11:54 a.m.: The list of entries in Top Alcohol Funny Car at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals reads like a who’s who of the category. Eight of the top 10 drivers in the Lucas Oil standings are present with all but the No. 8 and 9 drivers competing for the Wally.
The biggest surprise among the entrants is 16-time champion Frank Manzo, who, following his Charlotte win, decided to trek to Texas Motorplex for the first time since 1999 and only the fourth time in his career. He is trying to capitalize on his points lead while others are trying to prevent him from scoring an unprecedented 17th title in his final season behind the wheel.
Almost as big of a surprise as Manzo is Dan Pomponio, a driver who rarely ventures out of the Northeast but was prompted to chase points following a hot start to the season that included wins at the Gainesville and spring Charlotte events. Tony Bartone is another one of the drivers trying to derail Manzo for a title, and he’ll be driving the same car with which Mickey Ferro raced him in the Charlotte final.
After the first session of qualifying, Manzo is the top qualifier with a 5.50, a new track record for the category. No. 2 on the sheets is Southern California driver Shane Westerfield with a 5.54, one-hundredth off of his career-best. Annie Whiteley (5.56), Chris Foster (5.58), and John Lombardo Jr. (5.58) are also in the 5.5-second zone.
Mark Taliaferro leads the Top Alcohol Dragster contingent with a 5.28, his quickest run ever in a blown alcohol car (he went 5.24 in an A/Fuel car last season). He is followed by Jim Whiteley (5.31) and Ray Martin (5.33) before the first A/Fuel driver, Bill Reichert (5.35), appears on the list.
The alcohol classes have one more qualifying session remaining before they begin eliminations tonight.