Photos courtesy Fred Dwyer.
Darren Morgan managed to sway the Top Fuel points balance slightly in his favour during qualifying for the 2013 Nitro Champs at Sydney Dragway, taking top position ahead of race day.
Morgan's qualifying points broke the deadlock between himself and Phil Lamattina, edging the K-Trans team ever so slightly ahead.
A 4.77 second time did the job for Morgan on a day where a grippy track and cool air made it difficult to tame the nitro dragsters.
"We've got the best tuners in the world out here who we are trying to beat and even they struggle with the changing track today," Morgan said.
It was a case of getting the tune up just right for the final session for the Victorian outfit, who are soon to star in an ABC TV series Upper Middle Bogan.
"On our first pass we blew through the clutch, then went too far in the other direction in the second session when we were seeing what it had. (Crew chief) Ben Patterson then A to B'd it for the final session and it went down there," he said."
"I was off it early because I saw Phil Read's fire in the other lane and thought it was my car, so there is a bit more in it."
USA visitor Tommy Johnson Jr smoked the tyres in the first two qualifying sessions and then had to shut down the car on the start line before his final run with mechanical problems.
A returning Phil Read qualified second with a 4.91, followed by Damien Harris, Johnson Jr, Phil Lamattina and Terry Sainty.
Top Doorslammer championship leader Peter Kapiris continued to hold the field at bay with a top qualifying performance of 5.79 seconds at a new national speed record of 415.87kmh.
An ecstatic Kapiris said with the car was beautiful to drive.
"That was awesome, I knew it was quick," he said. "It picks up the wheels in each gear change and I hit the parachutes and it nearly threw me through the windscreen. It's surprising how much you can tell the difference with quick runs.
"We need to be careful not to lose sight of the prize in trying to run quicker. We will probably have to tame it down in the morning and then in the second round the track will probably be a lot better and we can step on it."
Kapiris was trailed in qualifying by reigning champion John Zappia, Murray O'Connor, Russ Pavey, Mark Belleri, Victor Bray, Stuart Bishop and Paul Cannuli.
High profile DNQs included Ben Bray and Maurice Fabietti.
In Top Alcohol, Steven Ham belted out Australia's quickest ever Top Alcohol pass with a 5.467 blast from the East Coast Lubes/Mobil 1 Funny Car.
It was enough to take the top qualifying position by over a tenth of a second from second placed Steve Reed, Wayne Newby, Rick Gauci, Adam Marchant, Russell Mills, Brett White and Gary Phillips.
"It felt very smooth, when the shift light came on in high gear I knew it was running some serious speed," he said. "We haven't seen a track that grippy so we had to keep stepping it up.
"There is a low 5.40 in the car easy. It should go 41 or 42. The spark plugs are still like brand new. There is heaps more in the tank we just need to manage it."
Ham has drawn a tough opponent for the first round in Phillips.
"Gary has been in the 40s as well and he knows how to make it go fast so it might be a good heads up battle," Ham said. "I look up to Gary, we need to bring our A game just as much as he does."
Pro Stock saw Lee Bektash's new Dodge Avenger deliver immediate results with a top qualifying performance of 7.003 seconds, just off the magic six second mark. In one of the quickest fields yet seen, the top 13 cars were separated by six hundredths of a second.
Chris Matheson ran his quickest time at Sydney Dragway with a 6.07 putting in a claim to the top qualifying position in Top Bike. The feel good story of the category though was Victorian Phil Parker running a personal best 6.58, his first ever six second time card for the budget nitro team.
Luke Crowley top qualified for the third straight event in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a 7.38 from his Suzuki leading Scott White and Maurice Allen.
The Nitro Champs wraps up on Sunday with final eliminations across the ANDRA Drag Racing Series and Aeroflow Sportsman Drag Racing Championship.