Pedregon, Bazemore lead NHRA qualifying

Updated: March 30, 2007, 11:43 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

BAYTOWN, Texas -- Cruz Pedregon and Whit Bazemore said they couldn't get Eric Medlen out of his mind all day Friday, but it didn't stop them from doing their jobs.

Pedregon was the top Funny Car qualifier Friday and Bazemore led Top Fuel after the first two qualifying sessions for the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park.

All of the NHRA drivers are dealing with their feelings over Medlen's death last week from injuries suffered in a Funny Car testing accident at Gainesville, Fla.

"We have so many different emotions right now," Bazemore said. "You have to answer them, and the only way to do it is get in the car and race."

Bazemore was the quickest in the evening qualifying session, zooming down the track in 4.514 seconds at 326.87 mph.

Pedregon topped the Funny Car session with a pass of 4.796 seconds at 300.20 mph in his Monte Carlo.

"Eric was in my thoughts every time I got in the car," Cruz said. "It was just two days ago we were at his funeral. It feels weird being out here without him. And it feels weird not having John Force out here. I've raced against him every event since 1992."

Medlen drove for John Force Racing. Force elected not to compete at the Houston event, the first NHRA race he has missed since 1987. Force drivers Robert Hight, the NHRA points leader, and rookie Ashley Force, John's daughter, also are not competing this weekend.

Jeg Coughlin led Pro Stock qualifying, posting an HRP record for time and speed. Coughlin got his Chevrolet Cobalt down the track at 6.649 seconds and 208.17 mph.

Matt Smith led Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying with a track-record elapsed time of 6.968 seconds at 191.76 mph.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

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