During Friday’s lone round of Pro Stock qualifying at the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil Aaron Stanfield barely topped 177 mph while Troy Coughlin Jr. and Cristian Cuadra, who is racing with the Elite team, each ran 176 mph. They each finished the session ranked near the bottom of the 16-car field.
Is anyone starting to notice a pattern here?
The move was a not-so-obvious attempt for the Elite team to put the brakes on points leader Greg Anderson who came to Las Vegas with an 81-point lead on the Elite flagship of reigning champ Erica Enders.
Some might remember that the KB team has tried a similar move, most recently in 2019 when Enders and Jason Line were battline for the title. Anderson slowed in qualifying and actually paired himself with Enders in round one, but came up short in his attempt to change the outcome of the championship chase.
Elite team owner Richard Freeman has no problems discussing the move, which he says was not a team order but rather a mutual decision made in conjunction with his team drivers.
“We’re just trying to keep the championship in our hands,” said Freeman. “This is something that they [the KB team] tried in 2019 and it failed, but it made sense for them to do it then and it makes sense for us to do it here. Now, we just need for it to work. We need for one of our guys to hook Greg in the first round and take him out.”
“This is a matter of respect for those guys, not disrespect,” Freeman continued. “We appreciate the rivalry we have with them. That competition is good for the sport. I also want to make it clear that this wasn’t my idea. Our guys had a meeting and they said, what can we do to hep out? T.J and Aaron were on board and so was Cristian. That’s a reason why our team works.”
In each case, the drivers shut off at approximately the 900-1,000 foot mark in order to qualify near the bottom of the 16-car field. If you’re wondering why Enders isn’t trying a similar move, that makes little sense since she needs to try and accumulate qualifying bonus points over the last two races.
The strategy can be effective, but this is also a risk since a driver who is too conservative might not qualify for Sunday’s eliminations.
“That’s the chance you take,” Freeman said. “Now, if we had 18-20 cars here, it might be a different story but we’ve got just 17 so that’s a chance we’re willing to take.”