A nitro-fueled, 11,000-horsepower Night of Fire kicked off the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals qualifying in style on Friday at zMAX Dragway, as “Fast Jack” Beckman lived up to his name by shattering the Funny Car track speed record at the Bellagio of drag strips.
Moments after he was bumped out of the top 16 that will make Sunday’s eliminations, Beckman responded with the run of the night in second-round qualifying. Beckman’s 334.07-mile-per-hour run set a new speed mark for Funny Cars and the 3.873-second elapsed time was enough to earn the provisional pole. Funny Car championship leader Robert Hight tied Beckman’s record-breaking speed, but enters Saturday in the No. 2 position after making the run later and crossing the line .005 seconds later than Beckman.
“When you don’t run well in the first run, you don’t get to run further back on Run 2,” Beckman said. “When you don’t get to run later on the Friday session, you don’t usually run as good and if you do, everybody gets to see what you did.
“By the time we’d rolled into the water box, we were already bumped out. I didn’t get to enjoy any part of that run. I was so focused on everything going on around me and really, it didn’t feel that fast. I saw (the time) and my first thought was, ‘Awesome, now we’re in.’ I didn’t think it would hold up with at least six fast cars behind us.”
Steve Torrence’s bid for a second consecutive Top Fuel season sweep got off to the perfect start on Friday. Torrence – who also won the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals last year – posted a sensational 3.711-second, 325.53-mph pass in the final run of the night.
“As a team and as a driver, we do the best we can to keep (distractions) at bay,” Torrence said. “We had two good runs today and we’ll go into Saturday trying to have two more. We have the mindset that we need to go out and maintain our consistency.”
Erica Enders – no stranger to Pro Stock success at zMAX Dragway – surged to the top of the board with a 6.506-second, 211.86-mph pass.
“We were shooting for a (6.51),” Enders said. “We have a really great race car and I’m just lucky to drive it. It feels very similar to (the 2015 championship-winning season) and I’m loving it.”
“The Alligator Man” took a bite out of his rivals on the first day of Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying, as Louisiana native Jerry Savoie roared to a 6.801-second, 196.85-mph pass to enter Saturday with the No. 1 spot among two-wheeled competitors.
“We feel good,” Savoie said. “We feel very confident. Both of our (White Alligator Racing) bikes are running great. … We went as fast as we could in the conditions. We had a good run.”
The forecast for Saturday’s final qualifying rounds features plenty of clear skies and sun, as drivers and teams prepare to make their final two time-trial passes count in search of a Countdown victory on Sunday.
Single-day tickets and hospitality upgrades to the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals are still available. Visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com/tickets or call 800-455-FANS (3267) for more details.