Reigning world champ J.R. Todd is not going down without a fight as he and the DHL Toyota team showed Friday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motorsports Park, taking the qualifying lead with a 3.856 that was just .002-second shy of the track record. Todd continued the dominance he has shown at The Strip, having won the last three events dating back to the spring 2018 race.
“Todd Smith and Jon O[berhofer, crew chiefs] obviously keep some real good notes for this place and since Jeff Foster and his guys redid the lanes here it really played to their tune-up,” said Todd. “I didn’t think that would up for No. 1, but it did. We’ll see how the conditions are for tomorrow but either way that will keep us in the top five. We need to go out and win the next two races no matter what. We can’t control what the guy in front of us are going to do but if they slip up it could be exciting come Pomona.”
Tommy Johnson Jr. slid into the second spot with a 3.856, just .002-second behind Todd.
Bob Tasca III, still reveling in the supersonic flight Thursday in an F-15 fighter, was flying o the ground, too, clocking a 3.862 that was nearly a half-tenth quicker than his opening lap in the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang, to take the No. 3 position.
Robert Hight was low after the first session with a 3.876 that was just one of 11 three-second passes in the opening shot, but he could run just 3.88 on his evening pass and slipped to the No. 6 position.
Getting between him and the top three were his boss, John Force, who clocked a 3.866, and Jack Beckman, who bettered his own track speed mark of 335.57 with a run of 335.90 on a run of 3.872.
Paul Lee looked especially impressive with a pair of 3.88s (3.881 and 3.882) but still ended up No. 8. Cruz Pedregon added his name to the three-second qualifiers to make it an even dozen with a 3.920 for the No. 12 spot.
Steven Densham, son of class veteran Gary, made his first official run in competition but had to shut off early as the car drifted toward the centerline and his 6.241 represents the bump spot. Nineteen cars are entered trying to qualify for the 16-car field for Sunday’s final eliminations.