CHANDLER, Ariz. — Series points leader Ron Capps took the No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car on Saturday at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals.
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel) and Bo Butner (Pro Stock) also will lead their categories into Sunday’s 11 a.m.eliminations as the No. 1 qualifiers at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Wild Horse Pass Motor Sports Park.
Still riding the momentum from a victory at the NHRA Winternationals two weeks ago in Pomona, Calif., Capps set a track record with a 3.925 second pass at 320.50 mph in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger, just .005 of a second better than Courtney Force’s 3.930 run on Friday. It is the 18th No. 1 of his career and third at this event.
“I’m having more fun than I think I have, if not ever, than in a long time,” Capps said. “I’m in better shape. I feel like I’m more enthused about showing up to the race track everyday than I think I ever have been. I’m just enjoying this. This is a lot of fun right now.”
Capps will try to continue his early season success when he faces No. 16 qualifier Jeff Diehl in the opening elimination round on Sunday. Capps is a three-time Phoenix winner, his last victory here coming in 2013.
“We’re not so naïve to think this can keep up,” said Capps, who will race Jeff Diehl in round one. ”There’s too good of competition out here. We’ll just take it, we’ll take the wins and this is a great No. 1 qualifier and this sets us up great for Sunday.”
Defending world champ Del Worsham qualified fifth and will meet Jim Campbell in the opener, while No. 2 qualifier Force will race Terry Haddock. Two other intriguing first round pairings feature past world champions Robert Hight and Cruz Pedregon meeting in a heated duel while Don Schumacher Racing teammates Tommy Johnson Jr. and Matt Hagan will face off in their quick Dodge Chargers.
In Top Fuel, Kalitta powered his Mac Tools dragster to a 3.741 at 320.74 in the final round of qualifying to earn his 44th No. 1 and his fourth at the Phoenix track, holding off rival Antron Brown, whose improved time of 3.760 at 322.65 in his Matco Tools dragster wasn’t enough as he sits in the second spot.
“We’re pretty excited to be here,” Kalitta said, “It’s always great running out in the desert and it seems to take to [crew chief] Jim [Oberhofer]’s tune up here. He’s doing a heck of a job, he and Troy [Fasching, assistant crew chief] and all the guys on the Mac Tools Redline Toyota car.
“We’re all excited and just happy things are going down the track and it’s driving good. So far so good.”
Series points leader Brown will open eliminations against Steve Chrisman and five-time Phoenix winner Tony Schumacher qualified third and will face Scott Palmer in round one.
Butner claimed his first career No. 1 qualifying position in Pro Stock with his pass of 6.618 at 208.88 in his Jim Butner Auto Sales Chevy Camaro from Friday. Butner teammates Jason Line and Greg Anderson qualified second and third in their Summit Racing Camaros with a 6.622 at 208.17 and a 6.623 at 207.40, respectively.
“To be honest I’m kind of surprised I’m sitting in this seat because our boss Greg [Anderson] really threw it at us and made a good run,” Butner said. “It’s an honor and it’s cool; it’s cool to have a green hat [for qualifying No. 1].”
In the 14-car ladder, Butner will face V. Gaines, who qualified 14th with a 6.778 at 207.27 in his Kendall Oil Dodge Dart.
“I’d like to get past V. and I’d like to get to the final and win,” Butner said. “That’s our goal and that’s why we leave the house.”
Points leader Anderson moved to third in the qualifying order with Saturday’s quickest run, the 6.623-second effort in the heat of the day. He will meet Vincent Nobile in the first round. Meanwhile, Line will race Phoenix-based driver Matt Hartford in the opener.