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Tim Wilkerson earns first pole since 2017; Mike Salinas, Bo Butner, Matt Smith take top spots in Las Vegas

Tim Wilkerson snatched his first No. 1 qualifier since 2017, while Mike Salinas (Top Fuel), Bo Butner (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) topped the charts at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.
06 Apr 2019
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage

Tim Wilkerson secured the 20th No. 1 qualifier of his career and his first since 2017 Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals in Bristol. The Funny Car veteran took pole at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas alongside Mike Salinas, who took the Top Fuel No. 1 qualifier for the second time in his career.

Bo Butner earned his second Pro Stock pole of the season and is chasing his third win of the campaign. Matt Smith, the defending Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, will take on a difficult quad at the first four-wide event of the year from pole position. 

Racing begins at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at noon Pacific. 

TOP FUEL LOW QUALIFIER MIKE SALINAS: "We were actually trying to run faster during the third qualifying session and that's why we blew the tires off of the thing. So, we went out there and calmed the thing down in the final qualifying session. We have a good plan for tomorrow and I think we're going to be fine for tomorrow."


On his reaction times going into Sunday: "Actually pretty confident. I have a coach that came in to help me. We're serious about this, but what I don't know, I'll find out."

FUNNY CAR LOW QUALIFIER TIM WILKERSON: “I’m really proud of how good our car runs. It’s been a while since we’ve been the No. 1 qualifier but I like to pull one out of my hat every now and then. We were second last race in Gainesville and No. 3 in Phoenix the race before that, so we’ve been knocking on the door. It was out there for us.

“We tried to run 3.88 on that last pass because I was sure someone was going to run quicker than my 3.89 so I had it tuned up. It was loose from probably 150 feet util it pulled the tires loose and didn’t make it. It just wasn’t out there. I’ve got a tough draw tomorrow morning with Robert [Hight] and Shawn [Langdon] in my quad; the sun is going to be the great equalizer tomorrow but if we can get past first round it will be a crapshoot. I think it will be more about being consistent than being fast.”

PRO STOCK LOW QUALIFIER BO BUTNER: "We've just had a very good car ever since I first showed up here with K.B. Racing. That speaks to all the great support I have behind me and I think that it helps we're out here having a good time."


On Greg Anderson finding success after a tough start to the season: "I'll tell you what, Greg is like a brother to me and and I love him, but... Well, when Greg Anderson is happy, we're all happy. Nobody works harder than that guy in this sport and he's going to be the last guy to leave the shop and head out here every single time we race. If we stopped NHRA Drag Racing, he'd still head out to the track to try to go faster. That's just who he is."

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE LOW QUALIFIER MATT SMITH: "I cut a .019 light in that last quad and still managed to get to the finish line third, so that just tells you how difficult it is out there right now. Yeah, I've got a very tough quad tomorrow but I feel confident that if I go out there and do my job I can be successful."


On trying to stay focused in round one: "You know, this is my job. I come out here and I do this for a living and I've been doing it for a very long time. I really can't let things distract me, whether it's tuning a bike or the tree or anything else. So, as long as I'm focusing on myself it's going to be okay."

TOP FUEL

Q3 recap: Leah Pritchett, who sits No. 2 in points behind Doug Kalitta, had the best run of the third qualifying session, charting a 3.745.

Mike Salinas, who didn’t make it down the track in the Scrappers machine, held onto the No. 1 spot with his Friday pass of 3.70. Antron Brown made the second quickest pass of the session, a 3.777, in the Matco Tools car.

Incoming No. 3 qualifier Brittany Force didn’t get to make a run in her Advance Auto Parts dragster after she was unable to get the car into reverse, which forced NHRA officials to shut off the other three in her quad: Terry McMillen, Richie Crampton, and Scott Palmer. Once the trio refired, only Palmer was able to make a full pass, a 3.79, his best of the event and third best of the session.

Q4 recap: Brittany Force bounced back from an aborted effort in Q3 to run the quickest pass of the final session, a 3.742. No one was able to surpass qualifying leader Mike Salinas, whose 3.744 was the second quickest of the session.

Gatornationals champ Richie Crampton, who struggled on his first three runs with a 4.62 best, came to life in the final session with a 3.758 that was third quickest of the round and ranked sixth quickest overall.

Crampton’s teammate, Doug Kalitta, was right behind him with a 3.766 as nine drivers ran in the 3.80s or quicker.

First-round quads (lane choice first): 
Mike Salinas vs. Billy Torrence vs. Antron Brown vs. Bye
Steve Torrence vs. Doug Kalitta vs. Terry McMillen vs. Steve Chrisman
Brittany Force vs. Richie Crampton vs. Scott Palmer vs. Cameron Ferre
Leah Pritchett vs. Clay Millican vs. Austin Prock vs. Terry Totten

FUNNY CAR

Q3 recap: World champ and defending event winner J.R. Todd delivered the quickest run of the third Funny Car session at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals with a 3.920 from the DHL Toyota.

Friday leader Tim Wilkerson, who had predicted that his 3.89 wouldn’t survive the day, remained the No. 1 qualifier.

Teammates John Force (3.931) and Robert Hight (3.941) had the second- and third-quickest runs behind Todd as seven Funny Cars found the three-second zone.

Jonnie Lindberg remains on the outside of the field after another troubled pass with Jim Head’s flopper. Jeff Diehl sits on the 16-car bump spot with a 4.382.

Q4 recap: Cruz Pedregon made his fourth straight three-second pass of the weekend and had the final qualifying session’s best pass, a 3.915. As good as it was, it wasn’t good enough to get past Friday low qualifier Tim Wilkerson’s 3.895.

John Force also has looked good this weekend with four three-second passes of his own, capped by a 3.925 that was the second-best pass of the final session. Matt Hagan’s 3.937 earned him the final qualifying bonus point.

Ron Capps remained No. 2 on the overall ladder and clocked a 3.942 on his last pass; low qualifier Wilkerson didn’t make a full pass on either attempt Saturday.

First-round quads (lane choice first): 
Tim Wilkerson vs. Shawn Langdon vs. Robert Hight vs. Jeff Diehl
Ron Capps vs. Bob Tasca III vs. Tommy Johnson Jr. vs. Terry Haddock
Cruz Pedregon vs. John Force vs. Jack Beckman vs. Phil Burkart Jr.
J.R. Todd vs. Matt Hagan vs. Jim Campbell vs, Gary Densham

PRO STOCK

Q3 recap: Defending champ Matt Smith snatched the No. 1 spot from Hector Arana Jr. with a 6.879 burst in the third Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying session. That's .005 second quicker than what Arana ran in the second qualifying session at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. 

Smith ran alongside Arana, Eddie Krawiec and Steve Johnson -- none of them had anything for the reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle champion. Andrew Hines made the biggest move (6.925 from 6.947) but that's still far from the 6.80s run by Arana and Smith. As usual, Smith made sure to rub it in after having weight put on his bike -- just like the Harley-Davidson and other EBR and Buell riders. 

"It wasn't supposed to go that fast," said Smith. "We're only trying to go second or third because we don't want weight added on us no more. The Suzuki folks just gotta tune a little bit better, that's all they gotta do."

Whether there's a little sarcasm added in there ... well, it's always hard to tell with Smith. He's No. 1 for now and has a very good bike. 

Q4 recap: Jeg Coughlin Jr. made a strong run but failed to catch Bo Butner in the final Pro Stock qualifying session. Butner secured pole position at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, his ___ of the season. The winner of three of the last five races will chase his fourth in six Sunday at noon Pacific. 

Teammate Greg Anderson made a big move to breakup the Elite Motorsports monopoly. The driver of the red Summit Chevrolet moved into the No. 3 qualifying spot with a 6.664 burst, slotting just ahead of Rodger Brogdon and Matt Hartford (6.665, respectively). The third and ninth positions are separated by .007 second -- that's Anderson and teammate Fernando Cuadra. 

Four of the five Elite Motorsports Camaros are qualified neatly from fourth to seventh. That's Hartford, Brogdon, Alex Laughlin and Erica Enders. Jeff Isbell is on the bump spot with a 6.965. 

First-round quads (lane choice first):
Bo Butner vs. Deric Kramer vs. Fernando Cuadra vs. Jeff Isbell
Jeg Coughlin Jr. vs. Erica Enders vs. Jason Line vs. Alan Prusiensky
Greg Anderson vs. Alex Laughlin vs. Steve Graham vs. Joey Grose
Matt Hartford vs. Rodger Brogdon vs. Chris McGaha vs. Shane Tucker

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

Q3 recap: Defending champ Matt Smith snatched the No. 1 spot from Hector Arana Jr. with a 6.879 burst in the third Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying session. That's .005 second quicker than what Arana ran in the second qualifying session at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. 

Smith ran alongside Arana, Eddie Krawiec and Steve Johnson -- none of them had anything for the reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle champion. Andrew Hines made the biggest move (6.925 from 6.947) but that's still far from the 6.80s run by Arana and Smith. As usual, Smith made sure to rub it in after having weight put on his bike -- just like the Harley-Davidson and other EBR and Buell riders. 

"It wasn't supposed to go that fast," said Smith. "We're only trying to go second or third because we don't want weight added on us no more. The Suzuki folks just gotta tune a little bit better, that's all they gotta do."

Whether there's a little sarcasm added in there ... well, it's always hard to tell with Smith. He's No. 1 for now and has a very good bike. 

Q4 recap: Matt Smith secured his first pole of the season, but slowed in the final Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying session of the weekend. Eddie Krawiec ran quickest, earning himself three points, and moved into the 6.80s. He's just .009 second behind Smith and .004 behind Hector Arana Jr. as we get ready for race day at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. 

The final session set the 16-bike field and left Scotty Pollacheck, Jianna Salinas and Katie Sullivan on the outside. Kelly Clontz and Joey Gladstone fought their way in with 7-second runs, while Angelle Sampey made the field on the bump spot for the first time in her career. 

Sampey is one of the headliners in an incredibly difficult quad. She will race Matt Smith, Angie Smith and Ryan Oehler. That's three EBR-bodied machines racing against a Harley-Davidson. 

First-round quads (lane choice first): 
Matt Smith vs. Angie Smith vs. Ryan Oehler vs. Angelle Sampey;
Hector Arana Jr. vs. Hector Arana vs. Steve Johnson vs. Kelly Clontz;
Eddie Krawiec vs. Cory Reed vs. Jerry Savoie vs. Fred Camarena;
Andrew Hines vs. Karen Stoffer vs. Jimmy Underdahl vs. Joey Gladstone

[Friday Recap]