force’s second career No. 1 qualifying award at Bristol. With temperatures eight degrees warmer than Friday evening, there was little movement in the qualifying results.

Shawn Langdon’s elapsed time of 3.944 seconds and 324.51 mph in a Toyota Camry remained second fastest. Bob Tasca III in a Ford Mustang was third with a 3.959-second run at 318.54 mph.

No one could match Force, who will go for a record-tying fifth Funny Car win at Bristol, and is looking to become the first NHRA drag racer to reach 150 victories. His last win came nearly one year ago at Denver.

There are 15 cars for the 16-car elimination ladder, giving Force a coveted bye in round one. Feeling under the weather on Friday, he was much better Saturday.

“I feel good. It was a long day in the heat, but it was fun,” Force said. “I’ve got a single (run) tomorrow, so that gives me and the crew chiefs a chance (to test). Then, we will see if we go some rounds.”

KALITTA LEADS TOP FUEL FIELD

Doug Kalitta remained on top of the Top Fuel ladder with his 3.755-second pass at 324.67 mph.

It was the 50th career No. 1 qualifier for the Michigan racer, who is making his 500th career NHRA start. It was his first ever pole at Bristol, where he is a three-time winner of the Thunder Valley Nationals.

Kalitta won the season-opening race NHRA Winternationals at Pomona, California, and has reached two more final rounds since.

“It would be perfect timing, a great thing to happen with my son and uncle Connie here,” Kalitta said. “The car has been really consistent and it’s supposed to be a little hotter tomorrow, so hopefully it will play into our hands.”

Leah Pritchett, looking for her first win of the season, was second quickest at 3.757 seconds and 323.04 mph. Defending series champion Steve Torrence, coming to Bristol with a five-race winning streak, ran 3.768 seconds with the fastest speed at 326.00 mph.

Three-time world champion Antron Brown was fourth with Mike Salinas rounding out the top five. Other notables included 2017 Top Fuel champion Brittany Force in seventh and 2017 Thunder Valley Nationals winner Clay Millican 11th quickest.

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