HERBERT, PEDREGON AND WILSON EARN TOP QUALIFYING AWARDS AT ROUTE 66 RACEWAY

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JOLIET, Ill. - Doug Herbert earned his first career No. 1 qualifying award Saturday by leading Top Fuel qualifying at the second annual Craftsman 75th Anniversary NHRA Nationals presented by Racing Champions at Route 66 Raceway. Tony Pedregon and Gene Wilson also will lead their respective categories into Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations at the $1.9 million race, the 20th of 23 events in the NHRA POWERADE Drag Racing Series. Herbert clocked a career-best run of 4.518 seconds at 324.59 mph in his Snap-on Tools dragster during Friday's second qualifying session to pace the 16-car Top Fuel field. "It's nice to get something done in the NHRA that I hadn't done before," Herbert said. "I bet I've been the No. 2 qualifier a dozen times but we just never had everything line up right to be No. 1. It's pretty cool. Now all I need to do before I quit is win Indy and win a championship, so I guess I'll have to race for another year. This was fun and as long as I'm having fun and enjoying the fans and enjoying racing the car, I'll be out here." Top Fuel points leader Larry Dixon was second when he recorded a performance of 4.540 at 323.81 in his Miller Lite dragster, while Andrew Cowin earned the No. 3 position with a run of 4.569 at 323.19 in the Yankee dragster. Kenny Bernstein, who trails Dixon by 104 points, drove his Budweiser King dragster to the No. 5 spot with a blast of 4.570 at 320.89. Pedregon piloted his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang to a category-best run of 4.765 at 312.28 in Friday's first qualifying session. This is Pedregon's sixth No. 1 qualifying award of the season and 16th of his career. "We were very aggressive last night because after we ran the 4.76 in round one we figured we should take a shot at the national record," said Pedregon, who is in position to win his third consecutive event Sunday. "As close as the points race is, a bonus 20 [points] would be huge. You come into this race knowing the track can hold just about anything and it makes for a weekend where you want to be aggressive every lap. "It's getting down to me and John (Force) and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to beat him. He's been awfully nice to me this weekend. In fact, just a little while ago he said I was looking a little stressed out and he offered to send me on an all-expenses-paid fishing trip. He said it leaves tomorrow morning." Whit Bazemore, who has failed to qualify at two of the past three events, qualified in the No. 2 spot when he raced to a 4.776 at 325.14, the sixth fastest Funny Car speed in NHRA history. Funny Car points leader John Force qualified third with a blast of 4.795 at 322.42. Wilson, who advanced to his first career final round in Memphis, Tenn. last Sunday, claimed his first career No. 1 qualifying position when he drove his Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T to a performance of 6.819 at 201.73. "Last year I was No. 2 at the first two races and then we got the No. 1 every time after that," said Wilson, who earned nine low qualifier awards during last year's eight-win IHRA season. "But you get over here and it's like a big slap in the face. I raced some great drivers over there but this is the top level of the sport. You can't make any mistakes at all or you're done. You can't let the competition have any edge. It takes success to get your mind right and that's just starting to happen for us." Wilson was followed by two fellow Dodge-powered machines as Allen Johnson used a run of 6.821 at 201.97 to qualify in the No. 2 position, while Greg Stansfield earned the No. 3 spot with a performance of 6.821 at 201.46. Pro Stock points leader Jim Yates qualified in the No. 4 position with a run of 6.821 at 200.83 in his SplitFire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am.
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