Brittany Force and Robert Hight put John Force Racing at the top of both the Top Fuel and Funny Car fields while Denso-backed Greg Anderson and Matt Smith claimed Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle poles as the fields were set for the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Brittany Force put a damper on Steve Torrence’s birthday celebration by powering her Dave Grubnic-tuned Flav-R-Pac dragster to the No. 1 spot with a 3.732 in Q3 to knock off Torrence’s Friday 3.741. The No. 1 spot is the 21st of Force’s career and a nice rebound from a first-round loss at the season opener in Gainesville.
“It just shows this team has picked up right where we left off,” said Force, who won the fall race at Vegas in 2019. “We had a long time being away from the races, and coming back to Gainesville, we found our routine pretty quickly. Coming here and taking this No. 1 qualifier (spot), we’re excited and pumped. Thank you to David Grubnic, Mac Savage, and all of these Flav-R-Pac guys. We want to go out and win this thing. That’s our focus tomorrow, winning this thing and bringing home our first win of the season.”
After struggling to a cylinder-dropping 5.067 in Q1, Force improved to a 3.766 in Q2 to set the stage for her pole run. Doug Kalitta, who lost his opening run Friday to a technical infraction, rebounded nicely Saturday with runs of 3.772 and a 3.743 that boosted him to the No. 3 spot.
Denso-backed Clay Millican also improved in the final session with a 3.759 for the No. 4 spot, a hundredth ahead of Billy Torrence’s 3.769.
Hight made it a John Force Racing sweep of the nitro poles when he powered the Jimmy Prock- and Chris-Cunningham-wrenched Auto Club Camaro to a 3.882 to regain the No. 1 spot he’d lost to Alexis DeJoria one pair earlier. Hight had led Friday qualifying with a 3.922 and improved to a 3.918 in Q2 despite losing a head gasket, but it let Prock know what was capable. It’s Hight’s 69th career No. 1 spot.
“Jimmy Prock has called every single run we’ve made this weekend,” said Hight, a five-time Vegas winner. “They have this Auto Club Chevrolet working great. We’ve got to go three rounds tomorrow and I think we’re in a good position to do that.”
Team boss John Force also joined Hight in passing DeJoria’s 3.912, riding the Blue Def Camaro to a 3.8918 for the No. 2 position.
Despite losing the top spot, DeJoria and crew chief Del Worsham have to be pleased to continue their recent qualifying successes as the ROKiT Toyota has qualified in the top five at the last seven events dating back to last year’s September Gatornationals including a pair of No. 2s, in St. Louis and at the 2021 season opener in Gainesville.
Ron Capps ended up fourth, but not without drama as when he pulled to the starting line for his final attempt, the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge was on the bump spot with a 4.41 best, but quickly fixed that my streaking to a 3.919 that at the time was just shy of Hight’s then-field-leading 3.918.
Chad Green opened a lot of eyeballs in Q4 as the Pro Mod regular improved from a 4.12 to a 3.929 to secure the No. 6 spot behind Bob Tasca III’s 3.923 in the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford. Besides Hight and Force, Tasca is the only driver to make three-second passes on all three qualifying attempts.
Jonnie Lindberg ended up on the bump spot with a 4.284, making for a successful debut for the new team owned by Jason Rupert, who will make licensing runs in the car Monday.
Anderson and his Denso Camaro started the day as the No. 1 qualifier after his Friday 6.683 but eight drivers, including Anderson, bettered that elapsed time in Saturday’s first run, but Anderson held onto the No. 1 spot with a 6.638 that no one could touch in the final qualifying session. Anderson’s pole position marks the 107th time he’s led a field into eliminations.
“We’re on a roll and the car is making beautiful runs,” said Anderson, who has eight career wins in Las Vegas. “We had a great weekend in Gainesville and so far this weekend, the car has made three flawless runs, and in front of (team owner) Ken Black. That’s what is important to me. We’re on his home turf and I love racing out here. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow. So far, so good and this Denso Chevy has been on point, so let’s see if we can close the deal.”
Matt Hartford ended up No. 2, sandwiching a second-session 6.650 between a 15-second tire rattler in Q1 and an engine-smoke belching 6.99 in the final session that may indicate Sunday problems for the Arizona driver. Rookie Kyle Koretsky slotted third with the Lucas Oil Camaro with an impressive 6.651 on his final pass and class veteran Kenny Delco is a pleasant surprise at No. 4 with a 6.655.
Four-time and reigning Pro Stock world champ Erica Enders entered the final qualifying session not qualified after a pair of double-digit-e.t. tire shakers, but the champ powered the red Elite Camaro to a 6.693 on her last pass to qualifying No. 13.
Reigning world champ Smith is running roughshod over the Pro Stock Motorcycle field, making the two best runs of all three sessions, following his Friday-leading 6.891 with a final-session 6.890. Between those two great runs was an aborted pass after his bike started drifting towards the centerline on Saturday’s first effort.
“All in all, we just wanted to show how good we are, this Denso motorcycle at this Denso race. That’s what it’s all about,” Smith said. “Everybody who helps us, we really appreciate it.”
Smith’s wife, Angie, is second on her match Denso Buell while the class’ most experienced rider, Steve Johnson, broke up the Matt Smith racing EBR domination with a 6.935 aboard his Macrak Suzuki that bumped MSR rider Scotty Pollacheck to fourth.
Just 13 bikes made qualifying runs, meaning there will be a trio of first-round matchups with only three riders instead of four.