Ashley, J. Force and Sampey lead Charlotte Four-wide final

On Saturday, Justin Ashley clinched his first career No. 1 qualifier in Top Fuel, earning his first first-place finish at the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide National Championships at zMAX Dragway. John Force (Funny Car) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also qualified No. 1 in the sixth of 22 races in the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

Buoyed by his 3.669 second streak at 331.77 mph on Friday in his 11,000 horsepower Phillips Connect dragster powered by Vita C Shot, Ashley (picture above) earned his first No. 1 position in his young career, doing so at the same track where he made his Top Fuel debut in 2019. Ashley will open the eliminations in a first-round quad that also includes Cameron Ferre, Austin Prock and Antron Brown, is looking to power up his second win of 2022 and potentially take the points lead in Top Fuel.

“We’ve accomplished a lot in a short time, but to be able to sit here and say we qualified #1 at an event like this with the depth in this Top Fuel area, that really says it. long on our team,” Ashley said. “I’m in it and enjoying it, that’s all I can tell you. There’s pressure on race day because it’s the race day. It’s just about getting out there and putting our best foot forward.

Leah Pruett qualified second with a 3.686 at 327.51, posting a string of strong qualifying runs, while four-time defending winner Steve Torrence took third with a 3.694. Prock, who qualified eighth, broke the track speed record in the final session with a blast of 333.58. Points leader Brittany Force, who has won back-to-back wins this year, qualified seventh.

In Funny Car, Friday’s 3.850-334.24 Force track record in his 11,000 horsepower Chevrolet Camaro SS PEAK/BlueDEF Platinum helped the 16-time world champion earn his first qualifying of the year and 164th of her career. Force is the defending winner of the four-man event in Charlotte and has already had a strong weekend at the ‘Bellagio of Dragstrips’, completing three outstanding assists in qualifying. He will look for his first win of 2022, starting Sunday with a quad that includes Bob Tasca III and Alexis DeJoria.

“It’s a team effort and Robert Hight ran faster, 3.87 to our 3.89 (in the last qualifying session), but I feel good because we have three good runs out of four and a bit of consistency,” Force said. “If Robert wins, we win, but I want to win too. It has a couple on board (in 2022); I have to go. Consistency is what we are looking for. I’m trying to find myself on the Tree. So, good day for (our team) and let’s see where tomorrow goes.

Points leader Matt Hagan, who won last weekend in Houston, remained second thanks to his 3.867-330.55 pass on Friday, while defending world champion Ron Capps rounded out the top three thanks at its 3.873 at 332.02.

Sampey put in a record-breaking performance on Saturday, completing two quality runs on her Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki, including a top run of 6.714 at 201.16 to give the three-time world champion her first No. 1 qualifier of the season. and the 54th of his career. Sampey added another solid run of 6.721 at 201.82 to close out the day, giving him the two fastest runs of the weekend so far and plenty of momentum ahead of Sunday’s eliminations. Sampey, who will meet Kelly Clontz, Joey Gladstone and reigning world champion Matt Smith in the first round of eliminations, is aiming for his first victory of the season.

“We were a bit behind on that No. 1 qualification,” Sampey said. “We should have had it in Gainesville, we should have had it in Houston, and we definitely had it here, thank goodness. I knew my Suzuki had it in it, but I was most of the problem. It’s just a great bike and (crew chief) Andrew (Hines) does a great job of tuning it. This team gives me everything I need and it’s up to me to do the job, and I’m going to work on that tomorrow. The confidence is definitely coming back and we’re learning the bike together, and everything is falling into place.

Friday’s provisional No. 1 Steve Johnson, who won last weekend in Houston, improved his time, taking second after going 6.732 to 200.05. Points leader Karen Stoffer is third at 6.763 at 199.79.

In the FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by D-Wagon, Justin Bond took first place with his run of 5.744 at 248.20. This is the sixth career No. 1 qualifier for Bond, who will seek his first win of the season in a race powered by Precision Racing Suspension. Gainesville winner Kris Thorne qualified second with a 5.751 at 253.42 and Rickie Smith is third after posting 5.760 at 252.76.

Eliminations for the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide National Championships begin at 11 a.m. ET Sunday at zMAX Dragway.

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