Keep up with this weekend's NHRA Summit Nationals by reading our behind-the-scenes event notebook. We bring you the stories behind the numbers and win-lights throughout the course of the weekend. Tune in daily for the latest news from the pits.  



NITROGATE, THE NEXT CHAPTER - The NHRA handed down the largest fine in the history of NHRA POWERade championship

Don Schumacher was fined $100,000 for having four drums of his Pro Nitro brand in the DSR pits.
drag racing on Sunday afternoon after discovering Don Schumacher Racing to be in possession of four drums of nitromethane not purchased from the official fuel supplier of the NHRA, VP Racing Fuels. NHRA VP Graham Light announced DSR’s fine was $100,000.

“Yesterday we discovered nitromethane in Don Schumacher Racing’s pits that was not purchased through the official distributor and that is clearly in violation of the rules,” Light said, in an interview with ESPN2. “As stewards of that product we take our responsibility very seriously. There are very strict guidelines as to the purchase and use of nitromethane. As a result of this violation, a $100,000 fine has been levied against Don Schumacher’s team.”

Don Schumacher was in complete disagreement of NHRA’s decision.

“I’ve been told by Tom Compton and Graham Light that Pro Nitro is a legal nitromethane that can be used in the NHRA,” Schumacher said, in reference to his brand that is legal in IHRA, Nostalgia and test events. “We had four drums of Pro Nitro in our pits Saturday and they have been removed. They feel this is inappropriate and have fined me. I will appeal the fine and I don’t feel the rulebook is being enforced the way it is written. That’s the bottom line.”

Schumacher added the fuel in question was not used in any of his race cars during the course of the weekend.

“We had planned to use the fuel in testing on Monday,” Schumacher explained. “The nitro that is being distributed here this weekend was not manufactured by Wego. It’s being distributed and not a Pro Nitro nitromethane either. This nitromethane shouldn’t really be out here and that I’m aware of first hand.

Section 4 in the NHRA 2008 rulebook states that only nitromethane from an accepted NHRA supplier may be brought or used on-site at an NHRA POWERade Series event. The rulebook also states NHRA will designate accepted suppliers may be brought on-site or used on site at national and divisional events.

What makes the issue even more clouded is Schumacher’s allegation that he’s sold nitromethane to VP Racing Fuels.

Schumacher first got into the nitromethane business in 2004 to combat a substantial price increase being doled out by VP Racing Fuels, who had brokered a deal with the China-based Wego and the U.S. based Dow-Angus brand.

The price of a 55-gallon barrel of nitromethane was $650 and immediately was raised to $900 with the cost expected to climb to $1,400 before the season’s end. Homeland Security was cited as a reason for the increase although a call to the Homeland Security Department by CompetitionPlus.com refuted the claim.

As this scenario played out, Schumacher procured another Chinese source of nitro and had a tanker of the fuel en route to the United States when the NHRA implemented a rule stating only the brands under exclusivity to VP Race Fuels were approved sources.

The NHRA eventually capped the price at $800 in 2004.

The Pro Nitro brand was declared the official source of nitromethane on the IHRA tour and this product was sold for $650. Many racers began to question the difference in price for an equal in quality product which was used largely by NHRA teams in testing.

The second skirmish between the official supplier and Pro Nitro transpired in 2006 when many teams covertly ran the lesser expensive source of nitro until a handful of those teams were put on secret probation when the number of runs they made in competition didn’t jibe up with receipts from the official supplier.

VP Race Fuels defended the exclusivity as protecting the sport’s only domestic supplier of nitromethane – Dow-Angus. Dow-Angus announced in November of 2006 they were ceasing production of nitromethane for racing leaving the only known source as the Chinese brand.

Last year, VP Race Fuels raised the price of nitromethane to $950 during the NHRA U.S. Nationals race weekend.

With the advent of U.S. Department of Homeland Security regulations, a drum of nitromethane was reduced to 42-gallons or 400 pounds while the price remained the same $950 for a lesser amount of product.

Citing Homeland Security and the need for an armed guard as well as increased paperwork, the price was launched to $1,250 per barrel. The paperwork according to Schumacher requires 15 – 20 minutes and the armed guard was only used during the evening hours of the NHRA Gatornationals last month. There was no added security during the daylight hours.

The price reportedly has been dropped to $1,050 according to ESPN2 coverage of the event.

ONE-LANE BLACKTOP – Out of twenty-four possible round wins in the first round, only five drivers won from the right lane.

HONORARY CREWMAN, THE FIFTH [AND, SIXTH] - Tom DelCid became the fifth NAPA AUTO PARTS Honorary Crew Member of the 2008 NHRA Drag Racing Series season in Las Vegas.

DelCid, of Bakersfield, Calif., and the owner of four NAPA AUTO PARTS stores and one NAPA Truck Service Center in the Bakersfield area, was surprised with the honor during the Don Schumacher Sunday morning meet-and-greet session showcasing the six DSR pro drivers.

NAPA jobber K.C. Carroll, who also owns four NAPA stores, was originally elected to receive this honor, but he generously passed it on to DelCid.

When DelCid was named, DSR's executive vice president Mike Lewis joked that he would be expected to service the clutch and take out the crankshaft. In fact, DelCid helped escort the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driven by Ron Capps to the staging lanes in the team's Dodge Durango tow vehicle during eliminations and then helped retrieve the car at the end of the track following the run. He also received a NAPA team shirt and met the entire NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge crew. Capps advanced to the semifinal round before he was eliminated by Tim Wilkerson. He jumped into No. 10 in the standings with this result.

"I just found out today," said DelCid, 52. "It's great. It's a wonderful thing. I had dinner with Ron Capps last night (at a special dinner held for over a dozen NAPA customers) and met Don Schumacher. What a great organization. It's unbelievable the way Don operates this team.

"I have been an NHRA fan for years, but I've never driven," added DelCid. "I don't have the guts to do that. I let these guys do that, but I've watched the old timers race at Fomoso Raceway in Bakersfield. I've gone to the drag races 18 years straight there until I had a family and kids and then I couldn't do it anymore, but I enjoyed watching a lot of the guys that I see here today who are my heroes. I just love it."
During the season the NAPA distribution centers at each event will have different criteria for choosing the people who are potential NAPA Honorary Crew Members.

Strange occurrences happen when a driver feels loved. When Cory Mac started feeling the love, he
Cory McClenathan's victory represents his first since Richmond 2006.
started winning rounds. On a day when the track was ugly, 30-time NHRA national event winner Cory McClenathan pieced together four consecutive round wins for this first triumph since Richmond 2006.

"To say the least, it's about time. That's all I can say," said McClenathan. "It's been a couple of years since we've even had a competitive car and to win Richmond a couple of years ago was great. That was my 29th victory, but to come here exactly 30 races later and win my 30th Top Fuel event is incredible.

"Thanks to (crew chief) Mike Green and all the guys who work on the FRAM team and DSR. Don Schumacher has put together quite an empire over there at DSR, and I'm glad to be a part of it. I'm hoping to spend the rest of my days there and retire at DSR. Maybe I can wipe some tires for them or wax some cars when I'm done.”

McClenathan entered final eliminations as the fifth quickest qualifier and knocked off such notables as J.R. Todd, Morgan Lucas and Brandon Bernstein before repelling a determined Antron Brown.

"It was a very tricky track, but our Goodyears did the job today. We kept that left-hand lane as lane choice and we worked it. Mike Green and the guys did a great job. We had a lot of help from Alan Johnson (U.S. Army TF crew chief), all the guys on the Army crew, all the guys on the Rockstar team, all the Valvoline/MTS guys from Jack Beckman's team, and Gary Scelzi's Mopar crew. We really appreciate everything that goes on. There were 30 guys working on that race car.

"Lane choice was very important today," added McClenathan, who also had a runner-up finish this year at the season-opening event in Pomona, Calif. "It was very tricky out there. It was one of those deals where not only do you have to keep it right in the groove; you just had to do your burnout in the exact right spot. We had some early wheel speed that we had to be careful of, and Mike Green did a great job at basically attacking that area and just being a little bit careful early and then letting it spin the tires down course. We got down to the other end and only had like six or seven teeth left on the blower belt.

"So, it was going to be a very close race and it was. Antron is a great driver. He's learned very quickly. Lee Beard is a good crew chief. So, we beat some good teams today, but I would say lane choice really meant a lot.

"I would say this points battle is shaping up to be an incredible season," added McClenathan, who is No. 4 in the points, just 87 markers behind leader Tony Schumacher. "I'm looking forward to being a part of it. And it's good to have a top-five car back again and have a shot at the championship. My teammate Tony Schumacher is up there, (Larry) Dixon's up there (No. 2). [And] we just went around Brandon (Bernstein), barely.

"It's one of those deals where it is going to be dog-eat-dog all year. But I think we're up for the fight at DSR. Mike Green and I are very proud to be part of this deal. We’re not looking too much farther ahead. We'll just look at one race at a time, one round at a time."

McClenathan left Vegas ranked fourth in the championship points standings.

NASCAR star Kevin Harvick told the media and the drag racing community that he's exploring his options of owning a Top Fuel team with Bob Vandergriff, Jr.

Harvick and his wife DeLana have teamed with NHRA drag racing veteran Bob Vandergriff Jr. to explore the option of fielding a Top Fuel dragster in NHRA competition. The proposed Harvick-Vandergriff Motorsports will specialize in offering its sponsors marketing opportunities in NHRA, NASCAR Sprint Cup, Craftsman Truck, and the Nationwide Series.

"I think we have a unique opportunity to provide unprecedented reach for companies looking to achieve their objectives through motorsports," Vandergriff said. "As this deal evolves, we want to offer the companies aligned with Harvick-Vandergriff Motorsports the chance to use the best of NHRA and NASCAR through the same program. We'll have the capabilities to provide something no other team can offer.

"I'm extremely excited about this opportunity with Kevin and his wife DeLana. Our ideas of how to market our motorsports programs and our long-term goals are the same."

This would be an unprecedented alignment of teams in the top two motorsports sanctions in the United States. Vandergriff also believes that having a team car to run alongside his championship-contending UPS dragster would be a huge advantage.

"The response from the companies we've spoken to already has been tremendous," Harvick said. "Everyone at Kevin Harvick Incorporated and Richard Childress Racing has become extremely interested with what's happening in the drag racing world through our friendship with Bob. The more we come to understand what is happening in the NHRA series, the more attractive it's becoming as a whole.

"It's my belief that NHRA could provide a great marketplace for us to grow our business by providing unmatched opportunities for interested sponsors. We view this as something that would be a natural extension of our current Craftsman Truck and Nationwide Series programs. Bob's a proven leader and innovator and DeLana and I are happy to be here as his guests. The future looks very exciting."

Vandergriff and Harvick plan to begin assembling a race team and all of the necessary components and people within the next two months as they prepare for a 2009 debut. Announcements regarding the driver and sponsors will be forthcoming.


OUT EARLY, STILL TOPS – Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher lost for the second time in as many events during the quarter-final

Tony Schumacher was relagated to the troubled right lane where he was eliminated.
round. This time he fell short opposite of Brandon Bernstein. 

“I guess we just had too much power for a hot track,” said the Chicago-area resident. “I understand that the track temperature was over 120 degrees for that second round. As it happened, we both had trouble with tire smoke, but his problems developed further down track.”
Schumacher will retain the Top Fuel point lead as the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series heads for Atlanta Dragway in two weeks.
“For sure, that’s something to hang our hats on,” said Schumacher. “We’ve managed to hold the lead through five races, which is pretty neat. Needless to say, we have to continue to improve if we want to stay on top.”
Schumacher, who qualified number one for the first time this season, is seeking his sixth career world title in 2008, which would be a Top Fuel record.

TF = TOP FEMALE – Hillary Will maintain her foothold as the fastest female in the history of NHRA drag racing by running the
Hillary Will retained her position of the being the fastes femaledriver in drag racing.
fastest speed of the weekend in Las Vegas, 331.85 mph. At the first two events of this season, she set the track record for speed at both Phoenix Int’l Raceway (334.32 mph) and at the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona (Calif.) (334.56 mph). Her 330.63-mph speed mark at the event earlier this season in Gainesville, Fla., tied for the fastest lap of the event. Her booming blast in California established her as the fastest female in the history of the sport.

“All-in-all, it was a good weekend for our KB Racing, LLC team,” Will said. “We would have certainly liked to have gone further on race day, but the weekend as a whole was good. Moving up in the points is always great, and we gave our team owners Ken and Judy Black and Ken Black, Jr. (all reside in Las Vegas) something pretty good to cheer about.”

Will moved up from 8th to 6th in Top Fuel POWERade points with a quarter-final finish.


When you fire your gun as many times as Tim Wilkerson has this season, you’re going to eventually hit
Tim Wilkerson’s victory represented the third victory for Chevrolet this season in five national events.
something. On Sunday in Las Vegas, the driver of the Levi Ray & Shoup Chevrolet nailed the prize with a convincing final round victory over two-time 2008 finalist Ashley Force.

Wilkerson’s victory represented the third victory for Chevrolet this season in five national events.

"We've had a good car all year," Wilkerson said. "We've had some mechanical failures and I made some mistakes tuning the car at Houston when we put a hole out in the second round there against Del (Worsham), but he just had his stuff together and whooped me. But this is kind of cool for the single-car teams, don't you think? We have Tony Pedregon winning one, and me and Del, and I think that's really cool. The NHRA has done a really good job leveling the field, and the Chevy Impala, that body is really helping us out. That thing is the cat's meow when it comes to these bad tracks."

Wilkerson qualified in the No. 2 position, missing his third pole of the year by just .001 of a second. The Vegas triumph marked Wilkerson's sixth career victory in 19 final rounds, his first win at LVMS, and he advanced to a career-best second place in the POWERade points standings, just five points behind first-place Ashley Force.

"We did the best we could and my crew did a great job," Wilkerson said. "The U.S. Smokeless guys helped us change a motor between rounds because I hurt the motor against Ron Capps, and that was a big deal too.

"Ashley and me had a good side-by-side race in the finals, and I knew it would be close," Wilkerson said. "If you remember, in Q3, we had a good side-by-side run, and she went 4.96 and I went 4.95, so I knew they weren't going to go up there and back up. Last year at Indy I raced her in the first round and she embarrassed me to death. I wasn't going to go up there and leave anything on the table. We went up there swinging hard and this time we got lucky."

IT’S A GIRL - A quarter of a century ago 14-time Funny Car champion John Force was hoping for a son to carry on his drag
Ashley Force might have lost the final round but she left the event with the points lead.
racing legacy. Instead Ashley Force, his 25 year-old daughter nearly joined her record breaking father in the history books, almost grabbing her first national event win – and the first Funny Car win for a female in the 39-year history of the class - at the 9th annual Summitracing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I didn’t know I was the points leader until after the race. I was surprised. It definitely made not winning a little better. We are enjoying it now while we have it, but we know there are three other teams in our camp alone who are gunning for that number one spot. We are happy to enjoy it now and remember this great weekend in Las Vegas,” said Force.

Force dropped her second consecutive final round of the season today losing to Tim Wilkerson and veteran Del Worsham two weeks ago in Houston. She has dropped her three finals by a total margin of .229 seconds (.018, .064 and .147 seconds) and at LVMS that margin shrinks to .082 seconds.

Force will leave Las Vegas with a five point lead over Wilkerson. She becomes the first woman to ever lead the Funny Car points and only the sixth woman overall to ever lead a professional points class.

“I never even knew it was possible to leave with the points lead. I am just trying to stay in the Top Ten. I have been happy to be in the Top Ten. Maybe I need to be more of a go-getter,” said the 2007 NHRA Rookie of the Year. “Now that we have a taste of that top spot and we see that it is not just the Robert Hights, the (Ron) Capps, the (Gary) Scelzis and the (John) Forces that can do it but maybe Dean Antonelli, Ron Douglas, and my team can do it too.”

Force had to work her way through Tommy Johnson, Jr., Gary Densham, and Bob Bode before she squared off with the veteran Wilkerson in the final round. Wilkerson, a long time family friend, was consistent all day and in the final he never trailed the graduate of Cal State Fullerton.

“My daughter (Rachel, 16) is an Ashley Force fan, there’s no doubt about that, but she’s okay with her dad winning this one,” Wilkerson said.  “To beat those John Force guys makes me really proud.  Ashley’s a class act and so is her dad.  I would like to see her get her first win, but I don’t want to be the guy in the other lane.”

CAPPING OFF EXCELLENT WEEKEND - Ron Capps won two rounds of competition, happily breaking his four-event streak of
Ron Capps enjoyed his best outing of the season.
first-round losses.

A questionable right lane surfaced following the first pair of Top Fuel cars and it became evident that lane choice was critical.

Having the coveted lane choice for the opening round, Capps handily dismissed Del Worsham and later Bob Tasca III. The victory against Tasca was not quick enough to procure lane choice for the next round. This made the difference in losing to eventual champion Tim Wilkerson.

"It was a feel-good weekend, for sure, for our team," said Capps, who propelled himself into No. 10 in the Funny Car point standings. "Mike Rearden from NAPA came over from Phoenix where he was with Michael Waltrip, and that was a big boost for the team to have him over here. A lot of NAPA people were here. It's been a great success for NAPA this year as far as the number of customers at the races go. They just enjoy it. But we need to give them results on the track and this weekend we finally got our hot rod back.

"Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) worked really hard. That 4.887 in qualifying was what we needed. It was on Sunday in Houston (the last event where he ran a strong race, despite losing the first round) where it started. We needed to get back to where we used to be with these tracks coming up. We're going to Atlanta and St. Louis and so on, and those tracks are going to get tricky. And we have the car that I feel is consistent like it was last year. I couldn't be happier.

"I'm getting more confidence now. I'm still working on my driving. I may have cost us lane choice second round when we beat Tasca III. We barely lost lane choice to Tim Wilkerson. That may have been the difference right there. It's just a matter of getting more confidence.”
STEADY PROGESS - Sunday’s race marked the second time that Bob Tasca III advanced to the quarter-finals in 2008, his
Sunday’s race marked the second time that Bob Tasca III advanced to the quarter-finals in 2008, his rookie season.
rookie season.

“The car got real loose on me and came sideways,” said Tasca, following his second run of the day. “I stepped off it and I pedaled it once just in case Ron may have smoked the tires, but then I saw him out in front of me. The car came around towards the cone as I lifted, and when I lifted, I hit the cone. But that’s the difference between racing and qualifying. On Sunday, within reason you do whatever you can to get to the finish line and unfortunately for us we lost a little bit of traction and the car came around pretty hard. But Capps made a real good run down that left lane.”

Both of Tasca’s round wins have come at the expense of Melanie Troxel.

“It was a great weekend for our team, and we’re certainly building on the future and gaining some momentum,” said Tasca. “We don’t necessarily compare ourselves to who had the quickest run for the whole weekend, but we compare ourselves on how quick we are compared to the competition for each of the sessions. Through qualifying we were extremely consistent, and then today, it was great to get out there and get a round win. We’ve gained some momentum here and we’re going to carry that into Atlanta.”

NOT A CLUTCH PLAYER – A clutch malfunction kept Melanie Troxel from scoring her first round win behind the wheel of a
A clutch malfunction kept Melanie Troxel from scoring her first round win behind the wheel of a Funny Car.
Funny Car. She lost for the second time in 2008 to Bob Tasca III.

“We made a lot of progress here during the weekend,” said Troxel.  “We went down the racetrack on three of our four qualifying runs, which is great because we qualified for the race, but we still have some problems we have to sort out.”
When crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald later scrutinized the run on the computer, they “found something in the clutch system that was inconsistent,” she said.  “While it was causing the car to be a little slower than we thought it should have been during qualifying, we made an adjustment for that (for the first round) but it went back to where it normally would be and the clutch (reacted) quicker than what it should have.
“It hurts to be out in the first round, but at the same time, we know where the problem is.  It’s something we can fix, but we just need a little time to get it worked out.  We will be testing at Indianapolis this week, probably on Thursday.”
CHASSIS CHANGE - Prior to this event, Corradi and Oswald made a chassis change that helped Troxel during the weekend.  She said the team is getting a new chassis and both will be used during the test session. One is for Troxel and the other for Frank Hawley, who will drive a second Gotham City Racing Dodge Charger R/T at the next POWERade Series event in Atlanta, April 24-26.
“We’ll get everything sorted out and have two cars that are just alike.  It looks like we should be able to keep making improvements through the Atlanta race,” Troxel added.
NOT COMPLETELY OUT OF THE WOODS – Del Worsham won the event in Houston, marking his first victory since 2005. Vegas
Del Worsham followed up his Houston win with a first round loss in Las Vegas.
was a different story.

Worsham’s plan was a good one.  The execution was near perfect.  And, the inevitable gremlin was found during the team's warm-up, when the burst panel on the manifold split open.

"That was one of those deals where you think you've just gotten your bad luck out of the way," Worsham said.  "It must have developed a hairline crack that we couldn't see, because as soon as we started the car it split open and we had the chance to replace it.  It could've done that during the lap, and when that stuff happens I cry.  We replaced it, and went out there to run a 4.93."

After the lap, and the dropped cylinder, Worsham returned to the team transporter and downloaded the data from his car.  His first stop was the tuning office and his racing computer, and once the data was displayed, and laid over his 4.93 lap from Saturday, the evidence of what he was after was clear to see.  Up until the 2.4-second mark, when the cylinder flooded and died, this run and the 4.93 were identical.  One, quite literally, could not be discerned from the other.

"That's why I'm not too upset right now, as much as I love to win," Worsham said, referring to his computer data.  "We made the right call, we had the right tune-up in the car, but we dropped a hole and we got spanked.   I don't care if all the other winners smoked the tires or won on red-lights, we raced Ron Capps and we had to outrun his 4.97 if we wanted to win, and we didn't do it.

"We've also almost always been a good hot weather team, so this weekend was a great opportunity to make sure we still have a handle on that, and we do.  We go from here to Atlanta, and then to St. Louis, and from then on out it should be pretty hot wherever we run.  I'm pretty stoked about that, and excited to get out there with this sweet race car.  It's going to be fun."

Gary Scelzi experienced something few of his peers could relate to on Sunday. He lost while
Gary Scelzi experienced something few of his peers could relate to on Sunday. He lost while racing from the left lane
racing from the left lane

"It went out there and it got a little bit fast and the ass end of the car washed out a little bit," said Scelzi, who is 13th in the Funny Car point standings, "and I got it back and I was on the right side of the groove and then it got the right tire and it just drove me out of the groove and smoked the tires. Got it back, but by then it was too late. We were in trouble.

"It's unfortunate. We've really got a race car now that's going down the race track. It's doing what Todd (Okuhara, crew chief) wants it to do. It's frustrating as hell because we're trying so hard. And we know that we can win right now. You can't force it; you've just got to let it happen, and it's just not giving it to us.

"It's a tough class," he said of the 21-plus fields recently, "but we've got a car that should be able to go out there and whip some ass, and it will. But we want it now."


Jason Line captured his first national-event victory of the season by defeating Greg Stanfield in a
Jason Line captured his first national-event victory of the season by defeating Greg Stanfield in a close all-Pontiac GXP final round.
close all-Pontiac GXP final round.

The 38-year-old Minnesota native and current resident of Troutman, N.C., entered race day with his Summit Racing Pontiac qualified in the No. 2 position. Line defeated Johnny Gray in round one running 6.772 seconds at 203.74 mph, Jeg Coughlin in round two with a 6.789 E.T. at 203.83 mph, and in the closest race of the day, Kurt Johnson in the semifinals with a 6.793 second run at 203.58 mph.

In the finals against Stanfield, both Pontiacs were close to even off the starting line with Stanfield's GXP grabbing a slight advantage, but by the 330-foot marker, Line's Pontiac edged ahead and crossed the finish line with a winning 6.782 e.t. at 203.83 mph. Stanfield followed with a 6.816-second run at 203.16 mph. Line's margin of victory was .03 of a second.

"This is the best car I've had in a year and a half," Line said. "This is really exciting and a big deal for us, and today we managed to get it done. The engine didn't perform as well today as we would have liked, but the car made up for it and the chassis department saved us. Especially when we had to race Kurt (Johnson) in that right lane. Everybody struggled to get down it (the right lane) but that 6.79, I have to admit, was a pretty impressive run by anybody's standards."

For Line, it was his third final-round appearance this season, his 14th career win, his first at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and his first Pro Stock victory in a little over a year (Houston/2007). The 2006 POWERade champion now moves into a tie for first place in the Pro Stock standings with Team Chevy's Jeg Coughlin Jr.  

"You always hope that a win like this can turn things around and maybe set you up for a good run," Line said. "We're getting our confidence back and when you look at how we've performed this year as a team, I'm really proud of the guys who work on the car and back at the shop who make something like this possible. This Summit Racing Pontiac GXP was an incredible racecar this weekend, and to be able to combine that with a decent driving effort is really gratifying as a competitor. To do this at a Summit Racing sponsored event in Ken and Kenny Black's hometown makes it even more special."

NOTHING BUT ATTITUDE – Former sportsman champion turned Pro Stock racer Greg Stanfield was looking to capture his first
Greg Stanfield, a former sportsman world champion, fell short of gaining his first Pro Stock national event victory.
career Pro Stock victory, but his Attitude Apparel Pontiac GXP came up a fraction of a second short at the finish line. Stanfield qualified Bart Price’s Pontiac in the No. 8 spot and defeated Greg Anderson in round one, pole-setter Kenny Koretsky in round two and Jim Yates in the semifinals before facing Line in the title round.

The 42-year-old resident of Bossier City, La., was making his 5th career final-round appearance in the Pro Stock category and his first since the 2007 NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. Stanfield's sterling effort this weekend was his best yet this season and moves him up one spot in the POWERade points standings from 10th place to ninth.

"It was an excellent weekend for us," Stanfield said. "The track was tricky and that was the bottom line for us. Jason is a good racer and that's a strong team. We got one of the Summit cars in the first round and came up a little short in the finals - I missed the tree in that last round. Right now it's been tough for me to win one but we're not giving up. We're going to get one of these.

"We were clicking today - everything felt really good. The competition is brutal out here and I'm just glad to be a part of it. There was no guarantee we were going to get by anybody today, but we made four solid runs, runs we can go back, look at and learn a lot from, and that in itself is very satisfying. We'll go to Bristol and test and work on raceday stuff. That's where the track changes so much that we don't have as good a handle on it as we would like, but I like the way the car is running right now. We were lacking a little bit, but this weekend was a bug step in the right direction."

In addition to Line and Stanfield, there were four GM branded cars that advanced to the
Jim Yates drove his way to a semi-final finish.
semifinal round in Pro Stock including Pontiac GXP driver Jim Yates and Team Chevy driver Kurt Johnson. Yates qualified the Wiley X Pontiac GXP in the No. 13 spot and defeated Ron Krisher in round one and Allen Johnson in round two before losing to Stanfield in the semis.

"It was a great day," Yates said. "I'm excited that we got our Wiley X Pontiac GXP to the semifinals - we had a real good shot at going to the finals. We had some breakage in the engine in the semifinals and we had to swap engines before the semifinals, something we've never run before. We didn't have the fuel curve right where it needed to be. Those engines are from Ron Krisher's shop and they're making competitive horsepower, we just haven't done a good job with the car to get it where it needs to be. Any time you come out here and go two rounds from the No. 13 qualifying spot, that's a pretty good deal. It's really helping our team right now to get these rounds in because we're getting runs down the track and we're learning what to do under those conditions. I believe that will pay dividends for the next five to 10 races because it's giving us a good look at the track - like practice on an active racetrack. It's definitely going to help our program and we'll take them while we can.

"Ron brought everybody from his team over here to help us get that engine changed. His son John was here, everybody we had, and having that many people pitching in is usually a luxury we don't have. There's been plenty of times when we've been swinging an engine with just two or three of us and not have time to get it done. We had time to get it done, warmed it up, took it to the scales weighed the car, got the weight right on it, and then were the first car to get back in the lanes - and everything was together perfectly. That's a tremendous achievement by this team. The only thing that would have helped would have been a run on the car and we'd have known how to jet the carburetors. Every engine is different, every intake manifold is different, so we had the engine way to lean. The crew did a great job and Stanfield's Pontiac GXP was a little faster than mine."

FIGURING HOW TO WIN - Kurt Johnson qualified the ACDelco Chevy Cobalt in the No. 3 spot and defeated May Naylor in
Kurt Johnson took out Max Naylor and his dad Warren Johnson before losing to Jason Line in the semis.
round one and Warren Johnson in round two before losing to Line in round three. Johnson's Chevy Cobalt posted the quickest e.t in the rounds one and two of eliminations.

"We'll head home, go to Atlanta and take the stuff apart," Johnson said. "At least we have a good setup when we come back for the ACDelco Nationals in the fall. It takes everything perfect to win these races. We ran decent, I struggled on the tree a little bit but came back with a .035 against Jason and the thing was soft, so I can leave here feeling good. We didn't get the trophy, but looking at the computer I felt we could have picked up another couple hundredths on reaction time and a hundredth in the car. When you look at it and you figure out how to win the race."

STILL THE LEADER - Jeg Coughlin Jr. regained the No. 1 ranking in the POWERade points standings with his second quarterfinal finish in a row Sunday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Coughlin took out Mike Edwards in Round 1 before falling to eventual race winner Jason Line in the second round.

With his finish, Coughlin moved around former No. 1 racer Greg Anderson, who lost in the opening session, but was caught and equaled by Anderson's teammate Line when the former series champion denied Greg Stanfield in the final round.

"It's been a heckuva year already," said Coughlin, a winner earlier this season in Gainesville, Fla. "We've had four different race winners in the first five races and it looks as though it's going to be a dog-fight every weekend. We wouldn't want it any other way. We love competition and it doesn’t get any better than this."

Coughlin was sharp in his battle versus Line, leaving with an eight-thousandths of a second edge. But on this day Line had a slightly quicker car and he was able to catch and pass Coughlin to win with a 6.789 at 203.83 mph to Coughlin's 6.826 at 203.58 mph.

"It wasn't our best weekend of racing but we were able to regain a share of the points lead, which was our No. 1 goal," Coughlin said. "It's very interesting how it's all shaking out and the fans are certainly getting their money's worth this year.

"It's crazy to think how close everything has become. If you look at everything we did collectively as a team, we had a great weekend. But one little blip can be the difference between winning and losing. Our spirits are high and we're already looking forward to a big weekend in Atlanta."

ALMOST – How could Kenny Koretsky get bummed after turning in arguably the greatest qualifying experience of his career?

So what if he lost in the second round? Kenny Koretsky had the time of his life this weekend.
He wanted to clean sweep the event but didn’t fret when his weekend ended in the quarter-finals opposite of Greg Stanfield.

In the quarterfinals, however, Koretsky's .055-second reaction -- the same light he had in a first round victory over Matt Hartford -- wound up 14-thousandths of a second short of victory.  Greg Stanfield left in .031-seconds and held the advantage throughout the 1320 feet, getting the win light in 6.839 seconds at 203.43 mph to Koretsky's quicker 6.813 at 202.88.
"He had a little bit better light . . . and there's nothing else to say.  We got beat," Koretsky said. "But it was still a great weekend.  We got our first No. 1 qualifying position and won a round.  We got that out of the way.  Now we can go to Atlanta and see if we can move up in the standings."
Even the soft-spoken drivers like Justin Humpreys were commenting on the inconsistent racing surface.
BAD, BAD TRACK – Losing early in eliminations can put even a soft-spoken drag racer like Justin Humphreys in a bad mood. An inconsistent racing surface will leave one frustrated, too.
“The track conditions got us again,” he said of the unpredictable racing surface. 
Humphreys’ RaceRedi Motorsports Pontiac GXP was the second of four successive cars to experience traction problems in the right lane.  Humphreys had a big advantage off the starting line (.056-seconds to .095) but the car’s wiggle gave Johnson all the advantage he needed.  Johnson was timed in 6.811 seconds at 203.98 mph to Humphreys’ 7.197 at 174.10.
“We just haven’t been able to make good runs,” added Humphreys, who began eliminations from the No. 11 position.  “But we were able to stay in the top 10.”


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Tony Schumacher earned his first pole position of the season on the strength of Friday evening’s run.

Tony Schumacher's Vegas qualifying performance sends him into final eliminations as the top qualifier for the first time this season.
He entered the event holding a slight eight-point advantage over Larry Dixon in the Top Fuel standings.

“It’s been a while since we started from the pole,” said the five-time world champion. “We had been shut out since last year’s season finale. Hopefully, we’ll be able to carry this momentum into tomorrow.”

Schumacher races Steve Chrisman in the first round.

“We have to be ready for another tough test,” he offered. “I’ve often said that there aren’t any freebies in this class. You better be sharp right out of the box or otherwise you’ll be going home real early.”

“We’re in a tight battle at the moment,” he said. “We’re all grabbing for as many points as we can get. Obviously, we want to have the most points on our side of the ledger when all is said and done.”

FIA Top Fuel champion Urs Erbacher of Switzerland has maintained a perfect record in U.S. qualifying. The four-time European champion recorded a 4.826 elapsed time at 303.43 mph to secure the No. 12 position at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"It's hot and the track is very tricky at the moment so we're happy to get in the field once again and will begin preparing for Sunday's race," Erbacher said. "There have been many cars struggling to get down the track this weekend and we had our share of worries but the crew got the job done and I'm very happy."

Antron Brown's consecutive qualifying streak grew to 150 with Saturday's success.
Erbacher races recent Houston winner Antron Brown during Sunday’s final eliminations.

"For the last two races the No. 16 guy has beaten the No. 1 guy so this proves that anyone can beat any other driver," he said. "The contest is very close. We will hopefully be up for some luck in Las Vegas.”

Antron Brown’s streak of consecutive NHRA POWERade professional qualifying berths reached 150 when he qualified sixth in Top Fuel.

Brown used a run of 4.600-seconds to qualify in the top half of the field for the fourth time in five races this season.

“It was tricky out there this weekend,” Brown said. “That track was hot and slick, but Lee Beard and the Matco guys did a great job of getting this car down the track. I’m confident we can go some rounds tomorrow. Lee is good on these hot tracks.”

Brown will face off against No. 11 qualifier Bob Vandergriff, Jr. in the first round of eliminations.

Alan Bradshaw has tested both ends of the emotional spectrum in 2008. He’s qualified on the pole twice [Gainesville, Houston] and this weekend’s DNQ marks the second time he’s been on the sidelines this season.


Robert Hight launched his way directly to the top of the Funny Car qualifying list during the final session. This
Robert Hight was all smiles after driving his Mustang to the top spot in qualifying.
comes one event after failing to qualifying in Houston.

“It’s been feast or famine for us all year,” said Hight, who earned his fourth career No. 1 qualifier in Las Vegas after an uncharacteristic DNQ in Houston two weeks ago. “We haven’t made many runs this year and we took one big giant step backwards in Houston. We redid the whole clutch (after that). To go down the track all four runs here is unbelievable. (The last run) was probably the best run we’ve made all year. The motor seemed happy all the way down and I knew it.”

Tim Wilkerson was looking for a law enforcement officer. He was robbed during the final qualifying session.

Tim Wilkerson will start race day from the No. 2 qualifying spot in the Levi Ray & Shoup Chevy Impala SS after running 4.850
Considering he's lost in the first round both times he's qualified on the pole, Tim Wilkerson ought to be thanking Robert Hight for stealing the top spot away from him during the final session.
seconds at 318.24 mph. Wilkerson fell short of the pole and No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight (who ran 4.849 seconds) by one thousandth of a second. It is the first time this season that a Chevy Impala SS has not started race day from the lead qualifying position.

"That criminal Jimmy Prock (crew chief for Robert Hight) stole $4000 right out of my pocket for a thousandth of a second," Wilkerson said jokingly after smoking the tires in his final qualifying attempt. "But you know, No. 1 qualifier hasn't been a lucky spot for us this year so maybe tomorrow we can go some rounds, win the race and make up for that little bit of money we lost here a while ago.

"We're doing the best we can do. We really tried hard there, as you can see. I haven't smoked the tires in 35 runs - that's the first time we've done that in long time. I was swinging hard. Maybe we can meet Robert in the final round tomorrow and get some of that back."     

Bob Tasca III entered the weekend with guarded optimism after a week filled with questions. Those inquiries
Bob Tasca III enjoyed his best qualifying effort since ascending into Nitro Funny Car.
were answered once Vegas qualifying was complete.

“The No. 3 spot is the best for us this season, and we couldn’t be happier,” said Tasca. “We had the No. 1 spot yesterday for a while and got bumped down just a couple spots. But to be No. 3 going into the show on Sunday is just really exciting for our entire team.”

Tasca will face fellow first-year Funny Car driver, Melanie Troxel, in the first round of eliminations on Sunday, marking the second time this season the two have met in the first round.

“My crew chief Chris Cunningham has just done a fantastic job this weekend, and the guys on the team have really been working hard to get our car where it needs to be,” Tasca said. “It’s a big race for us with it being Carroll Shelby’s hometown and with the new Ford Drive One logos on the car. But for Quick Lane, Motorcraft and Custom Accessories, we got a lot of confidence going into Sunday.”

For only the 13th time in his drag racing career, John Force will stand on the sidelines for Sunday’s
For only the 13th time in his drag racing career, John Force will stand on the sidelines for Sunday’s final eliminations.
final eliminations. LVMS has been a sore spot for Force, who also had his 395-consecutive qualifying efforts fall by the wayside at this facility.

“You learn from what doesn’t work,” Force said. “[Austin] Coil and Bernie [Fedderly] are mad. I’m mad. I can’t perform and I don’t know what is wrong. At the end of the day, problem starts with me because I’m the boss.

“I’ve had some bad luck here, but you really create your own luck. We’ve still got three good hot rods in the field for Sunday. In the real world, I’m walking and I’ve got no complaints.”

Force plans to test on Monday.

They are some unenviable positions in drag racing and Jack Beckman experienced one of them on Saturday.

After qualifying No. 16 in the fourth pairing of the session alongside his teammate Ron Capps, Beckman had to wait to watch the only car capable of knocking him out of the field run in the next pair.

Jack Beckman learned that being 16th during the final session with John Force on the outside is not the most comforting experience.
The driver of that car was 14-time Funny Car champion John Force. Force was on a strong run, and clicked off numbers to the 1000-ft. mark good enough to get him into the show. As he approached the finish line, however, his engine gave way slowing him to a 5.020, 277.72 pass, which relegated him to the sidelines.

"Nobody ever wants to be done qualifying sitting on the bump and John Force is the next car and he's the last car that could bump you out," said Beckman, who, at 20, holds the longest consecutive qualifying streak for active drivers. "If you're in Vegas, it is not a safe bet.

"However, we ended up extending our qualifying streak, but, more important, we get to race on Sunday.

"We showed we could win from the top half, and also from 15th place, which we did in Phoenix this year. It's probably going to be a warm day tomorrow so I don't feel like we are an underdog going into Sunday."

There have been no repeat winners in eight years of Funny Car racing at LVMS nor have there been any repeat No. 1 qualifiers.

Del Worsham knew he could only extend his winning streak with a qualifying berth in Vegas. After
Del Worsham's key to a berth on Sunday was consistency.
planting himself in the No. 12 spot with a solid run on Friday afternoon, Worsham came back on Saturday and put on a consistency clinic.  His 4.930 in Q3 was low E.T. of the session, while his speed of 310.63 mph was also top speed in a session that was bedeviling most crew chiefs.  On his final lap, during Q4, Worsham stepped it up another notch, posting a 4.916 to finally land in the No. 11 spot, heading into race day.  He will face Ron Capps in round one.

"The way it worked here, both of the later sessions ran right at the time when the sun was going down behind the grandstand and the track was just getting better by the second, but it only helped you if you were way back in the order," Worsham said.  "We were right in the middle of the pack both times, running kind of right at the moment of the transformation when it went from not-so-good to really good, so I really feel like we're as good as anyone out there when the conditions are the same.  As far as I'm concerned, it can be as hot and sunny as it wants to be on Sunday, because our car is just doing great right now, and all it seems to want to do is go down the track.

"Today's first run was maybe the one I like the best, because it was the best run of that session, when we all ran under pretty much identical conditions.  We stepped up and made another great lap in Q4, so I really have no complaints about how the car is running.  We have a lot of Checker, Schuck's, Kragen people here this weekend, and a lot of their commercial-account guests, so it really does feel great to keep them all smiling."


Make no bones about it, Kenny Koretsky plans to tell everyone he can what happened in
Kenny Koretsky earned a major milestone in his career by landing atop the Pro Stock field.

Koretsky will begin Sunday eliminations in the No. 1 position on the strength of his Friday run of 6.724 seconds. If you thought the run might have been a fluke, Koretsky returned in Saturday’s heat to lay down a 6.726 elapsed time.

"It feels great," said Koretsky. "We needed that. We have a lot of NHRA Nitro Fish fans who want to see us win a race (another milestone that has eluded Koretsky).  We got a great reception from the fans when we came back (down the return road).  They gave us a standing ovation and that means a lot."
Koretsky begins the quest for his first national event victory Sunday. His first-round foe is Matt Hartford (16th, 6.775 seconds, 203.52 mph).
"It's hard to be disappointed with anything this weekend," said Guarnaccia.  "It was terrific.  Jerry Bickel built us a good car and Tom Hammonds and Jimmy Oliver gave us a good motor to race with.  And Kenny did an excellent job driving."
"This is a tough class," added Koretsky.  "There were 22 cars here and we're No. 1. It's unbelievable."
Koretsky fell short of make four consecutive good runs and took full blame for his aborted final run.
"We were trying to get the car ready for eliminations," he said, "and we were trying to get my foot set up for the clutch pedal because in Houston I had some problems and wasn't able to cut a light in the first round. We were all messed up in the clutch department.  We tried something here and it worked, I cut a good light -- .048-seconds -- but I wasn't paying attention and forgot to put it in second gear.  So we can do that Sunday.
"It has been a long time coming, more than 200 races, and it's really a great experience, especially doing it here in Las Vegas."

During Saturday morning qualifying, a number of good cars took their shot at knocking Koretsky off the pole, including Jason Line, whose Summit Racing Pontiac GXP missed by one-thousandth of a second (6.725 seconds) after running the quickest e.t. of the day, and Kurt Johnson, whose ACDelco Chevy Cobalt was off the lead pace by just two-thousandths of a second (6.726 seconds). Koretsky himself put up the fourth quickest time of the morning session.

"Both Summit Racing Pontiacs continue to perform better with each run," Line said following round three of qualifying. "I'm still working on hitting my shift points just right - I'm either too early or too late. This is a great time to be here, though, at our sponsor's event and it makes it more fun when both cars are running fast. Greg (Anderson) was able to get into the field in the first round today, and with two cars safely qualified, we've got a good shot of putting one of the Summit Racing GXPs in the winner's circle tomorrow."

"This ACDelco Chevy Cobalt has actually been pretty flawless lately," said Kurt Johnson, whose Chevrolet ran the quickest time in the final qualifying session. "Except for that final round at Houston, it's made some really good runs here - 6.72, 6.73, 6.73 and 6.73 - so it's a matter of letting the clutch out on time. I feel comfortable that we can do that and hopefully tomorrow will be a good day."

Jeg Coughlin Jr. has qualified for 68 consecutive events but when he lands as the tenth seeded
Jeggie has experienced easier weekends in his career.
entry headed into eliminations, he’s concerned. Never mind the fact he’s won 52 national events and four world championships.

Tomorrow Coughlin will have to fight tooth and nail to maintain his status as the champion.

"It's always a relief to qualify for these events," Coughlin said. "You have to remember that these are the best drivers in the world and every spot on the elimination ladder is hard to earn. It's a tribute to this team that we've been a part of so many races in a row.

"Having said that, I believe everyone in this pit would tell you we could have and should have run better. We've had little weird things happening but these things happen to all of us so the difference between the teams that are successful and the others is the ability to overcome the problems you inevitably will face on any given weekend."

Qualifying did nothing to change the top of the current POWERade standings as both No. 2 Coughlin and No. 1 Greg Anderson scored three bonus points during time trials. That leaves Coughlin just three points behind his friendly rival.

"It seems we're all having issues," said Coughlin, who ceded the points lead to Anderson at the last event in Houston. "I think it's a case of trying a little too hard. We need to just settle down and race the way we know how to race. It's imperative to go rounds tomorrow and if we can go one more than Greg, we'll have a chance to get the points lead back. I know this Victor Cagnazzi Racing group will be ready for whatever happens."

Coughlin will open race day against Mike Edwards (6.737 at 204.08 mph). The two veteran racers have not faced each other in eliminations this year. Coughlin was a perfect 5-0 against Edwards in 2007, including four first-round victories.

File this in the most unlikely performance detractor file. Max Naylor was the unfortunate recipient of this bit of trivia.

Naylor was a two-time top qualifier in 2007 but 2008 has not proven as fruitful.

Blame the shortcomings on the paint. Overspray in the paint booth got into the various electrical connectors and caused corrosion problems. He spent $3,000 to rectify the problem.

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THE ODDS – Nothing says drag racing like a wager. If you’re an NHRA POWERade drag racing fan, Station Casino has the place to lay down your bets for the drags.

Station Casinos’ oddsmaker Micah Roberts likes Tony Schumacher, Robert Hight and Greg Anderson in the final rounds of next weekend’s NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals for the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Perennial favorite Anderson (Pro Stock) is listed at 7-to-5.  Most recent Top Fuel Dragster winner Antron Brown is set at 6-to-1.  Hometown heroes Rod Fuller (Top Fuel Dragster) is set at 5-to-1. Switzerland's lone entry, Urs Ehrbacher, is listed at 15/1 in the Top Fuel Dragster class.

Top Fuel Dragster
Tony Schumacher 7/5
Larry Dixon 5/2
Rod Fuller 5/1
Brandon Bernstein 6/1
Antron Brown 6/1
Doug Kalitta 12/1
Cory McClenathan 12/1
Hillary Will 20/1
Doug Herbert 20/1
Morgan Lucas 20/1
Alan Bradshaw 20/1
Field (all others) 15/1

Funny Car
Robert Hight 3/1
Cruz Pedregon 4/1
Jack Beckman 9/2
Tony Pedregon 6/1
John Force 7/1
Ron Capps 12/1
Ashley Force 12/1
Del Worsham 15/1
Tim Wilkerson 15/1
Gary Scelzi 20/1
Mike Neff 20/1
Jerry Toliver 22/1
Gary Densham 30/1
Tommy Johnson Jr. 30/1
Melanie Troxel 30/1
Field (all others) 18/1

Pro Stock
Greg Anderson 7/5
Jeg Coughlin Jr. 2/1
Kurt Johnson 4/1
Warren Johnson 8/1
Jason Line 8/1
Allen Johnson 8/1
V. Gaines 10/1
Mike Edwards 12/1
Greg Stanfield 12/1
Justin Humphreys 15/1
Ron Krisher 15/1
Jim Yates 18/1
Max Naylor 25/1
Kenny Koretsky 25/1
Johnny Gray 25/1
Field (all others) 18/1 


Tony Schumacher laid down a 4.510-second pass at 328.38 mph in the

Tony Schumacher honored U.S. Army Medal of Honor recepient Jon Caviani with his low qualifying run.
second session to climb to the provisional pole position. The fact he was carrying a little extra weight didn’t bother him in the least.

In fact, the extra weight made all the difference in the world.

“That pass was especially pleasing to me since I was carrying in my driver’s suit a Medal of Honor from a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran,” said Schumacher. “Staff Sergeant Jon Cavaini is one of only 150 still living with a Medal of Honor. I was thrilled to be able to do that for him.”

Schumacher will have two more qualifying sessions on Saturday to see if he can also clinch his sixth career pole in Vegas.

“I love this place,” he said. “I think every driver considers this facility as one of the very best that we go to on the tour.”

Even though Schumacher is largely a player in the second-half of the season, his early 2008 successes have him expecting much more.

After capturing two wins in the opening three races, Schumacher posted an early round exit at the O’Reilly Spring Nationals and in the process had his lead in the Top Fuel standings cut to eight points.

“We’re going to be just fine,” said the defending NHRA POWERade world champion. “We had a little hiccup down in Houston, but you’re going to have those from time to time during the course of a 24-race season. We’re anxiously awaiting the trip out to Vegas.”

Schumacher has a traditionally strong record in Las Vegas with three wins to his credit, including the spring 2004 race.

“How can you not like racing on a state-of-the-art drag strip,” he added. “We’ve definitely had our share of success which we hope will carry over into this weekend.”

Despite having the points lead after four races, Schumacher feels better days are ahead for his U.S. Army team.

“There’s plenty of room for improvement,” he said. “We’ve been racing well, but we haven’t exactly been dominating. Some of it is the fact that there’s more talent spread out in the class and some of it is because we just haven’t been running like we should.”

Interestingly enough, Schumacher and his team are off to their best start since the 2005 season when they won nine races.
THROUGH THE FIRE - Brandon Bernstein made his way into the Friday field as the eighth quickest.

THE NASCAR CONNECTION - Bob Vandergriff, Jr. might not make an announcement this weekend but we keep hearing a NASCAR affiliation close to him will.

THE IMMIGRANT SONG - After making a little bit of drag racing history March 30 in Houston when he became the first European racer in 30 years to win a Top Fuel elimination round, reigning FIA Champion Urs Erbacher is aiming to be the first European-based racer to win a national event on U.S. Soil.

Two weeks ago, Urbacher became the first since Clive Skilton in 1977 [driving a Led Zeppelin-themed rail] to win a round of competition when he took out low qualifier Alan Bradshaw.

Erbacher is in the United States to prepare for his FIA title defense, which begins May 23-26 at Santa Pod Raceway in England.

"It was a proud accomplishment," Erbacher said. "Now we would like to figure out how to win the race itself. No other European has done that so it's become a dream goal for our team.

"The most important thing, though, is to get our car running at its best before we pack it up and put it on the boat to England. We're intent on defending our title in the FIA. Then we'll come back to the states and try to win some more at the end of the year. What can I say? We love to drag race and this is the best in the world."

Erbacher is carrying local sponsorship from Marnell Masonry this weekend.

"We want to go out with a big weekend so we're holding nothing back," Erbacher said. "Las Vegas is a very exciting place and we want to add to the party."

Name the driver who drove a Top Fuel dragster, Top Alcohol Dragster and Junior Dragster all in the same season? The answer would be Hillary Will.

Antron Brown knows a good thing when he's got it. The former Pro Stock

Antron Brown is sporting a qualifying streak dating back to his Pro Stock Motorcycle days. He's safely in the field at the fifth position.
Motorcycle racer turned Top Fuel driver has a consecutive qualifying streak of 149 races.

“It was tricky out there on that first run,” Brown said. “Not a lot of cars were making it down the track. I just have to give it up to Lee (Beard) and my Matco team. They made the right adjustments and we made a good run to put us in the show. It’s gonna be hot out for the rest of the weekend, so we want to make some good runs on Saturday to give us some data for the race on Sunday.”
J.R. Todd patiently awaits his shot at the LVMS quarter-mile. He's currently unqualified after two sessions.


Two times this season, Tim Wilkerson stormed to the top spot early in qualifying only to
Tim Wilkerson is gunning for a third pole position in 2008.
proclaim the run wouldn’t stand. In the end, he entered eliminations as the top speed despite his doom and gloom prognostications.

Wilkerson drove the Levi, Ray & Shoup Chevy Impala SS to the top spot with a 4.850 elapsed time at 318.24 mph.

"The first run today we got the tires loose at about 700 feet and when that happened it just beat the dog out of the motor," Wilkerson said. "We were still low for that run so I just left it alone and brought it back up there. I left a little bit of clutch in it and the car went right down through there like you would expect. It had a hole [cylinder] out on that run so there might be a little left in it still, but with the conditions we're expecting tomorrow, we're pretty happy with where we are tonight.

"I didn't think a 4.85 would stay low, to be honest. The track's a little tricky, but we're not used to racing this early in the evening when we come here. Now we're racing in conditions more indicative of what you might see on Sunday."

Bob Tasca, III told Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com earlier this week his decision to
Bob Tasca, III is currently in the second position after the first day.
part with crew chief Mike Kloeber was based on team chemistry. In his first event after promoting Chris Cunningham to the lead tuning role, there were no adverse chemical reactions.

In fact, Tasca drove his way to the second quickest lap of the second session with a 4.864.

“Certainly we had a crew chief change coming into this race, but I had all the confidence in the world in Chris [Cunningham] and the guys on the team. They gave me a racecar that just ran flawlessly today. On that last run it felt fantastic. It was smooth, it was straight, and the motor’s happy. It had great speed and we almost had the No. 1 spot for the day. What’s even more important; is that we made two runs down the racetrack and improved throughout the day.”

Come hell or high water, Tasca wasn’t lifting his foot from the throttle.

“We’re really excited about that run there,” Tasca said. “I said to myself that I was going right back to Rhode Island because I wasn’t going to take my foot off this thing. It was so smooth. For my team [and] Chris Cunningham in his first weekend as crew chief, man [that] guy is awesome.”

THE DRIVING FORCE - John Force is gunning for his 1,000th round win and if he wins the event, he could pull the feat off. He's presently unqualified.

John Force is poised to become the first driver in NHRA history to win 1,000 competitive rounds.

All the 58-year old Force has to do to make it happen is reach the winners' circle this weekend, the only event in the NHRA POWERade Series in which he has made multiple appearances without at least one victory.

In fact, the 14-time NHRA Funny Car champion hasn't even reached the finals at this particular event, the only race in which he has a losing record (6-7).  It's also the event that last year brought to a end his 20 year qualifying streak at record 395 consecutive events.

Nevertheless, Force has a way of rising to the occasion, like in 2002, when he had to win the fall race at Vegas to hold off Tony Pedregon and win his 10th consecutive series title.  He did what he had to do, beating Pedregon in a pressure-packed final, 4.820 to 4.869, for his only win in 14 tries at The Strip.

So, since he's won once; rivals know he could do it again although for the first time since he's been coming to LVMS, Force this week isn't the favorite of the Las Vegas odds-makers. 

"I'm not thinking records," said the 1996 Driver of the Year for all of American motor racing, the first drag racer ever so recognized, "especially not at Vegas where we've struggled.  If it happens, it happens.  I'm just trying to stay on my rehab (program) and hold up my end of the deal.  I'm getting better but I'm not there yet."

Melanie Troxel needed a turnaround from her misfortunes of the last two events. Driving the Simayof Jewelers Dodge Charger R/T into the provisional 11th starting position was a good start.

Troxel posted a 4.935-second elapsed time at 319.90 mph.

“I don’t care where we qualify as long we are in the show,” said the first-year Funny Car driver.

“That run felt good. This Gotham City Racing team has been through a lot in the first four races, but we never lost faith in ourselves. It was a relief to get a good run in early in the weekend. We have a good baseline to work with now.  I’m happy we were able to do that because the Simayofs were here watching.

“As a driver, it was the first time for me in a Funny Car that I made a big (steering) correction and it felt good.  And the car responded to what I was trying to get it to do.”
THE CENTER STAGE - One year later after debuting his Rockstar Energy Drink sponsorship, Jerry Toliver is hoping for a berth in Sunday's final eliminations.

HEAD GAMES - Jim Head took the Houston race off and returned this weekend in Las Vegas. He and a crewman scope the track before his final attempt on Friday. He's yet to make a place in the show.

THE GOOD STUFF - The mission of Cruz Pedregon to make clean runs down the strip continues. He's presently fourth in the Funny Car field.


Kenny Koretsky appeared every bit like the fisherman who’d landed the big one and in a
Kenny Koretsky rolled the dice in Vegas and won on the first day.
sense he did. Koretsky used what promises to the best weather conditions of qualifying to ascend to the top of the qualifying ladder.
"That's what happens when you have a good motor," said Koretsky following his 6.724-second run at 204.05 mph.  "I have to give credit to my crew chief, Eddie Guarnaccia, who has been with me 20 years.  Eddie has been working hard on a new motor combination and he finally figured it out.  It was pretty exciting."
Koretsky has been the Friday low qualifier on several occasions but has never been No. 1 going into race day.  He has two more attempts Saturday to stave off any rivals who have designs on the top spot.
"Eddie has been working with the engine we are leasing from (fellow Pro Stock driver) Tom Hammonds for the last three races and he has been able to get a handle on it," added Koretsky.  "I knew we were on a good run.  It was only the ninth run on our new Nitro Fish/Indicom Electric Pontiac GXP.  It would be nice to be able to hold onto that No. 1 spot. I turned 50 two weeks ago so it would be a nice belated birthday gift."

Warren Johnson may have a few tricks up his sleeve for Saturday. He nailed down the
Warren Johnson continues his rebound from the incident in Houston.
fourth quickest run during the second session with a 6.728 elapsed time with the top speed of the class at 206.07 mph. 

“All things considered, those were two pretty decent runs.  We were using a completely new engine combination, and we were pretty enthused by today’s results.  In addition, we believe that once we get it settled down, there should be more left in it.

“In addition, we’re still experiencing a learning curve with our GM Performance Parts GXP, as this is only our third race with it.  Right now, our performance in the first sixty feet is not where we need to, so once we get that taken care of we should be in the great shape.  All in all, not a bad first day.”

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