Antron Brown raced to his third consecutive No. 1 qualifying position of the season in Top Fuel Saturday at the Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Chip Ellis (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also will lead their categories into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations as No. 1 qualifiers at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
Brown, a local favorite as a native of nearby Chesterfield , pushed his Matco Tools dragster to the No. 1 spot with a performance of 3.725 seconds at 317.57 mph. The 2012 world champion and current series points leader is the first driver to earn three No. 1 qualifiers in a row since Shawn Langdon in 2012.
This is Brown’s 40th career No. 1 and he will go for his first Top Fuel win at his home track and 50th of his career when he meets Jenna Haddock in the first round.
“We’re very excited, especially being back here at the Toyota NHRA Summernationals here in Englishtown,” Brown said. “It feels good to be back in front of all of our family and all of our friends and right now our car has been running exceptionally well. We’re getting the bugs worked out of it and we’re still growing with our combinations. We’re looking forward to tomorrow and we’re ready to get after it.”
J.R. Todd qualified second with a 3.727 at 319.52 in his Red Line Oil/Kalitta Air dragster. Todd will face Terry McMillen in the opening round. Tony Schumacher qualified third with a 3.736 at 323.66 in his U.S. Army dragster. The defending and eight-time world champion will open eliminations against Morgan Lucas.
In Funny Car, Pedregon recorded a performance of 3.967 at 306.53 at the controls of his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry to earn his 60th career No. 1 qualifier and sixth at Raceway Park . The 2014 event winner will face John Hale to open eliminations.
“It never ceases to amaze me how much you have to change the set-up of the car when the sun’s out on the track and there’s not as much grip,” Pedregon said. “It’s a double-edged sword to have a car that runs a 3.96. It takes a lot to do that and on the other hand, it takes a lot to slow it down. We have to find it tomorrow because tomorrow is the real deal.”
The rest of the Funny Car field remained the same through Saturday, as Chad Head qualified second by posting a 3.996 at 308.78 in his Head Racing Toyota Camry and he will face Dom Lagana in round one. Last year’s Englishtown runner-up, Del Worsham, will start third with a 3.998 at 314.53 in his DHL Camry and meet first round foe Jeff Diehl. Defending world champ Matt Hagan qualified fourth with a 3.999 at 315.05 in his Rocky Boots/Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T and will open against arch-rival 16-time world champ John Force.
Anderson earned his 76th career No. 1 qualifier in Saturday’s final Pro Stock pair with a 6.479 at 214.76 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro. This is his first No. 1 qualifier since Seattle 2010. Anderson has a category-leading five career victories at Raceway Park and will face Val Smeland in the first round of eliminations. Anderson has one victory in four final round appearances this season.
“Believe it or not, the race track has been getting better with each run,” Anderson said. “We knew if we could get out of low gear, if we could get hooked up initially the cars were going to run faster. I’m just thrilled. It’s been four years since I’ve had a No. 1 qualifying spot. My car just keeps getting better every race we go to.”
Pro Stock newcomer Drew Skillman powered his Ray Skillman Chevrolet Chevy Camaro to a second place qualifier with a 6.486 at 214.38. Skillman will race John Gaydosh Jr. to open eliminations. Skillman’s Elite Motorsports teammate and series points leader, Erica Enders, qualified third with a 6.500 at 213.60 in her Racing In Red Chevy Camaro, and she will meet Alan Prusiensky in round one.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Chip Ellis rode his PiranaZ Buell to his 14th career No. 1 with a 6.801 at 197.16. This is Ellis’ first top qualifying effort since Memphis 2008. He will face Angie Smith in Sunday’s first round.
“From the very first run I made on the bike I knew it had a lot of horsepower,” Ellis said. “The competition is so tough out here, if you look at what you have to run to even qualify this weekend, it’s crazy. It’s tough. We were just keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that PiranaZ bike pulled us through and it did. So we’re ecstatic.”
Jerry Savoie qualified second with a 6.804 at 197.13 on his Savoie’s Alligator Farm Suzuki and will face Joe DeSantis in the opening round of eliminations. Hector Arana Sr., who is coming off a recent win in Atlanta , rode his Lucas Oil Buell to a fourth qualifier and will meet Shawn Gann in the first round. Defending event winner, series points leader and local favorite Eddie Krawiec qualified seventh overall while defending world champion Andrew Hines will start from the ninth spot.