It isn’t a stretch to say not many people are looking forward to the return of this weekend’s Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway more than former Funny Car world champ J.R. Todd.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series star won the first two four-wide events in Las Vegas, including the most recent one in 2019 in his 11,000-hp DHL Toyota Camry. Todd has performed well in Vegas, as has the Kalitta Motorsports team, and that has continued in the unique and spectacular four-wide setup. After the race didn’t take place a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Todd is ready for more four-wide success in Las Vegas, especially after winning the opening race of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
“We’re hoping we can keep riding that wave,” Todd said. “Hopefully we can get back there and have another good weekend, and we’re looking forward to it. Having that much time away from a four-wide race, I’m sure everyone is going to be extra cautious in Q1, but it will be routine after that. We’ll just try to go up there and hit the gas on time.”
Mike Salinas (Top Fuel), Todd (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock), and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were winners of the 2019 four-wide event. This year’s race will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including finals coverage starting at 8 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 18. It is the second race of the 2021 season, and the excitement is high for one of the biggest spectacles in the sport. All grandstand tickets have been sold for the weekend, as state and local officials allowed the track to host fans at 50% capacity for the race in Las Vegas.
Todd impressed in Gainesville, and after going winless in 2020, he can start in commanding fashion with a strong performance in Las Vegas. He’ll have to get by the likes of defending world champ Matt Hagan, Robert Hight, John Force, Ron Capps, and Cruz Pedregon, but crew chiefs Jon Oberhofer and Todd Smith have always delivered a strong car in Vegas for Todd.
“Todd and Jon O always have a good handle on the track whether it’s two-wide or four-wide, so that gives you confidence,” Todd said. “It was nice to start the year fresh in the winner’s circle, and we just want to keep it going.”
Top Fuel’s Antron Brown hasn’t tasted four-wide success in Las Vegas, but he did win at the track last fall to close out a resurgent 2020 season. That momentum continued with a solid outing in Gainesville, and Brown has plenty of overall four-wide success thanks to two wins in Charlotte. He’ll have to take on top names like defending world champ Steve Torrence, Doug Kalitta, and Brittany Force, but a four-wide event always gets Brown and his Don Schumacher Racing team excited to race his 11,000-hp Matco Tools/Sirius XM/Toyota dragster.
“I’m super pumped about going to Vegas and racing four-wide,” Brown said. “It feels great to kick off our West Coast opener in Vegas since the last time we raced there, we finished our weekend in the winner’s circle, and we want to continue that trend out there this weekend. We know it’s going to be controlled chaos with it being a four-wide event, but our Matco Tools Toyota with the support of Sirius XM, Global Electronic Technology, and Hangsterfer’s, is ready to roll. Our whole team is really excited, and I’m looking forward to getting out there.”
Greg Anderson is certainly among the favorites in Pro Stock, advancing to the final quad of the 2019 race. He also has momentum after winning in Gainesville to earn his 95th career win and will face off with the likes of Erica Enders, who won in Vegas to close out the 2020 season, Troy Coughlin Jr., Kyle Koretsky, Deric Kramer, and Mason McGaha.
Anderson has always enjoyed success in Las Vegas, posting a remarkable eight career victories at the facility. He also comes in on a strong note thanks to his victory to open the 2021 campaign in Gainesville. It gives the four-time Pro Stock world champ plenty of momentum to keep picking up wins after earning his 95th career victory last month. That puts him just two away from Warren Johnson for the most in class history, but Anderson is solely focused on the task immediately in front of him, which is doing well at a four-wide race in Vegas against talents like reigning champ Erica Enders, Troy Coughlin Jr., and Matt Hartford.
“I can’t say that’s not a goal. That isn't the reason I race, though,” said Anderson, who won the four-wide race in Charlotte in 2011 and 2012. “I race because this is what I love to do, and I love to win. Whatever that number ends up as, 95 or 105 or whatever it's going to be, I'm going to be happy. I'm just going to try to get as many as I can."
Pro Stock Motorcycle took part in four-wide racing at Las Vegas for the first time in 2019, with Hector Arana Jr. earning the victory. Others to watch in the two-wheeled class include defending champ Matt Smith, who won in Gainesville to open 2021, Angie Smith, three-time world champ Angelle Sampey, and Jerry Savoie.
Pro Stock Motorcycle standout Angie Smith takes plenty of excitement into this weekend’s Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, in part because Denso is also the main sponsor on her EBR motorcycle. It would make a victory — and her first four-wide win — even more special if Smith can pull it off this weekend in the unique four-wide format.
“It’s a very cool feeling that this is the Denso race,” Smith said. “We won in Vegas last year, and, of course, we want to put our bikes in the winner’s circle and add to our résumé that we won our title sponsor’s race. It’s just an added bonus to win your sponsor’s race, and it’s very exciting to get back there. We’re always eager to race in Vegas.”
The race also includes thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where future stars of the sport hone their skills. The drivers in Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car will also race in a four-wide format for the first time in class history. After qualifying on both days, fans can watch a thrilling four-wide jet car exhibition.
Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 3:30 p.m. PT on Friday, April 16, with the two final rounds slated for 1:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 17. Final eliminations are scheduled for noon on Sunday, April 18. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, April 16, and eliminations beginning at 8 p.m. on Sunday, April 18 on FS1.