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The latest update as of November 1, 2021

Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals logo

The Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals concluded under sunny skies at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway yesterday afternoon. The Lucas Oil National Champions were crowned in the Top Alcohol (Dragster & Funny Car) classes, while all four of the professional categories will decide their world champions at the season-ending event, the Auto Club NHRA Finals in two weeks. Our hard working photographer, Bob Snyder has provided us with a cornucopia of photos from Las Vegas and we're trying to get them posted as soon as we can. The Sunday photos just arrived so we'll start today's posting with the first round of eliminations in the Factory Stock Showdown, then into Pro Mod, and the "Kings of the Sport" (Top Fuel). It's been a while since you've read that phrase, eh?

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 the critical list.

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 Sean 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 ftaking 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.