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Denso Spark Plugs Four-Wide NHRA Nationals Saturday Notebook

Greg Anderson stayed No. 1 in Pro Stock while winning the K&N Horsepower Challenge; Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Courtney Force (Funny Car) also grabbed pole position at the Denso Spark Plugs Four-Wide NHRA Nationals.
06 Apr 2018
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage
Las Vegas Hero

Preview | Features | Results | Photos

QUALIFYING ROUND RECAPS

greg2.jpgK&N HORSEPOWER CHALLENGE ROUND 1 (11:55 a.m.): The defending K&N Horsepower Challenge champion is moving on to the next round by a .008-second margin as Greg Anderson defeated Erica Enders by the skin of his teeth. Enders got a big holeshot advantage, but it wasn’t enough to take down the provisional No. 1 qualifier. Don’t worry, there were upsets: Jeg Coughlin Jr. beat Jason Line thanks to Line’s worse red light. That’s right, both drivers went red, but Line was slightly more afoul of the starting-line rule than The Natural. Tanner Gray was forced to shove the clutch back in and lost to his teammate, Drew Skillman, while reigning champ Bo Butner took down Vincent Nobile.

Round-two matchups (lane choice listed first): Bo Butner vs. Drew Skillman; Drew Skillman vs. Jeg Coughlin Jr.

mcgaha.jpgPRO STOCK Q3 (12:01 p.m.): He didn’t get to participate in the K&N Horsepower Challenge, but Chris McGaha made the biggest move in the third Pro Stock qualifying session with a 6.704-second burst. That makes him the No. 4 qualifier with one session to go and creates quite the log jam in the top five. The No. 3-7 qualifiers are separated by just .008 second, with only Greg Anderson and Deric Kramer separated from the pack so far. Joey Grose is holding down the bump spot with a 6.916-second pass. Vincent Nobile (6.718), Drew Skillman (6.724) and Alan Prusiensky (6.844) were the only other drivers to improve in the third round under warmer conditions.

brittany.jpgTOP FUEL Q3 (12:25 p.m.): Brittany Force (3.773) and Billy Torrence (3.776) both closed the gap on Friday leader Antron Brown’s 3.772 but couldn’t get around him to take the No. 1 spot, and Brown himself had to abort his effort. Tony Schumacher, who posted a 3.81 Friday ran a better-yet 3.79 on a run that he said could have been a lot better if the blower belt hadn’t exited at 800 feet. All 16 cars have now made a run to set a full field.

tj2.jpgFUNNY CAR Q3 (12:45 p.m.) Tommy Johnson Jr., who turned 50 yesterday, had a nice post-birthday present as John Collins tuned the Make-A-Wish Dodge to a 3.932 to take over the No. 1 spot from his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps, who earlier in the session had grabbed the No. 1 spot from Friday leader Robert Hight with a 3.957. Jonnie Lindberg joined the three-second parade with a 3.998. With one qualifying session to go, Jim Campbell sits on the bump spot with a 4.137 and three other drivers outside the field behind him.

butner.jpgK&N HORSEPOWER CHALLENGE ROUND 2 (2:51 p.m.): The defending champ of the K&N Horsepower Challenge will race the defending Mello Yello Pro Stock world champ. That’s going to be a darn good race as Bo Butner defeated Drew Skillman despite getting left on by .016 – he ended up winning that race by .002. The same can be said for Greg Anderson vs. Jeg Coughlin Jr.; The Natural grabbed a .002-second advantage at the starting line but lost by a big margin at the stripe. So, it’ll be The Boss vs. The Engine Leaser. Okay, so the second nickname needs a little bit of work. Anderson will have lane choice and all the momentum and mojo in the world.

hartford.jpgPRO STOCK Q4 (3 p.m.): Few cars made improvements during the final qualifying session as temperatures climbed at The Strip, but Matt Hartford picked up a pair of bonus points while running a 6.738 – just .004 off his best run of the weekend. Don’t worry, Greg Anderson is still the No. 1 qualifier and Chris McGaha made the quickest pass of the session. Not much else changed in the session; no cars made a run in the 6.60s, and Shane Gray struggled to get down the track (7.042). That means the Grays will get to race one another in the first quad – that ought to be fun.

First-round quads (lane choice listed first): Greg Anderson vs. Erica Enders vs. Vincent Nobile vs. Joey Grose; Deric Kramer vs. Tanner Gray vs. Shane Gray vs. Alan Prusiensky; Jeg Coughlin Jr. vs. Alex Laughlin vs. Matt Hartford vs. Jeg Coughlin Jr.; Bo Butner vs. Jason Line vs. Drew Skillman vs. Steve Graham

schumacher.JPGTOP FUEL Q4 (3:24 p.m.): For the third session in a row, Tony Schumacher got progressively better. It was good enough (3.765) to get him yet another pole as he chases his ninth win at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He’s .007 second better than teammate Antron Brown, who’s bunched up with Brittany Force (3.773) and Billy Torrence (3.776); that should make for some good racing on Sunday afternoon. Torrence will race his son yet again as they’re booked into the same quad; the last matchup ended with the younger Torrence moving on.  

First-round quads (lane choice listed first): Tony Schumacher vs. Terry McMillen vs. Scott Palmer vs. Steve Chrisman; Antron Brown vs. Leah Pritchett vs. Scott Palmer vs. Terry Totten; Brittany Force vs. Doug Kalitta vs. Richie Crampton vs. Terry Haddock; Billy Torrence vs. Steve Torrence vs. Troy Buff vs. Clay Millican

courtney.jpgFUNNY CAR Q4 (3:43 p.m.): Courtney Force snatched another No. 1 qualifier in the final quad of the session with a 3.927-second pass. She’ll race Jim Campbell, Jonnie Lindberg and Cruz Pedregon in the opening quad while chasing her second win of the season. There are now nine cars in the 3-seconds range, including Force, Lindberg and Pedregon – the last of those drivers is the bottom of the top half of the field. Meanwhile, Bob Tasca III made a big jump into the top half of the field by running a 3.968 and Ron Capps made his third run in the 3s this weekend. That’s not too shabby for the NAPA car.

First-round quads (lane choice listed first): Courtney Force vs. Cruz Pedregon vs. Jonnie Lindberg vs. Jim Campbell; Tommy Johnson Jr. vs. Matt Hagan vs. Tim Wilkerson vs. Bob Bode; J.R. Todd vs. Bob Tasca III vs. John Force vs. Shawn Langdon; Ron Capps vs. Robert Hight vs. Gary Densham vs. Jack Beckman.

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K&N HORSEPOWER CHALLENGE FINAL (3:56 p.m.): Make it lucky No. 7 for Greg Anderson. He has now won the specialty Pro Stock event an amazing three times in a row now after defeating his red-lighting teammate Bo Butner and running a solid 6.731-second time to boot. The racer will try to double up on Sunday by winning the first four-wide in Vegas from the No. 1 spot.

G_Anderson.JPGPRO STOCK LOW QUALIFIER GREG ANDERSON: "It's awesome and it's two weeks in a row, so obviously I've got a great Summit Chevrolet under my belt. I've had a little bit of a sluggish start, but obviously I have everything under me now. It's all up to me now to get it to the other end and turn the win light on. I have the engine, I have the car, I have the crew chief and I have the crew. This gives me a ton of confidence which I haven't had this year."

What does winning your seventh K&N Horsepower Challenge mean to you?

"It blows my mind. I've won $350,000 racing this now. That's more than my house is worth. K&N has just been so wonderful to this class and this sport in general. That's a lot of money to us and is going to go a long way to making these race cars run faster. It's going to be a big confidence boost for me going into tomorrow. I can't wait to go into racing tomorrow. There aren't a lot of people who leave Vegas with more money than they came with, and I'm leaving with more money than I came with, so not much to complain about there. 

C_Force.JPGFUNNY CAR LOW QUALIFIER COURTNEY FORCE: “We’ve had some decent passes throughout qualifying, but we had a little trouble keeping it on all eight cylinders. In Q3 we had a hole out at half-track, but our incremental numbers were solid and we knew we could have a good run if it could just get there.

“You only get one run in each lane here, so for Brian Corradi and Dan Hood to come out and throw down on that pass was pretty awesome. I’m really proud of my guys for getting that top spot and hopefully we can repeat what we did in Phoenix, having the No. 1 spot and taking home the win.

“We had a lot of No.1 qualifiers last year but weren’t able to take home the win. Working with Corradi and Hood and being able to go No. 1 and take home the win shows us that we have something different this year. We showed we had a consistent race car last year but now we’re capable of taking home the wins.”

T_Schumacher.JPGTOP FUEL LOW QUALIFIER TONY SCHUMACHER: “We came up and [crew chief] Mike [Neff] said, ‘It’s warmer than we expected but the track is better than the gripmeter is telling us., It’s a genius kind of guy to look at the gripmeter – the tool that we live by – and say that it’s not right.

“I love it when my crew chief makes a decision to change the clutch when we’re just one pair back and he sees what he sees and makes a small change and it does what he says. Mike said we were going run a 3.76, and we did it. He can look at the weather and say, ‘We need just a little more’ or ‘We need just a little less,’ it responds.

“It’s not going to be easy tomorrow. There’s great drivers and great teams running .77s and .78s.”

FEATURES

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Clay Millican is fighting for a more consistent race car. Crew chief David Grubnic may not have gotten the team a victory in the traditional sense in Gainesville, but the Great Clips / Parts Plus team (sporting the Denso colors this weekend) certainly got a win for consistency in the Sunshine State. Reaching the semifinals before wet pipes cost ‘em is a moral victory at the very least.

“I’m ready. I love the four-wide, it’s fun and it’s different,” said Millican. “The confusion makes it even more fun, it’s all good.”

Millican remains one of the quickest cars in the class when he gets down the track (3.708 e.t. average), but he only makes it to the other end quicker than 3.9 seconds 33 percent of the time. That’s not a recipe for success, and Millican made two so-so passes on Friday despite running on a surface he thinks is capable of much more.

“The surface I’ve heard is unbelievable and it’s so smooth,” he said. “The only thing they’re worried about is that it’s so smooth that the rubber will start wearing off by the end of the weekend. But, that’s just nitpicking because the track really does look fantastic right now.”

His 3.984-second pass has him qualified No. 11 in the 16-car field. It doesn’t look like anyone has gotten the track figured out in the Nitro categories quite yet, so there’s still time for Grubnic to work things out. If you’ve ever seen Grubby, you know he’s always working.

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After smacking the wall in Gainesville, Mike Salinas needed a brand-new car. This one came from Morgan Lucas Racing after previously driving a Brad Hadman-built chassis and it’s taking a little getting used to. That started with Salinas getting to the line … a little late during the first qualifying session on Friday.

“We figured that one out,” said Salinas. “I have an insert in here, so my foot was four inches further back. “So, it changed out how I leave in the new car. It’s a whole new ballgame now. I’ve gotta learn everything over again. I think we’ll be good.

“It’s a little different, I’m used to my Hadman car to my honest with you and I need to get acclimated to it. In my Hadman car I could feel before we were going to smoke the tires and all that, so I need to figure out what I’m feeling. I think I had too much foam in my seat or something, so I’ll figure that out today.”

Part of that confusion stems from the same confusion everyone experiences when racing four-wide, whether it’s their first time (it’s Salinas’) or not. The four staging bulbs on top of the Christmas Tree can throw anyone for a loop.

“The thing is, that you need to figure out how to do this anyway, so it’s gotta be, I think, to be honest with you, that it threw me off yesterday and I gotta calm down,” said Salinas. “I was looking at the lights yesterday, and I was thinking, ‘why isn’t that guy clicking in,’ and my guys were yelling at me, ‘that’s you! Get in there!’ So, that was funny. Next time around, my guy got in front of the car and held up three fingers for me and yelled, three! You’re in three!”

He figures he’ll have it all sorted out for the third round of qualifying.

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Because the never usually travels much further than the Midwest, it’s the first Four-Wide Nationals for Nevada-based car owner Bill Miller and his driver, Troy Buff.

Buff didn’t get much of a sense for the four-wide atmosphere and sometimes confusing staging routine in Q1, where he ran Lane 1, because his scheduled qualifying mates – Terry Haddock, Terry Totten, and Steve Chrisman – all opted to sit out the session, but he did get to run four-wide in Q2 in Lane 4.

Buff has yet to run in the trickiest of lanes – Lanes 2 and 3 – where drivers look at the Tree in a manner they don’t see it in regular two-wide race.

buff2.jpg“I went up there before the first run to watch the Funny Cars stage and, thankfully, Leah [Pritchett] was up there too and explained to me that when you’re in the middle lanes you have to look ‘over’ the Tree to see your stage bulbs, which is not normal. I’m glad she told me that.

Buff was hoping to get his first crack at the middle lanes today, but after discovering a broken rear end this morning, they’re not likely to make Q3.

“We broke the spool,” Miller confirmed. “Because I’m in semi-retirement I didn’t send it back in to get serviced over the wintertime and here’s the price you pay. We didn’t realize it until this morning when we saw a little bubble in the housing because something got stuck between the ring gear and the housing.”

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It’s not been the best of year’s so far for Cruz Pedregon, crew chief Aaron Brooks, and the Snap-on team, with just one round win in the first three events, a body-damaging explosion in qualifying and Gainesville and, in Q1 here Friday, a brush with the guardwall that not only took away a solid run but damaged his second body, forcing the team to resort to “Frankenstein,” which is basically their show-car body, and also flattened the headers and dinged the chassis.

headers.jpg“It dropped three cylinders on the right side and it was like the steering broke,” he explained. “I thought I could get to the finish line but didn’t make it that far. It hurt the body and did a little damage to the chassis, but not so much that we couldn’t still run it.”

The good news is that Friday night the team discovered the source of their early-season woes: a crossed set of computer feeds that were mixing up the EGT (exhaust gas temperature) readings, causing them to not only make adjustments to the wrong cylinders but exacerbate the problems they already had.

Pedregon enters Saturday not qualified but is optimistic that their problems are behind them. They also have a brand-new DSR chassis in the trailer that they will run in testing here on Monday – they would have pushed it into action here if needed – and two more Toyota bodies back at the shop waiting to be mounted.

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langdon.jpgIt’s certainly not Shawn Langdon’s first four-wide experience as he competed in Top Fuel at all of the previous Charlotte spectaculars, but it’s his first time in a Funny Car, which could be problematic with a different view, but the former world champ isn’t having any problems.

“Actually, driving a Funny Car is like driving a canopied dragster, which I did in the last few years, so I’m used to the view,” he said. “To me the four-wide is not that different if you just focus on what you’re doing and your procedure. The only difference is you might be at idle a couple of extra seconds waiting on the other drivers to get staged. The only problem I’ve ever had staging with the four-wide is when one of the other drivers screwed up because they forgot what lane they were in.”

Langdon, who made his first runs in a Funny Car after last year’s fall event at The Strip, is looking good three races into his transition to Funny Car with semifinal finishes at the last two events.

“It’s going pretty well,” he assessed. “I think I’m still a little behind the car but it’s all finally slowing down for me. I’ve got a lot to learn still, but I feel good that it’s no longer just a blur when I hit the gas and you’re trying to process it all and just hoping that finish line gets there in a hurry. My comfort level is good and I feel like I have a lot more control, but it’s still a bit of a run-to-run thing for me.”

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Gary Densham, who was inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame just before the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, looked pretty hallworth in Q2 with a 4.02, the fourth quickest run of the session, when most of his well-sponsored peers were struggling, and finished in the top half of the field in the No. 7 spot.

“I was a little disappointed that in that 4.02 because we were trying to run 3.99, but I rolled the lights a little and cost us some e.t., but when not many of the other guys ran better, I got to thinking it was really good.

“The plan is to go a little better today in Q3 and, depending on how that goes, we’ll either run Q4 too, or I’ll sit in the grandstands and throw beer cans at the guys who run bad. We’ll only run Q4 if we need to because, like all of us low-buck guys out here, we have to pick and choose our runs. Every race could be your last one; you run out of parts or money and you’re done. I do this for the social aspect and trying to do the best you can with what you have until you run out. We’d like to dance every time the band plays, but sometimes you have to be sensible.”

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How bad does Robert Schwab – “Utah’s only Funny Car racer” – want to run his hot rod? Bad enough to take a side job on the tour, driving Jim Head’s tractor-trailer and working on the Jonnie Lindberg-driven Head Inc. Funny Car between events to earn the money for the parts he needs to feed his own car. 

Working on the Head operation the first three events earned him enough money for a new clutch and some cylinder-head and supercharger work He’s also brought back Phil Burkart Jr., who drove the car to his and the car’s personal best of 4.13 at this race last year, to help him dial in the new equipment.

burkart2.jpg“We’ve changed the car so much that I’d rather turn in over to a real professional,” he explained. “I’d much rather tune than drive. It’s such a pleasure to have someone else take that whole responsibility of driving away from me. I like to drive, but it’s hard to do it competitively, and that’s where [Burkart] can really help us, and I need that help.”

Hanging out with the safety-conscious Head also opened Schwab’s eyes to other procedural elements that he’s introduced to his own team.

The event also marks a reunion of sorts for Schwab and Jeff Midgley, who first met in 1999 when Midgley was the lead “fire diver” who pulled the unconscious Schwab from his burning Funny Car at Utah’s Rocky Mountain Raceways in 1999. The two remained friends and Midgley is sponsoring the team this weekend through his company, TNT First-Aid. Additional sponsorship is coming from Reno-based Amethyst Beverage and Burkart Jr.'s online auto parts store, ShopBurkartAuto.com.

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Greg Anderson remains the most consistent, and one of the quickest, racers in the Pro Stock category. 95 percent of his runs this season have been quicker than 7 seconds and those runs have averaged an elapsed time of 6.564. That puts him among the top in the class; teammate Jason Line is No. 1 at 6.557, though he’s less consistent, making it down the track quicker than 7 seconds 65 percent of the time.

His first day at The Strip was no exception. Anderson ran to the provisional pole on the back of his run from the first session, a 6.669, and followed it up with a 6.7. The veteran racer had nothing but good things to say about the brand-new racing surface at the now four-wide Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"First of all, I cannot tell you how great a job they have done with this racing surface,” said Anderson. “This is the best job of a brand-new racing surface that I have ever seen in my life. It's absolutely perfect out there, there's not a bump or a ripple in it, it has great traction, and it does not seem like any one lane has an advantage over the others. That's all you can ask for, and my hat is off to them; the folks here at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway did a fantastic job.”

No Pro Stock racer has more wins in Las Vegas than Anderson (8), tied with Tony Schumacher for the most of any driver. That success, combined with his six wins in the K&N Horsepower Challenge makes this event one of the driver’s favorite on the tour. Of course, that success went out the window when this event was changed to a four-lane affair this season and the track was resurfaced.

“The bottom line is that you get a lot of data and a lot of expert opinions on it and we really hit it on the bullseye,” said Anderson. “From the information and data we got, we really put a lot of ingredients into the mix and that paid off for us. So, this challenge is what you want, you know? You don’t want everything to be the same and for it to be mundane. You want stiff challenges, just like majors on a golf course – it’s good to have stiffer challenges and I think our guys step up to that challenge.”

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The fourth race of the season began with the closest margin between the first place Pro Stock racer and the 10th place racer in at least 20 years. Bo Butner led Erica Enders by 79 points before the first set of cars went down the track at the Denso Spark Plugs Four-Wide NHRA Nationals on Friday; and while the points might not mean too much at this stage of the season, it says a lot about the parity in the class this season.

Honestly, before this year started, we all were talking and thought this was going to be the tightest year ever in Pro Stock when it came to parity,” said Vincent Nobile. “As you can see all the cars are really close. It just comes to make the better call on Sunday and who gets off the clutch first.”

Reaction times have always been a major factor in Pro Stock, and that could become the case even more so in 2018 as elapsed time averages even up. While the defending champ, Butner, leads in points, his margin is razor thin and there have been three different winners from three different “teams” to start the season. Jason Line, Greg Anderson and Shane Gray won the first three races to start 2017 and Tanner Gray took home the fourth trophy of the year.  

“To me (the parity) is Pro Stock,” said Alex Laughlin. “I always said it’d be a lot cheaper for everyone to go up there and have a reaction time game. I know there’s a lot more that goes into it than that, of course. I can’t be thinking about (the reaction times), and I can’t be worried about going up there going red. I have to plan on knocking it down and being .020 or better and let my foot off the clutch pedal and be the same every time.”

The range of average reaction times of drivers currently in a top 10 positions is .0218 second with Tanner Gray on top (.0213) and Line bringing up the rear (.0413). There’s not much in the class that isn’t close at this juncture, which just makes a class that was exciting and tight last year, well, exciting and tighter this year. That’s great news for fans of the class, whether you’re casual or a die hard.

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Tanner Gray won his first NHRA race at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway a year ago, and a lot has changed since then. The track, of course, now has four lanes, and Gray won the Auto Club Road to the Future award following one of the best rookie seasons in NHRA Drag Racing history. Returning to the site of his first win, he’s most excited about the K&N Horsepower Challenge.

“It’s really the only reason I showed up this weekend,” said Gray, tongue firmly in cheek. “I’m really excited for it, racing Drew in the first round is going to be tough, and he’s got lane choice on us. Besides that, I’m ready to go.”

There’s really no such thing as an easy matchup in the challenge, and that’s kind of the point. Six of the eight racers won a race in 2017, with Vincent Nobile and Jeg Coughlin Jr. being the only exceptions. All three rounds will be contested on Saturday, with the first round getting under way at noon PT. Gray feels his car is in great shape following testing coming off his big win in Gainesville.

“We tested two days after Gainesville in Charlotte and then took some time off,” said Gray. “We’re just going in the same direction we were going in Gainesville. Davey is really happy with it and hell, we’ll just have to keep working on it. The vibe is better, but you can’t get too far ahead of yourself because it’s just one win.”

In addition to testing, Gray took some time “off” by … racing. He joined NASCAR racer Kyle Larson and his crew chief Greg Price on one of Gray’s old stomping grounds, Millbridge Speedway in North Carolina, for a kart race. Gray won his heat and placed fifth overall behind Larson, who took third.

“I could’ve done some things that helped the car,” said Gray. “It was my first time out there in about a year, so I was pretty conservative. Greg Price, who’s Kyle Larson’s crew chief, was helping me. It was cool running with them because I get to learn from Kyle.”

Every time out, no matter what car, is a learning experience for the racer now in his sophomore NHRA season.

PHOTOS

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The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway has an all-new look for the first four-wide event west of the Mississippi.

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The participants in the K&N Horsepower Challenge took part in an autograph session with fans in the pits.

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Prior to the opening round of the Challenge, the eight drivers shooting for the $50,000 top prize gathered on stage for a pre-race ceremony.

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Famed drag racers Don “the Snake” Prudhomme Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen, and Roland “the Hawaiian” Leong are part of the NHRA Legends Tour at this event. The program rans all year and will feature a variety of legends at each track.

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Top Fuel racer Clay Millican joined NHRA’s Alan Reinhart to teach some fuel-racing basics to the fans in the popular Nitro School segment.

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John Collins tuned his driver, Tommy Johnson Jr., into the No. 1 qualifying spot in the third session with a 3.93 pass.

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The Four-Wide Nationals got anther new wrinkle when four Fuel Altered went at it, much to the delight of the fans.

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Antron Brown, behind the wheel of a Toyota project car, took on “Papa John” Schnatter is another round of the seasonlong charity challenge.

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For the seventh time, Greg Anderson ended Saturday in Las Vegas with the $50,000 payday for winning the K&N Horsepower Challenge.
 

PREVIEW

Racers return for the second of action of the Denso Spark Plugs Four-Wide NHRA Nationals looking to improve on their Friday times. That’s certainly true for those at the bottom of the table, like former Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan, and it can also be true for those who are simply looking for incremental improvement like Jeg Coughlin Jr. With temperatures likely to increase on Saturday, and gusty winds in the forecast, it’ll be tough to top the incumbent No. 1 qualifiers, but there’s a chance given how good the race track looked on Friday.

A_Brown.JPGThat’s at least part of what allowed Antron Brown to get to the top with a 3.772-second pull on his second trip down The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The defending champion of the Spring Las Vegas event (back when we raced two at a time) didn’t get down the track in the first qualifying session, but he was quicker than everyone else the second time out. Only he and Doug Kalitta made runs in the 3.70s on Friday, meaning there’s plenty of room for improvement, even if it’s hot outside. Tony Schumacher looks like a candidate to steal the pole, which is fitting given that he made it to the final round in Las Vegas a year ago.

R_Hight.JPGRobert Hight didn’t make it to either Las Vegas final last season, but he is the defending champion and he is looking for his first event win of the season. In fact, all three provisional No. 1 qualifiers are still hunting for that first Wally of the year. There’s no time like the present to get that done then at The Strip. Hight was one of three Funny Car racers to make a run in the 3.90s, alongside Tommy Johnson Jr. and Ron Capps – those are a pair of drivers to watch tomorrow. Courtney Force also made a strong run, relative to the competition, in her second pass of the day.  Perhaps most surprising is that Hagan is holding down the bump spot with a 4.319 while J.R. Todd isn’t in the field – all while Gary Densham is the No. 7 qualifier (4.021).

G_Anderson.JPGYou know who loves Las Vegas? Greg Anderson. He and Tony Schumacher are the winningest drivers in Sin City with eight apiece and Anderson had the best car by nearly .02 second on Friday. The other two cars in the top three also received power from K.B. Racing – and only Alex Laughlin broke up the K.B. chain. That must feel pretty good for team owner Ken Black, who calls Las Vegas home. It likely feels less good for Drew Skillman, Steve Graham, Joey Grose and Alan Prusiensky; the racers set to race those guys on Sunday. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, though. Saturday brings with it the K&N Horsepower Challenge, so we also get to find out if someone will knock Anderson off that perch. Right.