Robert Hight continued John Force Racing’s domination of the Funny Car category by racing to victory Sunday at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also were winners at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Brown defeated Brandon Bernstein for the Top Fuel victory. It was Brown’s 26th career victory (10th in Top Fuel) and first ever at this track. Brown posted a 3.887 at 318.84 in his Aaron’s/Matco Tools dragster to cross the finish line in front of Bernstein’s Copart dragster, which trailed with a 3.947 at 311.13.
Antron defeated Morgan Lucas, teammate Tony Schumacher, and Doug Kalitta on his way to the money round.
“This car was great all weekend and it feels good to hit the jackpot here in Vegas,” said Brown, who beat Morgan Lucas, Tony Schumacher and Doug Kalitta to advance to the final round. “This weekend everything felt right. Our team just stepped up. We knew it was going to be cooler out there today and when we ran that (3.84) in the second round it really raised some eyebrows. We had to give it all we had and kept it going throughout eliminations. We got it done.”
Series leader Del Worsham lost in the semifinals and now leads Brown by eight points. Past multi-time world champs Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon both lost in the second round and are third and fourth in the point standings, respectively.
Hight’s victory, his second of the season, was the fifth in a row for the team, which included two wins to close the 2010 season by John Force and last month’s Tire Kingdom Gatornationals victory by Mike Neff. Hight, who also won the season opening Kragen O’Reilly Winternationals, moved into the series lead with the win, his second at this event and 20th of his career.
Hight, who beat Jim Head, Jack Beckman and Cruz Pedregon in earlier rounds, held off Johnny Gray in the final round. Hight’s Auto Club Ford Mustang covered the distance in 4.149 at 307.79 to edge Gray’s Service Central Dodge Charger at the finish line, which ran 4.169 at 301.81.
“It’s not getting any easier, but it’s a lot of hard work,” Hight said. “If you let your guard down any little bit you are going to get beat. I had close side-by-side races in every round. In the final, Johnny Gray stepped up and made his best run of the weekend. There are no easy ones. Jim Head was right there in the first round. It makes it feel better when you can get a win like this. In this day and age in this competition, it’s awesome. We’ve got to keep it going. This was the 199th career victory for John Force Racing and it would be great to get the 200th at Charlotte.”
Edwards claimed his first Pro Stock win of the season and second straight at this event by defeating rookie and first time finalist Vincent Nobile. Edwards ran 6.695 at 205.98 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP to take his 29th career victory and hold off Nobile, who finished in 6.713 at 205.69 in his Mount View Tire Dodge Avenger.
The victory moves Edwards to fourth place in the point standings and helps erase a slow start to the season, which included a DNQ at Pomona.
“We started off pretty slow and pretty bad for us really,” the 2009 world champ said. “We regrouped and came in here with a new car and made some tremendous runs all weekend. It’s a total team effort. My guys did an awesome job all weekend. They gave me 110 percent and they never quit. I am so proud of them. It’s a great win and we want to try to build on this and try to improve as much as we can and keep trying to run good and make good decisions.”
Edwards, who was the event’s top qualifier, defeated Richard Freeman, Erica Enders and V. Gaines in the first three rounds. He said his car slowed a bit in the final and he was lucky to take the win over the Auto Club Road to the Future Award candidate.
“We were fortunate in the final because we made our worst run of the day,” Edwards said. “That Vincent Nobile is going to be quite a Pro Stock driver and he’s a super talent. He’s going to win some races and give us old guys a run for the money, I can tell you that.”
Balooshi outran veteran drag racer Rickie Smith in the final round at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In a battle between two nitrous-injected ’68 Camaros, Balooshi posted a 5.983 at 237.13 in his Speedtech entry to power away from Smith, whose car trailed with a 6.012 at 237.71.
Balooshi’s car was very consistent throughout eliminations, as he posted similar 5.9-second runs in early round wins over Dennis Radford, Melanie Troxel and Danny Rowe.
With the victory Balooshi, from Doha, Qatar, now leads the series standings by 56 points over second place Smith. Defending world champion Von Smith is currently 10th in the standings after two events.
Larry Dixon, a five-time winner at LVMS, earned his 50th top qualifying effort in Top Fuel, as his Friday run of 3.904 at 312.78 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster held steady at the top. It is Dixon’s second No. 1 of the season and fourth at this track.
“They weren’t great runs today, but we’ll still get data,” Dixon said. “I am really surprised that a 3.90 stuck. I really thought some of the cars, especially (teammate) Del’s (Worsham), would actually knock that off. I think we were really fortunate. If you get a 10 degree cooler track (tomorrow) you’ll see some quicker E.T.s. For me, my job is the same whether (the track temperature) is 60 or 160 (degrees). We’ll go out there and try hard and know that the Al-Anabi team will give me a great race horse.”
Brandon Bernstein posted the quickest Saturday pass in Top Fuel with a 3.926 at 305.01 and will start second in his Copart dragster. Gainesville winner and series points leader Worsham qualified third in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster with a 3.938 at 305.42.
Force, the defending and 15-time world champion, posted a 4.136 at 309.27 in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang to power past longtime rival Cruz Pedregon and take his first No. 1 of the season and 135th of his career. He is now just three short of Pro Stock racer Warren Johnson’s all-time NHRA record of 138 No. 1s.
“We got away with it,” Force said. “It makes me feel good for those two kids (Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas) who are tuning the car and they remind me of (former crew chief) Austin Coil. The key is that (by being the No. 1 qualifier) we will get to watch what everybody can do (tomorrow). We’re going to watch the ones ahead of us and then look at (first round opponent Bob Bode’s) number and try to put an edge on him. With Coil the Chi-Town Hustler was famous for consistency and that’s how we won all the championships. Dean Antonelli, he listens, and he has learned so much from Coil and it’s showing right here.”
Pedregon was second with a 4.145 at 306.19 in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry, while Robert Hight anchored the third spot in his Auto Club Ford Mustang with a 4.146 at 309.56. Series leader Mike Neff sits fourth in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang with a 4.153 at 306.46.
In Pro Stock, 2009 world champ Edwards claimed his 35th No. 1 qualifying effort and first of the season with a performance of 6.695 at 206.51 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP as he works to turn around his season after a slow start.
“I thought we ran better yesterday than we did today,” Edwards said. “Overall we’re really pleased with the way we are running. We made four solid runs down the track and hats off to all my guys. Everybody is going to run better tomorrow because the track will be a lot quicker. Hopefully we can adjust and make the right decisions.”
Edwards, who suffered a rare DNQ at the season-opener at Pomona and lost in the second round at the Gatornationals, says this effort couldn’t come at a better time.
“It was important for us to come in here and run good,” Edwards said. “We struggled the first couple of races and to come in here and run good makes you feel better. Hopefully we can take this and get our season going right at the third race of the season instead of the first race of the season.”
Jason Line, winner of the first two races of the season, improved to second overall with a 6.707 at 205.47 in his Summit Racing GXP. Team Mopar Dodge Avenger driver Allen Johnson, who is currently outside the top 10 in points, was third with a 6.711 at 206.07.
Roger Burgess claimed his first No. 1 qualifying effort of the season and opened eliminations with a victory Saturday in the Get Screened America Pro Mod Series portion of the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals.
Burgess bettered his top qualifying performance of 5.956 seconds at 249.81 mph in his turbocharged Pro Care Rx 1953 Corvette in the first round of eliminations as he powered past Michael Gullqvist to take the win. Burgess posted the quickest run of the weekend with a 5.926 at 251.91 while Gullqvist’s ’68 Camaro made a hard move to the right at the hit of the throttle and trailed with a 9.268 at 103.23.
“It’s game on now,” Burgess said after posting the impressive run. “We’ve got a competitive race car. The car is racing the way we want it to.”
No. 2 qualifier Jay Payne was upset by Donald Martin while Gainesville winner and No. 3 qualifier Khalid Balooshi advanced to the second round with a win over Dennis Radford.
The other first round winners included Kenny Lang, Danny Rowe, Melanie Troxel, Troy Coughlin and Rickie Smith.
Larry Dixon, who claimed one of his 12 season victories here last year by defeating Cory McClenathan in the final round, posted a 3.904-second run at 312.78 mph in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to lead the qualifying order in the 7,000-horsepower category.
Teams in all three categories battled warmer than normal weather conditions with track temperatures reaching more than 130 degrees. Dixon, who was ninth after the first qualifying session, said he was proud of his team’s effort to rebound to the top on their second try in the tricky conditions.
“We’re fortunate that it stuck,” Dixon said. “A 3.90 in those conditions I thought was a great run. If we get cooler weather tomorrow that run might not even stay in the show. That’s how much the guys out here can pick it up. For today it was a great run by the team and it got us qualified.”
Dixon’s Al-Anabi Racing teammate Del Worsham, the current points leader who became the 15th driver in NHRA history to win in both nitro categories with his victory three weeks ago in Gainesville, Fla., was second with a 3.938 at 305.42. Antron Brown was third in his Matco Tools dragster with a 3.939 at 311.34.
In Funny Car, Cruz Pedregon just edged 15-time world champ John Force for the top spot with a performance of 4.145 at 306.19 in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry. Defending event winner Force was second with a 4.169 at 304.25 in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang.
“It felt great,” Pedregon said of the run. “My confidence meter was about a zero going into that session because on the first run the car sounded weird and was acting weird. We’re about 70 degrees warmer than when we were No. 1 qualifier about a month ago in Pomona. We change everything except for the chassis and the body on the car to negotiate the run in these conditions. It’s a great track but the heat really loosens it up and makes you have to pull in a few horses. Happy would be an understatement. We’re on cloud nine. It’s just qualifying, but we were the best today.”
Three of Force’s fellow Ford Mustang drivers – Tim Wilkerson, Robert Hight and Bob Tasca – are third through fifth respectively. Series points leader Mike Neff is 16th in his Castrol GTX Mustang with a 5.280 at 142.04.
Edwards led Pro Stock with a 6.709 at 205.63 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP. Edwards, who has a great record in hot conditions, was quickest in the first session and actually improved on that run when the track was warmer in the afternoon.
“I think we made such a good run the first session I think we were closer than everybody else,” Edwards said. “I think you’ll see it close up tomorrow. The track was very hot today. I was really impressed with how we kept up with the track today and improved on our run. I was really happy with all the decisions we made and we’re off to a good start. The gap will definitely get closer tomorrow because everybody will get it figured out.”
Rookie Vincent Nobile is second with a 6.736 at 205.44 in the Mountain View Tire Dodge Avenger and recent national record-setter Rodger Brogdon was third in his Racers Edge GXP with a 6.736 at 205.32. Series leader Jason Line, a winner of the first two races of the season, is eighth with a 6.749 at 205.01 in his Summit Racing GXP.
Roger Burgess raced to the qualifying lead Friday in the NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals.
Burgess covered the quarter-mile distance at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 5.956 seconds at 249.81 mph in his turbo-charged Pro Care Rx 1953 Corvette.
“The car has been running good,” said Burgess, who switched from a supercharged combination from last year to a turbocharged tune up this season. “Even at the last race, it ran good, but it just didn’t race good. We had some issues, but I think we’ve figured them out. Things are going to be a lot better from this point forward. Once we get this car sorted out, it’s going to be a very consistent race car. My secret weapon here is (crew chief) Steve Petty. A lot of guys don’t know who he is, but they are going to know who he is before the season is over, I can promise you that.”
Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals winner and series points leader Khalid Balooshi was second in the 16-car lineup, posting a 5.986 at 238.09 in his nitrous-injected Speedtech ’68 Camaro.
Rickie Smith was third with a 6.004 at 238.81in his nitrous-injected ’68 Camaro and Jay Payne was fourth with a 6.005 at 239.14 in his supercharged FireIce ’68 Camaro.