John Force set both ends of the track record at zMAX Dragway on Friday, making the fastest run ever at the facility to power to the Funny Car provisional No. 1 position at the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.
Justin Ashley (Top Fuel) and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also the provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the sixth of 22 races during the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
Force, the 16-time Funny Car world champ, went a blistering 3.850-seconds at 334.24 mph in his 11,000-horsepower PEAK/BlueDEF Platinum Chevrolet Camaro SS, eclipsing the track record of 3.851 set by his daughter, Courtney, five years ago, while the speed was the fastest ever in both nitro categories. If it holds, Force would earn his first No. 1 of the season and the 164th of his legendary career. He started the day with a pass of 3.858 at 333.25 in the opening session and saw even more improvement under the lights at zMAX Dragway, making a spectacular run to close out the day.
“We’re looking for consistency and this was a good night for our team,” Force said. “We found something there and I was driving right down the groove. It was pretty cool and a good night for our team. I’ve felt some pressure the last couple weeks, but sometimes you get tested in life and to come back and run like this feels good.”
Matt Hagan, who won last weekend in Houston, moved into the second spot after his run of 3.867 at 330.55 and defending world champ Ron Capps is third after he went 3.873 at 332.02.
In Top Fuel, Ashley is in line for his first career No. 1 qualifier thanks to his impressive pass of 3.669 at 331.77 in his 11,000-horsepower Phillips Connect powered by Vita C Shot dragster. After advancing to the final round just days ago in Houston, the young standout put on a show under the lights in Charlotte, continuing his consistency from what has been a solid 2022 season. Currently third in points, Ashley already has one win this season and made two strong runs during the two sessions on Friday. To qualify No. 1 at the track where he made his Top Fuel debut in 2019.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to accomplish a lot in a short period of time, but the one thing that’s sort of eluded us is the No. 1 qualifier,” Ashley said. “It’s obviously great to be able to qualify No. 1, but it’s all about positioning yourself for raceday. That was the goal and to be able to accomplish that, it was a lot of fun. We’re going to keep our foot to the floor and keep at it.”
Leah Pruett is currently in the second spot thanks to her strong run of 3.686 at 327.51, while Steve Torrence, who has won the last four four-wide races in Charlotte, is third after going 3.694 at 327.43.
After winning last weekend in Houston, Johnson took the top provisional spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle right off the trailer, going 6.767 at 198.70 on his USA Electric Suzuki. Johnson ran into trouble during the second round of qualifying when his bike xxx on the starting line but having success in Charlotte isn’t anything new for the veteran these days. He picked his first win in the class in seven years when Johnson won in Charlotte last year and he appears on a solid track thus far this weekend at zMAX Dragway, moving in contention to qualify first for the eighth time in his career.
“The bike was good and if I would have driven it better it would have been even quicker,” Johnson said. “These bikes are very challenging to ride and to try to go 6.60s or (low 6.70s), the rider really has to do an incredible job. There’s a lot of stuff going on in six-and-a-half seconds. It comes at you so fast and it’s a lot of work to ride them perfectly.”
Angelle Sampey matched Johnson on time but sits second after going 6.767 at 196.19 and Eddie Krawiec is currently third with a 6.779 at 198.73.
Qualifying continues at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday at the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.