Antron Brown, driver of the Aaron's Top Fuel dragster, knows that big numbers in qualifying are only part of the championship equation.
"Those qualifying points pay big dividends," said Brown, the No. 1 qualifier in Top Fuel on Saturday at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. "We came in here tied with Spencer (Massey), went back and forth, and came out of qualifying one point ahead. Spencer's been trying to take my lunch money.
"We want every point we can get because they all add up when we come into Pomona. We were trying hard today to go low in each round. It didn't go in our favor."
Other No. 1s at Gateway Motorsports Park were Jack Backman in Funny Car, Jason Line in Pro Stock and Hector Arana Jr. in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Brown had one of the best laps of the 1,000-foot era on Friday night – 3.737 at 326.79 mph – to secure the top spot in Top Fuel. He said that while the track records and bonus points are nice, Sunday's eliminations is where he needs to earn his stripes.
"Tomorrow is going to be where all the marbles are counted," Brown said. "We have a tough first round matchup. We struggled a little bit today getting our car slowed down when it got a little hotter, so we have our work cut out for us. The track has been really good, so tomorrow is going to be a good race day."
Brown squares off against No. 16 qualifier Bruce Litton and the Lucas Slick Mist rail, which had a best run of 3.902 seconds at 306.33 mph.
Beckman ran a best lap of 4.049 seconds at 308.85 mph in the Valvoline Dodge Charger, and like Don Schumacher Racing teammate Brown, is looking to make a move in the championship standings.
"We have four races left and that's 16 rounds, assuming that you get to the final round each time," Beckman said. "We're five rounds out of the lead right now, and we're not racing for second place. The pressure is squarely on us."
He starts his day against the Tequilla Patron Toyota Camry driven by Alexis DeJoria, who had a best lap of 4.187 seconds at 291.13 mph.
Line was happy he was able to take some qualifying bonus points away from Pro Stock leader Allen Johnson, who has been hoarding those so far in the Countdown.
"Obviously, we're working on trying to get the three little points," Line said. "All little points matter, but you really have to get the big points tomorrow in order to have a shot at the championship. I just have to do a good job driving and make it happen."
Line and the Summit Racing Chevy Camaro did their share of claiming qualifying points, ending with a best time of 6.496 seconds at 213.47 mph. He faces No. 16 qualifier Jeg Coughlin Jr. and the JEGS/Mopar Dodge Avenger in the first round. Coughlin's qualifying time was a 6.581 at 210.14 mph.
Arana Jr. said he would love to break through for his first win of 2012 at Gateway, and knows that looking back won't get him to that goal.
"I'm looking forward and living in the present, instead of looking back at the past," Arana Jr. said. "It's already happened and there's nothing I can do or change about that. I'm just living in the present."
Arana and the Lucas Oil Buell had a best lap of 6.809 seconds at 196.50 mph. He faces John Hall's Sovereign Racing Buell, which had a best lap of 6.987 seconds at 189.52 mph.