After three qualifying rounds, the professional fields are set for the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas and while there were a few surprises, the racers who are still in contention for Camping World NHRA Series titles generally helped themselves with solid qualifying efforts.
The battle for the Top Fuel title that’s currently being waged by reigning champ Steve Torrence and former champ Brittany Force is shaping up to be a fight to the finish. Force gobbled up each of the nine available qualifying bonus points by wheeling her Monster Energy dragster to her 12th pole of the year. Force needs every point she can get as she came into Las Vegas trailing the Capco driver by 73 points.
Force has been great in qualifying, but she admits that she needs to win rounds on Sunday in order to take the fight to the ifnla event in Pomona. Her path to the final will begin with a round one race against Troy Buff who got into the tough field on the last run with a 3.91.
Torrence finished as the No. 2 seed which means he can’t race Force until the final round. Torrence will kick off eliminaitons with a pivotal race against Jim Maroney but he’s also got Josh Hart and Justin Ashley on his side of the ladder.
Alexis DeJoria’s 3.896 from Friday held up for the pole in Funny Car as the Bandero Premium Tequila team remained hot following their recent Bristol win. DeJoria was not only quick, but also consistent with runs of 3.96 and 3.91 on Saturday.
The battle for the championship remained tight during qualifying as Matt Hagan passed incoming leader Ron Capps. The two DSR teammates had been separated by a single point heading into this event.
Hagan ended up in the fourth spot, behind DeJoria, John Force, and J.R. Todd. Capps also made the top half of the field with an eighth-best 3.926. A total of 10 cars qualified in the three-second zone the bump spot with a 4.11 by Jeff Diehl.
Kyle Koretsky, a runner up in Pro Stock during last year’s Fall Las Vegas race, came into Saturday as the leader in Pro Stock, but was bumped to No. 2 late in the day by his teammate, Greg Anderson, who earned the 117th low qualifier award of his career with a 6.655.
There are no easy rounds in Pro Stock, but Anderson’s path to the final was made more difficult by the qualifying strategy employed by the rival Elite team. Elite drivers Troy Coughlin Jr., Aaron Stanfield, and Cristian Cuadra each shut off early in qualifying in order to try and catch Anderson early. That strategy has worked. So far.
Anderson will indeed have to race and Elite car as he’s currently paired with Coughlin.
Reigning champ Erica Enders will have a chance to gain ground on Anderson but she’ll have to first get past former champ Bo Butner, who is now racing with the Elite team. It’s possible that Anderson and Enders will race in the semifinal rounds.
Matt Smith is not only the points leader in Pro Stock Motorcycle but he’s also the low qualifier after riding his Denso Buell to a 6.839 on Saturday.
Smith’s goal for final eliminations is obviously to win the race, but he’d also be content to gain points on Angelle Sampey and Steve Johnson, who are second and third respectively.
While none of the professional titles are likely to be clinched today, there will be champions crowned. The Top Alcohol Dragster title will be clinched in favor of either Rachel Meyer or Jackie Fricke. Both racers have reached the semifinals and Fricke must win the event in order to pass Meyer for the title.
The Summit E.T. Racing Series Finals is also on today’s schedule as drivers from all seven NHRA divisions have gathered this weekend to decide championships in the Super Pro, Pro, Sportsman and Motorcycle classes.
You can catch the action all weekend on FOX Sports 1 and NHRA.tv.
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NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature eliminations Sunday, Oct. 31 at 11:00 a.m.
Qualifying: Sunday, Oct. 31, 4-5 p.m. Eastern, FS1
Eliminations: Sunday, Oct. 31, 5-8 p.m. Eastern, FS1