CHANDLER, Ariz. — Top Fuel veteran Doug Kalitta is in line for his second straight No. 1 qualifier position in Phoenix, powering to the provisional top spot on Friday at the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.
Blake Alexander (Funny Car) and Cristian Cuadra (Pro Stock) also earned the provisional No. 1 qualifiers in the respective categories at the second of 21 races during the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
Kalitta, who has 49 career Top Fuel victories, went 3.679 seconds at 330.23 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Mac Tools dragster to go to No. 1. Should it hold, Kalitta would pick up his first No. 1 qualifier since last year in Phoenix and the 52nd in his career. It marks another strong moment in the early part of the season for the veteran.
He struggled a year ago, including a first-round upset in Phoenix last year, but is motivated for a big turnaround in 2023.
“The car was strong and to go out and run a 3.67 was pretty cool,” Kalitta said. “My guys have been working their tails off on this thing and we’re super hungry to make it happen. There’s no better place to do it than here because we love coming to Phoenix. Last year was just one of those years. For whatever reason, the car just wasn’t happy, and it wasn’t responding to what we were doing.
“It was a long year, but I think all the changes and everything we’ve made have been paying off. Hopefully we’ll just stay on a nice roll.”
Kalitta will also be part of Saturday’s first Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, which offers a bonus purse and bonus playoff points, plus competitive racing during qualifying. It includes semifinal rematches from the previous race, including Kalitta taking on Steve Torrence and Gainesville winner Mike Salinas racing Leah Pruett.
Salinas is currently qualified second with a 3.689 seconds at 335.73 mph, with Austin Prock qualifying third.
Alexander made the most of his one pass on Friday in Funny Car, going to the top in his 11,000-horsepower Pronto/Head Inc. Ford Mustang with a run of 3.927 seconds at 322.50 mph. If that holds, Alexander would earn his first No. 1 qualifier in a loaded Funny Car class, as the talented driver made one of only two three-second runs during the session.
After a first-round loss to open the year, it was also a positive move in the right direction.
“We came out today with the mindset of we didn’t do that well on Friday in Gainesville. In fact, we lit the car on fire, and we just wanted to get down the track today,” Alexander said. “It turned out to be a nice ending for us. We work really, really hard and even when you have a bad weekend you work extra hard. So we’re happy. We know what this car needs and we just need to keep moving forward.”
Chad Green, who is competing in Saturday’s Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, is currently second after making a 3.952-second lap at 319.29 mph while Terry Haddock is third. Green will face off with J.R. Todd in the Challenge, while Matt Hagan will take on Alexis DeJoria in a semifinal rematch from Gainesville.
In an impressive Pro Stock qualifying session, Cristian Cuadra went to the top position, closing in on his first career No. 1 qualifier with a run of 6.552 seconds at 210.24 mph in his Corral Boots Ford Mustang. Cuadra has advanced to one final round in his career but hasn’t finished on top in qualifying. That could change this weekend in Phoenix after a strong start on Friday.
“When I saw my time slip, I was excited but I thought it wasn’t going to be No. 1 because the fast cars, Erica [Enders], Greg [Anderson], and T.J. [Troy Coughlin Jr.] all those cars are always really fast,” Cuadra said. “I was really, really amazed. Hopefully, I can keep it for tomorrow. I’m really excited. I really want to be the first Mexican to be No. 1. That’s something important for me. We want to make history in Mexico, and we’re already making it.”
Kyle Koretsky, who qualified No. 1 in Phoenix last season, is currently second after a run of 6.554 seconds at 210.37 mph. KB Titan Racing teammate Dallas Glenn is right behind. The Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge matchups include Troy Coughlin Jr. racing Glenn, and Mason McGaha taking on Greg Anderson.
Qualifying continues on Saturday at the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.