When the first NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series kicks off later today at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it will have been nearly two years since NHRA’s Pro stars have competed four-wide.
Due to the pandemic, both 2020 four-wide events were canceled, meaning that the spring Charlotte event that completed April 28, 2019 was the most recent four-wide race, a span of more than 700 days.
That will present challenge No. 1 for most of the drivers at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals who usually take a run or two to become acquainted with the four-wide Christmas Tree and the staging procedures, even when they ran it semiregularly.
Challenge No. 2 may fall more heavily on the crew chiefs for Sunday’s final eliminations as with only three qualifying sessions – one today and two Saturday – teams won’t have the usual benefit of having run at least once in each lane prior to eliminations. There may well be a number of teams who will have to go into battle Sunday in a lane in which they’ve never turned a tire.
In Top Fuel, three-time reigning Camping World Top Fuel champ Steve Torrence would be the overwhelming favorite on any Vegas gaming board as the talented Texan has won three out of the last four four-wide events. Torrence’s buddy, Antron Brown, and no-longer-active Spencer Massey are the only other Top Fuel drivers with more than one four-wide win.
Defending event champ Mike Salinas will not be on hand to defend his crown as he and his family are still recovering after contracting COVID-19 after the season-opening Gatornationals. Former world champ Brittany Force, who won the Charlotte four-wide event in 2016 and was runner-up to Salinas here last year, has also found four-wide success. Doug Kalitta has been in the final quad at four of the last five four-wide events but is still looking for his first win. If he gets it here, it will be his milestone 50th career win.
Past Funny Car world champ J.R. Todd has won the last two four-wide events at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and surely would be a hot pick for a third straight with the DHL Toyota after his season-opening win in Gainesville. Robert Hight, the runner-up to Todd in Florida, is a two-time four-wide winner in Charlotte (2012 and 2014).
Funny Car world champ Matt Hagan, who won the Dodge NHRA Finals in Las Vegas last October, also has a four-wide win to his credit, as do Ron Capps, Cruz Pedregon, John Force, and Tim Wilkerson, among currently active drivers.
Gatornationals Pro Stock winner Greg Anderson has a pair of four-wide Wallys on his shelf, and along with one-time winners Erica Enders and Chris McGaha are the only active Pro Stock drivers with a four-wide notch in their safety belts. Anderson and Enders also each have a pair of four-wide runner-ups to their credit. McGaha has been in the final quad three of the last five times Pro Stocks have gone four-wide.
Pro Stock Motorcycle’s winningest four-wide rider, four-time victor Andrew Hines, is not competing at this event, which leaves the door open for someone to take his crown. Hector Arana Jr.’s two victories have him as the class’ next most successful four-wide rider, and reigning world champ Matt Smith, runner-up behind Arana two years ago at this event, won the inaugural four-wide event in Charlotte in 2010.
You can catch the action all weekend on FOX Sports 1 and NHRA.tv.
Friday, April 16, FS1 will televise qualifying coverage from 7-8:30 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, April 18, FS1 will televise qualifying coverage from 10 to 11 a.m. (ET)
Sunday, April 18, FS will televise final eliminations from 8-11 p.m. (ET)