INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 2, 2007 - After three days of time trials and five qualifying sessions, Jeff Arend's Chevy Impala SS will lead the 16-car Funny Car field into final eliminations for the 53rd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park. The driver of the Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevrolet earned his first career raceday pole award after posting a 4.754 e.t. at 327.51 mph during the prime Friday-night qualifying session.
"We had some issues with dropped cylinders in the heat today, but we're still pumped up about being number one," said Arend. "Back on Friday night, when I got to go meet the media after the session, I was joking around and saying I'd like to come back all weekend, and so far I've been up here three times as the No. 1 guy after all three days of qualifying. When the number held after last night's session, we all pretty much knew it was untouchable in the heat today, but you never allow yourself to look ahead or take anything for granted out here.
"Once we made the last run, dropped cylinder and all, I knew this one dream had really come true and that I was actually the No. 1 qualifier for the first time. The fact that it happened at Indy, at the Mac Tools US Nationals just takes it to another level and makes it even cooler for all of us."
WATCH VIDEO - Jeff Arend post-qualifying interview: YouTube - CSK Chevrolet Driver Jeff Arend Post Qualifying US Nationals
Arend's CSK Chevrolet teammate, Del Worsham, has the second quickest Impala SS in the field and is qualified in the No. 7 spot with a 4.785 e.t. at 323.66 mph. Worsham also ran the second quickest elapsed time in the final qualifying session at 4.856 seconds. Tony Pedregon's Q Racing Chevrolet rounds out the top half of the field in the No. 8 position with a 4.768 second run at 321.04 mph.
"We were on a similar run earlier today when it sheared a blower stud and lost boost," explained Worsham. "I figured if we could keep it in one piece, it would run something close to low of the session. Force's run was a masterpiece, and I feel bad for him since he didn't make the show here, but it was really pretty impossible to run better than a 4.82 (bump) out here today. Our goal was to find a good Indy combination so that we know we can go out here on Monday and get it done. I feel like we did exactly that and it all led up to that last run."
In Pro Stock, 12 GM-branded cars made the 16-car field and they were led by WileyX Pontiac driver Jim Yates who qualified in the No. 2 position, his best effort of the season. Yates turned in sterling performance on Saturday night posting a 6.658-second elapsed time at 206.42 mph, and on Sunday he continued to work toward a winning setup on his GTO.
"We started out a little bit conservatively," s aid Yates. "We worked on our combination and made it through qualifying really well. I'm excited about tomorrow and I think the best runs on this WileyX Pontiac GTO are ahead of us. It's going to be a challenge on Monday to see who can adapt to the changing track conditions. I think we're up to it and I think we can shine. We ran good this afternoon on a track that's going to be hotter than it is tomorrow morning. We were probably the second or third fastest car down that lane and that bodes well for us. During a good weekend you don't just make one good run, you make a lot of good runs - you feel consistent, you feel solid with it.
"We've been good in the right lane, we've run good in the left lane, we've run great on the night run, we've run pretty good on the day run, and that's compared to everybody else. We'll go out tomorrow and let it happen. Qualifying is in the books - it's history. Everything we've done so far is a warm-up. Tomorrow is Indy, it's the big race and the big dog is going to hunt."
Dave Connolly has the quickest Chevy Cobalt is the 16-car field and is qualified in the No. 3 position with a 6.659 e.t. at 206.32 mph.
"We've had a good three days and now it's time to go racing," said Connolly. "It's a long event but we've come out of it pretty good so far. I was especially pleased to get down that right lane and it shows that it's imperative to have lane choice here. We've been pretty fortunate this year as far as lane choice is concerned. We're No. 3 and our Torco Racing Fuels Chevy Cobalt is running pretty good right now. We have a key match up tomorrow with Jason (Line) and I'm ready for it."
Team Chevy's Kurt Johnson has the ACDelco Cobalt qualified in the No. 5 spot after running 6.662 seconds at a track-record speed of 207.30 mph. Justin Humphreys' Pontiac is qualified in the sixth position with a 6.669 second e.t. at 206.67 mph.
"We're pretty happy with our ACDelco Cobalt's performance so far this weekend," said Johnson. "We're using some new components, and it seems to be running well. We haven't run this configuration all year, and it's pretty happy right now. I think we have a horse that can win the race. It's just a matter of getting everything together and making good runs. It will be tough, because there are 16 good cars out there, and each round is going to be a battle, but we're going to see if we can make it happen."
Team Chevy's Jeg Coughlin Jr. is qualified in the No. 8 spot and four-time defending champion Greg Anderson has his Pontiac qualified in the 9 position.
"I can't remember when we've had a U.S. Nationals like this one," said Anderson. "This is certainly not good timing for us to be battling some of these issues, but like they say, tomorrow is a new day, and thank God there a race tomorrow. It wasn't today, it wasn't yesterday, and hopefully we can be a better team tomorrow. That last session wasn't a bad run. We're inching up on it and if we had six or seven more runs maybe we could get a handle on this place."
Kenny Koretsky is qualified in the No. 10 position in a Chevy Cobalt, Greg Stanfield is 12th in a Pontiac, Craig Hankinson is 13th in a Pontiac, Jason Line is 14th in a Pontiac, Mike Edwards is 15th in a Pontiac and Steve Schmidt is 16th in a Chevrolet.
"I can't qualify for Englishtown or Maple Grove but I can qualify for the U.S. Nationals," said Koretsky. "We did some testing today on this car during our two qualifying sessions. We tried a different bar in an attempt to get the four-link right and I think we may have found a happy spot again. We were a little light on clutch on the last run but now we're good for tomorrow. There were a lot of good cars here this weekend and we're just happy we made it. If it wasn't for that first run we'd have been in trouble. When you get here, you have to be ready, and our testing paid off. We tested in Martin, Mich., for two days and we tested here last week for two days. It all pays off. You have to test."
"Our first four qualifying runs were really consistent," explained Stanfield. "Our Pontiac ran from 6.68 to 6.69, but that last run we made a mistake with the car that it definitely didn't like, and now we're going back the other way to what was working for us. We'll have a pretty good setup for raceday once we put everything back together. We'll be ready. It can be anybody's race here on Monday. The track will continue to change and it will come down to who adapts the best. There are a lot of good cars that didn't make this race and if you're in it you can win it."
"We're going to be the in right lane tomorrow so we'll need to be as prepared as possible," Edwards said. "We've been over there in three of the five qualifying runs. We know what not to do, we'll have to figure out what to do. We tried to throw several things at it and I still think we can come up with something that's going to work tomorrow. We're qualifying, and that's the first step. We're going in the right direction, we're not where we'd like to be, but hey, we keep plugging away. You can't give up, you can't get upset. You have to keep going, keep plugging away and everybody working together you get through it. We're qualified for the US Nationals. I won one year when I was qualified 13thso anything can happen."
The third and final round of NHRA Pro FWD qualifying for the 53rd annual Mac Tools US Nationals was completed today at O'Reilly Raceway Park. The three Ecotec Chevy Cobalts that took the top three positions all ran under 7.20 seconds and all three cars will have an opportunity to leave Indianapolis with a national elapsed time record.
Gary Gardella, driving the Red Bull Chevy Cobalt, earned the No. 1 qualifying position with a career-best e.t. of 7.156 seconds at 201.91 mph. Following Gardella in the No. 2 position is current points leader Marty Ladwig whose Lucas Oil Chevrolet posted a 7.175 second e.t. at 199.97 mph. Jason Hunt and the Matco Tools Chevrolet is qualified third with a 7.190 second run at200.59 mph.
"That was much better than yesterday," said Ladwig. "We weren't quite No. 1 so we have a little more work today but you can't really complain about a 7.17. We were pretty happy about that."
"That gets the monkey off our back," said Hunt following his Q3 run. "We just skipped the 7.20s. Everything on our Matco Tools Chevrolet worked just fine - we were totally happy with that. The car was fast and it felt real good. I don't know if we can improve on that but we'll see what the track will give us. If we can stay in that range then I think we have a car that can win here this weekend."