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Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals Friday Preview

The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series heads towards what promises to be a thrilling conclusion with the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil, the penultimate round in the Countdown to the Championship.
29 Oct 2021
Posted by NHRA.com staff
Race coverage
Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals

This weekend, the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series heads for its second annual stop in Las Vegas for the penultimate round of the Countdown to the Championship and all four Pro titles are still up for grabs, although some are more up for grabs than others.

Historically, the fall Las Vegas event features a robust car count with impressive fields in each of the four Professional categories and an event total of more than 450 pre-entries.

Most of the attention will be focused on the various championship scenarios, including the Top Fuel battle, where incumbent champion Steve Torrence is riding high with a 73-point lead over rival Brittany Force. Torrence has won nine times this year, including the four-wide event held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway earlier this season. He’s got three other Las Vegas wins in 2016 and a sweep of both 2018 races.

Force can’t count on the Capco team to make a mistake because they rarely do, so the Monster team needs a big weekend in order to take the fight to the final event in Pomona. If she needs some inspiration, Force needs to look back just two years, where she defeated Torrence in the final for her lone Las Vegas victory.

Also, it’s worth noting that the defending event champion is Antron Brown, who ended a long victory drought to end the 2020 season. For all the success that Torrence has had this season, eight other Top Fuel drivers have visited the winner’s circle, including Mike Salinas, who is coming off a dominant win in Bristol two weeks ago, so it’s hard to argue that class does not have parity.

The Funny Car points battle is still somewhat wide open with at least a half-dozen drivers mathematically in the running, but the favorites are teammates Ron Capps and Matt Hagan, and their battle could not be closer. Capps enters the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals with a single-point lead over Hagan, a margin that could easily be erased during the first qualifying session.

Hagan might have the upper hand based solely on his record in Las Vegas, which is impressive. All told, Hagan has been to seven final rounds here, and he’s won three times, including the fall event in 2017, 2019, and 2020. Capps is no stranger to success in Las Vegas with five wins, the most recent of which came in 2012.

J.R. Todd, another driver who is no stranger to success in Las Vegas, is still very much in the running, 83 points out of first place, and John Force and Cruz Pedregon are in the hunt. Force and Pedregon are tied for fourth place, 101 points back, which means they’d each need a minor miracle in order to win the title, but then again, this is Las Vegas, where miracles happen frequently.

While there are at least a dozen Pro Stock racers who are capable of winning on any given weekend, the focus this weekend will primarily be on the championship battle being waged by rivals Greg Anderson and Erica Enders. Anderson won his landmark 98th career Pro Stock race two weeks ago in Bristol, and in the process, he established a solid if not insurmountable 81-point lead over Enders in the Camping World standings.

Ironically, both drivers have enjoyed considerable success in Las Vegas with Anderson winning eight times, and Enders has gotten the upper hand lately with seven victories, including the last three races here and the Spring four-wide event. The only other Pro Stock drivers entered for this year’s event who have previously won in Las Vegas are Bo Butner and Richie Stevens Jr.

The battle for the Pro Stock Motorcycle title is wide open especially after Angelle Sampey won the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol two weeks ago. With the win, Sampey pulled to within 25 points of incoming leader and reigning champion Matt Smith.

For historical reference, Sampey won the inaugural Las Vegas event in 2000 and also scored here in 2002 to go along with three runner-up finishes. Of course, that was long before she joined the Vance & Hines team, which has eight Las Vegas wins with riders Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines.

Of course, Smith isn’t exactly allergic to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as he’s won twice here in six final rounds. Smith also got to celebrate a year ago at this event when his wife, Angie, won her second NHRA event.  

Sampey and Smith aren’t the only two riders racing for a championship this season. Steve Johnson is in the midst of the best season of his long career, and he’s not out of it yet, in spite of a frustrating round-one loss in Bristol. Johnson is just 56 points out of the lead, which means he’s very much in control of his own destiny heading into the Las Vegas and Pomona races.

Although both championships have already been clinched, the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service and the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown will also be in action this weekend, racing in their final event of the 2021 season.

You can catch the action all weekend on FOX Sports 1 and NHRA.tv.

You can follow NHRA on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to get a closer look at the action.

NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 3 p.m. PT on Friday, Oct. 29, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Oct. 30 at noon and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations start Sunday, Oct. 31 at 11:00 a.m.

Qualifying: Friday, Oct. 29, 7-8 p.m. Eastern, FS1

Qualifying: Sunday, Oct. 31, 4-5 p.m. Eastern, FS1
Eliminations: Sunday, Oct. 31, 5-8 p.m. Eastern, FS1