CHANDLER, Ariz. -- John Force is chasing history at the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals at Firebird International Raceway.
Larry Dixon and Ron Krisher also will lead their respective pro categories into tomorrow's 11 a.m. eliminations for the $1.8 million race, the second of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Force scored his 108th No. 1 qualifying position of his career and second of the season to lead the Funny Car category.
With a victory, Force, who has won seven of the last eight events at FIR, could become the first driver in NHRA history to post 100 wins.
"Getting 100 wins is a goal," Force said. "It is special. It's for the history books."
Force, who will face rival Whit Bazemore in the opening round, posted a track record performance of 4.797 at 318.17 to earn the top spot. Several drivers, including Scotty Cannon, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Phil Burkhart, raised eyebrows with quick efforts on Saturday, when conditions were overcast and cooler than Friday.
"The kids started catching us there today," said Force, who watched his qualifying lead dwindle somewhat in two sessions. "But Austin (Coil, crew chief) was pleased. After our last run he said 'Excellent, now we know what the car won't do.' That's important. Now we know how to get it right for tomorrow."
He'll need a fast setup to defeat Bazemore, one of his toughest challengers late last season. Bazemore qualified 16th with a 5.011 at 309.84, but with Lee Beard tuning the Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird, Force knows the car has the potential to put up a fast number.
"Bazemore is kind of struggling right now, but they know how to race, they'll fix it and be right there," Force added. "It's going to be exciting for the fans to have us going at each other in the first round. We'll be up for it. I have to get a good light and get aggressive, but we have to make sure the car goes from point A to B."
Said Bazemore of the marquee first-round match: "It's always important to control your own destiny and if there's a silver lining in this black cloud that we have hanging over our heads, it's that we get the opportunity to race Force in the first round. We've got our work cut out for us. We're going to work on this Matco Tools car and we'll be ready for tomorrow."
Force teammate Gary Densham was second with a 4.833 at 321.19 in a Ford Mustang, while Cannon was third, covering the distance in 4.848 at 317.57 in his Oakley Pontiac Firebird.
"The conditions were there for someone to run a high-40 today," Dixon said. "We didn't do it and fortunately no one else did either. We got lucky there. The track was tight. Overall I am happy because we ended up being quick both sessions. Usually when we are quick in both sessions on Saturday we're pretty good on race day."
Kenny Bernstein was second in his Budweiser King dragster, clocking a 4.567 at 325.85. Tony Schumacher posted the top speed at 329.26 in the U.S. Army dragster and anchors the third position with a time of 4.588.
In Pro Stock, Krisher earned his second No. 1 qualifying position of the season and
seventh of his career, driving his Eagle One Chevy Cavalier to a track record
performance of 6.866 at 201.97.