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Dodge-SRT NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil

NOTE: Click on the thumbnails to display the full-size images

Terry Haddock - 'Circle Racing' - FC --- Terry Haddock - 'Circle Racing' - FC

Still out there after nearly twenty years of chasing his dreams, Terry Haddock unloads the "Circle Racing Wheels" Mustang.

Mike Burns - 'Let's Roll Racing' - A/FD --- Rob Passey - 'Seven23 Enterprises - TF

(LEFT) Coming out of Arizona for one of his infrequent appearances at a national event, Mike Burns preps the "Let's Roll" A/Fuel Dragster. This is his second national race of 2021, both at Las Vegas.

(RIGHT) Another seldom-seen racer, Top Fuel hard-trier Rob Passey brought his "Seven23 Enterprises" car down from Utah for his third race of the year, the most he's attended since a four-pack in 2017. Still looking to get close to the 3-second zone, he's got veteran nitro-whisperer Johnny West directing the crew this weekend.

Mitch Myers - 'EPHA Hose' - A/FD --- Rachel Meyer (left) Julie Nataas (right) 
- A/FD

(LEFT) Coming back with a brand new A/Fuel operation this year after a decade-long layoff, Oregon's Mitch Myers looked to keep improving with his "EPHA Hose" entry.

(RIGHT) The two car team that can dominate anywhere they appear, with the heiress apparent to the Top Alcohol Dragster championship, Rachel Meyer, on the left, and Julie Nataas on the right. Both cars are capable of running low 5-teens almost anywhere but conditions at Las Vegas could prove to be trying for them.

Shawn Cowie - 'Mundie's Towing' - B/AD ---

(LEFT) Despite the championship being out of his reach for yet another year, Canada's hero Shawn Cowie's "Mundie's Towing" blown alky car sat ready to prove once again that he's got the (currently) quickest and fastest supercharged methanol burning dragster on the planet.

(RIGHT) The "McPhillips Racing" A/Fuel car sits on the jackstands with the engine down to the shortblock as they work to get it ready for the higher altitude conditions than they normally compete it. The third driver of the season, Mike Coughlin, is in the cockpit for one race as Matthew Cummings and Rich McPhillips Jr. have the weekend off.

Mike Salinas - 'Scrappers Racing' - PM --- Funny Car trailers

(LEFT) Here's a new view of the Mike Salinas pit area, as the latest addition to the ever-expanding "Scarppers Racing" team is prepared before Pro Mod qualifying begins. Not content with the ho-hum life of driving a Top Fuel car, Mike has jumped into Pro Mod with an increasingly competitive ProCharger Hemi-powered Camaro. It's been a bit of a learning curve for him since debuting in the spring at Charlotte, but he notched his first round win last month at Dallas in only his fourth appearance on the tour, then went to the semifinals at his latest event (Bristol).

(RIGHT) Side-by-side Funny Car trailers.

Chris Marshall - 'Disturbed Racing' - TA/FC --- Jake Guadagnolo - 'MBRE' - TA/FC

(LEFT) Moving along the line to the Top Alcohol Funny Car pits, it's the "Disturbed Racing" Camaro of Oregon's Chris Marshall, ready to butt heads with the big hitters in the class. With a career best of 5.365 in 2017, and the ability to go well into the 5.40's at any event, he can run with the best of them.

(RIGHT) On the other end of the spectrum is Jake Guadagnolo, making his national event debut in the M7 Performance" entry. It's being tuned and powered by the Miner Brothers crew.

Steve Gasparelli - TA/FC --- Steve Gasparelli - TA/FC

Making his first appearance of the season, Steve Gasparelli gets ready to clear away the cobwebs, blow off the dust, and make some noise in the desert.

Annie Whiteley - 'J&A Services' - TA/FC --- Steve Gasparelli - TA/FC --- Chris Marshall's wife

Here's a trio of images, starting with (LEFT) Annie Whiteley's "J&A Services" alky Funny Car, (MIDDLE) Steve Gasparelli's car coming out of the trailer, and (RIGHT) Chris Marshall's wife working on the car and getting ready for some more of her famous hood-pounding antics.

Steve Huff - 'Current Technology - 200 mph electric 
dragster --- Steve Huff - 'Current Technology - 200 mph electric 
dragster --- Steve Huff - 'Current Technology - 200 mph electric 

Is this really the future of drag racing? Hopefully not, BUT there is a place for electric vehicles in the sport and Steve Huff's 200-mph "Current Technology" dragster has proven the point that they can go fast. NOTE: "Big Daddy" Don Garlits attempted to be the first to crack the 200 barrier, but the battery power just wasn't there when he stopped working on his electric digger.

Chris Demke - 'Peen-Rite' - B/AD --- Big Bob Snyder --- Josh Hart - 'R&L Carriers' - TF

Another three pack with (LEFT) the Chris Demke-driven "Peen-Rite" blown alcohol dragster sitting ready to make it's third national event appearance of the season. The Peen-Rite team has scaled back their schedule in recent years, and 2021 has only seen them at Pomona and Las Vegas. (MIDDLE) Self-portrait time with our ace photographer "BIG" Bob Snyder reflected in the polished chrome trim on a trailer, and (RIGHT) Lounging under the awning, the R+L Carriers Top Fuel dragster of Josh Hart as he makes his first appearance at The Strip.

Top Alcohol Dragster with snow tires --- Top Alcohol Dragster with snow tires

We're not sure who's car this is but we're pretty certain that truck tires are not going to be a trend in Top Fuel racing.

Dylan Cromwell memorial

Finally, we close this Thursday report with the sombre memorial to Dylan Cromwell, a valuable member of the Jim Head Racing Team team. Dylan tragically passed away while driving the team transporter to this event. The young, 23-yr old crewman was in his fourth season with the team and had quickly advanced in his career within the nitro community. To respect his passing, the team (Blake Alexander driver) elected to withdraw from the event and the final race of the season in Pomona. Our sincerest condolences to the Cromwell family, the Jim Head team, and the entire NHRA racing community.

Greg Anderson - 'Hendricks Cars' -PRO --- Kyle Koretsky - 'Lucas Oil' - PRO

(LEFT) The Pro Stock points leader, Greg Anderson laid down a hard burnout before his qualifying pass, but his 6.670 - 205.32 wasn't quite good enough to take the #1 position - as he has done so often this season.

(RIGHT) Holding down the top spot on the ladder with an earlier pass was one of the "young guns" in the class, Kyle 'Kid Kaos' Koretsky as he carded the quickest e.t. of the session, with a 6.667 - 205.10 coming up on the scoreboards.

Alexis DeJoria - 'Bandero Tequila' - FC --- John Force - 'Peak' - FC

(LEFT) After a slow start to the season and some indifferent results in the first four races of the countdown (three 1st round losses and one semifinal), the "Bandero Tequila" team of Alexis DeJoria and Del Worsham picked up the pace with a win at the last race on the tour (Dallas) and set the early pace here with a 3.889 - 327.03 to hold the #1 spot going into Saturday's final two qualifying sessions.

(RIGHT) Still hanging in there in the championship hunt, only 101 points behind leader Ron Capps, is the 'ol' truck driver' John Force, wearing a throwback logo to his early days in Funny Car with a "Brute Force" decal on the car. He joined the 3-second gang with a second best of the session 3.902 - 328.54, showing he was ready to rumble.

Brittany Force - 'Monster Energy' - TF --- Brittany Force - 'Monster Energy' - TF

Any guesses as to who's the low qualifier in Top Fuel? Of course it's Brittany Force as crew chief David Grubnic tuned her to another "Monster" run, as she cranked out another #1 at 3.693, coupled with a huge speed of 33.41 mph to take the provisional pole for the umpteenth time in 2021.

Chris Marshall - 'Disturbed Racing' - TA/FC --- Doug Gordon - 'Beta Cycles' TA/FC

(LEFT) Seldom seen on the NHRA scene this year is Oregon's Chris Marshall, but he made his presence known at The Strip in a real hurry - like in 5.504 seconds at 265.01 mph. This was only his fourth NHRA race of 2021, following two regional races - both wins - and a semifinal finish at the U.S. Nationals. Like he has for the past few seasons, he's a real threat to the full-time competitors.

(RIGHT) Speaking of competitors, here's the Top Alcohol Funny Car points leader, Doug Gordon who staked his claim for a final round finish this weekend by opening his race with a very solid 5.541 - 265.17 to slot into the #3 position. However, lurking just one spot behind him on the ladder is the only racer with a chance to overtake him for the national championship is Greg Bellemeur of the 'Killer B's' team.

Kim Parker - 'Carstar' - A/FD --- Mike Coughlin - 'McPhillips Racing' - A/FD

(LEFT) Finally getting the bugs out of the car after nearly two years of running in the 5.30's and slower, Kim Parker pushed the "CarStar" entry to a #4 qualifying 5.305 - 266.16. It wasn't everything they wanted, but definitely a step in the right direction for a team that ran as quick as 5.153 three years ago.

(RIGHT) No, it's not Matt Cummings or Rich McPhillips (Jr. or Sr.) in the seat, but in the latest driver swap for the McPhillips team, Mike Coughlin made his national event debut in A/Fuel Dragster. He made quite an impression too, clocking 5.240 - 271.95 to take the top rung on the ladder going into Saturday's final qualifying session.

TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR - Qualifying Session #1

Steve Gasparelli - TA/FC --- Don Hudson - 'DHM' - TA/FC

(LEFT) Making only his second appearance since 2019, and the first of this season, So-Cal veteran Steve Gasparelli quickly blew the dust off his combination to the tune of 5.604 - 254.14 on his solo run to stake his climb for the top qualifying spot.

(RIGHT) Similarly to Gasparelli, the seldom-seen Don Hudson made his first pass of the year and apparently was so anxious to get going that he left the line before the tree was activated, negating what looked like a good pass.

Ray Martin - 'IVAT' - TA/FC --- Mike Doushgounian - 'Pro-Cal' - TA/FC

(LEFT) After a brief foray into the world of Nitro Funny Car racing at the 68-car Funny Car Chaos event in Texas, Alaskan Ray Martin hopped back into his "IVAT" sponsored car, and had a decent start to his weekend, with a 5.755 - 244.34 pass on the scoreboard.

(RIGHT) With backing from "Pro-Cal" (Truck & Equipment), Mike Doushgounian was looking for his first national event round win in nearly two years and made a move in that direction with an opening lap of 5.686 - 257.53 to take over the #2 spot on the ladder... with some real hitters still waiting to run.

Terry Ruckman - 'Ruckman Bros.' - TA/FC --- Annie Whiteley - 'J&A Services' - TA/FC

(LEFT) Coming down from the high country of Colorado, the "Ruckman Brothers" entry, driven by Steve Ruckman once again showed that you don't need a big crew (even though it certainly helps!) to be competitive as they put down a 5.661 - 262.18 on their first pass.

(RIGHT) Running in the next pair, Annie Whiteley pushed the "J&A Services" Camaro to an even better 5.604 - 263.41 for top speed so far, and the #3 position on the ladder.

Nick Januik - 'Plan B' - TA/FC --- Bob McCosh - TA/FC

(LEFT) Sporting a plain black "incognito" look, Las Vegas resident Nick Januik motivated the "Plan B" entry to a decent, but slightly off-pace 5.664 - 259.06 to move comfortably into the middle of the field.

(RIGHT) Coming all the way west from Missouri, Bob McCosh was looking to recapture the #3 spot in the national standings with Las Vegas being his final choice to do so. He made a good start to his race with a solid 5.584 - 263.46 (new top speed) to bump Whiteley out of the #3 spot in the field and show that he was ready to run hard at The Strip.

Doug Gordon - 'Beta Motorcycles' - TA/FC --- Doug Gordon - 'Beta Motorcycles' - TA/FC

The last pair down the track in the first qualifying session were the #1 & #2 in the national standings, this year and last. With strong sponsorship help from "BETA Motorcycles", the Gordon team was able to capture their first national championship in 2020, and fell just short of repeating this year against the totally formidable "Killer B's" of Bartone, Boggs & Bellemeur. Doug Gordon rolled the dice on his first pass of the Dodge//SRT Nationals by putting down a very good 5.451 - 265.17, good for #3 on the initial list and top speed - so far - of the meet. In the other lane (not shown) was Sean Bellemeur, trailing slightly with a 5.565 - 263.15 that placed him #4 in the field.

Chris Marshall & wife - TA/FC

Saving the best (run and back-up assistant) for last, we've got Chris Marshall and the "Disturbed" car backing up before unloading a bomb on the field with a 5.504 - 265.01 to show that he hadn't lost anything by being off the NHRA circuit for most of the season, while competing in the Mid-West Drag Racing Series events.

TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER - Qualifying Session #1

Ron Anderson - 'Dr. Lip Bang' - A/FD --- Mike Austin - 'LAD Automotive' - B/AD

(LEFT) Switching to the long skinny cars, the California A/Fuel car of Ron Anderson, with a rather unique sponsor "Dr. Lip Bang", launches to a decent opening effort of 5.656 - 251.11. His team's been searching for the right tuneup after running a career best 5.306 at the 2019 Auto Club Finals, but haven't been close to that number since then.

(RIGHT) Still fighting the good fight with a blown alky combination, Mike Austin burned out hard in the "LAD Automotive" entry, before clocking in at 5.457 - 262.85 for temporary possession of the #3 spot in the order. He's still looking to come all the way back from his horrendous car-destroying crash at Pomona nine years ago and this pass is one more step in the right direction.

Kim Parker - 'Carstar' - A/FD --- Casey Grisel - 'Darien & Grisel' - A/FD

(LEFT) Running alongside Austin was fellow Northwesterner Kim Parker as she pushed her "Carstar" backed A/Fuel car to a very good 5.305 - 266.16 opening lap, good for #2 in the field.

(RIGHT) Leaving in the usual cloud of fuel out the pipes, the next A/FD to make their mark was Casey Grisel in the Jerry Darien-tuned entry, as he recovered from early tire shake to post a 5.457 - 260.16 to put himself solidly in the field.

Joey Severance - 'J&A Services' - B/AD --- Shawn Cowie - 'Mundie's Towing' - B/AD

(LEFT) The quickest blown alcohol car in history, with a 5.121 at this event in 2019, the "J&A Services" sponsored car of Joey Severance made a rather slow, by his standards, opening statement with a 5.405 - 266.64 time.

(RIGHT) His arch-rival, Shawn Cowie in the Norm Grimes-tuned "Mundie's Towing" B/AD easily surpassed Severance's numbers with a #2 qualifying 5.257 - 275.90 to show that the blown cars could run well in the thin-ish air (3675 ft adjusted altitude) at The Strip. The only driver ahead of Cowie on the list was the red-hot McPhillips Racing entry of Mike Coughlin with a 5.242 earlier in the session. The only faster car was Rachel Meyer as she closed the session with a 5.263 - 280.63 to land in the #3 position behind Cowie.

PRO MOD - Qualifying Session #1

With the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod championship decided at Bristol earlier in the month, there was no drama in the making at this final event of their season. The new champion Jose Gonzalez didn't even enter this race and the racers in attendance were well short of the 16-car field, with just 11 cars in the pits.

Dimitry Samorukov - PM --- Jim Whiteley - 'J&A Services' - PM

(LEFT) Making his Pro Mod debut in North America was Russian Dimitry Samorukov and he put down a workmanlike effort of 6.251 - 232.47 to start his weekend.

(RIGHT) Former two-time Top Alcohol Dragster national champion Jim Whiteley, the "J" in "J&A Services" bannered on the side of their bright white Camaro, moved into Pro Mod eight years ago and is still looking to get back to the winners after taking the event trophy at Houston's spring race in 2018. His first pass at this race ended quickly with massive tire shake and a coasting 9.372 - 101.02 clocking.

Mike Salinas - 'Scrappers Racing' - PM --- Lyle Barnett - 'Elite Performance' - PM

(LEFT) In the other lane against Whiteley was Mike Salinas, still working to perfect the performance of his "Scrappers Racing" Camaro. He took an early top qualifying spot - very provisionally - with a solid 5.833 - 244.69 to open his event scorecard.

(RIGHT) Coming into this race on a bit of a high after winning his first national event at the Dallas race, Georgia's Lyle Barnett, in one of the fleet of "Elite Performance" cars, didn't get very far after a nice wheels-up launch, shaking shortly after and shutting off to a 11.081 - 77.12.

Khalid alBalooshi - 'Bahrain 1' - PM --- Mike Castellana - 'AAP' - PM

(LEFT) Longtime competitor in the class, Khalid alBalooshi in a familiar looking "Bahrain 1" entry opened his account with a strong 5.889 - 243.28 that gave the racers left in the lanes something to aim for.

(RIGHT) All the way out from New York state, veteran Mike Castellana in the all-black "AAP" entry laid down a hard burnout before laying down an even harder run, stopping the timers at 5.819 - 246.12 to top the field - to that point.

Doug Winters - 'Stinar' - PM --- J.R. Gray - 'Gray Contracting' - PM

(LEFT) In the lane next to Castellana was Doug Winters in his unique Chevelle-bodied "Stinar" with a wild paint scheme and an injector well above the roofline. Despite some decent early incrementals, Winters was forced to shut off early to a 6.161 - 172.56.

(RIGHT) Winner of the previous event in Bristol, and packing some serious horsepower, South Carolina's J.R. Gray Jr. was bitten by the same bug that afflicted half of the field, as tire shake held him to a coasting 9.588 - 94.77 clocking.

Justin Bond - 'Bahrain 1' - PM --- Brandon Snider - 'J&A Services' - PM

(LEFT) The lone Canadian in this field, Mission BC's Justin Bond in another of the omnipresent "Bahrain 1" team cars, made a strong attempt to take over the pole, but fell short as his 5.873 - 243.68 slotted in directly behind Castellana's earlier 5.819 low e.t. pass. In case you're wondering why the wrap on Bond's car isn't primarily red, it's because they had to replace his original ride after a nasty crash at Brainerd earlier in the season.

(RIGHT) In the last pair of the round, Brandon Snider in the third "J&A Services" car, stayed close to outgoing national champion Stevie "Fast" Jackson (not shown) and clocked a very good 5.872 - 245.09 to finish the round in the #4 position.

1400 HP Mustang --- 200 MPH Electric Dragster

Before the Pro cars took to the track, two of the exhibition vehicles in attendance made passes. On the left, it's the 1400-hp electric-powered Cobra Jet Mustang, that runs in the 8-second zone, and on the right, it's the 7-second 200+ mph electric dragster of Washington state's Mike Huff. It produces 1950-hp and will eventually come close to the six-second zone, with a current best of 7.52 for the quarter-mile.


Martin Robertson - 'Elite HP' - PS --- Alan Prusiensky - 'eCarMover' - PS

(LEFT) With the Elite Motorsports team pulling out all the stops trying to help Erica Enders overtake Greg Anderson in the Pro Stock championship race, Martin Robertson made his fourth appearance of the season in one of their fleet of cars. He opened the weekend with a clean 6.748 - 203.34 to put a number on the board.

(RIGHT) Hoping to close out the season with at least one round win for the first time since the 2018 Gatornationals, New Jersey's Alan Prusiensky entered the "E-Car Movers" Dodge Dart; truly a rare sighting in a sea of Camaros. His first pass saw the timers stop at 6.715 - 203.22 to top the field... probably only until the next pair cleared the traps.

Richie Stevens Jr. - 'Vita-C Shot' - PS --- Cristian Cuadra - 'Corral' - PS

(LEFT) After six DNQ's out of seven appearances in the 2021 season, Richie Stevens Jr. was hoping for some much improved performance at The Strip. His initial effort, running alongside Prusiensky was decent at 6.772 - 203.52.

(RIGHT) The most successful of the three car family team running under the "Corral" banner, young Cristian Cuadra started with an early shutoff 6.818 - 176.63 pass.

Deric Kramer - 'Get BioFuel' - PS --- Troy Coughlin Jr. - 'Jegs' - PS

(LEFT) After a great start to the season, with three semifinals and a runnerup in the first five races, the Deric Kramer driven "Bio Fuel" car's performance had fallen off badly, with Kramer carding only one round win in his last 11 races heading into Las Vegas. While he was still in the countdown in the #10 position, he was hoping to turn things around, but his opening 6.701 - 204.88 pass wasn't quite what he was hoping for.

(RIGHT) With a "bowling pin" crewman to aim for, Troy Coughlin Jr. came blazing out of the waterbox prior to his first qualifier. His run didn't live up to expectations as a 6.826 - 176.63 was the result, leaving him in the bottom half of the field.

Mason McGaha - 'Harlow Sammons Racing' - PS --- Chris McGaha - 'Harlow Sammons Racing' - PS

(LEFT) They weren't paired together, but young Mason McGaha in the second "Harlow Sammons" entry looked to overtake his dad in the standings after coming into the countdown two spots ahead of him. Mason's first pass rang up a 6.694 - 205.32 on the scoreboards which put him in the #1 spot.... albeit with three more pairs waiting in the lanes.

(RIGHT) And it didn't take long for Mason to be bumped off the top rung as his father, Chris McGaha in the other Harlow-Sammons car laid down a 6.693 - 205.38 to take over the #1 position by one thousandth of a second. You've heard the term "game of inches" applied to sports, but drag racing is almost a "game of nanoseconds" by comparison.

Kyle Koretsky - 'Lucas Oil' - PS --- Erica Enders - 'Elite Performance' - PS

(LEFT) Yet another second generation racer, Kyle Koretsky, knocked everyone down a notch with an excellent 6.667 - 205.10 to put a gap of two hundredths of a second on the #2 qualifier. In the other lane (not shown) was the odds-on favourite for Rookie of The Year, Dallas Glenn, who carded a very good 6.687 to take that second position from the McGaha's.

(RIGHT) When the last pair came to the line, the adrenalin was racing through the two combatants, as Erica Enders in her "Melling Equipment" Camaro prepared to face off with the points leader (Greg Anderson) as both racers were ready to make statement runs to the rest of the field. Enders cranked out a solid - but not spectacular - 6.696 - 203.77 to place her #6 after the session.

Greg Anderson - 'Hendrick Cars' - PS

In the other lane, Greg Anderson in his "Hendrick Cars" entry, crossed the 1320' stripe in front of Enders, but not in front of everyone else, as his very good 6.670 - 205.32 was "only" good enough for the #2 spot on the ladder, just three thousandths adrift of Kyle Koretsky's low qualifying 6.667 pass.


It was finally time to crank up the volume as the first blown fuel cars, the Funny Cars, came up for their first qualifying session. With 18 cars in the pits, a full field was guaranteed, with almost every one of them capable of running in the 3-second zone. The points chase was still very much up for grabs, with eight drivers still in at least mathematical contention for the season championship coming into this event. As always, the lower ranked (points-wise) cars were out first, and as the lanes emptied, the top racers got to run later in the session.

Steven Densham - 'MidWest' - FC --- Chris Morel - 'Litle City Charger' - FC

(LEFT) Kicking things off for the fuel racers was a second generation So-Cal pilot, Steven Densham, with the "Midwest" backed entry. He was making only his fourth start of the season and wanted to rebound from two DNQ's out of his three previous races, but one dead cylinder limited him to a 4.338 - 285.59 on this attempt.

(RIGHT) Running alongside Densham was the "Little City Charger" of Reno, NV's Chris Morel. With a real retro metalflake paint scheme, the car certainly stood out in one of his infrequent appearances on the tour. He kept the pedal down past the 660' mark, then shut off to a 4.335 - 248.43 clocking.

Tony Jurado - 'Pure Crop 1' - FC --- Tony Jurado - 'Pure Crop 1' - FC

It's a two-fer here, with newcomer Tony Jurado in his newly sponsored "Pure Crop 1" entry shown burning out (LEFT), then launching (RIGHT). Since making the leap from Nitro Nostalgia Funny Car at mid-season, Jurado had progressed quickly and his first run at The Strip showed an amazing leap in performance, with career bests - by a BUNCH - of 3.986 - 318.17. Crew chief Jason Bunker certainly showed that they have a good handle on a Big Show tuneup.

Jeff Diehl - 'RATT' - FC --- Bobby Bode - 'Ar-Bee' - FC

(LEFT) Running alongside Jurado was veteran Jeff "The Surfer" Diehl who had only two first round runnerups and two DNQ's on his season scorecard to this point. His first attempt at Las Vegas in the "RATT" sponsored Camry ended early as he shutoff to a decent 4.320 - 216.03 to start his weekend.

(RIGHT) Another of the new crop of "young guns" making waves in the sport was Illinois' Bobby Bode III in the "Ar-Bee" Mustang as he made his first pass in just his 11th career race in Funny Car. It didn't last long as he was up in smoke instantly and coasted to a 13-second clocking.

Terry Haddock - 'Circle Racing Wheels - FC --- Terry Haddock - 'Circle Racing Wheels - FC

Another "two for one" as we get to see Terry "Never Quit" Haddock burn out, then launch in his "Circle Racing Wheels" entry. You may be wondering why his run looks like a second burnout, with a little sideways movement for good measure. It was an instantly up-in-smoke and heading for the centerline pass, with a 9-second result.

Chad Green - 'Bond-Coat' - FC --- Tim Wilkerson - 'Levi, Ray & Shoup' - FC

(LEFT) The part-time Pro Mod, part-time Funny Car competitor, Chad Green, in his "Bond Coat" car, running under the Team Wilkerson banner, left hard but lifted early to a 4.122 - 256.60. There wasn't anything obviously wrong with the car but it did show some promise for Saturday's final two qualifying sessions.

(RIGHT) In the Wilkerson flagship, the LRS" Mustang wheeled by Tim Wilkerson warmed up the tires here before laying down the best run of the day - to that point - with a very good 3.948 - 324.67 to take the provisional pole position.

Jim Campbell - 'KGC Construction' - FC --- Robert Hight - 'Auto Club' - FC

(LEFT) Running beside Wilkerson in that pairing, the Jim Dunn Racing entry driven by Jim Campbell left the line cleanly but the power ran out early as he shut off to a 7.204 - 84.04 that placed him eighth of the first ten cars down the track.

(RIGHT) In the next pair, a team that was looking for something - anything - good to come their way was the "AAA" car of Robert Hight. After entering the championship countdown in the sixth position, they quickly dropped to #7 and seemed stuck on that rung despite back-to-back semifinal finishes coming into Las Vegas. His first shot at qualifying didn't produce the desired results as he lost traction early and could only produce a 4.660 - 174.12 timeslip.

Alexis DeJoria - 'Bandero Tequila' - FC --- Alexis DeJoria - 'Bandero Tequila' - FC

After a strong burnout, Alexis DeJoria had an equally strong leave in her "Bandero Premium Tequila" Camry enroute to the first 3.80 pass of the session. She jumped to the top of the ladder with an excellent 3.896- 327.03 to show that her win at the last race (Bristol) wasn't a mirage and she was going to be a serious contender for back-to-back event wins.

Bob Tasca III - 'Motorcraft' - FC --- Cruz Pedregon - 'Snap-On' - FC

(LEFT) In the next pair, the "Motorcraft" Mustang of East Coaster Bob Tasca III nearly matched DeJoria's numbers, slotting in right behind her with a 3.935 - 329.34 for #2 on the list and a new Top Speed of the meet. After starting the countdown in the #3 position, Tasca fell to #8 after first round losses at the first two races in the countdown, before rebounding to move up to the #6 spot, and was certainly hoping to keep climbing in the standings here.

(RIGHT) Another racer that was moving in the right direction was the resurgent Cruz Pedregon in his familiar "Snap-On" entry, as he had nine round wins in the previous five races to his credit and had moved up the list to #5 in the points coming into this event. He didn't start well however, smoking the tires right away and clicking it off to a 8.401 - 87.07 to start his weekend on a rather sour note.

John Force - 'Peak' - FC --- John Force - 'Peak' - FC

With his championship hopes fading, as he had dropped from the second spot entering the countdown to #4 coming into the final two races of the season, John 'Brute' Force needed to get his "PEAK Performance" Chevy performing at it's peak to have a chance to get back into the championship chase. He started strongly with a 3.902 - 328.54 to move into the #2 spot as the session drew to a close.

Matt Hagan - 'Direct Connection' - FC --- Matt Hagan - 'Direct Connection' - FC

The last pair of the round featured Matt Hagan in the "Direct Connection" Dodge Charger 'Hellcat', who was on a bit of a hot streak with two wins and a runnerup in the first five races of the countdown. He kept the beat going, pounding out a good 3.931 - 322.34 that landed him #4 on the ladder.

Ron Capps - 'Pennzoil' - FC

Running beside Hagan was points leader Ron Capps in the "NAPA Auto Parts" Dodge and he had less luck than Hagan, carding only an early shutoff 3.973 - 304.60 to sit well down the qualifying list in the #7 position.

The first session of Funny Car qualifying ended with Alexis Dejoria on top with a 3.896, Cruz Pedregon in the bump spot at 8.401, eight cars in the 3-second zone, and all 18 cars in attendance getting a timeslip. As a bonus, there were no oildowns or any other delays in a mostly pretty good round of Nitro Funny Car qualifying. Up next: Top Fuel cars.


Brandon Welch - 'Max Mileage' - TF --- Rob Passey - 'Seven23 Entrprises' - TF

(LEFT) After a strong debut peformance at last year's Winternationals with a 3.841 in qualifying, Brandon Welch had an eminently forgettable experience at this year's edition. He tapped the guardwall right off the starting line in his first qualifying attempt, ran a 5-second time on his second, and his final shot at making the field ended in a puddle of spilled fuel after the burnout. This time out, he made a strong statement with a solid 3.940 - 260.27 that ended early when he headed for the centerline. Unfortunately, he crossed the line before the 1320' mark and he was penalized five points for the infraction.

(RIGHT) Still trying to get something going in the tuneup department, Utah's Rob Passey made a good burnout in his clean-looking "Seven23 Enterprises" car, but in what might have been a planned move, shut off early to a 4.510 - 233.64 to at least put a number on the board. Passey started in Top Fuel in 2001, but sadly is still looking for his first round win, as even qualifying has been a hit - or more often than not - miss proposition.

Troy Buff - 'BME' - TF --- Cameron Ferre - 'EMPI' - TF

(LEFT) After Bill Miller announced he was permanently parking his Top Fuel operation a few years ago ... surprise, surprise... they're baaack. With Troy Buff still wheeling the "BME" car, they've made only sporadic appearances and only at Las Vegas. This first pass of the weekend ended very quickly as he lost traction right at the starting line and coasted to a 6.694 - 87.16 timeslip.

(RIGHT) It's been quite a ride for Cameron Ferre over the last two seasons, bouncing from the Terry Haddock T/F car, to a few rides in the Worsham Family car, then joining up with the Paton Family operation earlier this month at Bristol. That first event together at the Thunder Valley Nationals, with John Stewart tuning, was a bit of a disaster with their first qualifying run thrown out due to a timing malfunction. It was followed by an up-in-smoke 11-second pass, then an early shutoff 4.438 - 176.81 in the first round of eliminations. They came into Vegas looking for serious improvement and they found it right away with a career best for Ferre at 3.851 - 318.39 right out of the trailer.

Alex Laughlin - 'Havoline' - TF --- Tripp Tatum - 'TT Racing' - TF

(LEFT) After starting the season in Pro Stock, moving to Pro Mod, back to Pro Stock, then into Top Fuel, 2021 has been a real roller coaster of a year for Alex Laughlin. With the help of major sponsor "Havoline", he's made a quick progression from never sitting in a T/F'er until five days before qualifying started at Denver in July, to running regularly in the 3.70's almost right away. He opened his account at The Strip with a solid, if unspectacular, 3.809 - 318.34 to take a temporary #1 with 11 cars still waiting to run.

(RIGHT) Another relative newcomer to Top Fuel is Tripp Tatum III, who's been on the fringes of the class for a number of years, but hadn't run since early 2017 until he returned at the U.S. Nationals in September. He followed up his 3.87 best at Indy, with a very good 3.73 at St. Louis, then went up in smoke at the hit here on his first attempt and shut off to a 10.224 - 87.48 clocking. With tuning assistance from the CAPCO braintrust, who also assembled the car, it won't take long for him to get it dialled in at this event.

Josh Hart - 'R+L Carriers' - TF --- Shawn Langdon - 'CMR Roofing' - TF

(LEFT) It's been quite a first season in Top Fuel for Florida's Josh Hart and his first visit to The Strip in the "R & L Carriers" car marked his 13th race of a 2021 that saw two trips to the Winners Circle (Gainesville and Charlotte). With his scheduled partner electing to sit in the pits, Hart ran by himself and put down good numbers until half track before losing traction and clicking it to a 3.862 - 276.07 opening salvo.

(RIGHT) When the championship countdown started, Shawn Langdon sat in the #5 position, well within striking distance of the points leader. But four straight ' first round exits saw the "DHL - CMR" team drop to #9 in the standings coming into the last two events of the season. Things didn't get better on his first qualifier as it ran into trouble before the 660' mark and slowed Shawn to a 3.952 - 255.15 to leave him near the middle of the pack.

Doug Kalitta - 'MAC Tools' - TF --- Antron Brown - 'Matco Tools' - TF

(LEFT) Langdon's teammate Doug Kalitta was having an even worse season as the "MAC Tools" team had just one round win in the past five races coming into this one. Coupled with the worst oildown totals in the entire association, with 105 points lost via that route, the team was hoping just to survive until the end of the season. When he launched, one cylinder stayed behind and that was it; he promptly shut off and limped to a 6.853 - 97.05 clocking.

(RIGHT) The other tool company backed team, the "Matco Tools" machine driven by Antron Brown was doing just as badly during the countdown (one round win in five races), but he managed to go a little further being losing traction and slowing to a 5.336 - 135.69 to slip into a very temporary #8 position on the ladder.

Leah Pruett - 'Direct Connection' - TF --- Billy Torrence - 'Capco Contractors' - TF

(LEFT) Things had to improve as the first 11 cars had only produced one 3.70 (Clay Millican), three 3.80's and a pair of 3.90's, plus a bunch of 4-5-6 second and slower runs. The newly wrapped "Direct Connection" dragster of Leah Pruett looked primed to improve those mediocre stats and she ran hard until the tires started to lose their grip on the top end as she stopped the timers with a 3.843 - 310.55, good enough for the #3 spot.

(RIGHT) The first of the two-car "CAPCO Contractors" team, Billy Torrence made a huge jump in the point standings when the countdown started, winning the first race at Reading to move from #8 to #3. Since then he'd made it to the second round of eliminations four times in a row to come into this event in fifth place. On this first run he posted some good early incrementals before clicking it off at the 660' mark and crossing the finish line with a 4.055 - 245.99 timeslip.

Justin Ashley - 'Vita-C Shot' - TF --- Mike Salinas - 'Scrappers Racing' - TF

(LEFT) The second to last pair saw the young gun, Mike Ashley, this week bannering "Vita-C Shot" come in with 12 round wins during the countdown, which included one win (Dallas), and sitting in the #4 spot, with a chance to contend for the championship. He needed a good weekend here but his opening run ended early in a cloud of tire smoke and a 6.027 - 103.17 showing on the scoreboard.

(RIGHT) Running in the lane next to Ashley was Mike Salinas in his all-black "Scrappers Racing" entry, fresh off a win at the last race (Bristol) and sitting in the #3 position, but 150 points in arrears of the points leader and running out of opportunities to close the gap. He made a good pass in this first session, stopping the timers with a #2 qualifying 3.766 - 321.12 to start on a positive note.

Steve Torrence - 'Capco Contractors' - TF --- Brittany Force - 'Monster Energy' - TF

(LEFT) The final pair featured the top two racers in the points standings, with the points leader Steve Torrence in his "CAPCO Contractors" car on quite a roll. He made it to the final round at the three previous events, winning one of them, after two semifinal finishes to start the countdown. His total of 14 round wins in those five races topped everyone and he was looking to continue turning on winlights at The Strip. His first pass was solid, but a 3.771 - 325.92 trailed the car in the other lane this time.

(RIGHT) That other lane was occupied by Brittany Force in the "Monster Energy" car and she blitzed the field with low e.t. and top speed of the first session. Her 3.693 - 333.41 delivered a major statement to the other racers and showed once again just how dominating the car, driver, and team can be in qualifying. Unfortunately, eliminations have not always been as kind to them, but they came into Vegas just 73 points behind Steve Torrence and determined to close or erase that margin.

Brittany Force - 'Monster Energy' - TF --- Brittany Force - 'Monster Energy' - TF

The two launch pictures show just hard the car leaves the starting line, with an .839 time to 60' (second only to Clay Millican's .837), then a best in class - by far - 2.106 to the 330' mark. Her 660' numbers were awe-inspiring, reaching that point in less than 3 seconds at over 290 mph with times of 2.971 - 292.65. It wasn't all that long ago that running 292 mph to the quarter-mile (1320') was quite impressive, but to do it in half the distance is almost mind boggling. Unless you've stood at the guardwall and experienced them launch - which always feels like a punch in the face - then you can appreciate just how powerful they are and the awesome feats they are capable of.

TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR - Qualifying Session Two

Ray Martin - 'Ivat Coatings' - TA/FC --- Jake Guadagnolo - 'M7 Performance' - TA/FC

(LEFT) Sitting safely in the #12 spot on the ladder, with only 17 cars in the pits, Ray Martin dialled in some more clutch and made an impressive wheels-up launch that descended into serious tire shake, causing him to abort the run. The verdict: 8.493 - 117.51 and no improvement going into the final qualifying session on Saturday.

(RIGHT) After a respectable national event debut earlier in the day (6.121 - 238.34), Jake Guadagnolo got loose early and took out the half track timing blocks, DQ'ing the run and leaving him in the #15 spot.

Nick Januik - 'Plan B' - TA/FC --- Terry Ruckman - 'Ruckman Brothers' - TA/FC

(LEFT) Another wheels-up leave, more tire shake, as Nick Januik's aptly-named "Plan B" showed that maybe a slightly different plan might be in order. His timeslip didn't come close to his first session 5.664, and the 9-second 90-mph numbers didn't bring any joy as he stayed in the #9 spot.

(RIGHT) Changing the tuneup and making the best run of the session to this point was Terry Ruckman as he picked up three hundredths from his earlier run, clocking a good 5.633 - 263.46 that helped him move... backward(?) as he dropped from #8 to #9, courtesy of the car in the other lane (see below).

Steve Macklyn - 'B&J Transmissions' - TA/FC --- Kris Hool - 'C-Tech Manufacturing' - TA/FC

(LEFT) That "other car" was the "B&J Transmissions" backed High Country racer Steven Macklyn, attending his first national event since last year's October Vegas race. He made a big jump forward from his first round 5.91, and climbed all the way to #8 on the ladder with a solid 5.620 - 258.96, his best of the year.

(RIGHT) Also moving in the right direction was Kris Hool as he pushed the "C-TECH" car to a slight improvement (from a 5.666) to a 5.623 - 259.91 which moved him up the charts from #11 to #9 with one chance remaining to move into the top half of the field.

Sean Bellemeur - 'Hussey Performance' - TA/FC --- Shane Westerfield - 'Rick Jackson Motorsports' - 

(LEFT) Moving into the faster cars as the session wound down, the "Hussey Performance" car, with Sean Bellemeur driving, wanted to get to the top of the ladder from his #4 spot, but fell just short as his great 5.509 - 261.93 wasn't quite enough to get past Chris Marshall's low e.t. 5.504 from the first round of qualifying.

(RIGHT) Sitting one spot in front of Bellemeur coming into the session, in the #3 position, Shane Westerfield fell back a notch to #4 as his 5.571 - 263.56 just half a tenth slower than his earlier pass, but just not quite good enough.

--- Briana Marshall --- Chris Marshall - 'Disturbed Racing' - TA/FC

It's Chris Marshall's lovely reverse gear assistant, his wife Briana, in the (LEFT) photo, waiting for him to come back closer to the starting line, and on the (RIGHT) the "Disturbed" Camaro leaving hard with the wheels up and charging to a .... serious bout of tire shake and an 8-second result as he fell back one spot to #2 on the qualifying list. Taking over the top spot was current champion Doug Gordon (not shown) who pounded out a great 5.502 - 265.69 to set the pace going into tomorrow's final qualifying session.

TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER - Qualifying Session Two

Gord Gingles - 'Doucette Racing' - A/FD --- Chris Demke - 'Penn-Rite' - B/AD

(LEFT) Making his first appearance at an NHRA event in two years, Winnipeg, Manitoba's Gord Gingles in the Doug Doucette car made his second attempt to get down The Strip after his first session fuel leak fiasco. This time he got to the finish line, under power, but a 5.469 - 261.42 was only good enough for the #13 position.

(RIGHT) After sitting out almost all of the 2020 season, the "Peen-Rite" team came back this year to run some West Coast races, with this being their third national event of the season. Driver Chris Demke didn't get very far on his first attempt (9-second pass), but this time put down a competitive run that stopped the clocks at 5.437 - 268.87 to move up to the #12 spot.

Mike Quayle - A/FD --- Mike Burns - 'Let's Roll Racing' - A/FD

(LEFT) The third Canadian car in the field, that of Red Deer, Alberta's Mike Quayle, improved a full second over his first effort of 8.483, but his 7.249 - 121.73 in this session still left him well outside the field in 20th spot. With the bump spot already down to a 5.457 there was still much work to be done for Quayle with just one qualifying session remaining.

(RIGHT) Going backwards instead of moving up was Arizona's Mike Burns as the "Let's Roll" car had almost instant traction problems as evidenced by his 14-second 50-mph result. That dropped him from #21 to #22 on the list.

Jackie Fricke - 'Finke Equipment' - A/FD --- Casey Grisel - 'Darien & Grisel' - A/FD

(LEFT) East Coast hitter, Jackie Fricke in the "Finke Equipment" A/Fuel dragster carded a decent 5.484 - 270.00 in her first qualifier, but it was already out of the field when she came up for her second shot. This one went more according to form as a 5.270 - 275.73 boosted her a dozen spots from #17 all the way to #5 in the field.

(RIGHT) The next car out, running a solo as several racers elected to sit out the session, was Casey Grisel in the Jerry Darien car and he made a good move, getting off the bump spot and going all the way up the sheet to #8 with a strong 5.347 - 265.38 run.

Duane Shields - 'Muscle Milk' - A/FD --- Kim Parker - 'Carstar' - A/FD

(LEFT) Making one of his infrequent appearances at what should be his home track, Boulder City, NV's Duane Shields, was back in the "Muscle Milk" A/FD after letting young protege Madison Payne take over driving duties for five national events in 2021. Duane's first pass was a decent 5.391, but this time a much better 5.329 - 269.73 came up on the boards, moving him near the top half of the show into the #9 spot.

(RIGHT) Coming into this session in the #4 spot, courtesy of her earlier 5.305 pass, but falling to #7 before starting the car, Kim Parker made it back up the ladder, this time to #2 with a very good 5.249 - 265.17 to show that she was ready to run with the fast guys and girls.

Julie Nataas - 'OTG' - A/FD --- Shawn Cowie - 'Mundie's Towing' - B/AD

(LEFT) Running alongside her teammate and possible new national champion, Rachel Meyer (not shown), was Julie Nataas in the other "Meyer Racing" A/Fuel car. Her first session 5.305 put her in #5 going into this round, but she was already down to #8 as she left the starting line. That changed when she crossed the finish line stripe, stopping the clocks at 5.275 - 269.24 as she moved up one notch to #7 on the ladder.

(RIGHT) In the final pair of the round, Canada's Shawn Cowie took a step backward as his 5.330 - 273.05 was nearly a tenth slower than his earlier 5.257 pass. He dropped from #2 at the start of the session to #4 at the end. It looked like tuner Norm Grimes had some work to do before tomorrow's final qualifier.

Mike Coughlin - 'McPhillips Racing' - A/FD --- 'Muy Caliente Racing' Jet Dragster

(LEFT) After an awesome debut peformance earlier in the day, clocking in at 5.242 to lead the field, Mike Coughlin had a impressive launch with big flames out of the headers, but it soon went south as he clicked it off to an 8-second time.

(RIGHT) No, it's not a new addition to the Top Alcohol class but the Muy Caliente Jet dragster was on hand to light up the night and put on a performance to close out the evening's entertainment.


TOP FUEL - Final Qualifying Session

Steve Chrisman - 'Worsham Racing' - TF --- Rob Passey - 'Seven23 Enterprises' - TF

(LEFT) There were 20 cars in the Top Fuel pits, but only 19 had been down the track until the final qualifying session. It's a bit of a mystery why Steve Chrisman in the "rent-a-ride" "Worsham Racing" would wait until the clock was running out, as he lost traction before half track and could only muster a 4.595 - 176.26 that left him in the 19th spot and well short of the current 3.940 bump spot.

(RIGHT) Another racer facing a "do or die" situation was Rob Passey and despite his career quickest and fastest run at 4.287 - 271.13 fell a third of a second short of qualifying. Still it was a good weekend for the diehard racer as he made some progress towards fielding a competitive race car.

Brandon Welch - 'Max Mileage' - TF --- Buddy Hull - 'Circle Racing' - TF

(LEFT) Sitting in a very precarious position on the bubble, Brandon Welch knew that he had to run a little quicker to keep himself in the field. He stepped it up a little too much, smoking the tires early and shutting off to a 8.986 - 67.98 clocking. Running in the lane beside him, Troy Buff (not shown) bumped Welch out of the show with a 3.919 - 260.41. He had to shut off early as the car headed for the centerline, but had enough momentum to coast across the line and take the last spot in the field by barely two hundredths of a second.

(RIGHT) The last car in the lanes that could dislodge Buff from the #16 spot was Buddy Hull in the Terry Haddock car. His best previous run was a 4.449, and he knew he had to make a much improved run but failed as instant tire smoke and a 10-second pass put an end to his weekend.

Jim Maroney - 'American Flow-Tech' - TF --- Billy Torrence - 'Capco Contractors' - TF

(LEFT) With the field set, the balance of the session was to settle the final positions inside the 16-car field. Up next was Jim Maroney in his "American Flow-Tech" entry, who left well but got out of shape and shutoff to a 4.494 - 181.89 to stay in the #15 spot on the ladder.

(RIGHT) In the next pair, Billy "Captain Capco" Torrence made a big move up the charts from #10 all the way to #3 on the list with an excellent 3.715 - 327.51 to earn first round lane choice and put himself on the opposite side of the ladder to teammate and son, Steve Torrence.

Josh Hart - 'R+L Carriers' - TF --- Shawn Langdon - 'CMR Roofing' - TF

(LEFT) Methodically coming to grips with conditions at The Strip, Josh Hart nibbled away at the elapsed times with an improving 3.745 - 328.14 to elevate himself into the top half of the field, moving up from #11 to #6 in the field.

(RIGHT) In a pairing that featured the two Kalitta cars, Shawn Langdon and Doug Kalitta (not shown) looked to advance from their #12 and #13 (respectively) positions, but both failed as Kalitta's 5.390 wasn't nearly enough and Langdon's 6-second 99-mph pass was even worse as both drivers lost traction early.

Steve Torrence - 'Capco Contractors' - TF --- Antron Brown - 'Matco Tools' - TF

(LEFT) With the late afternoon light showing off the header flames, Steve Torrence launched strongly on his way to his best pass of the weekend to this point, with a 3.710 - 324.20 advancing him to the #2 spot, while in the other lane, Mike Salinas (not shown) was side-by-side with him to the finish line and almost as quick with a 3.715 - 329.34 to also move up, to #4 for himself.

(RIGHT) In the second to last pairing of T/F qualifying, Clay Millican elected not to run, leaving Antron Brown to make a single. Starting the session in the #5 spot on the ladder, Brown had slipped to #8 by the time the "MATCO Tools" team fired the car for his final qualifying effort. It resulted in a good pass, a slight improvement over his previous best of 3.754, with a 3.748 - 327.74 showing up on the scoreboards, however it left him sitting in the #8 spot.

Justin Ashley - 'Vita-C Shot' - T/F

The final pairing of the session saw Justin Ashley coming in with the #3 qualifying position guaranteed, but he wanted more and tried hard to run just a few thousandths quicker to move into the #2 position. Unfortunately, he came up just a little short with a very good 3.739 - 326.40 to show some consistency heading into eliminations. In the other lane, Brittany Force (not shown) pulled out all the stops and re-set her low e.t. of the event with a ground pounding 3.668 - 331.94 to solidify her hold on the top qualifier spot for the 12th time in the 20 race season.

FUNNY CAR - Final Qualifying Session

Bobby Bode - 'Ar-Bee' - FC --- Terry Haddock - 'Circle Racing' - FC

(LEFT) With 18 cars attempting to qualify and the bump spot sitting at a relatively slow 5.154 coming into the final session, Bobby Bode III knew that he just had to make a "safe" run without trying to rotate the earth. He did what was needed with a solid pass of 4.008 - 312.64 to move up eight spots to #10 from the bottom of the list (#18).

Running alongside Bode was Jim Campbell (not shown) and he bumped back into the show, moving up from #17 to #15, pushing out Paul Lee and Terry Haddock, and putting Robert Hight on the bump spot with his earlier best of 4.313.

(RIGHT) In the next pair, Paul Lee (not shown) and Terry Haddock had their chance to get back in, and Lee made it with a 4.066 - 289.14, but Haddock's 5.135 - 150.83 wasn't nearly enough to get back in. He dropped a cylinder on the launch, then the car nosed over just past the 300' mark, putting an end to his race weekend.

Chad Green - 'Bond-Coat' - FC --- Robert Hight - 'AAA Auto Club' - FC

(LEFT) Safely in the field, but wanting a little more, Chad Green, being tuned by Daniel Wilkerson, made a good pass to the 800' mark before lifting and coasting to a still impressive 4.064 - 263.15 that advanced him to the #12 spot. His incrementals showed him on pace for a 4-flat clocking if he hadn't got off the pedal early.

(RIGHT) Since Paul Lee moved back into the field, it forced Robert Hight down to the #17 spot and the pressure was squarely on the former champion to make a full pass for the first time this weekend. He certainly did that with a very strong 3.910 - 329.67 to rocket up the list all the way to the #4 spot.

Chris Morel - 'Little City Charger' - FC --- Steven Densham - 'Mid-West' - FC

(LEFT) With the field set and electing to save parts, #16 qualifier Jeff Diehl pulled out of line and let Chris Morel make a solo pass in his very cool retro looking "Little City Charger". The name pays homage to his hometown Reno, NV, which bills itself as the "Biggest Little City in the World". He made a good pass but didn't improve on his earlier 4.11 clocking, with the scoreboards recording a 4.256 - 280.49 to leave him in the #15 position.

(RIGHT) Another racer hoping to advance up the ladder, Steven Densham did so, clocking a 4.059 - 308.14 to move from #14 to #12 with his best run of the weekend. Running with the tuning of his dad Gary Densham the team only competes a few times each year but always runs competitively with their relatively "low buck" operation.

Cruz Pedregon - 'Snap-On' - FC --- Tim Wilkerson - 'Levi, Ray & Shoup' - FC

(LEFT) Moving in the right direction heading into eliminations, Cruz Pedregon climbed into the top half of the field in #6 (advancing from #9) with a very good 3.918 - 325.69 that was four hundredths better than his previous best of the race.

(RIGHT) Starting the final session in the #6 spot, Tim Wilkerson looked to push his way back up the ladder but his good consistent 3.933 - 323.35 wasn't enough to move him up from his current #9 position. At least it backed up his earlier 3.932 pass and showed that he was ready for eliminations.

John Force - 'Peak' - FC --- Ron Capps - 'Pennzoil - Napa' - FC

(LEFT) Starting the session in the second spot on the ladder, and still there as he made his final qualifying pass, John Force really wanted to pick up one hundredth of a second and knock Alexis DeJoria off the top rung. Force came very close with an excellent 3.908 - 326.56, but it fell just short of taking the #1 spot.

(RIGHT) Running alongside Force, points leader Ron Capps wanted to move up from his #8 position and have a better starting spot but the tires started smoking before the 330' timers and he lifted to a 5.957 - 125.10 to end his qualifying efforts.

J.R. Todd - 'DHL' - FC --- Alexis DeJoria - 'Bandero Tequila' - FC

(LEFT) The last pair of qualifying matched #3 J.R. Todd in the "DHL" Camry against the pole sitter, Alexis DeJoria. Todd's previous runs of 3.911 and 3.905 had him in a good position but the team tried a little too hard and the result was very early tire smoke and a 6-second elapsed time.

(RIGHT) Holding down the #1 qualifying spot from the first session to the last, Alexis DeJoria backed up her earlier efforts with a great 3.912 - 327.98 to finish qualifying. Three consecutive 3.90 passes put her and her Del Worsham-led team in a very good spot going into eliminations.

TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER - Eliminations Round Two

Saturday finished with the second round of Top Alcohol eliminations, running in full darkness and on a rapdily cooling track with better air than earlier sessions. The dragster field which started with 20 cars trying to qualify, including six supercharged alcohol entries, was trimmed to just three blown cars going into the first round. Two of those cars advanced to this second round, but were facing stiff odds against the A/Fuel cars. On the Funny Car side, 17 cars attempted to qualify so a full field went into the first round and seven of the eight winners from that round came back for the second round of eliminations.

Kim Parker - 'Carstar' - A/FD --- Jackie Fricke - 'Finke Equipment' - A/FD

(LEFT) Launching hard with the wheels up, Kim Parker took an early lead by virtue of a quicker reaction time (.059 to .125) over opponent Mike Coughlin (not shown) as she took a very close win with her best run of the race, a 5.222 - 271.73. That was enough to take the win by a car length over Coughlin's best of the weekend 5.227 - 268.01 in the losing effort.

(RIGHT) Following up her first round win with another good pass, Jackie Fricke pounded out a 5.267 - 274.33 to take out one of the two remaining blown cars, that of Shawn Cowie (not shown) who went into immediate severe tire shake to end his weekend. With the win, Fricke remained in the championship chase, but still needed to win the entire event to overtake Rachel Meyer in the standings. With the ladder set to pair them in the final round - if they both advanced that far - it could be a "winner take all" final tomorrow.

Julie Nataas - 'OTG' - A/FD --- Rachel Meyer - 'NTK' - A/FD

(LEFT) The two Randy Meyer Racing cars remained in competition and Julie Nataas turned on another winlight, leaving on Mitch Myers (not shown), by a few hundredths, then solidly outrunning him with a consistent 5.254 - 272.89. That e.t. gave her lane choice in the semifinals over Jackie Fricke, with a chance to clinch the championship for her teammate Rachel Meyer.

(RIGHT) Keeping the pressure on Fricke, Rachel Meyer had to overcome a small holeshot from Joey Severance (not shown) as cranked out another great pass, 5.224 - 280.43 to move into the semifinal. Despite the great e.t. she didn't earn lane choice over her opponent in that round, as Kim Parker's slightly better 5.222 earned the nod.

TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR - Eliminations Round Two

Chris Marshall - 'Disturbed Racing' - TA/FC --- Bob McCosh - 'McCosh Chevrolet' - TA/FC

(LEFT) Finishing up Saturday's action with the Funny Cars, the second round of eliminations was led off by Chris Marshall, who put down a solid 5.560 - 264.55 to outrun Annie Whiteley (not shown) and move into the semifinal. Marshall left first by half a tenth, then kept lengthening the lead all the way down track as Whiteley shut off at the 1000' mark.

(RIGHT) In a slight surprise for the alcohol cars, Shane Westerfield was a no-show due to engine damage in the previous round, allowing Bob McCosh a free ride to the semifinals. He took full advantage of the bye run and made his best run of the weekend, turning a 5.512 - 265.12 for the automatic win.

Sean Bellemeur - 'Hussey Performance' - TA/FC --- Hunter Jones - 'Southwest' - TA/FC

(LEFT) Facing a tough competitor in Terry Ruckman (not shown), and lacking lane choice, the Steve Boggs-tuned car of Sean Bellemeur left dead even with Ruckman, then inched ahead down track before lighting up the scoreboards with a winning 5.506 - 265.22 for a car length win over Ruckman. That pass gave him lane choice over McCosh in tomorrow's third round.

(RIGHT) The round, and the evening, closed with Brian Hough (not shown) taking a win from a redlighting Hunter Jones in the "Southwest" car. Jones left just a hair too early with an -.004 reaction time, giving Hough's good 5.592 - 262.74 the winning time. In the loss, Jones posted his best numbers of the weekend, with a very respectable 5.644 - 258.57 timeslip. Hough's pass was not good enough to get lane choice over fellow Oregonian Marshall in the semifinals.

Briana Marshall in Halloween costume

With today being Halloween, the costumes were out in full force, and Briana Marshall's Pirate attire was one of the better ones.


FACTORY STOCK SHOWDOWN - Eliminations Round One

Before the PRO driver introductions and the first round of eliminations for them, the Factory Stock Showdown qualifiers started the day's proceedings. After three qualifying sessions, the 21 entries were whittle down to the quickest 16 for eliminations, with the bump spot ending up at 8.049. The top eight cars went into the 7-second zone, and low qualifier Joseph Welch took the top rung on the ladder at 7.873 - 176.70. There's still a battle for parity in the class, as just four (of the six entered) Mopars made the field, but three of the top five were in Dodge Challeners, to show that there's a resurgence from that marque.

The fortunes of the Ford contingent continued to decline, as just one of the two "Blue Oval" Mustangs entered qualified, but that lone entry took the #3 spot on the ladder. The balance of the field were Camaros, with 11 of the 13 entered qualfiying. Their top dog was defending national champion Aaron Stanfield in the #2 spot on the qualifying sheet. Stanfield had clinched the season championship for the second time, running away with the title with three straight victories (including later in the day at Las Vegas) to win by 284 points over second place finisher David Barton, who won the first FSS championship in 2017, but has finished in second place in 2020 and this year.

Anthony Troyer (near lane) vs 
Jesse Alexandra (far lane) - FSS --- Doug Hamp (near lane) vs 
Joseph Welch (far lane) - FSS

(LEFT) The first pair out of the staging lanes were two Camaros and Jesse Alexandra (far lane) took the win with a quicker leave and a slighty better e.t. of 7.946 - 173.01 over the not quite enough 7.974 - 171.42 from the near lane's Anthony Troyer.

(RIGHT) Following up his low qualifying effort, Joseph Welch, (far lane) almost equalled it with a 7.877 at a new top speed of the meet 177.74 to overcome Doug Hamp's (near lane) four hundredths holeshot and 7.964 - 171.71 pass.

Ryan Priddy (near lane) vs 
Leah Pruett (far lane) - FSS --- Jason Dietsch (near lane) vs 
David Davies II (far lane) - FSS

(LEFT) Another far lane winner came in the next match, as Leah Pruett left first and improved on her qualifying numbers with a very good 7.932 - 174.77 to easily outdistance the early shutoff 10.179 - 92.86 of Ryan Priddy in the near lane.

(RIGHT) The lone Ford entry in the field, driven by Jason Dietsch, (far lane) laid down a very competitive 7.913 - 176.81 to overcome a small holeshot by David Davies II (near lane), who kept it close with a losing 8.015 - 174.39 clocking.

John Cerbone (near lane) vs 
Mark Pawuk (far lane) - FSS --- Dan Condon (near lane) vs 
Aaron Stanfield (far lane) - FSS

(LEFT) A "double" redlight came up in the next pair, as John Cerbone (near lane) left first with a -.205 reaction, even though it appears that Mark Pawuk (far lane) is the first to leave even though his -.098 leave was not the first infraction. Pawuk's winning time was 7.944 - 175.00, while Cerbone's was 8.436 - 169.64. We're not sure how it all went down but the photo doesn't seem to support the reaction times and elapsed times.

(RIGHT) Leaving first but finishing second was Dan Condon in the near lane, as his slight holeshot and 7.995 - 170.95 wasn't enough to hold off the far lane's Aaron Stanfield and his solid 7.900 - 173.16 timeslip.

David Barton (near lane) vs 
Scott Libersher (far lane) - FSS

The round was closed by a pair of Camaros battling, with David Barton (near lane) taking the win at both ends, leaving first by a few hundredths, then running 7.938 - 171.95 to cover Scott Libersher's good try 7.980 - 174.93 in the far lane.

It was quite a competitive round with 13 of the 16 cars running in the 7's, one in 8.0's, one in the 8.4's and only one car not making a full run (10.179 - 92.86). However, going into the quarterfinals, only top half qualifiers advanced, with lane choice in the second round going to the top four cars. So, while the gaps between the competitors were small, they were still evident as eliminations progressed.

PRO MOD - Eliminations Round One

Like their less powerful, heavier, and much slower brethren in Factory Stock, the Pro Mods finished their season at Las Vegas. Unlike in previous seasons, this year's champion, Jose Gonzalez clinched the title at the previous race in Dallas. Falling short in his quest for three consecutive championships was fan favourite Stevie "Fast' Jackson, who slipped to third place due to three first round exits in the final four races. Parity was closer than in past seasons, with all four power adders: turbo, nitrous, rootes blown, and centrifugal blown combinations all being relatively competitive.

The one worrying aspect for the class was a decline in participation as less than full fields became commonplace, evidenced by just 11 entries appearing at Las Vegas, and 14 in Bristol of all places, once a true hotbed for the outlaw cars that evolved into Pro Mod. In fairness, there were full fields at Charlotte and Indy, but on the other hand, just nine cars attended the mile-high race in Denver.

J.R. Gray - 'Gray Contracting' (near 
lane) vs Khalid alBalooshi - 'Bahrain 1' (far lane) - PM --- Stevie Jackson - 'Bahrain 1' (near 
lane) vs Dimtry Samorukov (far lane) - PM

(LEFT) Eliminations kicked off with a holeshot win for rookie Pro Mod driver J.R. Gray (near lane) as he left by nearly six hundredths on Khalid alBalooshi (far lane), then held on for the win by a close 5.800 - 247.38 to a quicker but later 5.787 - 248.16 for the veteran racer.

(RIGHT) The next pair saw the upset of the year as completely unheralded newcomer to NHRA racing, from Russia, Dmitry Samorukov, (far lane) came from behind to catch up to a broken Stevie Jackson (near lane). Jackson left first by a small margin and was leading until the engine died at half track, allowing Samorukov to take the win with a career best 6.146 - 233.16 (after qualifying at 6.251 - 232.47). Jackson coasted across with a 6.604 - 158.30 as his season ended.

Mike Castellana - 'AAP' - PM --- Brandon Snider - 'J&A Services' (near 
lane) vs Jim Whiteley - 'J&A Services' (far lane) - PM

(LEFT) The low qualifier, at 5.793 - 245.18 from New York, Mike Castellana, came out next and took his bye run due to the 11-car field. Mike showed everyone that he meant business, improving his low e.t. mark to a 5.773 - 247.97 to advance to the second round and lane choice over J.R. Gray.

(RIGHT) Two J&A Services team-mates were the next pair and team owner Jim Whiteley (far lane) lost at both ends of the track, leaving second and seeing his very good 5.846 - 244.60 eclipsed by Brandon Snider's (near lane) winning 5.798 - 247.20 as the parade of 5.70 passes continued.

Doug Winters - 'Stinar' (near lane) 
vs Mike Salinas - 'Scrappers Racing' (far lane) - PM --- Lyle Barnett - 'Elite Performance' 
(near lane) vs Justin Bond - 'Bahrain 1' (far lane) - PM

(LEFT) Jumping out of his Top Fuel car (for a few minutes) and into his Pro Mod was Mike Salinas (far lane) who cut a tremendous light (.014 reaction) and used his 5.789 - 246.98 to send the unique Chevelle-bodied entry of Doug Winters (near lane) back to the trailer despite a competitive 5.849 - 243.19 pass for Winters.

(RIGHT) Giving away his last chance to hang on to second place in the points standings was Canadian (Mission, BC) Justin Bond (far lane) who redlighted by just two thousandths and threw away a so-so 6.060 - 237.42, as underdog Lyle Barnett (near lane) joined the "70 Club" with a great 5.798 e.t. coupled with a booming top end charge of 253.71 to set top speed of the meet. Barnett was the only driver to hit the 250 mph mark in qualifying and continued to do so right through eliminations with four consecutive 253 mph runs enroute to his second event win of the season.

Pre-Race Ceremonies

pre-race Track Walk --- (left to right) Brittany Force, 
Alexis DeJoria, Joe Costello

Following the obligatory track walk, which was in hiatus for more than a year due to you-know-what, the fans took the opportunity to walk down half of the four wide Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on the left, while on the right, announcer Joe Costello got to hang out with the two low qualifiers, Brittany Force on the left, and Alexis DeJoria on the right.

Dylan Cromwell Memorial

Before the nitro eliminations started, there was a heartfelt tribute in memory of one of Jim Head and Blake Alexander's crewman, a 23-year young member of the team who tragically passed in a highway crash while driving the team's transporter enroute to the event. He was the innocent victim of an out-of-control truck coming from the other direction and in an instant, his life was ended. Everyone in the drag racing community: fans, racers, officials were all shocked and deeply saddened by his death.

TOP FUEL - Eliminations Round One

Going into the first round, season-long points leader Steve Torrence had seen his 73-point lead shrink by eight points during qualifying, but he still held a comfortable margin over closest pursuer Brittany Force as she notched her 12th low qualifier award of the season, and had the quickest car going into eliminations. The 3rd (Justin Ashley) and 4th (Mike Salinas) place drivers in the standings were already on very thin ice as their championship hopes were fading quickly, while everyone below them was already mathematically eliminated from contention.

Despite her dominance in qualifying, Force had only advanced to one final round in the first five races of the countdown, losing to Josh Hart in that event, while Torrence had been in three straight finals, including one win, leading up to Las Vegas. Looking at his 2021 season record, Steve Torrence's nine wins and three runnerups made Force's one win and four runnerups look rather pale by comparison. Race day consistency and reaction times have been the key to Torrence's success and likewise, the key to Brittany's relative lack of success. Could today be the event where she and her crew could rise to the occasion and close the points gap enough to have a chance for the championship at Pomona?

Clay Millican - 'Parts Plus' (near 
lane) vs Alex Laughlin - 'Havoline' (far lane) - TF --- Billy Torrence - 'Capco Contractors' 
(near lane) vs Shawn Langdon - 'CMR Roofing' (far lane) - TF

(LEFT) Only two cars advanced from the bottom half of the field and the first one came in the first pair as Clay Millican (near lane) was building a good lead over Alex Laughlin (far lane), courtesy of a much better light and very good early numbers, before the engine came undone late in the run, and he coasted across the line at 3.913 - 247.61. Taking the win, also with an early shutoff, was Laughlin's 3.835 - 290.69 effort.

(RIGHT) "Captain Capco" Billy Torrence (near lane) faced off against Shawn Langdon, wearing new colours in the far lane and took what had to be one of the tightest decisions of the season - by exactly ONE inch. He was nearly half a tenth late off the line but drove around Langdon's holeshot aided 3.781 - 312.21 with a very good 3.738 - 325.53 for the incredibly close win.

Brittany Force - 'Monster Energy' 
(near lane) vs Troy Buff - 'BME' (far lane) - TF --- Justin Ashley - 'Vita-C Shot' (near 
lane) vs Cameron Ferre - 'EMPI' (far lane) - TF

(LEFT) Facing the pressure of having to win rounds or see her championship hopes disappear, Brittany Force (near lane) dropped a bomb on Troy Buff (far lane), pounding out a new low e.t. of the meet with a fantastic 3.670 - 330.80 pass to move into the second round. Buff gave it a good fight, with his best e.t. of the weekend, a 3.914 - 299.60 to show that the Bill Miller team could still compete with the big guns.

(RIGHT) Still in the hunt for the season championship, but just barely, was Justin Ashley (near lane) who needed to win the event to have even a faint hope of catching the points leader. Ashley did his job and laid down a solid 3.734 - 326.71 to easily erase the far lane Cameron Ferre's up-in-smoke 9-second pass. Ferre ran well in qualifying, clocking back-to-back low 3.80's to qualify solidly, but it looks like the Paton team went "over center" in the first round, in trying to make up the performance deficit.

Mike Salinas - 'Scrappers Racing' 
(near lane) vs Doug Kalitta - 'MAC Tools' (far lane) - TF --- Steve Torrence - 'Capco Contractors' 
(near lane) vs Jim Maroney - 'American FlowTech' (far lane) - TF

(LEFT) Another racer feeling the pressure to win today was Mike Salinas (near lane) and he showed the Alan Johnson tuned team was up to the challenge as he took out Doug Kalitta (far lane) in a close race by barely half a car length. Salinas left first by a few thousandths and outran Kalitta's strong 3.735 - 323.43 with a slightly better 3.726 - 323.97 clocking for the win.

(RIGHT) The next pairing had to be considered a possible "walk over" for Steve Torrence (near lane) as he qualified 12 spots ahead of opponent Jim Maroney. Torrence left second, by 15 thousandths, but finished first by a bunch as Maroney ran into trouble at half track and fireballed the engine, slowing to a 4.119 - 227.38 time, while Torrence sped by with a 3.751 - 325.61 for the win.

Josh Hart - 'R+L Carriers' (near lane) 
vs Tripp Tatum - 'TT Racing' (far lane) - TF --- Antron Brown - 'Matco Tools' (near 
lane) vs Leah Pruett - 'Direct Connection' (far lane) - TF

(LEFT) Rookie of The Year contender Josh Hart (near lane) looked to rebound from a first round loss in Bristol, after a win at Charlotte and semifinal finishes at the next two races, but he ran into a very tough competitor in Tripp Tatum (far lane). Running what has been called a "Capco clone", Tatum, in only his third race of the season, picked up a bunch on his good 3.773 qualifying time and put down a 3.711 at a best speed of the round 331.61 to turn on the winlight. Hart fell off a bit from his 3.745 qualifier and trailed with a 3.801 - 323.19 as he fell in the first round for the second race in a row.

(RIGHT) Finishing the round were the usual #8 versus #9 qualifiers, and the #9 car, Leah Pruett (far lane) did so with a solid 3.752 - 318.32 pass over an engine exploding Antron Brown in the near lane, as he pedaled once to try to calm down the tires and it failed - big time - as he blew the engine and slowed to a losing 4.967 - 155.11 timeslip.

In the second round, lane choice goes to Brittany Force over Leah Pruett, Tripp Tatum over Steve Torrence (hmmm....), Justin Ashley over Alex Laughlin, and Mike Salinas over Billy Torrence.

FUNNY CAR - Eliminations Round One

A much tighter race for the championship was developing in Funny Car, as coming into the event, Ron Capps was just ONE point in front of defending champion Matt Hagan. Sitting in third place was J.R. Todd, but with an 83-point deficit, his task to climb back into contention was indeed a daunting one. Sitting on the virtual bubble was #4 in the points, John Force and he needed nothing less than an event win to move back within striking distance of the leaders. The tension was running high as the first pair came out from under the BIG "The Strip" sign beside the control tower.

Robert Hight - 'Auto Club' (near 
lane) vs Steven Densham - 'Mid-West' (far lane) - FC --- Alexis Dejoria - 'Bandero Tequila' 
(near lane) vs Jeff Diehl - 'RATT' (far lane) - FC

(LEFT) On paper this should have been a somewhat easy win for Robert Hight (near lane), but his opponent Steven Densham (far lane), a second generation nitro funny car racer, could not be taken lightly. The Densham team had put down back-to-back 4.059 and 4.069 qualifying runs on Saturday and were showing some real consistency going into eliminations. That continued as Densham left first by a few hundredths and put down a very creditable 4.043 - 300.33 pass in what was an ultimately losing cause. Overcoming his starting line disadvantage, Hight took a two car length victory with an excellent 3.930 - 327.27 to send Densham home early.

(RIGHT) The biggest mismatch of the round had to be this next pair, as low qualifier Alexis DeJoria, in the near lane, faced off against off against Jeff "The Surfer" Diehl (far lane). Diehl had qualified with a decent 4.116 pass, and kept pace with DeJoria to the 330' clocks before seeing the writing on the wall, and shutting off to a 4.278 - 220.80 losing pass. DeJoria was a "little" late on the launch (.167 to .127), but got things moving quickly, to the tune of a 3.925 - 324.51 to keep the ball rolling after her win at Bristol.

John Force - 'Peak' (near lane) 
vs Chris Morel - 'Little City Charger' (far lane) - FC --- J.R. Todd - 'DHL' (near lane) vs 
Paul Lee - 'Silver State' (far lane) - FC

(LEFT) Another "no doubt" race in the offing? Not so quick, as (almost) local Chris Morel (far lane), in his supremely retro green metalflake "Little City Charger" from Reno, set jaws a-dropping when the winlight came on in his lane over prohibitive favourite John "Brute" Force. It wasn't a thing of beauty, as both racers ran into trouble, with Force having his earlier, as the engine quit before the 330' timing blocks, while Morel made it to half track before his engine quit. The verdit: Chris Morel: 5.749 - 122.13 and John Force: 8.479 - 73.28 as he coasted into elimination from the championship battle.

(RIGHT) Next up was J.R. Todd (near lane) and he faced a nearly do-or-die situation, needing lots of winlights to stay in contention for the title. However, Paul Lee, in the far lane, found the tuneup he'd been missing in qualifying and laid down a big set of numbers at 3.921 - 328.94 to send Todd packing. It nearly came undone on the launch for Lee as his .005 light was waaaay too close to a red bulb. Todd was behind the 8-ball early and when the tires started smoking, that was it for his chances as he coasted to a losing 4.960 - 155.76 to put his championship hopes on hold.

Matt Hagan - 'Direct Connection' 
(near lane) vs Chad Green - 'Bond-Coat' (far lane) - FC --- Bob Tasca III - 'Motorcraft' (near 
lane) vs Bobby Bode - 'Ar-Bee' (far lane) - FC

(LEFT) Moving into the major contenders next, Matt Hagan (near lane) in his new "Direct Connection" livery looked to advance over Chad Green in the far lane. Knowing that Green was no slouch, with an ex-Tim Wilkerson car and Dan Wilkerson tuning, Hagan had his work cut out for him, despite holding a tenth and a half e.t. advantage based on qualifying times. Green did his job, cranking out a very respectable 4.009 - 321.12 that was just enough to overcome Hagan's holeshot and turn on the winlight over Hagan's struggling 4.087 - 316.15, courtesy of a dropped cylinder.

That one dropped cylinder might turn out to be just enough to cost Matt Hagan a repeat championship depending on how the event progresses for the other racers battling for the world championship.

(RIGHT) There was less pressure in this next pairing as Bob Tasca III (near lane) was pretty much out of the points chase, but he wanted to finish the season strong for Motorcraft and he spent only 3.950 seconds (with a big speed of 329.58) dispatching young Bobby Bode in the far lane. Bode gave Tasca a race, carding a 4.072 - 310.84 with a car that ran 4.008 on his last qualifying run after two earlier up-in-smoke efforts.

Cruz Pedregon - 'Snap-On' (near lane) 
vs Tony Jurado - 'Capitol Punishment' (far lane) - FC --- Ron Capps - 'Pennzoil' (near lane) 
vs Tim Wilkerson - 'Levi, Ray & Shoup' (far lane) - FC

(LEFT) Coming on stronger as the season progressed with his new ex-Tommy Johnson crew, Cruz Pedregon (near lane), continued to move up the points table, ringing up round wins on a regular basis through the countdown with nine rounds won in the first five races. He continued that string here with a solid first round effort at 3.947 - 295.08 that was not lacking in drama as he drifted towards the centerline throughout the run and narrowly missed taking out the finish time timing blocks. He held the car steady and turned on the winlight as opponent Tony Jurado (far lane) fell short with a very good 4.032 - 317.19 clocking.

The story didn't end there as Jurado went through the shutdown, up the hill, and into the sandtrap without any chutes and finally came to a stop, spinning the car sideways in the trap for a dramatic end to what had been a very successful weekend. In qualifying, Jurado followed up his career best 3.986 - 318.17 in the first session with 4.039 - 316.18 and 4.018 - 318.99 timeslips that showed he was rapidly becoming a competitor to be reckoned with.

(RIGHT) The round ended with the obligatory #8 versus #9 matchup and this one certainly wasn't lacking for interest, with points leader Ron Capps having to fight his way through a virtual minefield of tough competition after qualifying in an unaccustomed middle of the pack (#8) position on the ladder. His opposition in this round, Tim Wilkerson, in the far lane, was ready to give Capps everything he could handle, leaving first by .013 and holding the lead for a few hundred feet before Capps took it back and held it to the finish line. Capps ran low e.t. of the round at 3.915 - 323.74 to barely edge out Wilkerson's faster but slower 3.947 - 330.72 run that fell just half a car length short at the stripe.

The win by Capps gave him lane choice over Alexis DeJoria in the second round, while Cruz Pedregon earned his choice over Chris Morel, Paul Lee over Bob Tasca III, and Robert Hight over Chad Green. Obviously the big match of that round had to be Capps vs DeJoria, with Capps looking to open a serious gap over second place Matt Hagan.

TOP ALCOHOL - Eliminations Round Three

Chris Marshall - 'Disturbed Racing' 
(near lane) vs Brian Hough - 'Cascade Motor Coach' (far lane) - TA/FC --- Sean Bellemeur - 'Hussey Performance' 
(near lane) vs Bob McCosh - 'McCosh Chevrolet' (far lane) - TA/FC

(LEFT) Into the semifinals in Top Alcohol, with the Funny Cars up first, the first match was an all-Oregon affair, as Chris Marshall (near lane) took on Brian Hough (far lane). While Marshall had only run two regional and one national events before this race, his opponent, Hough, had been chasing points all over the country this year with the help of two-time former champion Jonnie Lindberg.

Marshall qualified near the top of the field with a very strong 5.504 and advanced through the first two rounds with solid runs, while Hough was further back in the #7 spot on the ladder, but showed consistency with a string of 5.5-second passes coming into this round. It was all over on the starting line as Marshall redlighted (-.075) and threw away a very good 5.566 - 264.65 pass, while Hough ran into heavy tire shake and coasted through at 9.754 - 77.88 to move into the final.

(RIGHT The other racer to reach that final round was decided in an incredibly close race between two of the top three racers in the championship battle. Fighting hard to retake the championship from Doug Gordon was Greg Bellemeur in the near lane, as Bob McCosh (far lane) opposed him. The two drivers left nearly together with Bellemeur holding only a six thousandths of a second advantage on the green, and it stayed that way all the way to the 1320' mark. McCosh ran an excellent 5.503 - 267.11 that fell barely a foot short of Bellemeur's fractionally slower 5.506 - 265.80 for a true win margin of just three thousandths of a second.

With the win, Bellemeur moved into a tie with Gordon for the national championship, and lane choice in the final against Brian Hough. With one more event left (Pomona) to improve his points total, even if Bellemeur fell to Hough in the final here, he would only have to advance to the final round at Pomona to take his third Top Alcohol Funny Car championship in the last four years.

Kim Parker - 'Carstar' (near lane) 
vs Rachel Meyer - 'NTK' (far lane) - A/FD --- Julie Nataas - 'OTG' (near lane) 
vs Jackie Fricke - 'Finke Equipment' (far lane) - A/FD

(LEFT) With her points earning capabilities already exhausted, all Rachel Meyer (far lane) could do is stop her challenger, Jackie Fricke, in the final round to take her first national championship. However, to do that, she had to get past Kim Parker in the near lane, and that wasn't going to be an easy task. Parker had qualified strongly in the #4 spot in the field with a very good 5.249 - 265.17 and improved those numbers to 5.222 - 271.73 in the second round to set up the match, and hold lane choice against Meyer. Rachel left first by a few hundredths and took command early as Parker was only running on seven cylinders. The final verdict was Meyer with a 5.265 - 280.95 for the win and Parker with a 5.448 - 261.93 in a losing effort.

(RIGHT The other half of the all-female semifinal saw championship challenger Jackie Fricke (far lane) having to win to keep her hopes of a championship alive. She faced a formidable task in taking on the other Meyer Racing entry, of Julie Nataas, in the near lane, but was up to the task with a 5.234 - 268.97 to overcome Nataas' holeshot and solid 5.302 - 275.71 pass that left Nataas barely half a car length short at the finish line. Fricke's better e.t. also earned her lane choice in the winner-take-all final round. An incredible finish to the championship chase was in the offing with intense pressure on both teams.

TOP FUEL - Eliminations Round Two

Justin Ashley - 'Vita-C Shot' 
(near lane) vs Alex Laughlin - 'Havoline' (far lane) - TF --- Brittany Force - 'Monster Energy' 
(near lane) vs Leah Pruett - 'Direct Connection' (far lane) - TF

(LEFT) Coming into this event on a bit of a roll, Justin Ashley (near lane) was looking to finish his sophomore season with a string of late-round finishes, and started strongly with a #3 qualifying spot and a solid 3.734 in the first round. He kept up that pace with a great 3.739 - 328.94 to easily advance to the semi-finals, leaving Alex Laughlin (far lane) far behind at the stripe as the Scott Palmer car dropped cylinders and slowed to a 4.020 - 233.60 for the loss.

(RIGHT) The race between Leah Pruett (far lane) and low qualifier Brittany Force was over before it began as Pruett double-stepped the throttle, initiating a -.210 redlight, while Force also left before the green with an -.069 reaction, but received the automatic win due to Pruett's earlier infraction. The "Direct Connection" dragster shutoff and coasted to an 8-second clocking, while Ms. Force kept the pedal down to record a 3.745 - 330.39 to advance and set up a match with the winner of the next pairing.

Mike Salinas - 'Scrappers Racing' 
(near lane) vs Billy Torrence - 'Capco Contractors' (far lane) - TF --- Steve Torrence - 'Capco Contractors' 
(near lane) vs Tripp Tatum - 'TT Racing' (far lane) - TF

(LEFT) This race featured two racers who qualified with identical 3.715 e.t.'s, with Mike Salinas (near lane) taking the higher position with a better speed. His oponnent in this round, Billy Torrence (far lane) came in running strongly and kept the pressure on Salinas, clocking a very good 3.741 - 330.39 pass that fell less than a half car length behind Salinas' even better 3.723 - 330.63 times. Note the BIG speeds for both racers and Force in the previous pairing. Obviously track and atmospheric conditions were cooperating with the tuners leading to some seriously big numbers.

(RIGHT) Closing the round was the points leader, and defending world champion, Steve Torrence as he looked to keep the winlights coming as he moved inexorably in the direction of a fourth consecutive championship. He faced a serious roadblock in this round however, as Tripp Tatum III had clocked career best numbers in the first round and held lane choice into this encounter. Torrence didn't waste any time at the starting line, leaving first by half a tenth, then running away when Tatum shut off at the 660' mark, and Torrence pounded out a 3.736 - 328.62 for the win. That gave him lane choice - by just three thousandths - over Justin Ashley in the semifinal round.

FUNNY CAR - Eliminations Round Two

Robert Hight - 'Auto Club' (near lane) 
vs Chad Green - 'Bond-Coat' (far lane) - FC --- Bob Tasca - 'Motorcraft' (near lane) 
vs Paul Lee - 'Silver State' (far lane) - FC

(LEFT) With his championship hopes now a distant memory, Robert Hight (near lane) was looking for a strong finish to an otherwise medicore season. Facing the second "Team Wilkerson" car driven by Chad Green (ar lane), who was certainly no pushover despite his relative lack of seat time in a nitro Funny Car, it was shaping up to be a competitive race. Hight left first and held the lead all the way with his best of the weekend 3.909 - 330.63 to hold off the very good try of Green, who tripped the timers with a competitive 3.981 - 321.88, both career bests for Green.

(RIGHT) After a dismal start to the countdown section of the section with consecutive first round losses, Bob Tasca III had rebounded with a runnerup finish at St. Louis and back-to-back semifinals at the next two events coming into Vegas. He needed more round wins to stay in championship contention, and came into this round facing a tough task, lacking lane choice against Paul Lee (far lane). But Tasca did what he had to, leaving first and pulling away to an easy win with a 3.945 e.t. and a booming top end speed of 330.07 mph. Lee stayed in the chase and held a brief early lead until losing traction and shutting off to a 4.246 - 223.25 in the loss.

Ron Capps - 'Pennzoil' (near lane) 
vs Alexis DeJoria - 'Bandero Tequila' (far lane) - FC --- Cruz Pedregon - 'Snap-On' (near lane) 
vs Chris Morel - 'Little City Charger' (far lane) - FC

(LEFT) Qualifying in the top spot and hoping to keep her late season charge going, Akexis DeJoria (far lane) faced a tough matchup with points leader Ron Capps (near lane). DeJoria was late on the lights (.122 to .078) and couldn't overcome that deficit with her decent, but losing, 3.998 - 315.05 against the low e.t. and top speed of the meet by Capps, as he lit up the scoreboards - BIG TIME - with a 3.884 - 332.10 to cruise into the semifinals with lane choice over Robert Hight.

(RIGHT) The final pair of the round was a seriously David vs Goliath battle, as unheralded Chris Morel, making only his fifth start in Funny Car, and notching a major first round upset win over John Force, had to face veteran Cruz Pedregon. Morel, in the far lane, didn't give up easily as he put down a creditable 4.193 - 281.19 but was easily outclassed by Pedregon's (near lane) second best of the round 3.903 - 324.20 winning run. That gave him lane choice by a few thousandths over Tasca in the semifinal and kept him solidly in the championship hunt.

Unfortunately that is where our coverage of this great event comes to a close, as our photographer wasn't able to hang in for the last rounds of eliminations. The results are, as always, available on the Drag Race Central website. Thanks to them for filling almost all of the details we need to put together the captions and stories on Northern Thunder.