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NHRA Toyota Nationals Saturday Notebook

Jack Beckman reset both ends of The Strip track record, while Tony Schumacher, Greg Anderson, and Eddie Krawiec all hung onto their No. 1 qualifier spots at The Strip in Las Vegas.
28 Oct 2017
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage
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QUALIFYING ROUND RECAPS

hines2.jpgPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE Q3 (1:50 p.m.): Andrew Hines didn’t claim the top  overall spot from teammate Eddie Krawiec, but his third straight 6.95 pass, this one a 6.959, earned him three bonus points as the quickest in the session. Krawiec, who remained the No. 1 qualifier with his Friday 6.936, had the round’s third-best pass, a 6.968, with the Harley riders sandwiching Hector Arana Jr.’s Buell, which clocked a 6.960, just a tick behind Hines, and he remains the No. 3 qualifier behind Krawiec with his Friday 6.940. Freddie Camarena is on the bump with a 7.067 with one session to go.

butner2.jpgPRO STOCK Q3 (2:15 p.m.): The back-and-forth battle between the KB Racing Camaros continued in Q3 where Bo Butner’s Bandit-themed machine stole the three bonus points from teammate Greg Anderson based on speed as both ran 6.691 elapsed times; Butner’s speed was marginally faster, 205.57 to 205.35, to earn the session bragging rights. Predictably, the team’s third Camaro, wheeled by Jason Line, had the third-best pass, a 6.702. Anderson remains the No. 1 qualifier with his Friday 6.63 while Alan Prusiesenky sits on the 16-car bump spot with a 6.760. Tanner Gray, unqualified after two Friday passes, made it into the field with a 6.728, good for No. 11 with one session to go.

schumacher3.JPGTOP FUEL Q3 (3:12 p.m.): The U.S. Army team really has something figured out at The Strip in Las Vegas. Tony Schumacher didn’t improve on his No. 1 qualifier time of 3.673, but his 3.743 in the third qualifying session got him another three points. Brittany Force (3.762) and Leah Pritchett (3.785) rounded out the top three from the penultimate session of qualifying, but did not move up the ladder any. That was the story of the third round, with the exception of Clay Millican and Richie Crampton. The two racers with Australian connections hopped off the bottom of the pile with 3.893 and 3.859-second passes, respectively, while Mike Salinas continued to struggle. He broke right after the burnout and has one more chance to make a representative run.

beckman3.JPGFUNNY CAR Q3 (3:40 p.m.): Jack Beckman continued to excel, running a stellar 3.889 to grab another three points with the best pass of the third session of action. The 16-time champion, John Force, ripped off a 3.928 for a pair of points, while Matt Hagan’s 3.93 earned him a solo point. Cruz Pedregon continued his consistent march through the weekend with his third pass in the 3-second zone, the only racer who can claim that distinction. Bob Bode is holding onto the bump spot with a 4.257-second pass, while Jeff Diehl, Jeff Arend, and Tim Gibbons are on the outside looking in.

tonglet.jpgPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE Q4 (4:45 p.m.): Championship contender L.E. Tonglet grabbed three bonus points in the final session, posting a 6.953 aboard his NitroFish Suzuki, a performance matched by Hector Arana Jr. but at a faster speed, 192.36 to 192.19. Andrew Hines grabbed one point for the round’s third-best time, a 6.960 that means he has made four runs without five-thousandths of second this weekend (6.959, 6.955, 6.959, 6.960). The bump spot crept up three-hundredths, from a 7.067 to a 7.039 as John Hall and Katie Sullivan bashed their way into the show at the expense of Steve Johnson and Freddie Camarena.

First-round pairings (lane choice first): Eddie Krawiec vs. John Hall; Hector Arana Jr. vs. Katie Sullivan; L.E. Tonglet vs, Melissa Surber; Andrew Hines vs. Joey Gladstone; Scotty Pollacheck vs. Matt Smith; Angie Smith vs. Karen Stoffer; Hector Arana Sr. vs. Mike Berry; Angelle Sampey vs. Jerry Savoie

skillman2.jpgPRO STOCK Q4 (5:10 p.m.): No one was able to knock Greg Anderson from the top spot, giving him eight qualifying points to go with the two session points for a 6.682 that was second in the final frame behind only Drew Skillman, who clocked a 6.671 and stayed in the No. 2 qualifying spot. Anderson’s teammate and championship rival Jason Line picked up one point with a third-best 6.684.

First-round pairings (lane choice first): Greg Anderson vs. Alan Prusiensky; Drew Skillman vs. Deric Kramer; Bo Butner vs. Shane Tucker; Jason Line vs. Larry Morgan; Jeg Coughlin Jr. vs. Brian Self; Erica Enders vs. Allen Johnson; Tanner Gray vs. Alex Laughlin; Chris McGaha vs. Matt Hartford

clay.JPGTOP FUEL Q4 (5:51 p.m.): Clay Millican picked up a tenth of a second despite dropping the parachutes very early, earning a couple of bonus points in the progress. In the meantime, Tony Schumacher earned his fourth No. 1 qualifier of the season, and his first since Topeka. He did that on the back of his run from Friday night. The Sarge also made the best run on Saturday evening, a 3.673 pass that earned him three bonus points. He’ll race Terry Haddock in the first round. That could set up a monster matchup in the second round if both he and teammate Leah Pritchett win in the first stanza, and Pritchett faces T.J. Zizzo at noon. 

First-round pairings (lane choice first):  Tony Schumacher vs. Troy Buff; Steve Torrence vs. Terry Haddock; Clay Millican vs. Mike Salinas; Brittany Force vs. Shawn Reed; Doug Kalitta vs. Scott Palmer; Terry McMillen vs. Richie Crampton; Shawn Langdon vs. Antron Brown; Leah Pritchett vs. T.J. Zizzo. 

beckman.JPGFUNNY CAR Q4 (6:29 p.m.):  Jack Beckman set both ends of the track record to get his first No. 1 qualifier since the second Pomona race of the 2016 season. The pilot of the Infinite Hero Dodge made a pass of 3.854 seconds at 335.57 to take down The Strip records in Las Vegas, booking a matchup against Jim Campbell in the first round of action. Matt Hagan (3.882) and Ron Capps (3.896) earned the rest of the bonus points; that set up a first-round matchup between the defending champ and the 16-time champ (John Force).

First-round pairings (lane choice first): Jack Beckman vs. Jim Campbell; Courtney Force vs. Jeff Arend; Robert Hight vs. Tim Wilkerson; Matt Hagan vs. Gary Densham; J.R. Todd vs Del Worsham; Ron Capps vs. John Force; Cruz Pedregon vs. Alexis DeJoria; Jonnie Lindberg vs. Tommy Johnson Jr.

FEATURES

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It wasn’t exactly on the level of “win one for the Gipper” inspirational speeches, but Tony Schumacher got his point across to his crew loud and clear. After a Friday-opening pass of 3.79 that left the U.S. Army car in the seventh spot, Schumacher pulled no punches in a top-end interview.

“It was a lame run …  it was weak. It’s not what we were looking for,” he said. “We’ve got to cowboy up if we want to win the championship. If we want to end up in the middle, well, we’re doing a good job.”

Message received.

Crew chief Mike Green expertly turned the screws the right way for the final session and boosted Schumacher right to the top of the field with a track-record 3.673.

“I have to give credit to Mike and the U.S. Army guys,” he said after the run. “Let’s remember we have won this race a lot of times and we have more data than just about everyone else here. We have a good quality map of this place. They evaluated the situation and made good decisions and we made a great run.”

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zizzo.jpgAlthough he doesn’t run the entire circuit, you always know when T.J. Zizzo is in the house, The Rust-oleum-sponsored Top Fuel driver, running in just his second race of the season, is always loud and always honest, so you can imagine his reaction after Mike Kern tuned him a career-best 3.758 in Q2 after a frustrating first pass.

“How cow! It shook a little but got through there; I knew it was on a good run but the last time I made a good run was in July,” said Zizzo, whose only other event this season was his “hometown” event in Chicago. “We’ve struggled, man. On our first pass, two of crew guys – who pour their hearts into this car – made a mistake. It was something very simple and not very easy to overlook – the blower rotors were in backwards. That’s hard to admit but we have to. We regained our composure and rallied. And then we had problems even starting the car in the pit rea – probably our fault – and we came out and run 3.75 at 327 [mph], which is bad to the bone for us.

“Someday, when we have a bigger budget, we'll go to more events, but until then, we don't want to stretch our budget to go to more events to look foolish,” said the Chicago native. “I don't think that's worth it. We've tried to do that in the past and it just did not work out in our favor and you end up going backwards.

"Our method of racing is a great method for teams without million-dollar budgets. It's a great method where your 13 volunteer team members come to the shop every Tuesday, every Sunday, regardless of whether we're racing or not and work on our stuff to have it prepared well for the event. That's the reason we can run well, because we prepare well before we even get to the race track. Our competitors and help we have out there help us in the right direction and we listen."

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salinas.JPGMike Salinas made his return to NHRA Drag Racing on Friday night after taking six races off. He last raced in Seattle, advancing to the second round before absolutely annihilating the supercharger against Antron Brown. His first two runs at The Strip in Las Vegas have not gone a whole lot better than that. 

“You’re supposed to have 115 pounds of fuel pressure when you put it gear and throw out the clutch, and what happened is we had 135 pounds on it,” said Salinas. “And last night, there’s a slide valve on it that sticks out. As soon as you fire it up it’s supposed to slide back in, but ours stayed stuck out. If we had made the run, it would have killed the motor right there.”

He was able to get some help from of his fellow competitors on Friday nights, including getting a new slide valve from assistant crew chief Joe Barlam.

"Joe Barlam gave us this slide valve," said Salinas. "So, last night Bobby Lagana came over and we started diagnosing, and that's what I love about this sport. I walked over to Scott Palmer, and asked for help. He said, 'the trailer's yours.'" 

Salinas will try to make up for the two lost runs today. Salinas is technically in the field on the back of a 7.48-second pass in the first session, where he idled town the lane. Given there are only 16 cars on the property, he doesn’t have to improve to stay in the field. 

Of course, he’s going to want to improve if he doesn’t want to face somebody very difficult in the first round on Sunday morning. He’s played spoiler this season, beating Shawn Langdon in the aforementioned Seattle contest. But the higher you can get up the field the better, right? 

Salinas plans to race in Pomona, and then make at least 15 events next season. Even if he doesn’t make the full pull, expect to see the Scrappers Dragster at all 24 races with another driver behind the wheel. That’s good news for anyone who likes seeing a very quick dragster out on the track. Now, Salinas is hoping to move up in the qualifying order. 

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Perhaps the most surprising thing about the evening qualifying session on Friday was its finish. Jack Beckman ended up as the No. 1 qualifier with a 3.867-second pass, a solid run that tied the track record, but he did so early enough in the session that it seemed there was more available. 

Nobody managed to do more. Not Robert Hight, Courtney Force, Ron Capps … nobody. That surprised, well, just about everyone. Including Beckman, who said he didn’t think his time would hold up as soon as he hopped out of his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger. Beckman reiterated his surprise later that night. 

“The problem with running good early in the night session is that because the track’s only going to continue to cool down and keep getting better, everyone behind us saw what the track is capable of and they’re smart enough to go back and give it a little more clutch and a little more everything else,” he said. “That it survived really surprised me.”

There were a handful of good runs in the second qualifying session, but Beckman’s was the only to get into the 3.86s. Courtney Force got closest with a 3.878, but no one truly threatened the purple Funny Car. Perhaps most impressive was Beckman’s big step up from his dismal 8-second pass in the first session.

“We really missed the power level on our first run,” he said. “We’re at altitude here, there’s no greenery, the oxygen level is a little lower than we see at most tracks and we were just weak and went 8-flat [8.00 e.t.].”

Of course, with similar weather conditions on Saturday, everyone will have an opportunity to tune down from their Friday passes. 

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There’s an old saying in auto racing – more for corner turners than straight-liners – that “slow is fast” and while that doesn’t usually relate to drag racing, it does for independent Funny Car campaigner Bob Bode, who has spent most of the season replacing blown superchargers and repairing cracks in his Funny Car bodies. Finally, fellow Illini Tim Wilkerson rode to the rescue.

“The last three or four races all we did was blow the front end of the car off,” admitted Bode, “but ‘Wilky’ has been helping us. We were just running everything over center; everything was just too hopped up, He brought the blower down, brought the timing down, and now the car runs fine. I can put a hole [cylinder] out and still drive it to the finish line.

“We’ve had the same set of heads on the car for six runs in a row, which is nice because you don’t get the variance from cc’s [combustion chamber size]. The rack [piston set] came out and we can just put new rings on them and run them again. We haven’t done that in five years. I’ve just got to go from here and resist tuning it up; Wilky came over and told me ‘I have nightmares about you … turn this up, turn that up.’ He’s the guy who’s leading us down the right path. Now we can actually stand on the gas the whole way, which means in Pomona we can be good from the start. It’s a long-range plan. We just needed to learn what we’re doing.”

An opening pass of an early-shutoff 4.25 with no damage in Q2 Friday was a good start on that plan.

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pedregon.JPGUsually a great Friday night in Las Vegas refers to action on the other “The Strip,” but for Cruz Pedregon it very much relates to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He first ran a 3.919 and backed that up with a 3.897 to qualify No. 5 after the first day of action. That’s a great start after what’s been a trying season. 

“We’ve had some self-induced stuff, like too much oil in the car, stuff like that,” said Pedregon. “We had mishaps at four Q1s in a row.”  

There was no such mishap for Pedregon and first-year crew chief Aaron Brooks in Q1 on Friday. They earned a pair of bonus points in the first qualifying session, something that has been anything but a regular occurrence for the Snap-On Tools Funny Car this season. Pedregon qualified for the Countdown to the Championship this season, but has not won a round yet in the playoffs.

Part of that is, in Pedregon’s estimation, that he and Brooks came together relatively late in the game. Brooks officially came on board late in January 

“Yeah, we tested, yeah we were there, but we didn’t really get together until midway through the year, but now we’re starting to see the results,” said Pedregon. “No, it’s not an excuse. It’s just the way it worked out.”

Pedregon is looking to get his first round-win since his victory at the U.S. Nationals against Courtney Force. Given his performance in the first two qualifying sessions, perhaps that’s in the cards for the Funny Car veteran. 

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Gary Densham is no longer teaching shop to Southern California high schoolers, but “the world’s fastest school teacher” still can dish out some lessons in nitro racing. After sitting on the sidelines since the Seattle event in early August, Densham’s second pass down The Strip Friday was an impressive 3.99 that has him solidly in the field.

After losing his first pass after the pan pressure and supercharger pressure lines got mixed, causing the safety device to shut off the engine, Densham hammered home the three-second pass in Q2.

With a crew led by Greg Amaral, who has been with Densham since the 1970s when he was one of his students, Densham and team regularly prove they can be a factor at a fraction of the budget.

“Next year is going be rough on us part-timers,” he assessed. “I think I’ve counted 15-16 cars that will be on the circuit full-time next year. It’s great to see for guys like me who have loved Funny Cars my whole life, that the class is so healthy, but hard on me, too. A lot of it is how good, how new is your stuff and how fresh is it? Obviously a lot of my stuff isn’t.

“It was fun in Seattle to run 3.96 when Force ran 3.93, and for me to be able to tell him that the clutch I was running I bought from him in 1999 and that my cylinder heads are six years old and that I don’t have all the tricks and stuff, but I can still run good. 

“I’d love to be able to hang out with Jimmy Prock for six weeks, just put my chin on his shoulder and see everything he’s doing and take all of the knowledge so that I know how many cfm the blower is pumping and how many gallons the fuel pump is running. I may not be able to win like him, but I’d get at least one good run in.”

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anderson3.jpgThere’s a lot of rah-rah atmosphere in the KB Racing/Summit Pro Stock camp -- understandable as its three drivers, Greg Anderson, Bo Butner and Jason Line, sit 1-2-3 in the points – are in the driver’s seat for the Mello Yello championship. Anderson had a good day Friday, earning four of six possible bonus points to put a few more markers between him and his pals, but there’s no letup.

There’s been some team-spirit “It’s doesn’t matter who wins the championship as long as it’s one of us” platitudes tossed around, but anyone who knows Anderson’s fierce competitiveness should have a hard time swallowing that rhetoric.

“That’s just what you say when it’s over and you didn’t win,” confessed Anderson. “Every driver we have wants to win it. We’re selfish. The fangs, the claws, and the horns all come out. You want to whup whoever is in the other lane. That’s just how we’re built.

“I've had a great playoff run so far, and my team has been doing a really great job on Sunday, but I just haven't quite had the speed that I need. So we went home [after Dallas] and used every hour we could. I've got a lot of new parts under the hood, and lo and behold, it's showing some fruit.

"We've got two races to go and four cars locked in a heck of a points battle. You're going to need every bonus point you can get, and you need the fastest hot rod you can get. I’ve got the opportunity and that’s all you can ask for. My Summit Racing Chevy Camaro is a great car that can get the job done, so now it's up to me to see if I can find a way to get that championship."

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tucker.JPGThere will be a Shane driving a Gray Motorsports car this weekend. No, it won’t be Shane Gray. Shane Tucker will pilot the same Camaro that Tanner Gray piloted to the first victory of his Pro Stock career this weekend. It’s the same Camaro Shane Gray drove to victory at the Fall Las Vegas race in 2016, too. So, this Camaro has enjoyed some good fortune at The Strip. 

“Hopefully it’s third time lucky,” said Tucker. “Shane Gray said (running this car) would be the easiest and quickest thing and then we’ll test my car on Monday.” 

The first two runs with Tucker in the seat were 6.741 and 6.749. That has him qualified No. 13 so far, with some room for improvement. The good news is that the Gray Camaro is relatively similar to the Auzmet Architectural Camaro Tucker has driven previously in terms of setup. 

“Yeah, it’s very close to mine,” said Tucker. “It fits very well.” 

Another thing that fits well? Tanner Gray’s helmet. Tucker is borrowing it for at least this weekend. We’ll see if all that good mojo from Gray Motorsports turns into good Sunday fortune for the Australian. 

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Pro Stock’s Deric Kramer has the Halloween spirit and has decked out his American Ethanol Dodge in Mello Yello colors in a nod to the 1990 Tom Cruise movie Days of Thunder. The black NASCAR entry in the film wore the number 51 while Kramer’s carries 52, recognizing his Division 5 background. He’s playing he part this weekend of Cruise’s role as Cole Trickle while his father, David takes on the Randy Quaid-acted role of plaid-suited team owner Tim Daland.

kramer2.jpgThe idea to recreate Days of Thunder came after Kramer found a throwback Mello Yello t-shirt earlier this summer at WalMart. It met with such great review at the track that when several Pro Stock teams began discussing their Halloween Las Vegas plans, Kramer had a direction.

Partner American Ethanol, which increased its support of Kramer’s team after his well-publicized victory in the burnout contest in Indy, was onboard for the livery change.

Fineline Graphics did the wrap for him, which will stay on the car for the season finale in Pomona, which also will be Kramer’s final race (at least for now) in a Dodge. For 2018, he will be in a Jerry Haas-built Chevy Camaro with power supplied by the juggernaut KB Racing team. The team hopes to test in Florida over the winter.

“Leaving our Dodge stuff is the hardest part,” he admitted. “We never got to get the good results with stuff we’d been working on for so long. That’s the bittersweet part of it all. We’re still going to keep our stuff – my dad’s Comp dragster will still run our Hemi engines – and Jason Line is even going to take one of our Hemi motors after the race to see what he can get out of it. We’ll keep both of our cars and maybe even be able to Richie [Stevens Jr.] in it again for a few races. We’ll see. We just look at it like our Dodge program is on hiatus for now.”

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krawiec3.JPGEddie Krawiec picked up another three points during Friday qualifying, increasing his lead on LE Tonglet to a whopping 110 points as Saturday qualifying begins at the NHRA Toyota Nationals. That puts him in an even better position to clinch his fourth Pro Stock Motorcycle championship, and it comes after a throwaway first qualifying run. 

“I had a really good 60-foot, went 1.06, left the starting line, and unfortunately we had a new transmission in there,” said Krawiec. “And every once in a while, when you put a new part in there, everything isn’t happy in there. So be it, that’s behind us and we’re focusing on what’s ahead of us.”

Tuners Matt and Andrew Hines set his bike up based on Andrew’s data from the first run (which was the best of the session), and get Krawiec the provisional No. 1 spot. That’s a great spot to be in for more reasons than the three points. Every round win gets Krawiec closer to that title. 

“Unfortunately, I missed those three little points in the first session, my teammate got a couple, and with Pomona being points and a half… and I know everyone keeps talking about that, but it’s points and a half,” he said. “You really have to have to your stuff together coming out of here.” 

With conditions expected to be nearly identical today, Krawiec doesn’t expect his spot to hold unless he improves. That should make for a very exciting third and fourth qualifying sessions. 

“I think we definitely have a little left in the tank,” Krawiec said. “As you saw Andrew went 194 miles an hour, I only went 191 and change. So, there’s definitely more there. When you start fudging all these numbers, there’s definitely a 6.90 to a 6.89 out there. I don’t think my 6.93 is safe.”

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savoie.jpgReigning Pro Stock Motorcycle champ Jerry Savoie knows he’s going to have to relinquish the No. 1 plate on his bike in a few races, and he’d love nothing more than to give it to teammate L.E. Tonglet, but they’re behind dominant Eddie Krawiec in that title battle and fighting an uphill situation, with Tonglet 107 points back in second.

“We know we’re up against it; of course we’d love to win it, but if we don’t it’s something we’re going to die over,” said Savoie. “We’ve been struggling the last couple of races, down on horsepower, probably a combination of stuff and we’ve almost blown up two of our good engines. Tim [Kulungian, crew chief] has been spending a lot of time going through everything and we’re not giving up. We can only control our end of it and do the best we can do.

“People asked us if we’d try to qualify where we’d get Eddie early, but that means you have to be 15 or 16, and then you’re just a bike or two from being bumped out. It’s not worth it. I’ve never raced like that and don’t want to. We just need to try to win the race; I’ve had some success here – I’ve been in the final three of the last four years here and won it last year – so we know Tim has a handle on this track. We’ll just do the best we can do and see where it falls.”

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jianna.jpgMike Salinas not only has big plans for himself in Top Fuel next year, but two of his daughters also will find their way onto the NHRA national event tour next year.

Jianna, 20, an experienced street-bike rider, will compete in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class

Salinas father and daughter are leaning towards a Suzuki and toured the pits talking to some of the Suzuki teams, and Jianna even saddled up on similarly-sized Katie Sullivan’s bike to check out the fit. They hope she can get her trained with one of the top teams and hopefully debut at next year’s bike opener at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatorationals.

Jasmine, 25, is crewing this weekend on Anthony DiCero’s A/Fuel Dragster for driver Alex Laughlin, and will drive that car at a number of events next year in anticipation of an eventual move to Top Fuel.

Salinas is also working on a deal for a shop in the Brownsburg, Ind., area, home to so many of the touring teams.

PHOTOS

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Stock racer Mick Alley is the leader in the Wheelstand of the Race competition after putting his Big O Tires A/SA '69 Camaro on the rear bumper.

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Support for the community is evident everywhere throughout Las Vegas, including on the staging beam box at The Strip.

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Toyota Funny Car racer Del Worsham joined NHRAs Alan Reinhart to teach some fuel-racing basics to fans in the popular Nitro School segment.

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Angie Smith, Scott Palmer, and Clay Millican were among the NHRA stars taking part in the traditional Mello Yello autograph session.

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Cruz Pedregon, Del Worsham, Antron Brown and a number of other Toyota-sponsored racers took part in an autograph session at the Toyota display.

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As always at this event, the racers embraced the Halloween spirit. Hector Arana Sr.’s Pro Stock Motorcycle team was in full Wizard of Oz mode (if you ignore Aladdin and Jasmine) with Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow … wait  … where’s the Tim Man?

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Oh, yes, there he is. Former Pro Stock world champ Jim Yates, now working with the Aranas, showed he’s not rusty at all.

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Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Wonder Woman: Angelle Sampey!

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Pro Stock’s Chris McGaha got a T-Rex-sized assist from his crew.

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Robert Hight was one of the guests for the pit-area shooting of another special edition of NHRA Today that will air Sunday.

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With his championship hopes on the line, Mike Castellana was able to advance to the second round of Pro Mod competition where he will take on points leader Troy Coughlin Sr. in a crucial match Sunday. If Coughlin wins, he'll be the J&A Service Pro Mod season champ; if Castellana can beat him, and then win his semifinal race, Castellana will be the champ.

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Veteran wheelstander driver Ed "the Outlaw" Jones wowed the crowd with wheels-up passes in his Jelly Belly firetruck machine.

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Once again, jet cars closed the day with their burner-popping, flame-throwing show.

PREVIEW

The second day of qualifying gets underway with much the same conditions as the first. A new track record was set in Top Fuel on Friday, another was matched, and a track record was matched in Funny Car as well. More important for racers in all four categories: Chasing a good qualifying position and the points that come with it. 


Tony Schumacher

Such was the case for Tony Schumacher, who has had all kinds of success at The Strip in Las Vegas. He has more wins in Top Fuel than anyone else in Sin City. His eight (five at the Spring event and three at the Fall race) are the most of any Pro driver. His 3.673-second pass reset the elapsed time record previously held by Steve Torrence (3.689) and earned The Sarge the provisional pole. That’s no guarantee to stay, as the weather will be good yet again on Saturday evening. Still, that was an encouraging start for Schumacher after a run he was not happy with in the first qualifying session. 


Jack Beckman

While Schumacher wasn’t exactly surprised to see his pass hold up over the final two pairs, his teammate, Jack Beckman, can’t say the same about his No. 1 pass. Beckman laid down a 3.867 early in the second Funny Car session, which suggested there was more available to every other Funny Car yet to come. That didn’t happen. Nobody got closer than Courtney Force, who ran a 3.878 at 331.77 mph. So, it’s a step closer to the first No. 1 qualifier of the season for “Fast Jack,” whose odds of grabbing his second career Funny Car title are long. Playing spoiler while helping out teammate Ron Capps might provide a silver lining. 


Greg Anderson

A title is still very much in the balance for Greg Anderson, the current No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock. He picked up two-hundredths of a second on his first session run to get past the competition with a 6.663-second pass. Anderson is just a thousandth ahead of Drew Skillman, .012 ahead of Bo Butner, and .019 in front of Jason Line. So, it’s been a very fine start to the weekend for the Ken Black Racing conglomerate; sound familiar? It should. K.B. Racing has absolutely dominated the Countdown. The same can’t be said for Gray Motorsports; at least, not yet. Tanner Gray remains on the outside looking in, despite winning this race earlier this year. 


Eddie Krawiec

Speaking of dominance: Eddie Krawiec keeps dominating. He missed out on getting any bonus points in the first session, but picked up three in the second and is the current No. 1 qualifier. Perhaps as importantly: LE Tonglet, who is currently second to Krawiec in the points chase, didn’t get a single one. So, that points lead has increased to 110 for the Harley-Davidson rider, and he can move that number even higher with a successful Saturday. His teammate, Andrew Hines, is currently in the No. 3 spot (6.955), while Hector Arana Jr. is in the No. 2 slot (6.94). 

 

 

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