Force and Kalitta lead NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals qualifying Friday at Bristol
John Force moved into position to grab his milestone 150th career victory Friday by powering his Peak Chevy Camaro SS to the quickest Funny Car run of the day during qualifying for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.
Force paced the Funny Car qualifying order with a 3.911 second run at 326.96 mph to take the top spot from Team Kalitta's Shawn Langdon. If Force can hang on to the No. 1 spot following Saturday's two qualifying sessions (1 and 4 p.m.) he will enter Sunday's noon eliminations in a prime position to get that looming victory that he's been pursuing since his last win on the circuit, which came at Denver in July 2018.
Although he has 157 career No. 1s, he only has one in his career at Bristol, coming in 2015.
"It's really tricky," said Force, a four-time Bristol winner. "You watch the cars in front of you. We were going for it. (Jimmy) Prock (Robert Hight crew chief) tried to step it up. I was surprised there wasn't some high 60s (in Top Fuel). I thought it was there for Top Fuel. The racers were happy with the track prep. We'll see where tomorrow goes."
Force, who turned 70 back in early May, remains driven to get that 150 magic win number this weekend and feels like he's in a good place mentally and physically and his new crew is making great strides.
"I've finally accepted my age," Force said. "It's tough. I love life and this is what I do. There's no reason to stop. I know how this game is. This is the most humbling thing I've ever been involved in. Hero to zero. It will bite you so quick and you won't understand why. I carry the gut ache. I think that's part of my drive."
Langdon qualified second with a 3.944 at 324.51 and was followed by Bob Tasca III with a 3.956 at 318.54. Six-time Bristol winner Ron Capps qualified 14th with a 5.217 at 142.10.
Another driver who will achieve a milestone this weekend no matter the outcome on Sunday, Doug Kalitta led Top Fuel qualifying with a 3.755 at 324.67 in his Mac Tools dragster.
"It was a nice run in that right lane, it hooked up good," Kalitta said. "It's been a while since we've been a low qualifier on any day and I'm real proud of my guys. We are working our tails off trying to make it happen."
Kalitta, who started driving the 11,000-horsepower dragsters for his uncle Connie in 1998, is making his 500th career start this weekend.
"I remember coming here in the '80s when I worked on Connie's car," Kalitta said. "It's very cool. I'm proud to be out here with the NHRA for 21 years. It's been a fun ride. I've been fortunate to win this race a few times and I would like to win it again. I've got a lot of history here and it's been a fun and successful place for us."
Leah Pritchett qualified second with a 3.757 at 323.04 and was followed by red-hot Steve Torrence, who has won the last five races on the NHRA circuit, posting a 3.768 at 326.00.
If Kalitta hangs on to the top spot it will be his first No. 1 at Bristol, first top qualifying effort of the season and 50th of his career.
"The conditions out there were perfect tonight and this is an incredible track," Kalitta said. "It always seems like we've been setting track records everywhere we go. You have to be on your game these days because if not you are going to get left behind."
Todd Tutterow was quickest in Pro Mod, pacing the 16-car field with a 5.774 at 248.66; Jay Turner led Top Fuel Harley qualifying with a 6.319 at 212.76; and John DeFloridan Jr. topped the Mountain Motor Pro Stock lineup, posting a 6.345 at 221.82 to lead the eight-car exhibition field.