NHRA Toyota Nationals Friday Notebook

Tony Schumacher captured a track record, Jack Beckman tied it, and Greg Anderson, and Eddie Krawiec also nabbed provisional No. 1 qualifying spots after the first day of action in Las Vegas.
27 Oct 2017
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage
Las Vegas Hero

Preview | Features | Results | Photos


hines.jpgPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE Q1 (2:20 p.m.): A whopping 26 bikes made the opening qualifying session and it was no surprise to see a Harley-Davidson atop the pack; the surprise is that it was not points leader Eddie Krawiec but his teammate, Andrew Hines, who clocked a 6.959. Krawiec was a disappointing 12th after a 7.095. Suzuki powerhouse Scotty Pollacheck had the second-best run of the session, 6.961, followed by Angie Smith’s Buell at 6.970.

skillman.jpgPRO STOCK Q1 (2:40 p.m.): Drew Skillman grabbed the early qualifying lead with a 6.644 from his red Chevy, an impressive pass that was more than three-hundredths of a second quicker than his closest challenger, Dallas winner Jason Line, who clocked a 6.679 for the No. 2 spot. Points leader Greg Anderson got a bonus point for the third-best pass of the session, 6.688, a run matched by teammate Bo Butner but at a faster speed, 20504 to 204.63. Twenty cars made qualifying attempts, with Kenny Delco on the current bump at 6.806.

capps2.jpgFUNNY CAR Q1 (3:12 p.m.): Count another three points for the points leader. Ron Capps ran a 3.916 to snag three bonus points with the best pass of the first qualifying session of the weekend, extending his points lead right next to the driver who’s chasing him. Robert Hight smoked the tire halfway down the track, keeping him from earning any bonus points himself. Meanwhile, Cruz Pedregon (3.919) and Jonnie Lindberg (3.937) also picked up bonus points with the second and third best runs of the session. 17 drivers made passes in the first session, and Tim Gibbons holds the bump spot with a 15.52-second pass.

torrence.JPGTOP FUEL Q1 (3:45 p.m.): Just another points leader taking the No. 1 spot through the first session of qualifying. Steve Torrence went .018-second quicker than the second-quickest car of the session, driven by Leah Pritchett. That earned him three bonus points, and moved him another two points ahead of Brittany Force, who earned one bonus point with her 3.758-second pass. Troy Buff held down the quick half of the field with a 3.978, while the rest of the cars in the top eight ran in the 3.7s. As temperatures cool, everyone will be trying to make up two-hundredths (or more) advantage Steve-O holds on the Top Fuel field.  

krawiec2.jpgPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE Q2 (4:50 p.m.): Eddie Krawiec supplanted teammate Andrew Hines atop the qualifying sheets, bouncing back from a sub-par 7.095 in Q1 to a field-leading 6.936 in Q2. Hector Arana Jr. moved into the No. 2 spot with a 6.940 while Hines slipped to third despite a slite improvement to a 6.955. LE Tonglet, who is chasing points leader Krawiec in the battle for the season championship, again got no bonus points after a session-ranked-seventh pass of 6.986. Fred Camarena is on the 16-bike bump spot with a 7.067.

anderson2.jpgPRO STOCK Q2 (5:15 p.m.): Points leader Greg Anderson picked up three very valuable bonus points for having the quickest run of the day’s second qualifying session, a 6.633, while the two guys chasing him =– his teammates, Bo Butner and Jason Line =– earned respective bonuses of two and one point to make it a KB Racing sweep of the top three spots in the session. First session leader Drew Skillman could not improve on his opening run of 6.644 but fell just one spot to the No. 2 qualifying position.

beckman.JPGFUNNY CAR Q2 (5:57 p.m.): Jack Beckman tied a new track record with a 3.867-second pass, grabbing three bonus points in the process. Three different teams earned points, as Courtney Force (3.878) and J.R. Todd (3.884) rounded out the top three. Jim Campbell and John Force ended up in the same lane when the 16-time champion crossed the center line in front of the second-year Funny Car pilot. Force dropped the chutes in front of Campbell, but the two avoided what could have been a scary collision. Neither recorded a time as a result of Force smacking the blocks in the center of the race track. Cruz Pedregon also made a really solid run, making a 3.897-second pass. 

TOP FUEL Q2 (6:24 p.m.): Here comes The Sarge. Tony Schumacher ran a 3.673 to take the track record and the provisional No. 1 qualifier. That earned him three bonus points as he made a pass two-hundredths of a second better than the No. 2 qualifier, Steve Torrence, who ran a 3.694. Those were the only two 3.6s of the day, as Shawn Langdon hit a 3.742 to capture the lone bonus point of the second session. Richie Crampton sits at the bottom of the pack with a 9.863. Leah Pritchett and Brittany Force round out the top five, with 3.754 and 3.758. 


After his car wrecked at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals in Dallas, Steve Torrence and the Capco Contractors team pulled out a brand-new car in the semifinals against Brittany Force. Torrence came up short in that run, but after a day of testing and some time to work on the car, he felt confident entering the NHRA Toyota Nationals. 

It turns out that confidence was warranted. He laid down a 3.736 to move into the No. 1 qualifying spot after the first session at The Strip. That’s just .016-second behind the number that earned him pole position in Las Vegas at the Spring race back in April. That race featured cooler temperatures than we’re experience in Sin City currently. 

More than anything, it speaks to the fabulous job crew chief Richard Hogan and assistant crew chief Bobby Lagana have done on his dragster. To take brand-new pipe and run quick and fast, at altitude no less, should strike fear into the hearts of his competitors. There are still a few more qualifying sessions for Torrence to improve, but this is a great starting point.

Perhaps most impressive is how much better the Texan ran than his competition. Leah Pritchett made the second-best run of the session, a 3.754, and Brittany Force made a 3.758-second pass. Those are both nearly two-hundredths of a second slower than Torrence’s pass. They’ll likely improve on those runs as the weather improves for the second session, but it might not be enough to catch Torrence, particularly if he also gets quicker in the evening session. 

No matter what happens in Q2, Torrence has gotten his title chase off to an incredible start in Las Vegas. He came up short at The Strip in the Spring, but a win in the Fall, like he did in 2016, would put him on the verge of his first title.  


shoe.jpgWith just two races left, Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army know that their chances of collecting a ninth season title are slim, but like the troops they represent, there’s no surrender in their hearts. Schumacher enters the event sixth in the standings, trailing leader Steve Torrence by 192 points. There are still a lot of points on the table – a total of 321 over the final pair of events – but any chance rests of gobbling up as many points as possible and hoping that the handful of opponents in front of them don’t. 

Although they’ve done well in qualifying at the last three events -- fifth, third, and second – the round wins haven’t been coming. Through four Countdown events, he has just three round wins. Qualifying bonus points, a maximum of 12 available, are a good starting point.

“The reality is that we still have a shot at the championship and that’s been the goal from day one,” said Schumacher. “It’s a longshot, for sure, but all we can do is control our part of it and hope for some help this weekend. The first part of doing that is being fast right off the trailer. I know Mike [Green, crew chief] and the guys have been working hard to make sure that happens. We’ve had so many good weekends racing at The Strip and, despite not having the success we were aiming for so far in the Countdown, we still have the chance to do something special here at the end of the season.”


Jim Oberhfoer was conspicuous by his absence on the starting line when Doug Kalitta made his opening qualifying pass at a crucial event for the championship-contending team. Oberhofer is in Las Vegas but was hospitalized for minor surgery after not feeling well Thursday evening. He had a procedure Friday morning and hopes to be back at the track for Sunday’s eliminations. Assistant crew chief Troy Fasching has taken over the lead role, with assists from Oberhfoer and the team. It's the first time since June 2013 that Oberhofer has missed a day; at the 2013 Summernationals in Englishtown, he missed Friday qualifying to attend the high-school graduation of daughter Ashley,


langdon.jpgFormer world champ Shawn Langdon only has two races left in his Top Fuel career before switching to a Funny Car next season, but he’s obviously planning to make the most of them.

He just missed adding a 15thTop Fuel Wally to his shelf in Dallas, where he was runner-up behind Brittany Force and would like to close out his current stint in a dragster with at least another win.

“If we have a car like that for the last two races, I plan on winning at least one of them,” said Langdon, pictured left with crew chief Rob Flynn. “It would be awesome to get another win in Top Fuel. My plan is to win the next two – that’s my goal. It will be a big change next year and I’m excited about it, but my plan is to just focus on the rest of this year first.”

With Langdon advancing to the final in Dallas, all five Kalitta Motorsports driver have now reached a final round this season, with three different drivers (J.R. Todd, Alexis DeJoria and Doug Kalitta) winning races.


It hasn’t been the Countdown that Tim Wilkerson had hoped for, with just three round wins in the first four events, but he’s nonetheless climbed one spot from his initial No. 9 seed to No. 8 and has aspirations of getting into or near the top five.

Wilkerson has finished in the top 10 for the last 10 seasons and 13 times overall, with a career-high second-place finish in a dazzling 2008 campaign, but will need to overcome some recent Vegas woes to continue to advance this season.

"I've given up some good rounds in Vegas the last couple of years,” he admitted. “If I can keep my head on straight, I think we can win some rounds this time and win the race. I want to keep climbing in the points, and it wouldn't bother me a bit to stay ahead of J.R. [Todd] and pass Tommy Johnson Jr. and [John] Force. That's my goal, and I don't know if it's possible – maybe we're pushing our luck – but if we go to the semis and they get beat early, it could work. I have a good car, and I'd like to show it here in these last two races."


nmr.jpgChris Bennett had hoped to be behind the wheel of his family-run No Mercy Racing Funny Car at this event, one with so much meaning to Nevada residents like them after the tragic events of the last month, but he wasn’t able to complete his licensing in time for the event falling less than a tenth of a second shy of the mandatory performance minimum required.

“We’ve just had some stupid stuff happen to us on the times we’ve been out trying to nail it down,” said Bennett, who hails from Henderson, just 45 minutes from the track. “I thought it was important to for my team and my sponsors to still make event, and we wanted to help promote the #VegasStrong movement, which we’ve added to the side of our car.”

Bennett has nitro sophomore Tim Gibbons in the seat this week, with veteran Johnny West tuning, but hopes to complete his licensing on Monday after the event in preparation for a West Coast-based schedule in 2018. The chassis, originally built in 2010 for Matt Hagan by Murf McKinney, was run sporadically by Josh Crawford and has just three dozen runs on it.

It has been anything but an easy season for Cruz Pedregon and his new crew chief, Aaron Brooks. Yes, the Snap-On Tools team qualified for the Countdown to the Championship, but the performance has yet to reach the heights either of them hoped for. Still, Pedregon’s first run at the NHRA Toyota Nationals, a 3.919-second pass at a career-best 329.26 mph, was excellent. 

It was especially good considering two things: First, it was the second-best of the first session. Pedregon isn’t chasing a championship at this point of the season, so those two points aren’t critical. But that the run was so good given the altitude of The Strip is encouraging. It’s also the sixth-best run of the season for Pedregon, another encouraging sign. 

He also kept all four wheels on the ground, something Pedregon failed to do the last time he was at The Strip. In case you’ve forgotten about that spectacular run, you can watch it below: 

"That was a wild ride last fall in Vegas," Cruz said. "That run has been called lots of things from 'bizarre' to 'masterful.' What I know is that when the car landed, I was going straight, survived it and got the 'win' light.”

A Pro Stock championship is out of reach for Jeg Coughlin Jr., but that doesn’t mean the veteran driver will be kept from celebrating a championship at The Strip this weekend. That is, if his brother gets the job done in Pro Mod. Troy Coughlin currently leads Mike Castellana by 26 points and can lock up his third title this weekend. 

“This track has been good to the Coughlin family, no question about it," Jeg said. "Even T.J. (Troy Jr.) has won here in the sportsman ranks so we'd love to add to that total.”

The Coughlins have nine Wallys from the pair of Las Vegas events, with the most recent coming at the Fall 2013 event when Troy captured a Pro Mod victory. That was a year after he earned his first Pro Mod World Championship, which he clinched by winning the final race of the season at The Strip. 

“I have so much love and respect for my brothers and experiencing them winning titles is every bit as exciting as winning them myself,” said Jeg. “We're a family and a team, always, so we share in everything."

Jeg is looking to get back in the winner’s circle himself for the first time since his 2015 Stock victory. His last Pro Stock win came at Englishtown in 2014. A championship might not be in the cards for the veteran driver, but ending that drought would make for a fine weekend in the Coughlin house. 


Everyone always says “every point matters,” but Greg Anderson takes it to heart. After all, he finished second last season behind teammate Jason Line by a mere three points, markers he could have earned anywhere during qualifying in the six races of the Countdown.

Anderson, who has seven wins in nine final-round appearances in Las Vegas, enters the final two events in the tour in the lead once again, but just 15 points ahead of Bo Butner and 30 in front of Line. With the third-best pass of the opening qualifying session, Anderson picked up one bonus point– and, just as importantly, kept Butner, who was fourth quickest, from earning any – while Line picked up two points for the second best pass. In Q2 he got the maximum three points while Butner got two and Line one.

“The class is absolutely brutal right now, and those bonus points during qualifying are going to mean a lot,” said Anderson. “We have to go out there and get as many as we can, and then we have to go round-by-round and try to win this race.”

arana.jpgHector Arana Sr. is making his return to Pro Stock Motorcycle at the NHRA Toyota Nationals after successfully rehabilitating his left shoulder. The veteran rider injured his shoulder following the NHRA Summernationals in June and has been sidelined since. He has, unsurprisingly, not enjoyed his time off very much. 

“I’ve still been working on it, but I haven’t been riding it,” said Arana. “So, that’s even worse. You know, I’ve just been very supportive of (Hector Arana Jr.) and making sure he has everything he needs.”

The younger Arana hasn’t had much luck during the Countdown, despite a very strong regular season. He’s won four rounds in four races, and has lost in the first round in back-to-back contests. His dad will ride a brand-new EBR that Hector Jr. rode for two qualifying rounds at the U.S. Nationals in Indy before switching back to his old bike. 

“I’m trying to work the bugs out of this one,” said Arana. “I’m going to jump on this one because I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Don’t worry, even a veteran rider like Arana has nerves aplenty ahead of his first run in more than four months. 

“I am nervous, don’t get me wrong. It’s been a while, and this feeling… you know everyone is going to be looking at you,” he said. 


reed.jpgTeam Liberty Racing’s Cory Reed and Angelle Sampey have returned to the tour after sitting out since the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in September to concentrate on improving the reliability of the engines in the PSE Victory bikes. What they found wasn’t earthshaking but it also wasn’t something that they and championship-winning crew chief Ken Johnson could figure out on the fly and continue racing.

“It was a lot of little, minute things, like clearances and switching from one rod brand to another,” he said. “Honestly it was just a lot of little things, but those little things can add up pretty quickly. We just needed that time off to have a little room to do that.”

The team tested both bikes recently in Orlando, Fla., where they made runs without a single item of breakage, a far cry from where they were before they parked the bikes after Labor Day.

“We were having some sort of issue almost every run,” he remembered. “If it wasn’t hurting something to the point of actually breaking the next run it would break. It was beating itself up the whole time. We couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on because everything was sporadic that we couldn’t track it. I was very frustrating.

“Stepping back kind of opened our eyes to a couple of things that we may not have had time to see if we didn’t skip a few races. We’re confident that we’re not gonna hurt anything and even go faster than we have all season because we’re not hurting our stuff. We’re committed to these engines. We’re at a point now where every step we take we can learn something. We might not be especially fast this weekend, but we’re ready to build on that and for personal pride.”

Neither rider is in the Countdown so they’re out looking to have fun and play spoiler. Reed especially has his eyes set on a bounty that NitroFish owner Kenny Koretsky, who backs second-place L.E. Tonglet, has put on points leader Eddie Krawiec.

“If Eddie qualifies No. 2 or 3 I wouldn’t mind being No. 14 or 15,” he said with a smile. “I can’t win the championship, so at least I can stir the pot.”

Eddie Krawiec can wrap up his fourth championship at The Strip in Las Vegas … If he has just about a perfect weekend. He’ll also need LE Tonglet to go out early. That’s a big ask, of course, but Krawiec isn’t thinking any differently ahead of the NHRA Toyota Nationals than he was before his incredible AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals. 

“Just make good runs, that’s all you can do,” said Krawiec. “Have another weekend like Dallas.”

All everyone else in the class wants? The exact opposite of that. There’s a rumor of a bounty going around the Pro Stock Motorcycle pits, payable to anyone who can take the points leader out of competition. Krawiec is taking that in stride, and with his typical good sense of humor. 

“Oh yeah? How much,” he asked. “That’s good. If they can’t do it themselves, they gotta put a bounty of me.”

It’s a big field in Pro Stock Motorcycle this weekend, with 26 bikes expected to battle for 16 spots. That means plenty of riders to try to knock off Krawiec. Of course, they’ve been trying to do that all Countdown long with limited success. For what it’s worth, the Harley-Davidson rider has only won twice at The Strip, in back-to-back seasons in 2011 and 2012; the last two seasons he won a title. 

“You gotta run the bikes a little bit different, not a whole lot,” said Krawiec. “Not quite like you do in Denver.” 


Pro Mod racer Eric Latino, a resident of Port Perry, Ont., exited his ’67 Camaro race car on his own after it made contact with both guardwalls during the first round of qualifying.

“I’m totally fine and don’t have any pain. The doctor cleared me,” said Latino, moments after the incident. 


Raceweek kicked off with the traditional Thursday night Fanfest on famed Fremont Street, where NHRA fans turned out in force to meet the stars of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and get autographs.

NHRA stars like Antron Brown not only are always eager to sign autographs but to interact with fans in even more personal ways,

With the event falling on Halloween weekend, Pro Stock Motorcycle riders Joey Gladstone and Cory Reed got into the mood with their Dumb and Dumber-themed costumes.

The Halloween spirit continues on the racetrack, as always, as Bo Butner has his Pro Stock entry is the trim of the famed black and gold machine from the Smokey and the Bandit movie.

The name on the door says Gray but the name on the window is not Shane Gray but Shane Tucker as the Aussie driver is running one of the Gray Motorsports machines this weekend, The car is actually the one in which Tanner Gray won his first event at this track earlier this season.

Funny Car points leader Ron Capps is never at a loss for fans, young and old.

Alexis DeJoria is hoping for another Vegas win as she completes her last two events before heading into retirement.

In Funny Car parlance, Jeff “the Surfer” Diehl “had the heater on” when his machine lit up during the second qualifying session.


Jet Cars close the night at The Strip in Las Vegas with a spectacular show, as usual. 


The NHRA Drag Racing season reaches its penultimate race in Las Vegas with the NHRA Toyota Nationals. The chase for a championship in all four classes remains tight as we visit The Strip for the second time this season. 

S_Torrence.JPGSteve Torrence hung onto the points lead despite bowing out in the semifinals at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals. He fell to Brittany Force, who went on to win her second race in the Countdown and third of the season, a round after crashing into the wall at the Texas Motorplex. The Texan will look to bounce back from that performance with the brand-new dragster his team pulled out for the semi’s, which he’s now tested with at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. Torrence leads Force by 57 points and Doug Kalitta by 76 points; that’s hardly comfortable given the 321 points on the table at the final two races of the season. The Texan has reached the final at the last two Las Vegas races (and he won the last Fall Las Vegas event). A win at The Strip would put Torrence on the verge of his first championship. 


Driver Initial Seed Charlotte Result Reading Result St. Louis Result Dallas Result Current Position Change
Steve Torrence 1 E2 RU W SF 1 0
Antron Brown 2 E2 SF SF SF 4 -2
Leah Pritchett 3 E1 E2 E2 E2 5 -2
Tony Schumacher 4 E2 E2 E2 E1 6 -2
Doug Kalitta 5 W E2 RU E2 3 +2
Brittany Force 6 SF W E2 W 2 +4
Clay Millican 7 E2 E2 E2 E1 7 0
Terry McMillen 8 E1 E1 E1 E1 9 -1
Scott Palmer 9 E1 E1 E1 E1 10 -1
Shawn Langdon 10 E1 E1 E1 RU 8 +2

R_Capps.JPGBoth Ron Capps and Robert Hight enter Las Vegas with the best chance, by far, of taking home the Funny Car title. The defending flopper champion, Capps, leads Hight by just 24 points after coming up short to the Auto Club pilot in Dallas. It’s unlikely anything will be decided at The Strip, especially considering how well the two frontrunners have raced during the Countdown. Capps has earned 395 points during the playoffs, Hight has picked up 391, and each have won two races. That’s about as tight as things can get with two races to go. A handful of qualifying points, and the 20-point lead Capps started the Countdown with, is the difference in the standings so far; we’ll see if that’s enough when the dust settles. 


Driver Initial Seed Charlotte Result Reading Result St. Louis Result Dallas Result Current Position Change
Ron Capps 1 E2 W W RU 1 0
Robert Hight 2 W E2 SF W 2 0
Matt Hagan 3 E1 SF E2 E1 5 -2
Jack Beckman 4 E1 SF E2 SF 4 0
Tommy Johnson Jr. 5 E2 E2 E1 E1 7 -2
Courtney Force 6 RU RU E2 E1 3 +3
John Force 7 E2 E2 SF E2 6 +1
J.R. Todd 8 SF E1 E1 E1 9 -1
Tim Wilkerson 9 E1 E2 E1 SF 8 +1
Cruz Pedregon 10 E1 E1 E1 E1 10 0

G_Anderson.JPGPro Stock has been all about the trio of Camaros fielded by Ken Black Racing. It’s fitting that the three Chevys are at the top of the standings as they reach the home track of their team owner, with veteran Greg Anderson leading the charge. The 401 points he’s earned during the Countdown have him in first place by 15 points over Bo Butner and 30 points in front of Jason Line. That’s a fight that will very likely come down to the finish in Pomona. Rookie Tanner Gray is hanging around, too, as he’s 111 points out of first place. Gray got his first career win at The Strip, beating Butner via a holeshot. A win in Las Vegas is vital for Gray to keep his championship hopes alive.


Driver Initial Seed Charlotte Result Reading Result St. Louis Result Dallas Result Current Position Change
Bo Butner 1 SF W SF E2 2 -1
Tanner Gray 2 W E2 E1 E2 4 -2
Greg Anderson 3 RU RU W SF 1 +2
Drew Skillman 4 E2 E2 E1 RU 5 -1
Jason Line 5 SF SF RU W 3 +2
Erica Enders 6 E2 E2 E2 E2 6 0
Jeg Coughlin 7 E2 E1 E1 E1 8 -1
Vincent Nobile 8 E1 DNR DNR DNR 10 -2
Allen Johnson 9 E1 SF E1 E1 7 +2
Chris McGaha 10 E1 E1 E2 E1 9 -1

E_Krawiec.JPGThat’s not a concern for Eddie Krawiec, who took the points lead over at the start of the Countdown in Charlotte and hasn’t looked back since. The Harley-Davidson rider leads second-place racer LE Tonglet by 107 points, and could wrap up his fourth championship in Las Vegas if the chips fall his way at The Strip. He has won three of the four races during the playoffs thus far, and earned more points (426) than any other Countdown contestant. That’s 81.9 percent of the total points available during the first four Countdown events, a huge turnaround given the Harley-Davidson team’s midseason struggles. Krawiec matched Angelle Sampey’s 42 career victories with his AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals win, and clinching his fourth title would make him the sole holder of third-most championships in Pro Stock Motorcycle history behind Dave Schultz (six) and Andrew Hines (five). 


Driver Initial Seed Charlotte Result Reading Result St. Louis Result Dallas Result Current Position Change
LE Tonglet 1 E2 RU W E1 2 -1
Eddie Krawiec 2 W W E2 W 1 +1
Hector Arana Jr 3 SF SF E1 E1 7 -4
Jerry Savoie 4 SF E2 E2 RU 4 0
Matt Smith 5 E2 E2 SF SF 6 -1
Andrew Hines 6 RU E2 RU E2 3 +3
Scotty Pollacheck 7 E2 SF SF SF 5 +2
Joey Gladstone 8 E1 E1 E1 E1 10 -2
Karen Stoffer 9 E1 E2 E2 E2 8 +1
Angie Smith 10 E1 E1 E2 E2 9 +1