February 8, 2014 — series release — NHRA photo — POMONA, CA — John Force raced to a national record time of 3.966 seconds at 324.12 mph in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to lead Funny Car qualifying at the season-opening Circle K NHRA Winternationals Friday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) also were qualifying leaders at the season-opening NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
Force, the defending Funny Car world champion, opened with a 3.983-second run on his first qualifying attempt and powered to the national record 3.966 effort in the evening session. If the time holds through the end of the race weekend, Force will earn a 20-point bonus for setting the national record.
“Jimmy Prock [crew chief] has his stuff together,” said Force, who hasn’t held the national record in more than a decade. “I never thought it would run .96. That impressed me. I told ’em, check the clocks. When we saw Robert [Hight, teammate] run that .99, Jimmy knew it was there.”
Brown led Top Fuel qualifying with a 3.731 at 326.00 in his Matco Tools dragster, taking the top spot from defending world champ Shawn Langdon, who qualified second with a 3.746 at 328.70 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster.
“The track is phenomenal out there,” Brown said. “We just tried to make a run to get down the racetrack in the first run. The Matco team regrouped. We weren’t sure how far we could push it. They stepped up the power level and gave it more clutch. It spun just a little on the starting line but recovered and ran a great number.”
“We missed [the setup] pretty horribly the first run and knew we had a little in the bank there if we could just get it through 2nd gear,” Johnson said. “Crew chief made the right decision, and the motor performed. We’d like to get in the .40s here; that would be a dream come true. But I don’t know if the weather will get any better tomorrow. If it gets just a tick better, you might see a 6.499 or something.”Johnson, the 2012 Pro Stock world champ, powered his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger to the qualifying lead, posting a 6.517 at 212.53. Johnson moved from fourth to first with his run in the second qualifying session.
Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Sunday’s eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m.