Kalitta, C.Force, T.Gray, Hines Top Qualifiers at zMax
Sunday's race will mark the opening race in the Countdown to the Championship – a six-race playoff to determine the season champions in the NHRA's top divisions.
Doug Kalitta retained the no. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel after his 3.723-second, 329.50 mph pass from Friday stood through both of Saturday's qualifying rounds, earning him his second green hat of the season and 49th of his career, and collecting five bonus points that pushed him to fourth in the Top Fuel standings.
He hopes to turn that all around with a win at zMax.
"This is one track I have yet to win at, so I would definitely love to get a win here at one of the nicest facilities we get to compete at," said Kalitta, who will face "The Greek", Chris Karamesines, in Sunday's opening round
"I am so excited to start the Countdown with a no.1 qualifying spot with my Mac Tools team. They have worked so hard this whole season, and with our car running this strong, I know we have a shot at getting our first win of the season and our first in Charlotte tomorrow."
The top four qualifiers remained unchanged from Friday's sessions, with Top Fuel point's leader Steve Torrence taking second with a 3.724, 327.51 pass. Leah Pritchett was third at 3.725, 327.98 followed by Antron Brown with a 3.728, 331.85.
Clay Millican jumped from 14th to fifth after posting the quickest pass of the day, running 3.747, 319.82 pass in Saturday's opening round.
Force, who won top qualifying honors at the Four-Wide Nationals here in April, wasn't able to pull off a full pass in either of Saturday sessions, as none of the 16 Funny Car entries were able to crack 3.95 seconds with the top six positions unchanged and separated by just 0.02 seconds.
"This entire Funny Car category, and Top Fuel as well – it's intense out there," Force said. "These guys are running some killer numbers in the heat. Obviously, we've got our eyes on them.
"To be separated that closely from the top half of the field, you know you're going to have a tough race tomorrow. We've got to get our team prepared. My Advance Auto Parts guys are ready to get the job done. This is the time to turn the corner."
Todd stood pat in second with a low ET of 3.898 seconds at 329.18 mph. Tommy Johnson, Jr., (3.901, 325.06), Jack Beckman (3.906, 330.47) and Alexis DeJoria (3.910, 324.51 mph) rounded out the top five.
Gray's top qualifying effort marks his third pole in his last four starts. He will face Val Smeland in the opening round of eliminations on Sunday.
"Today was all about setting up for tomorrow's run since we will have similar track conditions, but we feel pretty good about where we're at," Gray said. "A lot of my opponents have experienced the Countdown before, so I'm definitely a little nervous but I'm also confident in my car and driving so I feel like there's no reason we won't win tomorrow."
Anderson holds the second qualifying spot with a time of 6.567 seconds at 210.50 mph. Points leader Bo Butner is second with a 6.573, 210.77 while defending event winner Jason Line – who posted the low ET in each of Saturday's two qualifying rounds – stands fourth with a 6.578 at 210.18. Chris McGaha is fifth with a 6.582, 209.43.
Hines, who finished runner-up to Chip Ellis in this event in 2016, will take on Charlie Sullivan in the first round on Sunday as he hunts for his first Wally of the season.
"With conditions being ideal this weekend, we have been looking at today as our own tune-up for tomorrow," Hines said. "I feel strong about the tune-up our team has put together, and now we have to make sure we do it again tomorrow when it really counts."
Eddie Krawiec slid into the second qualifying position after turning in the quickest pass of the afternoon, going 6.836, 195.00 to bump Jerry Savoie (6.838, 196.10) to third. Hector Arana, Jr. (6.840, 196.07) and Scotty Pollacheck (6.850, 195.00) made up the rest of the top five.
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