With a pass of 3.993 seconds at 325.92 mph, Force put her Chevrolet Camaro on the Funny Car provisional pole at the NHRA Fitzgerald USA Thunder Valley Nationals.
She had the only run in the three-second range. J.R. Todd’s Toyota Camry was a distant second at 4.072 seconds (313.15 mph) on a day when it was tough to get down a bumpy track.
Defending race champion Clay Millican led Top Fuel qualifying. Greg Anderson paced the Pro Stock field, going down the track in 6.674 seconds (205.35 mph) in his Chevy Camaro.
View Friday’s photo gallery from the Thunder Valley Nationals
FORCE OF NATURE
If her time holds up, Force will earn her seventh pole of the season and the 24th of her career. Behind her, teammate Robert Hight was third and her father, John Force, was sixth.
“It was a great run, hauling the mail down there,” Courtney Force said. “It was a little bumpy down there and I had my hands full. But it stuck and that’s all that matters. We ran the 3.99 for the No. 1 spot and picked up some bonus points. It’s huge because every point counts.”
The bumpy conditions at the end of the dragway made it hard for the cars to make maximum power down the track. Courtney Force credited her team, particularly crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Daniel Hood, for being able to figure it out for a relatively clean run.
“Our first round, we were looking at what he had to do,” she said. “The second run, we had to figure how we were going to get past it. That was Corradi and Hood putting their heads together and figuring out the best way to be. It really goes to show those guys are doing a phenomenal job. I’m just lucky to be piloting this car.”
Millican, who scored an emotional win last season, two years after the death of his son, went 3.817 seconds at 322.88 mph to lead the dragsters. Eight-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher was second at 3.830 seconds with the top speed at 323.66 mph.
Last year’s Bristol race was the first NHRA victory ever for Millican, who has won twice this season. If his time holds up, it would be his fifth No. 1 qualifier of the season and the 15th of his career.
“This car has been a rocket ship,” Millican said. “But I have to tell the truth. We ran the 3.81 and I was like, ‘That isn’t going to hold up.’ I am shocked that held up. I guess everybody was being a little conservative. I believe the track has more than a 3.81 and it’s great to lead qualifying, but I want to be back up here Sunday afternoon.”
Defending series champion Brittany Force qualified fifth and three-time Bristol winner Doug Kalitta was 11th.
Anderson, the Pro Stock points leader, made the quickest pass at 6.674 seconds and 205.35 mph. Five-time champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. was second at 6.683 seconds (205.22), while the fastest speed was 205.91 mph recorded by Chris McGaha, who was all the way back as the 10th-place qualifier.
Anderson, still looking for his first win of the season, would have his seventh No. 1 qualifier of the season and a milestone 100th of his career if the time stands.
After testing teammate Jason Line’s car at Bristol a week ago, Anderson said the bumpy track conditions worked in his favor.
“I drove Jason’s car for two days and knew exactly what I needed to work on,” Anderson said. “I think that was an advantage. We were the only team up here testing and I think it helped us get here. It was a good team effort. I just haven’t been able to put it together on Sunday. Maybe we need to act like Sunday is Friday.”
NHRA Fitzgerald USA Thunder Valley Nationals
Saturday, June 16
7:30 a.m. — Gates open
8 a.m. — Sportsman eliminations
11:30 a.m. — Factory Stock Showdown qualifying
Noon — Nitro Harley qualifying
12:15 p.m. — Pro Mod qualifying
1 p.m. — Pro Stock qualifying
1:30 p.m. — Nitro qualifying (Funny Car/Top Fuel)
2:30 p.m. — Nitro Harley qualifying
2:40 p.m. — Factory Stock Showdown eliminations
2:45 p.m. — Pro Mod Eliminations
3:30 p.m. — Pro Stock qualifying
4 p.m. — Nitro qualifying (Funny Car/Top Fuel)
(Fan Fest begins 30 minutes after last qualifying round)
Sunday, June 17
8:30 a.m. — Gates open
10:30 a.m. — Track walk
11 a.m. — Pre-race ceremonies
Noon — Eliminations