the fields are set for the first of two Four-Wide events this season with Mike Salinas, Ron Capps, and Aaron Stanfield taking the top qualifying spots in Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The event features a unique format, where four racers run together in each "quad" with the first and second-place finisher each advancing. The results of the final quad decide the winner, runner-up, and semifinalist.
With four cars running at once, there is a potential for drivers to become confused on the starting line, which can lead to unexpected results but most NHRA pros would agree that their resume is not complete without at least one victory in a four-wide race.
Salinas completed his early-season tour of the first four qualifying positions, after qualifying third, second, and fourth he’s now grabbed his first No. 1 of the season and the ninth of his career with a sizzling 3.722 on the final qualifying run in his Rob Flynn-tuned Adams Pool Group/Scrappers Racing entry to steal the pole from Brittany Force.
"We're having fun," said Salinas. "The last couple of years have been good, but it got us to where we're at now. We all matured and the crew is amazing there. They know their job. We don't have to worry about the car not being ready and prepared. And if you have you, that's 95-98% of the deal. The main thing is everybody's having fun,. You come to our pit, it's calm, it's relaxed, and it's 'Let's go win races.'
"We know we have a fast car and we know tomorrow it's going to be cool and there's going to be some .70 runs and maybe some .69s because it's race day, and everybody's gonna try to outdo each other."
Force’s Monster Energy machine ran 3.735 in the day’s first session to supplant Friday leader Leah Pruett, whose 3.741 slid to third. Justin Ashley sits fourth with a 3.748.
The top 11 drivers are all qualified within .07-second of one another with Clay Millican and new tuner Jim Oberhofer (3.757), Doug Kalitta (3.759), four-wide dominator Steve Torrence (3.761), and Antron Brown (3.762) rounding out the top eight, and Tony Schumacher (3.794), Josh Hart (3.806), and Shawn Langdon (3.808) keeping it close.
Capps collected his second No.1 spot of the season with the NAPA Auto Parts entry, running a sizzling 3.882 on his final pass to grab the pole from John Force’s Friday-night 3.887. It’s the 31st No. 1 of Capps’ long and distinguished career.
"Yesterday's run had the same 60-foot time -- .866, which was was pretty stout for that session-- and 'Guido' [crew chief Dean Antonelli] was trying to go low e.t. He was actually trying to run an 87 in yesterday's second session and it just wouldn't take it that far-right lane., and so he was trying to do the same thing this time. I was screaming on the radio 'That thing hooked up!' and I just thought with the heat and the track temperature there's no way it's going to stick.
"You have this internal G meter and located somewhere in your body and you know when a run's really hauling the mail and you kind of calculate in your head knowing how hot it is out, how hot the track temp is, and in your head you just know there's no way it's going to make it, so I didn't think it would run that good honestly, but I knew 'Guido' and [John [Medlen] were shooting for No. 1."
Behind Force is Gatornationals runner-up Blake Alexander, whose Q2 3.913 was his only full run in the gorgeous Head Inc. car that is paying tribute this weekend to late crewmember Dylan Cromwell.
Matt Hagan (3.920), Bob Tasca III (3.921), Robert Hight (3.923), and Cruz Pedregon (3.926) comprise a very tight-knit foursome for spots four through seven with Tim Wilkerson rounding out the quick eight with a 3.941.
Steven Densham and Jason Rupert provided the last-session drama with respective passes of 4.02 and 4.07, with Densham’s run getting him into the field from the outside and Rupert’s career-best 4.07 temporarily solidifying his position on the bump. Ton Jurado had the last shot to bump Rupert from the field and he did just that with a 4.037 that slotted him into the No. 11 spot and put Jim Campbell’s 4.054 on the bump of one of the quickest fields in class history.
Then, after all of that happened, Densham's run was disqualified due to a technical infraction, and Rupert was re-inserted into the field.
Given the warm temperatures on Saturday, there wasn’t much movement in the Pro Stock class and Friday leader Stanfield held on to the top spot with his 6.642 in his Janac Bros. Camaro. Stanfield is the low qualifier for the third time in his career and second time this season. Stanfield’s final tune-up run before Sunday’s eliminations was a competitive 6.673 that was good for a pair of bonus qualifying points.
On Sunday, Stanfield will race in a quad that also includes Camrie Caruso, Matt Hartford, and Cristian Cuadra.
“We definitely want to take advantage of the fast hot rod we’ve got now,” said Stanfield, who was also the qualifying leader at the most recent event in Gainesville and was the No. 2 qualifier in Pomona and Phoenix. “It’s important for us to go out and win some rounds tomorrow. Things got a little rough for us on Q3, but we came back and made a strong run in Q4 and that sets us up for tomorrow.
"I'd love to win a Four Wide race," Stanfield said. "It's different; you need to really be focused on the starting line. As a driver, you want to be able to show you can get it done under any circumstances."
Reigning world champ Greg Anderson was strong throughout qualifying with his HendrickCars.com Camaro including a 6.651 that was good for the No. 2 spot and a 6.677 in Q4. Anderson continues to pursue his 100th win and in order to get there, he’ll have to survive a quad that features Mason McGaha, Gainesville runner-up Kyle Koretsky, and Deric Kramer.
There was plenty of drama at the back of the pack as Cristian Cuadra bumped his way into the field with a 6.741. Cuadra was nearlyt bumped by John Cerbone, who missed by .002-second with a 6.743. Rodger Brogdon also missed the field with his Rooftech Camaro after he was unable to get staged in time during the final session.