Doug Kalitta has been gunning for his 50th No. 1 qualifier in Top Fuel since the start of the Countdown to the Championship in 2017.

He took a step closer Friday at Bristol Dragway, making a run of 3.755 seconds at 324.67 mph to lead the field after two qualifying sessions. Kalitta hasn't had a No. 1 qualifier since the second Charlotte race two years ago.

"It was a nice run," Kalitta said. "We were in that right lane, and it hooked up good. It's been a while since we’ve had the low qualifier on any of the days – seems like, anyway. I’m real proud of my guys. We're working our tails off trying to make it happen, so we're happy to be up here."

Kalitta took advantage of "perfect" track conditions to edge Leah Pritchett by .002 seconds for the No. 1 spot. The Top Fuel field was especially tight Friday, as .082 seconds separated Kalitta from No. 12 Clay Millican (3.837 seconds). The top five were separated by less than .02 seconds.

"We've had some good night sessions throughout the year," Kalitta said. "Always seems like the last few years you go to these tracks and everybody's setting new track records every time you go to them. The performance of what’s going on with all the teams, you've got to be on your game. We've been working hard at it. You get left behind if you're not.

"It darted to the left out there real hard. Just pulled it back or whatever and it was bouncing the front end maybe a little bit. Definitely got my attention, I have to admit. I figured it was on a good run. I wasn't sure if it was trying to pull the front end up down there or what the heck was going on. But it was pulling hard, and you're just always hoping for the best to see what that thing puts up on the scoreboard."

Kalitta will reach a milestone Sunday, as he'll be competing in his 500th career Top Fuel race.

"It's cool," Kalitta said. "I’m very proud to be with NHRA doing what we're doing- 21 years at it. It's been a fun ride. It's been a while since we've won Bristol. We were fortunate enough to win this thing (three times) before, so I'd like to think that our chances are looking good after our first day of qualifying."