Countdown playoff spoiler Clay Millican earned his first No. 1 qualifying position in more than two years Saturday at the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also will lead their categories into Sunday's noon eliminations as No. 1 qualifiers in the opening round of the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, NHRA's six-race playoffs.

Millican, who missed claiming one of the top 10 playoff spots during the 18-race regular season, scored his third career No. 1 qualifying position with his Friday performance of 3.758 seconds at 318.77 mph in his Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster. On Sunday the nine-time finalist will try to win four rounds and grab that very elusive first NHRA career victory.

"Today was a nail-biter, I kept saying, please stay hot, please stay hot," Millican said. "All the credit goes to the team because they tuned the car and put it together. I am just proud of this group. It's a brand new race team out here and to go to number one, it's really impressive."

Because there are only 15 dragsters entered in the event, Millican will get a bye run in the opening round of eliminations.

"I think we're ready for tomorrow," Millican said. "I was in the final round here at the Four-Wides so there's no reason we can't do that again. Hopefully I won't be 0 for 10. I have nine runner-ups and we're looking for the first W."

Defending Top Fuel world champion and Countdown top seed Tony Schumacher will start second with a 3.774 at 319.75 in the U.S. Army dragster and face legendary Chris Karamesines in the opening round. Steve Torrence qualified third in his Capco Contractors dragster with a 3.786 at 320.36 and will open against four-time season winner Richie Crampton in the Lucas Oil dragster.

In Funny Car, Johnson Jr. raced to his second No. 1 of the season and 12th of his career with his Friday effort of 3.971 at 312.42 in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T. He will go for his third win of the season when he meets part-time racer Bob Gilbertson in the opener.

Johnson also had the quickest car in the third session and gained a little ground in the points standings on playoff top seed Jack Beckman, who qualified eighth in his Infinite Hero Foundation Charger.

"In the Countdown you take every point you can," Johnson said. "We earned seven points in qualifying and at the end of the year that might be big. I believe that the 4.07 today in the third session was even more impressive than the No. 1 run last night based on where the competition was at. We have a lot of confidence going into tomorrow knowing no matter what the conditions are we can really use the data we got today and can have them covered that much tomorrow."

DHL Toyota driver Del Worsham, who is still looking for his first win of the season, qualified second with a 3.993 at 318.32 and  will race Dave Richards in the opener. Ron Capps, a past winner of this event, qualified third with a 3.994 at 317.34 in his NAPA Auto Parts Charger and will meet Tony Pedregon.

In one of the most intriguing first round matchups, Beckman will race Countdown spoiler Courtney Force in what is sure to be an intense side-by-side meeting. John Force, who is racing with a special tribute Chevy Camaro dedicated to NASCAR star Jeff Gordon, qualified sixth with a 4.004 at 313.80 and will face John Hale.

Local favorite Anderson, who is the second seed in the playoffs, captured his third No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 78th of his career in Pro Stock with his category-best 6.524 at 212.26 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro. The four-time world champ, who has three wins at zMAX Dragway including one at this event, will open eliminations against Wally Stroupe.

"We gained a few small qualifying points on Erica Enders," Anderson said. "We were side-by-side on each run and I hope that's a prelude to tomorrow. I'm a little surprised to get my first No. 1 here but we had a good test session here last weekend so I feel like I've got an even better set-up for this track. It's going to be hot tomorrow but I'm not one bit scared. I plan on riding this baby to the finish line and hopefully I can make four good quality runs."

Rookie Bo Butner qualified second with a 6.533 at 211.66 in his blue Jim Butner Auto Chevy Camaro and will race John Gaydosh Jr. in the opening round. Playoff top seed Enders qualified third in her red Elite Motorsports Camaro with a 6.536 at 211.83 and will open eliminations against veteran driver V. Gaines.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, defending event winner and playoff top seed Krawiec took the top spot in the final session, powering his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a 6.851 at 194.38. It is Krawiec's third No. 1 of the season and 26th of his career. He will face Angie Smith in round one.

"The key out here is to get better every run," Krawiec said. "I am definitely excited because I have a great Harley-Davidson going into tomorrow and that's all I can ask for, is to start from the No. 1 spot and keep moving forward."

Friday leader Savoie took the second spot on his White Alligator Suzuki with a 6.862 at 195.99 and he will race Shawn Gann. Defending world champ Andrew Hines qualified third with a 6.869 at 195.85 on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson and will race Chaz Kennedy in the first round. Countdown contender Scotty Pollacheck failed to qualify for eliminations.

* * *

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sunday's first-round pairings for eliminations for the Eighth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway, the second of six playoff races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship and the 19th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Top Fuel -- 1. Clay Millican, 3.758 seconds, 318.77 mph  vs. Bye; 2. Tony Schumacher, 3.774, 319.75 vs. 15. Chris Karamesines, 4.494, 183.94; 3. Steve Torrence, 3.786, 320.36  vs. 14. Richie Crampton, 4.021, 278.92; 4. Leah Pritchett, 3.803, 319.45  vs. 13. Pat Dakin, 3.931, 277.26; 5. Larry Dixon, 3.839, 316.60  vs. 12. Brittany Force, 3.902, 308.21; 6. Antron Brown, 3.852, 311.05 vs. 11. Terry McMillen, 3.886, 314.68; 7. Dave Connolly, 3.859, 307.58  vs. 10. Doug Kalitta, 3.881, 314.17; 8. J.R. Todd, 3.860, 314.61  vs. 9. Shawn Langdon, 3.868, 315.86.

Funny Car -- 1. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.971, 312.42  vs. 16. Bob Gilbertson, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.812, 214.42; 2. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 3.993, 318.32  vs. 15. Dave Richards, Toyota Solara, 4.582, 293.15; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.994, 317.34  vs. 14. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.243, 280.72; 4. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.003, 318.32  vs. 13. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.208, 293.54; 5. Robert Hight, Chey Camaro, 4.004, 313.95  vs. 12. Shane Westerfield, Charger, 4.204, 291.63; 6. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.004, 313.80  vs. 11. John Hale, Charger, 4.198, 272.94; 7. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.015, 314.02  vs. 10. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.079, 302.28; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.022, 307.86  vs. 9. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.062, 307.86.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Chad Head, 5.623, 276.01.

Pro Stock -- 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.524, 212.26  vs. 16. Wally Stroupe, Camaro, 6.956, 200.14; 2. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.533, 211.66  vs. 15. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.671, 207.94; 3. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.536, 211.83  vs. 14. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 6.670, 210.05; 4. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.545, 211.83  vs. 13. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.613, 208.65; 5. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.548, 211.76  vs. 12. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.604, 209.98; 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.551, 211.06  vs. 11. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.581, 210.18; 7. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.556, 211.56 vs. 10. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.564, 210.73; 8. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.559, 211.26  vs. 9. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.563, 211.26.

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.851, 194.38  vs. 16. Angie Smith, Victory, 6.984, 188.44; 2. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.862, 195.99  vs. 15. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.980, 191.89; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.869, 195.85  vs. 14. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.963, 191.08; 4. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.886, 195.00  vs. 13. Redell Harris, Buell, 6.959, 191.65; 5. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.889, 192.58  vs. 12. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.943, 193.35; 6. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.902, 193.63  vs. 11. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.935, 193.82; 7. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.912, 193.57  vs. 10. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.928, 192.00; 8. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.920, 193.57 vs. 9. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.924, 194.94.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Scotty Pollacheck, 7.059, 190.92; 18. Mike Berry, 7.149, 186.15; 19. Andrew Patterson, 7.455, 165.76; 20. Lance Bonham, 7.848, 183.92.