Dale Creasy wasn’t the first one down the track in the rain-delayed Funny Car session Friday. Phil Burkart went first. 

So Creasy said he was a little surprised to hear public-address announcer Alan Reinhart keep saying that he was No. 1 qualifier all the way until the last pairing. Creasy’s 3.914-second, 319.07-mph performance led the field until Matt Hagan blazed at a track speed record (335.82 mph) to the quickest elapsed time (3.914 seconds). 

And it happened on a day that many thought would be rained out. 

“Yeah, it makes for a long day,” he said. “And I know NHRA does the best it can. And in my opinion, when they have to do such a good track prep, then it's going to be as good as it can get. And it kind of showed out there, because there was a lot of tire shake. So we just went up there trying to run high [3.]90 and then ran a little better than we expected. 

“So we'll just see if we can keep repeating. It's a new area for us, where we were a [3.]40 car, and now we're trying to step up. And we don't want to step too hard, because then it'll start breaking stuff. So right now I'm very happy with the way we did. My crew did a wonderful job, and I actually kept it straight,” he said. 

He wasn’t sure, exactly, but he guessed that this was his best spot in the order at the end of any session. 

“I'm going to have to say yes. I've only heard my name said No. 1 qualifier when I got out of the car down there and nobody ran yet,” Creasy said. “So I didn't figure it was going to stay. I figured it'd be three or four more anyway, but to end up No. 2 qualifier, I couldn't be more proud of my guys, Tek Pak, and everybody that helps us.”

Because it has been more than a decade since he has raced at Virginia Motorsports Park and it was on a different surface back then, Creasy said he relied a lot of help from Danny Hood and John Force Racing. 

“So we don't struggle with that as much as somebody that was doing it by [himself],: he said. “So the weather's hot because the barometer's so good and the grains are so high and the humidity's so high and it's cool. So, it was one of them ‘Let's just try this.’ And it was a little hot on one side, so we'll do some fixing on it and get it ready for Sunday.” 

About 15 years ago – in 2008 – Creasy suffered a serious leg injuries during an IHRA race at Edmonton –  broken bones in his right foot and a crushed left shinbone and a compound fracture, all of which required more than a dozen surgeries. A catastrophic parts failure in the driveline triggered the accident, and his legs became tangled in the wreckage. On the road to recovery, he raced at Virginia Motorsports Park. 

“It [the crash] was '08, and then the next year we came here, because we switched to the swing pedal on the clutch and that's how I remember it so well. And it was a good track then, but I think it's better now,” Creasy said. “I think the track is just . . . I don't know if I've ever driven on a track that's that smooth. There was nothing - no wiggles, no nothing. I was impressed with the job NHRA I did and just [as] happy with our guys.” 

This wasn’t the first venue he raced at in his return to drag racing, “but it was that year. I came back almost a year to the day back to the track it happened at because I had to overcome that fear. And once I did that, we started racing again. And we came here because it was on the schedule where we could fit it in between our IHRA stuff, and I was happy we came, because we learned stuff every time we hit the gas.

“We went back to Edmonton for our first match race after I got hurt. We actually went to Salt Lake City, did a match race, and straight up to Edmonton, did a match race. And that got it out of my system because it was just . . . I wasn't afraid of it,” he said. “It's just, now you're a little more apprehensive after you're get hurt that bad.

“And once I hit the gas and all the safety stuff we do, we never fudge on any of that stuff. So a part just broke and it wasn't because we ran it too long or something was wrong with it. But now we have the tunnel, which would've prevented what happened to me. And unfortunately, it took me getting hurt for that to be a rule. But God bless everybody else now because you don't have to go through that,” Creasy said.

He supposed he hasn’t changed much as a person as a result of his recovery from such painful and complex injuries: “I think just getting older. I want to say I'm getting smarter, but nobody would agree with that. But you get more methodical. You start thinking about things more, especially when something like that happens. We change studs 50-percent quicker than we would've before, just because. It's probably never going to happen again. It was a fluke thing, but we're not taking any chances for $1000 worth stuff, for what it cost. So if it means I have to go to one less race to be safer, then that's what it's going to be.” 

Maybe all that’s too much thinking. All he is certain of tonight is that at least for a few hours he’s No. 2 out of the 15 entrants that made passes Friday. (John Smith did not run.) That alone was worth savoring. And how did he plan to celebrate? 

“I'm not sure,” Creasy said. “I think we might start with a beer, though.”