Las Vegas, someone said, “is a city built on hopes, dreams, and a little bit of crazy.” And that’s what played out Sunday in the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Ron Capps lost the Funny Car lead and regained it as all three of his closest challengers lost in succession in the opening round of eliminations. Now he has to contend with wily two-time champion Cruz Pedregon, who won this 1,000th race in NHRA history.
And in Top Fuel, Steve Torrence’s vision of a fourth consecutive Top Fuel championship just got a little clearer. For the 12th time, his nemesis, Brittany Force, earned the No. 1 qualifying position but for the 11th time failed to convert that to a victory. Meanwhile, he claimed his 10 victory in 19 completed races and 50th overall.
Pro Stock’s Dallas Glenn earned the shiny-black special-edition trophy, his third of the season, in his bid to beat out Top Fuel owner-driver Josh Hart for NHRA Rookie of the Year honors. He is still in the championship hunt, along with runner-up Erica Enders. She whittled down class all-time victories leader Greg Anderson’s points lead, for he lost in the first round for the first time this year.
Steve Johnson, for years the loveable underdog and sporadic winner in Pro Stock Motorcycle, recorded his second Countdown to the Championship triumph in his quest to recover the points lead he fumbled away earlier this month at Dallas.
In drag-racing parlance, what happens in Vegas spills over to Pomona. So the Camping World Drag Racing Series tour moves next door to California for the Nov. 11-14 Auto Club NHRA Finals, where the sanctioning body will ratchet up the drama by paying out one and a half times the traditional points.
Torrence has a 105-point advantage over Force in Top Fuel, and Capps has to fend off the same four Funny Car challengers (Hagan, Pedregon, JR Todd, and John Force) who all are within 155 points. Both Anderson and Enders are going for a fifth crown in Pro Stock, as is leader Matt Smith in the bike class.
Funny Car Championship Chase Remains Tight
Ron Capps said he’s “just trying not to mess up” as he pursues his second Funny Car title in five years. “I’m just trying to go up and show everybody how good [crew chiefs] Guido [Dean Antonelli] and John Medlen are. Fans are enjoying this, I’m sure. Matt and I sure are. We’ve got the best seats in the house.”
Before eliminations, Hagan said, “It’s always tight. Every championship I’ve been able to win, it’s come down to the last race—semifinals, finals. We’ve got a great race car. We’re going to give Capps a run for his money. He’s a good driver and a pretty good dude. But we’re coming after him.”
Then after losing in the opening round Sunday, Hagan said, “I don’t know how you bounce back from that, but we’re going to give it a try . . . I mean, points and a half at Pomona. It’s hard to put a really positive spin on that. I haven’t put a hole out [dropped a cylinder] at the step in I can’t remember when—it’s been years. That was the cards we had here in Vegas. That’s going to be tough to get out of, two [straight] first-round losses. It just sucks. We’ll be better, though.”
Both the one two weeks ago at Bristol, Tenn., and this one knocked him from the points lead. But he’s just 58 points off Capps’ pace.
JR Todd, who had made an impressive surge to third place in the standings at Bristol two weeks ago, fell back to fourth with a first-round exit he called “a surprise.” Todd said, “We got hurt a little in the points, but it will make Pomona very interesting. We made up a lot of ground in Bristol, and I was looking to do the same thing today. I know we are going to look at what happened and get ready for the last race of the season.”
John Force is a longshot, with 155 points to make up, but mathematically still is in the hunt for his unprecedented 17th title. In a match-up between two wounded cars, Force lost to part-timer Chris Morel in Round 1. “My car just quit,” Force said with a “that’s-racin’” shrug.
Steve Torrence Gets A Breather With Top Fuel Triumph
Although Steve Torrence blazed to his 10th victory of the season and joined an elite group of NHRA races as only the 14th in the sport’s 1,000-event history to earn 50 overall, he was humble.
“Cruz and Steve Johnson, and Dallas Glenn, and I . . . we’re the guys who get to drive, but there’s a lot of people behind us who don’t get the recognition. This is for them,” he said. Then, referring to the young crewman for Jim Head Racing who lost his life in a highway accident while driving that team’s rig on the way to this race, Torrence said, “This is for Dylan Cromwell and his family.
“This is a pivotal moment in the championship right here. This gives us some breathing room,” he said.”
But Torrence still is looking over his shoulder. He said, “Everybody is able to find everybody vulnerable at any given time. This thing is won and lost by thousandths of a second.”
Shawn Langdon can attest to that—he dropped his opening-round race against Billy Torrence, Steve’s father, by one ten-thousandth (.0001) of a second.
Torrence expressed “complete respect for everybody that’s out here, fighting for this championship,” especially runner-up Mike Salinas, who was making his third final-round appearance in the past four races. Salinas, he said, is “doing a great job. That’s guy has really changed the game on his driving, and he’s a definite contender. We need to capitalize on this.”
Meanwhile, Brittany Force said after falling to Salinas in the semifinal round, “It’s really frustrating. This is so difficult. This was our shot to move on and get around him. I finally had a great light [reaction time at the starting line]. I’ve been struggling, and I finally stepped it up there. And I feel like we can’t catch a freakin’ break.”
Ron Capps Blurts Out December Announcement About 2022
Emboldened, perhaps, by regaining the Funny Car points lead in dramatic fashion Sunday after losing it Saturday during qualifying, veteran racer Ron Capps hinted at a major change for him in 2022.
After winning his semifinal round match against struggling but suddenly hopeful Robert Hight, Capps, unprompted, said, “I can’t wait to make my announcement in December. I’ve got a lot of cool stuff going on.”
Speculation has the NAPA Dodge driver and 2016 champion becoming the fourth to leave Don Schumacher Racing, maybe owning his own team. His hints have carried an element of mystery, for he also told Autoweek, “I’m very loyal.” So that’s just one of several teasers as the Camping World Drag Racing Series embarks on its Silly Season.
Maybe during the off-season he’ll join the three Top Fuel racers—Krista Baldwin, Antron Brown, and Josh Hart—who will headline Wednesday’s NHRA Breakfast at the SEMA Show and discuss “NHRA’s Next Generation of Team Owners.”
Will Tony Stewart Racing Embrace Dodge In NHRA?
How much of a surprise will it be Nov. 8 when Dodge makes its announcement about two new high-performance initiatives with Direct Connection branding?
Tim Kuniskis, Dodge Brand CEO – Stellantis, started the weekend hinting at Las Vegas that fans should watch for special paint schemes on Leah Pruett’s dragster and Matt Hagan’s Funny Cars that are “previewing a major upcoming Dodge brand announcement.”
Pruett plugged that message all weekend: “Debuting the Direct Connection livery this weekend . . . All of it, really, is just a prelude to what Dodge has in store for everybody on Nov. 8. Big announcement on two high-performance programs. So tune in to Dodge.com for that.”
Will Ford-entrenched Tony Stewart have an alliance with Dodge for his two-car Camping World Drag Racing Series team that showcases Pruett and Hagan? Partnerships with competing manufacturers is not unheard of. Team Penske races Chevrolets in the NTT IndyCar Series and Fords in the NASCAR Cup Series. Chip Ganassi Racing fields Hondas in open-wheel racing and Chevys in NASCAR.
Dodge // SRT NHRA Nationals
Results, Updated Standings
Top Fuel — Steve Torrence, 3.717 seconds, 329.50 mph def. Mike Salinas, 3.737 seconds, 314.24 mph.
Funny Car — Cruz Pedregon, Dodge Charger, 4.257, 225.03 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 6.854, 80.86.
Pro Stock — Dallas Glenn, Chevy Camaro, 6.660, 204.60 def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.684, 203.74.
Pro Stock Motorcycle — Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.869, 195.11 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, Foul – Red Light.
Top Alcohol Dragster — Rachel Meyer, 5.191, 281.01 def. Jackie Fricke, 5.260, 270.16.
Top Alcohol Funny Car — Sean Bellemeur, Chevy Camaro, 5.535, 265.17 def. Brian Hough, Camaro, 5.973, 161.34.
Competition Eliminator — Bruno Massel, Cobalt, 7.099, 182.92 def. Dean Carter, Dragster, 6.994, 167.43.
Super Stock — Chris Hall, Chevy Camaro, 8.990, 150.46 def. Larry Zavala, Camaro, 9.899, 134.15.
Stock Eliminator — Justin Lamb, Chevy Camaro, 9.918, 131.14 def. Todd Hoven, Dodge Coronet, 9.986, 130.59.
Super Comp — Steve Williams, Dragster, 9.052, 184.57 def. Cody Webber, Dragster, 9.031, 177.65.
Super Gas — Evan Kowalski, Chevy Corvette, 10.038, 154.17 def. Mike Ferderer, Pontiac Grand Am, 10.034, 161.83.
Super Street — Nick Alejandre, Chevy Chevelle, 11.029, 139.17 def. Kenny Snow, Chevelle, 11.029, 142.19.
Pro Modified — Lyle Barnett, Chevy Camaro, 5.814, 253.56 def. JR Gray, Camaro, 5.796, 248.66.
Factory Stock Showdown — Aaron Stanfield, Chevy Camaro, 7.903, 173.49 def. Leah Pruett, Dodge Challenger, 7.944, 174.30.
Summit Super Pro — Nick Smith, KLRC, 7.256, 182.50 def. Joseph Bagwell, 7.943, 170.95.
Summit Pro ET — Dan Cassie, Mercury Capri, 9.460, 140.37 def. Brandon Schmall, Chevy Beretta, 9.530, 133.78.
Summit Sportsman — Derrick Jackson, Chevy El Camino, 12.182, 105.82 def. Gary Hairfield, Chevy Corvette, 12.213, 108.44.
Summit ET Motorcycle — Garreth Sheppeard, Suzuki Hayabusa, 8.221, 177.30 def. Erik Crosby, Kawasaki Ninja, 9.418, 139.40.
Round By Round
Final round-by-round results from the 21st Annual Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the 19th of 20 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:
ROUND ONE — Alex Laughlin, 3.835, 290.69 def. Clay Millican, 3.913, 246.71; Billy Torrence, 3.738, 325.53 def. Shawn Langdon, 3.781, 312.21; Brittany Force, 3.670, 330.80 def. Troy Buff, 3.914, 299.60; Justin Ashley, 3.734, 326.71 def. Cameron Ferre, 9.456, 79.81; Mike Salinas, 3.726, 323.97 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.735, 323.43; Steve Torrence, 3.751, 325.61 def. Jim Maroney, 4.119, 227.38; Tripp Tatum, 3.711, 331.61 def. Josh Hart, 3.801, 323.19; Leah Pruett, 3.752, 318.32 def. Antron Brown, 4.967, 155.11;
QUARTERFINALS — Ashley, 3.739, 328.94 def. Laughlin, 4.020, 233.60; Force, 3.745, 330.39 def. Pruett, Foul – Red Light; Salinas, 3.723, 330.63 def. B. Torrence, 3.741, 330.39; S. Torrence, 3.736, 328.62 def. Tatum, 6.679, 87.13;
SEMIFINALS — S. Torrence, 3.688, 329.58 def. Ashley, 3.727, 331.69; Salinas, 3.703, 324.75 def. Force, 3.682, 330.39;
FINAL — S. Torrence, 3.717, 329.50 def. Salinas, 3.737, 314.24.
ROUND ONE — Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.930, 327.27 def. Steven Densham, Ford Mustang, 4.043, 300.33; Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.925, 324.51 def. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.278, 220.80; Chris Morel, Dodge Charger, 5.749, 122.13 def. John Force, Camaro, 8.479, 73.28; Paul Lee, Charger, 3.921, 328.94 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.960, 155.76; Chad Green, Mustang, 4.009, 321.12 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.087, 316.15; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.950, 329.58 def. Bobby Bode, Mustang, 4.072, 310.84; Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.947, 295.08 def. Tony Jurado, Mustang, 4.032, 317.19; Ron Capps,
Charger, 3.915, 323.74 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.947, 330.72;
QUARTERFINALS — Hight, 3.909, 330.63 def. Green, 3.981, 321.88; Tasca III, 3.945, 330.07 def. Lee, 4.246, 223.25; Capps, 3.884, 332.10 def. DeJoria, 3.998, 315.05; Pedregon, 3.903, 324.20 def. Morel, 4.193, 281.19;
SEMIFINALS — Pedregon, 3.924, 325.92 def. Tasca III, 10.961, 81.12; Capps, 3.904, 326.87 def. Hight, 5.520, 130.85;
FINAL — Pedregon, 4.257, 225.03 def. Capps, 6.854, 80.86.
ROUND ONE — Deric Kramer, Chevy Camaro, 6.675, 203.09 def. Marty Robertson, Ford Mustang, Foul – Red Light; Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.697, 204.82 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.751, 202.76; Kenny Delco, Camaro, 7.142, 154.19 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, Broke; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.690, 204.70 def. Richie Stevens, Camaro, 6.753, 203.98; Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.682, 204.57 def. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, 6.717, 202.67 def. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, Foul –
Red Light; Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.668, 204.45 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.648, 205.85; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.689, 204.23 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.744, 202.09;
QUARTERFINALS — M. McGaha, 6.707, 204.73 def. Cuadra, 6.740, 202.30; Enders, 6.695, 203.43 def. Hartford, 6.695, 204.70; Glenn, 6.679, 205.13 def. Delco, Foul – Red Light; Coughlin Jr., 6.665, 204.54 def. Kramer, 6.683, 203.06;
SEMIFINALS — Glenn, 6.683, 204.98 def. M. McGaha, Foul – Red Light; Enders, 6.680, 203.61 def. Coughlin Jr., 6.913, 162.98;
FINAL — Glenn, 6.660, 204.60 def. Enders, 6.684, 203.74.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
ROUND ONE — Chris Bostick, Suzuki, 6.989, 189.55 def. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, Foul – Red Light; Angie Smith, 6.955, 195.53 def. Scotty Pollacheck, 6.957, 194.58; Eddie Krawiec, Buell, 6.933, 196.16 def. Andrew Hines, Buell, 7.025, 193.65; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.848, 197.86 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 7.030, 190.86; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.874, 194.44 def. Charles Poskey, Suzuki, 7.155, 188.36; Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.952, 194.44 def. Ryan Oehler, 7.063, 191.24; Matt Smith, 6.825, 198.64 def. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.640, 152.04; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.935, 193.02 def. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 7.085, 190.38;
QUARTERFINALS — Sampey, 7.875, 123.77 def. Krawiec, Broke; Johnson, 6.867, 195.25 def. A. Smith, 6.991, 193.52; Stoffer, 6.870, 197.10 def. Savoie, 6.926, 189.76; M. Smith, 6.833, 198.90 def. Bostick, 8.774, 105.61;
SEMIFINALS — Johnson, 6.877, 194.88 def. Sampey, 6.837, 197.13; Stoffer, 6.862, 197.33 def. M. Smith, 6.834, 198.90;
FINAL — Johnson, 6.869, 195.11 def. Stoffer, Foul – Red Light.
1, Steve Torrence, 2,694; 2. Brittany Force, 2,589; 3. Mike Salinas, 2,522; 4. Justin Ashley,2,506; 5. Billy Torrence, 2,411; 6. Leah Pruett, 2,343; 7. Clay Millican, 2,302; 8. Antron Brown, 2,285; 9. Shawn Langdon, 2,260; 10. Doug Kalitta, 2,211.
1. Ron Capps, 2,585; 2. Matt Hagan, 2,527; 3. Cruz Pedregon, 2,502; 4. J.R. Todd, 2,447; 5. John Force, 2,430; 6. Bob Tasca III, 2,417; 7. Robert Hight, 2,412; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 2,380; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,282; 10. Blake Alexander, 2,184.
1. Greg Anderson, 2,565; 2. Erica Enders, 2,533; 3. Dallas Glenn, 2,456; 4. Kyle Koretsky, 2,379; 5. Troy Coughlin Jr., 2,345; 6. Aaron Stanfield, 2,335; 7. Chris McGaha, 2,312; 8. Mason McGaha, 2,297; 9. Matt Hartford, 2,269; 10. Deric Kramer, 2,231.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Matt Smith, 2,536; 2. Steve Johnson, 2,516; 3. Angelle Sampey, 2,506; 4. Eddie Krawiec, 2,394; 5. Karen Stoffer, 2,347; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,324; 7. Angie Smith, 2,277; 8. Joey Gladstone, 2,267; 9. Andrew Hines, 2,209; 10. Ryan Oehler, 2,181.
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