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Top Fuel: Points leader Kalitta top qualifier at BIR

Doug Kalitta drives his Top Fuel Dragster to first in qualifying Friday at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. Kalitta's top speed was 322.96 mph with a low ET of 3.812. (Dispatch Photo/Steve Kohls)

Doug Kalitta is in the top spot in the Countdown to the Championship for a reason. He won at Seattle two weeks ago and continued his strong season with the No. 1 qualifying spot after the first two rounds Friday in the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.

Working for his sixth No. 1 qualifier of the season and his fourth at BIR, Kalitta completed a wild second round of racing with an ET of 3.812 at 322.96 miles per hour in his Mac Tools dragster to move from the ninth spot up to the top spot.

"It was cooling off and with the four cars that were back there anything could have happened," Kalitta said. "I was really happy with the run. It was nice and straight. We just put that car together in Seattle and we drug it out here. The second pass in it and it held on for the fast time today. Conditions were good at the end of the day and I was happy that it held out."

If you could only have watched the first round of qualifying, you would be rather surprised at the leaderboard. Spencer Massey ran an opening-round time of 3.860 to finish in the top spot. In the second round his time of 3.875 dropped him to ninth. Tony Schumacher also moved from the second spot down to the sixth position.

However, the majority of the moves were in the other direction. A perfect example was Bob Vandergriff Jr. who was in the 17th spot after the opening round. Leading off in the second round, Vandergriff shot to the top with a time of 3.835. Larry Dixon continued that trend moving from the 14th position up to No. 2. Richie Crampton also moved up from the 12th spot temporarily into the top spot until Kalitta took it over for good.

"I dropped a cylinder and smoked the tires in the first run," Kalitta said. "It wasn't going anywhere. Fortunately I have my team and they went back and took a look at it. I am very fortunate to have these guys who knew what to do and I am really proud of them."

After getting into the top spot, Kalitta had to watch four more cars make a pass, and he was doubtful that his time would stick No. 1 with the conditions. With a chance of showers on Saturday he is feeling pretty good about his position.

"The conditions were good and there are a handful of good cars out here," he said." You can never take these guys lightly and it proves what a great field of cars we have in Top Fuel right now."If we get over overcast and cooler tomorrow, then it may hold. If the weather is like it was today, then it might be a little tricky. Hopefully it will hold up but if not we will work to be right there with them. "This is a great event and we have had good luck up here. It's a special place for us and it would be great to get a win on Sunday."