NHRA Nationals Event Recap From Las Vegas

Words and images courtesy NHRA/National Dragster

Robert Hight raced to his third consecutive Funny Car victory of the season Sunday at the NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Spencer Massey (Top Fuel) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) also were winners at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.

Hight earned his 26th career victory with a final round performance of 4.154 at 312.93 in his Auto Club Ford Mustang to defeat Bob Tasca III, who trailed with a 4.213 at 292.14 in his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Shelby Mustang. It is the second time Hight has won three races in a row.

“This class and the parity has never been this close,” said Hight, who took the series points lead with the win. “It is exciting, and it makes winning three in a row all the more special. It is harder to start a streak than keep it going. It is not that easy to win out here. Most of the time when you lose out here, you beat yourself. There are no underdogs.”

Hight, who became the first Funny Car driver to win this event from the No. 1 qualifying position, beat Terry Haddock, Gary Densham and Bob Bode in earlier rounds.

“I am very pleased because we go to Gainesville in crusher conditions and we were able to run good,” Hight said. “This is the hottest track we have been on all year, and we were almost flawless, We were one little adjustment away from making eight great runs in the top two every round. [Crew Chief] Jimmy Prock, you can just see it when you are in the car, and he is not having a hundred trips to the box. You just see the confidence in his eyes, and that gives you more confidence. You just go up there and cut a light and hopefully see that win light.”

In Top Fuel, Massey edged teammate Antron Brown at the finish line for his second victory of the season and the eighth of his career. Massey finished in 3.830 at 323.89 in his FRAM dragster, while Brown trailed with a 3.849 at 315.86 in his Matco Tools dragster.

“Don [Schumacher, team owner] is always happy whenever we have two cars in the final round, but there’s one thing that’s most important for me and that’s getting the FRAM filters car in the winner’s circle,” Massey said. “We go up there not really thinking about who we are going to be running. We got up there trying to not beat ourselves. That’s what our game plan was all day long. We’re not going to go out there and try and set low e.t. We’re going to go out there and try and not beat ourselves.”

Massey, who qualified second, outran Steven Chrisman, Terry McMillen and Steve Torrence in the first three rounds to advance to the final. Massey moved to third in the point standings with the win. Runner-up Brown took the series lead. Top qualifier Morgan Lucas remained in second with his semifinal effort.

“This year it seems like everybody has really stepped up tremendously,” Massey said. “You look through the Lucas cars, the Al-Anabi cars, these DSR cars, and even the newcomers, like Steve Torrence, who has this new team this year, and everybody is running extremely strong. It’s like Pro Stock racing. It’s like running a bracket race. You have to go up there and cut your Tree and do flawless on the run. You have to count every thousandth of a second. Back 10 years ago, it was almost hundredths of a second or by a tenth of a second, but now it’s that close, and it makes for that much better of a race.”

In Pro Stock, Johnson claimed his first win of the season and 10th of his career by outrunning Vincent Nobile in the final round. In an all-Dodge final, Johnson pulled away with a 6.648 at 207.30 in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger while Nobile’s Mountain View Tire Avenger slowed with a 6.738 at 207.53.

“The Mopar Dodge Avenger was just really rock solid all day long, and that’s what we’re after this year, and we’ll be something to reckon with for the championship if we just can be consistent,” said Johnson, who beat Shane Gray, series points leader Greg Anderson and Erica Enders in the opening rounds. “We’re right there with them [Greg Anderson, Jason Line, and Mike Edwards], if not a little bit ahead of them by a little bit. And we want to keep it that way. Dad [Roy Johnson] is doing a great job with the Hemis, and Mark [Ingersoll] and Jim [Yates] are doing a great job with the new chassis. And we don’t want to make any boo-boos and remain consistent. That’s our goal for this year.”

Qualifying Recap

Robert Hight will attempt to earn his third consecutive Funny Car victory of the season Sunday from the No. 1 qualifying position at the NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) will lead their categories into tomorrow’s 11 a.m. eliminations as the No. 1 qualifiers in their categories at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.

Hight, the defending winner of this event, raced to his second No. 1 of the season and  41st of his career with a performance of 4.132 seconds at 310.41 mph in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. Hight, who earned victories in Phoenix and Gainesville in the last two events, will face veteran independent racer Terry Haddock in the first round.

“Terry Haddock, he’s been a spoiler before,” Hight said. “He’d like nothing more than to knock us out first round, so we’ve got to be on our game tomorrow. I think it’s supposed to be a little cooler tomorrow. It’s going to be exciting. You’re going to see a lot of runs at the finish line that you’re going to need that instant-replay camera to tell who won.”

Hight claimed the top spot on the day’s final qualifying run when he outran fellow Ford driver Bob Tasca III, who moved to second in the lineup with an impressive 4.134 at 307.86. Hight tied his top performance of 4.132 in his Mustang. The thrilling side-by-side race gave fans a preview of what to expect tomorrow.

“The last qualifying run, if you were a fan in the stands, that was something to see,” Hight said. “I saw Courtney [Force] run the first .14 out there, and then the .14s just kept coming and coming. I knew some of those cars in front of me were capable [of going to No. 1]. Jimmy [Prock, crew chief] was hoping for more than the .13, and it blew up right in the lights, too. I don’t know, maybe it was starting to hurt itself a little bit. That’s how close this class is: two-thousandths ahead of No. 2. If you look at the top five, it’s less than a hundredth of a second. That is Pro Stock racing there.”

Some intriguing matchups will highlight the first round of action in Funny Car. Veterans and former teammates John Force and Gary Densham will meet, as will brothers Cruz and Tony Pedregon. Current points leader Mike Neff and defending world champ Matt Hagan also will square off in a titan battle. Ron Capps, who won the fall race here last year, failed to qualify in his NAPA Dodge Charger.

In Top Fuel, Lucas earned his third No. 1 of the season and seventh of his career with his run from Friday, a performance of 3.817 at 321.96 in his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster. Lucas, who won three weeks ago in Gainesville, will face Steve Faria in the opening round.

“After the way the car has run, I’m just happy to get in the thing and hit the gas,” Lucas said. “That last run today, it was just a good example of consistency. That’s what we were trying to do, just go up there and a low 3.9 just in case we get track conditions similar to that we know what the car is capable of. We keep trying new things to see exactly what the car is going to do, and it seems to be responding real well.”

Lucas, who advanced to his first career final at this track in 2004, says his team is in a groove and hitting on all cylinders. He didn’t win that race here eight years ago, but hopes to keep his current hot streak going tomorrow and notch his first win at The Strip.

“It’s such a great group of guys; it’s like a fraternity around there,” Lucas said of his GEICO team. “It’s probably the best group of people I’ve had to work with as a whole. Aaron [Brooks, crew chief] and I have an easy rapport with each other. We grew up a half an hour from each other, so we kind of understand the Southern California thing, I guess. It’s just made for a good fit.”

Spencer Massey was second with a 3.817 at 322.88 in the FRAM dragster, and Clay Millican was third overall in his Parts Plus dragster with a 3.844 at 318.77. Series leader Tony Schumacher will start fourth in his U.S. Army dragster (3.849, 318.09) and will face Troy Buff in the first round.

“The guys on the team did a great job, and that’s good because I have really gotten a lot of pressure from [NHRA announcer] Bob Frey lately [laughing],” Line said. “I was shocked that Mike Edwards didn’t end up as No. 1, because he always runs well here. He told me after the last round, ‘This is the one place where I can beat you, and now you’ve taken that away from me.’ We’re struggling with Greg [Anderson’s] car right now, but we hope to have it straightened out by tomorrow. We can’t get the new Camaro soon enough for him.”

Edwards, who won both races here last year and holds both ends of the Pro Stock track record in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac, will start in the second spot and face Lucas Oil Ford Mustang driver Larry Morgan in the opening round. Points leader Anderson, who posted a 6.697 at 206.35 in his Summit Racing Pontiac, will start sixth and face Chris McGaha in the first round.

About the author

Andrew Wolf

Andrew has been involved in motorsports from a very young age. Over the years, he has photographed several major auto racing events, sports, news journalism, portraiture, and everything in between. After working with the Power Automedia staff for some time on a freelance basis, Andrew joined the team in 2010.
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