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Torrence, Hight, Stanfield, and Smith lead opening-day fields in Las Vegas

Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) lead their respective fields after the opening day of qualifying at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Las vegas
16 Apr 2021
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Race coverage
Matt Smith

Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) lead their respective fields after the opening day of qualifying at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, race two of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

Torrence, who has experienced phenomenal success in four-wide events, winning four of the last five between Las Vegas and Charlotte, raced his Capco Contractors machine to the No. 1 spot with a 3.741, giving the new first-time father a solid lead over his perennial title challenger Doug Kalitta, who cranked out a 3.765 in his Mac Tools entry, but later had his run disqualified at fuel check.

Clay Millican, representing event sponsor Denso, grabbed the No. 2 qualifying spot with a 3.788 with Shawn Langdon in thirdat 3.796 and new grandpa Billy Torrence is ranked fourth with a 3.800.

Seven Funny Car drivers ran in the three-second range in the opening session, led by Robert Hight and the Auto Club team with a 3.922 that was more than two-hundredths clear of the No. 2 qualifier, reigning world champ Matt Hagan, winner of the Dodge NHRA Finals at this track last October. Hagan’s 3.954 was just ahead of 16-time world champ John Force’s 3.954. As a nod to four-lane parity, the top four qualifiers came from each of the four lanes.

Cruz Pedregon (3.960), Bob Tasca III (3.963), J.R. Todd (3.980), and Tim Wilkerson (3.998) rounded out the three-second runners. Funny Car rookies Chad Green, Chris Morel, and Bobby Bode all sit in the field while Jonnie Lindberg is qualified 15th in his first pass as a fill-in on the new Jason Rupert-owned car (Rupert will license after the event).

Ron Capps sits on the bubble with a 6.844 after a troubled first pass. Nineteen Funny cars are on the grounds trying to make the 16-car field.

Aaron Stanfield, who scored the first career win on his pro Stock career last fall in Houston, continues to look good in the Janac Bros. Camaro, posting low e.t. of the day in Pro Stock with a 6.671 to lead the field.

Gatornationals winner Greg Anderson slotted No. 2 with a 6.683 with young gun Mason McGaha, a semifinalist at the Gatornationals, in the no. 3 position with a 6.686, a number duplicated by Deric Kramer but McGaha earned the higher spot based on his superior speed, 205.41 to 205.22. Aaron Strong, driving one of the Elite Camaros, sits fifth with a 6.689.

Eighteen cars made passes in the day’s lone Pro Stock session and reigning world champ Erica Enders finds herself in the No. 16 spot after shaking the tires hard on the launch of her initial pass in the Elite Camaro.

Matt Smith Racing dominated the opening session of Pro Stock Motorcycle with their trio of three Denso-sponsored bikes atop the field. Reigning world champ Matt Smith put his EBR in the No. 1 spot with a 6.891, just ahead of his wife, Angie, who won the fall event here. Angie’s 6.909 leads their teammate, Indy winner Scotty Pollacheck, who clocked a 6.939.

Ryan Oehler has the Flyin’ Ryan EBR in the No. 4 spot after clocking a 6.953 but the excitement didn’t end at the finish line as he took a ride off into the top-end sand trap after failing to get the bike stopped in time. He was not injured.

Just 13 bikes made the first session as testing accidents sidelined Joey Gladstone and Chris Bostick and 2019 Auto Club NHRA Finals winner Jianna Salinas is out of the event recovering from a COVID infection.