Antron Brown raced to the qualifying lead in Top Fuel Friday at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
Brown powered his Matco Tools dragster to a leading performance of 3.780 seconds at 320.43 mph as he continues his successful comeback following a harrowing season-opening crash in February at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona. Brown, the defending Top Fuel world champion, won the most recent NHRA event in Gainesville in mid-March to move into the series points lead.
“We’ve ran well here in the past, so we just wanted to go for it,” Brown said. “These Matco Tools guys in the pits really stuck it to the coals. At the last couple of races when you keep on getting picked by Doug Kalitta and then we had Tony [Schumacher] and [Shawn] Langdon right behind us, so you just have to step it up. So we picked up three [points] tonight. We love this place so much, and we just want to win here again.”
If Brown’s performance holds through Saturday’s two qualifying sessions (12:30 and 2:30 p.m.), it will be his first No. 1 of the season and 33rd of his career. Sunday’s eliminations start at 11 a.m.
Hight paced the Funny Car category with a 4.053 at 315.19 in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. If the time holds, it will be his fourth No. 1 at this event and the 44th top qualifying effort of his career.
In Pro Stock, Edwards moved into position to claim his fourth consecutive No. 1 qualifying position of the season; he posted a leading performance of 6.651 seconds at 207.98 mph in his I Am Second Chevy Camaro.
“The first run was way better than the second one,” Edwards said. “Hopefully, we can take what we learned today and put it toward the K&N Horsepower Challenge tomorrow.”
Edwards will face Greg Anderson in the opening round of the bonus race for qualified Pro Stock teams that will pay the winner $50,000. Edwards has posted four runner-up finishes in the Challenge in nine career starts.
“I’ve been close,” Edwards said. “I sure would like to win that race. It’s so special, and to be involved with K&N and all the support they give us with Steve Williams and the whole group over there is just phenomenal. It is one of my goals every year to win that race, and I just haven’t done it yet. Maybe this will be my weekend.”
The K&N Horsepower Challenge starts at 12:30 p.m., with rounds to follow at 2:15 and 3:25 p.m. Defending Pro Stock world champion Allen Johnson is the top seed of the event, and he will race Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the opening round. The other two first-round pairings are Jason Line vs. V. Gaines, and Erica Enders-Stevens will take on defending winner Vincent Nobile.