NHRA: Force, DeJoria, Anderson, and Smith win top qualifying spots in Las Vegas

A packed house at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday was able to revel in the drama of the final day of qualifying for the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil as championship contenders jockeyed for position in each of NHRA’s four professional categories.

By the end of the day, Brittany Force, Alexis DeJoria, Greg Anderson and Matt Smith had emerged as the low qualifiers and on the eve of Halloween, each was treated to a bright yellow Camping World NHRA Series low qualifier hat.

Force and the Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac team collected their 12th No. 1 qualifying position of the season Saturday at the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. John Force and the PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant “Brute Force” Chevrolet Camaro SS will start race day from No.2 and Robert Hight and the Automobile Club of Southern California Chevy are No. 5.

Brittany Force

Brittany Force and the Monster Energy team, now just 65 points out of the points lead, carried over their performance from Friday night to be perfect through qualifying and pick up a total of nine bonus points. They opened Saturday’s two sessions with an impressive 3.712-second pass at 331.36 mph in what will be the closest conditions to race day. In the third and final qualifying run the David Grubnic and Mac Savage tuned Monster Energy dragster laid down a stellar 3.668-second pass at 331.94 mph to secure their 12th No. 1 of the season and the 32nd of Force’s career.

“Really successful qualifying for our Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac team. We had three great runs which gives this whole team a boost of confidence. We’re in the hunt for this championship and we’re in a great spot. We have that No. 1 and we got a ton of bonus points,” said Force who will race Troy Buff to start race day. “This team is unique, I can’t say enough about them. They are the hardest working guys I have ever worked with and I’m incredibly proud to be teamed up with every single one of them.”

Behind Force and Torrence (3.710) in the top eight are Ashley (3.712), Mike Salinas (3.715), Billy Torrence (3.715), Clay Millican (3.723), Josh Hart (3.745), and Antron Brown (3.748

An impressive 13 cars qualified quicker than 3.8 seconds with two more under 3.90. Troy Buff bumped his way into the show in Nevadan Bill Miller’s dragster on the last pass, his 3.91 booting Brandon Welch’s 3.94 from the field.

DeJoria and the Bandero Premium Tequila Toyota team remained in the No. 1 spot they earned with their Friday 3.896, and the Del Worsham-led team followed with passes of 3.96 and 3.91 to solidify their tune-up for eliminations.

Alexis Dejoria

John Force qualified No. 2 with his Friday 3.902 but backed it up with a final pass of 3.908 while J.R. Todd stepped up to a 3.905 in Q2 to make for a tightly bunched head of the field. Behind them in the top eight are Hagan (3.905), Robert Hight (3.910, Bob Tasca III (3.916), Cruz Pedregon (3.918), and Ron Capps (3.926).

The Funny Car points lead changed hands in the final session as Hagan moved around Capps. Capps entered the event with a one-point lead and expanded his lead over Hagan from one point to three in Q2 by going second-quickest of the round, but Hagan had the best run of Q3 for three points and qualified fourth to Capps’ No. 8, earning him five points to Capps’ three. Hagan’s margin entering Sunday is just two points.

After struggling with their combination on their two passes, Hight and the Auto Club team made it into the field on their final pass, going from No. 17 to the top half with a clutch 3.910.

An impressive 10 cars qualified in the three-second zone with four more in the 4.0s. Jeff “the Surfer” Diehl ended up on the bump spot with a 4.11.

There was not a lot of shuffling in the Pro Stock field on Saturday but there was one significant move that could easily impact the ongoing championship battle. Incoming points leader Greg Anderson took over the top spot from teammate Kyle Koretsky with a 6.65 in his HendrickCars.com Camaro. The good news is that Anderson was able to add three qualifying bonus points to his score and he locked up his 11th low qualifier award this season and the 117th of his career.

Greg Anderson

On the flip side, Anderson will have a round one match against Elite Motorsports driver Troy Coughlin Jr. ,who intentionally shut off early on reach of his three qualifying runs in order to catch Anderson early.

“Imagine that,” said Anderson, who has been known to employ a similar qualifying strategy. “I know what he [Coughlin] is capable of; he’s fast and capable of cutting a great light. I say this all the time but in Pro Stock, anyone can beat anyone at a given time so this should be a good race. We’re not even at Pomona yet and thew pressure is through the roof.”

“Our goal coming into this race was to extend the lead and so far we’ve done that,” said Anderson. “We can’t control what other teams do. I leave if for everyone else to figure out what they can do. I’ve got a tough customer in the first round but they’re all tough customers. I’d rather be in my position than anyone else’s but no lead is big enough. It could go away tomorrow. My goal is to go out and try to win and so far this weekend we’re looking good.”

Enders, who needs to make up 81 points in order to win her fifth Pro Stock championship, will start from the No. 5 qualifying spot and will have a match against Bo Butner, who is also racing for the Elite team. Enders and Butner also raced last month in St. Louis with Enders getting the win.

The rest of the qualifying order includes Koretsky, who logged a 6.664 in his Lucas Oil Camaro for the No. 2 spot and rookie of the year contender Dallas Glenn, who is third with a 6.677. Koretsky will race Cristian Cuadra while Glenn races team Elite’s Aaron Stanfield.

The top spot also changed hands in Pro Stock Motorcycle where reigning champion Matt Smith rode his Denso Buell to a 6.839 at over 198 mph to steal the top spot from championship rival Steve Johnson, who had earlier run 6.848 on his Suzuki.

Matt Smith

“We came out first pass on Friday and was No. 2 and made some tweaks for today and it was better,” said Smith. “The air [corrected altitude] is over 4,200 feet but it worked. We picked up everywhere on the last run and the Denso/Lucas Oil Bike went to the pole.

“I’ve been in this situation last four years, chasing a championship and we got it done in two of the last three years. To me, the pressure is off. I figure I just need to go win this race and extend this points lead even more.”

The other championship contender, Angelle Sampey, also improved to a 6.857 to take the No. 3 spot aboard her Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki.

Smith will race Michael Phillips in Sunday’s opening round while Johnson is paired with Charles Poskey and Sampey is scheduled to race Ryan Oehler.

The other intriguing match up of the opening round will featured Vance & Hines teammates Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines, who qualified No. 6 and No. 11 respectively.


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