POWERade points leader Ron Capps failed to qualify for the 19th annual O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals presented by Castrol GTX, snapping the longest active qualifying streak in the Funny Car class at 55 races. Capps' shocking result overshadowed the low qualifying efforts of Joe Hartley, Robert Hight, and Greg Anderson, who were all able to maintain their top rankings attained Friday.
Entering the race with a 121-point lead in the standings, Capps will likely leave Heartland Park Topeka with the No. 1 ranking (Hight will have to win and set the national record to pass him), but he knows his lead will probably be substantially trimmed. "It just like NASCAR when the points leader wrecks out early," Capps said. "We'll just have to deal with it like [John] Force's guys did earlier this year when they missed Vegas. It happens."
No one was happier to see sunny skies and hot conditions than Day 1 Top Fuel leader Hartley who managed to hold onto the No. 1 position through Saturday's two sessions. Hartley's career-best pass of 4.518 at 323.12 mph in his unsponsored car was more than enough to earn him his first $4,000 Budweiser low qualifier award.
"The No. 1 feeling is being overwhelmed," Hartley said. "This is something I've always dreamed of but really didn't expect it to ever happen because of the way these guys run on Friday nights. When that round got rained out I knew we had a chance. This is special.
"Hopefully we can keep up the performance tomorrow. We were second quickest of that last round with a 4.60 so we feel real comfortable with our tune-up. If we stay consistent we might be able to realize our other dream of winning one of these things."
The rest of the top five remained the same as it was at the close of Friday's action. Four-time champion Tony Schumacher was second in the U.S. Army dragster with a 4.529 at 303.09 mph. Teammates Whit Bazemore and "Hot Rod" Fuller followed with Bazemore running a 4.534 in the Matco rail and Fuller a 4.566 in his refrigerator-white car. They were followed by surging UPS pro Bob Vandergriff Jr., who had a 4.576.
Fram racer Cory McClenathan barely held onto the bump with a 4.712. he'll try to upset Hartley in Sunday's opening round.
Hight has made three professional visits to Heartland Park Topeka and all three have ended with No. 1 qualifying efforts for his Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang team. Now he'll try to cash in for his first Topeka win, while gaining as much ground as possible on the sidelined Capps.
"We went and tested after they cancelled Bristol and I really think that paid off because we were the only Funny Car to get down the track all three times," Hight said. "The car was already running great but Jimmy [Prock, crew chief] wanted to try some different things and I was glad to get in the car anyways because a month off would've seemed like forever. The extra work was worth it.
"We've got a great chance to make up a lot of points on Capps. I hate to see them DNQ, I really do. No one wants to make gains at someone else's expense like that, but we still need to do what we can to close the gap on him. I say that because I know they'll be back stronger than ever next weekend."
Mike Ashley's Torco Race Fuels Dodge Charger carried him to second place overall with a 4.794 at 327.11 mph. John Force was next at 4.796 in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang to round out the 4.7-second cars.
Former champion Cruz Pedregon will try to knock off Hight first. Pedregon's Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Monte Carlo qualified in the 16th spot with a final-round 4.946 at 303.71 mph. His brother Tony Pedregon will join Capps on the bench.
Anderson's zippy 6.703 at 205.91 mph in the final session earned him low qualifier honors for the third consecutive race and fifth time this season. The elapsed time, along with Friday night's 206.48 mph top speed, earned the Summit Racing Pontiac GTO driver both ends of the HPT track record.
"I have to commend NHRA and the people from Heartland Park for getting the starting line in better shape for today's run," Anderson said. "It was so slick in the burnout box that the tires were just spinning with no friction at all. There wasn't even smoke coming off of them and consequently they weren't getting hot enough. They scuffed it up and I think we're all catching up with it now. It was just something none of us had seen before.
"I'll certainly be eager to keep lane choice all day tomorrow. I think the left side is better, although I'm not afraid of the right side. We didn't make good runs over there but it wasn't the track's fault, it was our fault. We saw some big numbers over there too so it should be a good race tomorrow every round."
Anderson will open eliminations against final qualifier Max Naylor, who posted a 6.773 in the Jagermeister Dodge.
St. Louis winner Dave Connolly is second on the grid with his Torco Race Fuels Cobalt posting a best of 6.719, while Allen Johnson has the quickest Dodge Stratus on the property after a third-best 6.724 at 204.82 mph.
Two-time champion Jim Yates and Erica Enders will both miss their second race of the year after failing to qualify for this event.
by Rob Geiger, NHRA.com