NHRA: Force has qualifying lead in Top Fuel at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals

GAINESVILLE, Fla.  – Brittany Force raced to the qualifying lead in Top Fuel at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals on Friday.

Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the third of 24 events in the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season.

Force powered her Monster Energy dragster to a 3.745-second pass at 309.56 mph to earn the qualifying lead at Gainesville Raceway. Force, who was the runner-up in Phoenix three weeks ago, has four No. 1 qualifiers in her career. She is chasing her first career victory.

“Coming out here, we didn’t know what we were going to get with the weather conditions,” Force said. “We were at least hoping to get one good run in and we did that our first run today and then we really stepped it up on the second run. When I got out and they told me that we were number one and what we ran, I was blown away.”

2015 Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown pushed his Matco Tools dragster to the second qualifying position through Friday with a 3.755 at 319.07. Brown, who won this event in 2013, was followed by Steve Torrence, the winner of the season-opener in Pomona, Calif., in his Capco Contractors dragster. Eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher is fourth and Clay Millican is fifth.

Beckman set a Gainesville Raceway Funny Car track record during Friday’s second session with a 3.913 at 323.74 in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T. There were eight three-second runs in Funny Car on Friday. Beckman has 16 No. 1 qualifiers in his career and is two sessions away from securing his first at Gainesville. 

“It’s always tough when you show up to a race and the forecast is rain, rain, rain,” Beckman said. “It rained yesterday and the forecast didn’t look good for today. We got one run in and I thought for sure that was going to be it and we smoked the tires on that first run so I was a little bit frustrated. So to be able to get the full session in for the Florida fans and to be able to run that good for the Infinite Hero Team, that’s a perfect day for me.”

Beckman opened the 2016 season with a No. 1 qualifier at the Circle K NHRA Winternationals in Pomona. Last year, Beckman won a career-high seven events and reset the national record four times before finishing second in points to eventual world champion Del Worsham.

Beckman’s Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Ron Capps, is currently second in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T with a 3.929 at 319.37. Capps rode into Gainesville with momentum after winning in Phoenix. John Force Racing teammates, Courtney Force and Robert Hight, sit third and fourth respectively. Reigning world champ Worsham is sixth.

Line took the qualifying lead in Pro Stock with a 6.596 at 210.01 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro. The Phoenix winner has 41 No. 1 qualifiers in his career and four wins at Gainesville Raceway. He is hoping to secure his first No. 1 qualifier at the facility tomorrow.

“There’s a long ways to go and we don’t feel like we are running up to our potential and I know the other teams aren’t doing as well,” said Line, a two-time world champ. “It’s just a matter of time but for right now I’m going to enjoy the fact that we have a small advantage and it’s fun – fun to come to the race track.”

Line was followed by both of his Ken Black Racing teammates, Greg Anderson and Bo Butner, currently in second and third respectively. Anderson powered his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to a 6.613 at 209.39 while Butner posted a 6.617 at 209.33 in his Jim Butner Auto Chevy Camaro. Back-to-back defending world champ Erica Enders is fourth and Alex Laughlin is fifth.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Krawiec raced to the provisional lead in the two-wheeled category season-opener with a 6.808 at 197.71 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. Krawiec has 27 No. 1 qualifiers in his career and one at Gainesville. He has three wins at the event.

“Anytime you can come off the trailer and make a great run like [we did] it sets the pace for the season,” said Krawiec, a three-time world champion. “That’s the way I look at it; not just the event but the season because that’s what’s all in front of you.”

Chip Ellis rode his Junior Pippin Trucking Company Buell to the second qualifying position with a 6.829 at 195.34. 2015 Pro Stock Motorcycle title winner and Krawiec’s teammate, Andrew Hines, sits third and Angelle Sampey is fourth.

Qualifying resumes Saturday at noon with the final two sessions to set the fields for Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations.

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