Looking to win both races at zMAX Dragway this season, legendary Funny Car driver John Force took the provisional lead Friday in Charlotte for the 14th annual Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals.

Doug Calito (Top Fuel) and Erika Enders (Pro Stock) are also the provisional No. 1 qualifiers for the second of the six-race countdown to the championship in the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

Force, who has won the four-team event at the track the past two years, just missed the track record in the second playoff race, running his PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS in 3.854s at 330.47 mph. If it holds, it will be the 16-time world champion’s second No. 1 qualifier this year and the 165th of his career. In recent years, the Force have established an impressive pace at the state-of-the-art facility and are also trying to move up the points table. He currently sits fourth in points and is looking to make a big push this weekend.

“It’s a great track to run those numbers, but there’s a stack of them right behind me that can do the same and we’re going to have those conditions tomorrow,” Force said. “We’ve got a good team and it’s getting close, [but] we have a lot of work to do. They were all there tomorrow, but at least we could shine for one night. Our team had a great weekend with Robert [Hight] and Austin [Prock] both won and we’re back in action in the Countdown.”

Three other standouts followed right behind Force, with points leader Hite, reigning world champion Ron Capps and Matt Hagan clocking 3.86s. Hagan is currently second with his run of 3.861s at 329.99 mph, with Hite and Capps at 3.864s and 3.866s, respectively. Rounding out the top five was Bob Taska III with a 3.876s.

Looking to compete in the Top Fuel championship with a late-season run — and pick up an important win along the way — Kalita was the only driver to dip into the 3.60s on Friday, soaring to the top with a 3.694 run at 326.56 mph in his Mac Tools dragster. Kalita is looking for his second No. 1 qualifier this season, but also his 50th career win – and first since 2020 – as he looks to build on his performance in 2022. The veteran has yet to make the final round this year, but time is everything in the countdown to the championship, and Kalito looked strong Friday under the lights at zMAX Dragway.

“I always love coming here and the conditions were perfect,” Kalita said. “We had a lot of confidence going into this run and I was really happy that it worked out. We go down to the wire and try to go around. The team put in a great effort and the car stayed in the groove well. It was very impressive with all the parallel runs and we are looking forward to seeing it tomorrow. Throughout the year we’ve tried to keep improving and I think we’ve hit some things. It would be a great time to start going around and have a consistent car.”

Making his first playoff appearance, reigning event winner and second-year driver Josh Hart is second thanks to his 3.702s at 328.38 mph, while points leader Justin Ashley is right behind with a 3.703s at 330 .72 miles per hour.

Enders put on an impressive display to open Pro Stock qualifying on Friday at Charlotte, rolling to No. 1 by a wide margin with her 6.513s at 210.93 mph in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. Next closest to her was reigning world champion Greg Anderson, who ran 6.535 seconds at 209.82 mph, but Enders stayed one step ahead as she closed in on her fourth No. 1 ranking of the season and 27th of the career. After a dominant performance last weekend at Reading to open the countdown to the championship, Enders, the points leader and four-time world champion, continued her impressive pace to open the race weekend at zMAX Dragway.

“It’s a dream come true for me,” Enders said. “Drive for five [world championships] is still alive and we will try to continue to do our best. It sure felt good when I let go of the clutch. All these [qualifying] Points count in the countdown and our goal is to accumulate as many as possible. We did it at Reading and will try to keep our foot on their throat. We started well [in the Countdown], but we have five races left and we want to make the most of every moment. We have to take those five races into account and see what happens.”

Anderson, who won at Indy to close out the regular season, is second with KB Racing teammate Dallas Glenn in third after his 6.537s pass at 210.50 mph.

Qualifying continues Saturday at 1:30 PM ET at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

https://racer.com/2022/09/23/kalitta-j-force-enders-fast-on-friday-at-nhra-carolina-nationals/

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