Cruz Pedregon powered his Snap-On Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car to the No. 1 qualifier position to kick off the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) “Countdown to the Championship” playoff series at the Mopar Express Lane Nationals Presented by Pennzoil near Reading, Pennsylvania. It was his 62nd career pole position and the first time since 2015 that Cruz Pedregon Racing will start from the top rung of the eliminations ladder.
Pedregon came out of the gate fourth quickest in Friday’s evening qualifying session at the fastest track on the circuit with a 3.914-second pass which he then improved upon in Saturday’s Q2 with a 3.912-second effort to record the second quickest run of that session. In final qualifying, Pedregon jumped to the top of the timing sheets by driving his Snap-On Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to an impressive 3.875-second elapsed time @ 326 mph to earn the No. 1 qualifier position and five valuable bonus points.
The run brought Pedregon within a hair of his best career elapsed time run, posted just a few weeks ago at Brainerd with a 3.874 second @ 324.67 mph pass in the final session for the No. 2 spot from which he drove to a runner-up in an all-Dodge final against Don Schumacher Racing’s (DSR) Matt Hagan. Pedregon’s reward for the No. 1 qualifying effort at Maple Grove Raceway is a first-round bye.
The second of three HEMI®-powered machines to qualify in top-five for the Mopar Express Lane Nationals was driven by Tommy Johnson Jr. who is filling in this weekend for DSR’s sidelined defending series Funny Car world champion Hagan as he continues to recover from COVID-19. Johnson will start fourth after recording a career-best speed with his Friday night qualifying run of 3.895 seconds @ 333.82 mph that put him in the provisional No. 2 spot and awarded two bonus points to the DSR Mopar Dodge SRT Hellcat entry. He will see No. 11, Jim Campbell, in the opening round.
Last weekend’s runner-up finisher at the Dodge//SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals, Ron Capps qualified fifth after driving his NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to the quickest run in Q2 with a 3.896-second pass. He added three bonus points to his lead atop the NHRA’s Funny Car championship standings and will see No. 10 seed, Blake Alexander, as his first match-up of race day.
In Top Fuel action, Leah Pruett’s quickest drive aboard the white and blue Mopar dragster came on Friday evening with a run of 3.733 seconds @ 323.89 mph, which she followed up with another pair of 3.74 sec. passes on Saturday. She’ll start from the eighth-seeded position and face-off against No. 7 seed Antron Brown who has lane choice.
Coverage of the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil, the first of seven events in the NHRA playoff series “Countdown to the Championship”, will be broadcast on FS1 today, Sunday, Sept. 14th, with qualifying highlights from 12:00 p.m. to 2 p.m. ET and race coverage 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET.
NHRA Championship Points Standings:
Following qualifying at Mopar Express Lane Nationals Presented by Pennzoil at Maple Grove Raceway
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Ron Capps (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 2,137 (1)
2. John Force – 2,112 (3)
3. Bob Tasca III – 2,106 (2)
4. J.R. Todd – 2,093 (1)
5. Matt Hagan/Tommy Johnson Jr. (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 2,087 (2)
6. Robert Hight – 2,081 (2)
7. Alexis DeJoria – 2,063
7. Cruz Pedregon (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 2,063 (1)
9. Tim Wilkerson– 2,048 (1)
10. Blake Alexander– 2,032
TOP FUEL (season wins in parentheses)
1. Steve Torrance – 2,139 (8)
2. Brittany Force – 2,127 (1)
3. Antron Brown – 2,103 (1)
4. Leah Pruett (Mopar Dodge//SRT) – 2,093 (1)
5. Shawn Langdon – 2,082
6. Mike Salinas – 2,078
7. Justin Ashley – 2,064
8. Billy Torrence – 2,057 (1)
9. Clay Millican – 2,047
10. Doug Kalitta – 2,032
Images from 2021 Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil: