Deric Kramer enjoys a stout duel.

After all, he’s a swordfighter. The Sterling, Colo., resident is immersed in SCA rapier combat – fencing – a sport with Renaissance roots in Europe. It’s a sport that’s probably as complicated and foreign to drag-racing fans as drag-racing is to the rest of the world.

But Kramer has demonstrated he knows both well, and in Saturday’s final session of qualifying for the NHRA Arizona Nationals, Kramer thrust himself to the top of the order with a 6.522-second elapsed time on the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park quarter-mile.

That earned him the first No. 1 qualifying position of his career that just kicked off its seventh year.

Three weeks ago, when he came here for the preseason test-and-tune event, leading the field toward the start of the 24-race Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season wasn’t on his mind.

“When we came here to test, it was really to make sure the car went straight,” he said after his memorable run in the American Ethanol / Novozymes - POET Chevy Camaro.

Kramer aced that assignment.

It sounds pretty elementary, but Kramer switched this winter from a Dodge to a Chevrolet – and one with championship-potential KB Racing power under the hood.

“We went to Pomona with kind of a fresh slate. And we’re just feeling out the new power and the new car and just seeing how everything went. And we just went back to our old game plan, same stuff we were doing in years past . . . with more power,” he said.

“I can’t say enough about these KB guys,” he said. “They can make power, and they can make a lot of it. It’s great.”

This weekend, at Chandler, Ariz., Kramer was a five-thousandths-of-a-second advantage over No. 2 qualifier Erica Enders and was seven-thousandths of a second ahead of No. 3 Alex Laughlin, the leader late Friday and early Saturday. Both Enders and Laughlin drive for Elite Motorsports, one of KB Racing’s chief rivals.

But vaulting to the top of the qualifying list wasn’t a cinch for Kramer.

He had overtaken Laughlin in the third overall session earlier Saturday – but his status changed immediately. Greg Anderson swiped the top spot from him, only to see Friday-night leader Laughlin regain it with one more opportunity for Kramer to shake up the order for good. Kramer evidently saw something he didn’t like about his own performance in that third session.

“We went back and looked at the [Q3] run. We saw, basically, how much I screwed up,” he said with a chagrined laugh, “and figured we’d go ahead and fix those issues, tune a little bit on the car, and see where it took us. We got lucky and got to the top.”

Kramer, who’s surprisingly subdued and polite despite establishing himself at last summer’s U.S. Nationals as the wildly entertaining king of the Pro Stock burnouts, said being No.1 for the first time in his career feels great. We definitely try hard every weekend. And over the past few years we’ve definitely felt we’ve made great runs. Teaming up with KB power and all of our partners – American Ethanol, Novozymes, and POET – we were able to put a package together and go to the top.”

Kramer is a methodical man. He has made his rise through the NHRA ranks in a logical order, from the Jr. Dragster and Comp Eliminator classes. He has a degree in electrical engineering and pays close attention to detail as a designer of iPhone apps for Blinker, a free mobile app that has disrupted the traditional car-sales process by helping anyone buy, sell, finance, and refinance vehicles without visiting a dealership.

So his first-round meeting with No. 16 starter Alan Prusiensky in Sunday’s eliminations is one he analyzed rationally: “Anytime you’re No. 1, you’ve got to feel confident.”

Joey Grose wound up with the class’ lone failure to qualify.