Keep up with this weekend's NHRA SummitRacing.com 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 event.




SUNDAY NOTEBOOK - SUNDAY NOTEBOOK - Hight, Bernstein score emotional wins at Las Vegas

FCHight.jpgBrandon Bernstein and Robert Hight scored their initial wins of the 2007 NHRA POWERade Series Sunday at the SummitRacing.com Nationals at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But their thoughts had nothing to do with elapsed times, speeds and wins. They were all about Eric Medlen, their friend and teammate who was tragically killed last month in a testing accident at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway.

"Every time I was in a final Eric was always down at the end of the track," said Bernstein, who took his 13th career victory when he defeated Bob Vandergriff in the Top Fuel final, scoring a solid 4.521-second pass at 330.07 mph. "Whether I won or lost, he was there when I came around that corner -- always. It felt great to know that J.R. (Todd, fellow Top Fuel competitor and a close friend of both Medlen and Bernstein) was down there for me this time and I know Eric was there, too. He just wasn't there in the physical sense.

"It's just a very emotional day, very tough. I loved that guy. I really did, with all my heart. It's just really cool to win it."

Hight, Medlen's driving teammate for the past three seasons, echoed those feelings after he gave John Force Racing its first win since returning to the tour when he defeated Ron Capps in the Funny Car final.

"It's amazing," Hight said. "I hated to sit out Houston (two weeks ago). It's nice to get out here again with friends and fans. It's amazing how many lives Eric impacted, because he made everybody happy. But it's just not the same coming back to the races without your teammate.

"It's very important to win. But there's a lot more to life than just winning a drag race. I'd trade it all for anything if we had Eric back. It puts things in perspective. It's a tough deal."

Summit_Sunday 894.jpg But what it made it rewarding for both was to join each other in the winner's circle.

"What that team (at JFR) has been through and what they are going through, for (Hight) to get the win it's truly too cool to get (the win) with one of the Force cars," Bernstein said. "It was great to hang with those guys and share the winner's circle with them."

Bernstein got it done by being very consistent all day. He made four consecutive 4.5 passes before pinning the 4.521 on Vandergriff in the final. He admitted that with all the emotion he was experiencing, it was difficult to stay focused for the final round.

"In the final, you're always a little more hyped up," Bernstein said. "And you're more anxious. But it did cross my mind that (Medlen) wasn't going to be at the end of the track when I made that corner. So it was a little tough. But I just tried to put that out of my mind and do my job and try to do the best I could on the race track and get the win."

Hight's win was slightly different. He and Capps had made solid 4.7 runs in the semifinals and both cars where hopped up for the final. They both left together before Capps started to smoke the tires about half-track. Hight then lost power around the 1,000-foot mark and he coasted across the finish line in a less-than stellar 5.126, easily beating Capps' 5.592.

"I got it a little too far (outside the grove)," Hight said. "I smoked the tires. But I never saw Capps and I gave it a quick pedal and I saw the win light come on in my lane.

"It wasn't pretty, but we'll take it. I've never won a lot of races pedaling, and I haven't had much luck in Vegas, so I guess I had some help along the way today."


SatProSession1104.jpg VANDERGRIFF TURNS THE CORNER - Bob Vandergriff didn't score his first NHRA Top Fuel win Sunday. But he wasn't complaining after advancing to his first final since 2004 and the first since he formed the UPS team prior to last season.

"What we did today, that's the kind of team we should be," said Vandergriff, who defeated Brady Kalivoda, Joe Hartley and points-leader Rod Fuller before losing in the final to Bernstein. "It's the kind of team we've been capable of being, we just haven't been able to do it.

"But that's why we come to the races, to be competitive, win rounds and be in position to win races. I hope that's what we are going to see on more consistent basis. I think we're headed in the right direction. We've made some changes to make it better and we just have to keep going in the right direction.

Vandergriff looked very capable of being able to score his first final round win. He was nearly even with Bernstein at half-track before he started to smoke the tires and slowed to a 4.828.

"(Capps' car) in front of us (in the Funny Car) final smoked the tires at the very same spot, and it was over from that point," said Vandergriff, who was hoping to run a mid-4.5 pass in the final. "It was going to be close. He was either going to barely beat me, or I was going to barely beat him.

"But it's all right. We're competitive now, and we'll just build on that."

Friday_Summit_tim 762_comp+.jpg BAZEMORE’S DAY IS A QUICK ONE - Whit Bazemore has a pretty steady season going in his initial fray in Top Fuel. The veteran, who raced Funny Cars for nearly 20 years before moving into the dragster category this year, has qualified in the top half of the field at each of the first five races and advanced to at least the second round at the first four.

All that changed Sunday as Bazemore's Matco Tools dragster smoked the tires and he lost in the first round to veteran Cory McClenathan.
"The team is really a great team," Bazemore said. "It's frustrating when we don't perform to our potential. It's so easy to make a mistake. It's racing. It's frustrating because we ran well in qualifying (his first 4.4 pass) and to blow the tires off like that is a surprise to everyone.

"I feel good about what I did. I need to work to be able to get the car to recover. I caught it that time, but I'm still pedaling it too quickly. The weekend was good for me personally. I'm here to race and here to win and there's no doubt in my mind. I feel good about all that."

ODDS GO AGAINST SCHUMACHER - After making two aborted runs on Saturday, Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher suggested that maybe the odds would shift in his favor on Sunday.

So much for the best-laid plans of the U.S. Army team.

Schumacher, who lost in the first round four times after qualifying No. 1 last season, did it again Sunday when he smoked the tires and could only watch J.R. Todd beat him in the first round with a 4.598.


Sat_summit_tim 218.jpgCAPPS EXTENDS POINTS LEAD – Ron Capps' loss to Robert Hight in the final was not all bad for the Carlsbad, Calif. resident. By stretching his round win streak to 11 before losing to Hight, Capps increased his points advantage to 88 markers.

"Once again we had a chance to go three in a row," said Capps, who suffered his second consecutive final-round loss at this race after running a sub-par 5.592. "It's kind of like 'deja vu all over again.' We got to the final round. And what a day. Talk about close races every round. I was telling the Brut guys, You kind of stand back and look at the ladder Sunday morning, and it's like, 'Oh, boy, here we go again. Getting by the second and the semis was unbelievable.

"We knew that (Hight's crew chief) Jimmy Prock was going to go for it. It was 'mano o mano.' Going into that round I could see it in Ace's (crew chief Ed McCulloch) eyes. We knew they were going to probably run a 4.70 flat, more than likely. Conditions cooled off. And the Brut Revolution Dodge didn't do anything out of the ordinary. We got out there, and it pulled [the tires] loose way out there. So, it was very surprising."

THE JINX IS STILL ALIVE - Fortunes in drag racing can often change in a blink of the eye.

Such was the case for Mike Ashley. On Saturday, the New York native was on top of the world after qualifying No. 1 and making the fastest pass in Funny Car history.

 The story was completely different on Sunday. Ashley suffered a first-round loss when his Skull Gear/Torco Racing Fuels Dodge Charger suffered a dropped cylinder and slowed to a 5.106 in a loss to No. 16 Jack Beckman, who won with a 4.775.

"That's racing," Ashley said. "Let's face it, when you pull to the starting line, someone will win, someone will lose. I always expect to win, but I know that sometimes it just doesn't work that way. This sport is very humbling. One second you're the Sat_summit_tim 261.jpgfastest car in the world, the next second you just can't get down the track. Ups and downs - just like life,"

BECKMAN IS FAST AGAIN - All is right with Jack Beckman again.

 The Southern California native, who bumped John Force out of the 16-car field and ended the 14-time champion's 395-race qualifying streak on Saturday, enjoyed his best race of the season by upsetting top-qualifier Mike Ashley in the first round en route to his first semifinal of the season. Beckman's day ended with a loss to teammate Ron Capps in that race.

"It's a big sigh of relief to have our hot rod back," Beckman said. "It's a huge confidence boost and that's what we need."
Ron Capps, already a top-notch Funny Car driver, showed his prowess on the oval Saturday night at The Bullring in Las Vegas.

The Carlsbad resident won the eight-lap match race, beating fellow nitro coupe drivers Gary Scelzi, Cruz Pedregon and Tommy Johnson Jr.


ANOTHER RACE, ANOTHER WIN FOR ANDERSON - No Pro Stock competitor has had more success at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway than Greg Anderson.

FRIDAY NIGHT 2-13 LV 061.jpg Sunday was more of the same as the three-time POWERade Series champion fought off what he called a sluggish run in the first round, to score his third victory of the season and his fifth career win at The Strip.

"The win is the bottom line at the end of the day, but I sure didn't think it was going to happen at the beginning of the day," said Anderson, who used a 6.724 to beat top qualifier Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the final. "We struggled through qualifying, and couldn't quite get a handle on the race track and the tune-up. We found something late Saturday, and came out Sunday and we lost a grip on it again when the weather changed."

That put Anderson slightly behind the eight ball. But rather than pout after losing lane choice for the second round, he just decided to get back to work, both on the setup and his driving ability.

It showed as he used an 0.003 light to defeat Richie Stevens in the second round before holding his own, giving up just .002 off the line in a semifinal victory over Dave Connolly. He then had more than enough horsepower to defeat Coughlin, who could just muster 6.758 in the final.

"The big part of this deal is confidence, and its hard to do that when you have a little adversity," Anderson said. "It took about a miracle (against Stevens), and somehow we got one. I guess someone was looking out for me.

"It was a tough, tough day. It was a tough chore, and somehow we got the win."

YATES SCORES MILESTONE - Veteran Jim Yates, who won back-to-back titles in the 1990s, scored his 400th career round victory when he defeated Erica Enders in the first round. Yates day ended in the second round when he red-lit against runner-up Coughlin.

"That's a big accomplishment," said Yates, who seemed to be more concerned with giving one up against Coughlin. "We gave it our best shot. I was happy with what we accomplished this weekend, but I'm not happy with the red light. We will be testing before our next race in Atlanta (in two weeks) and I will be working on my reaction times."

RIGHT LANE TROUBLES - The consensus lane of choice Sunday proved to be the on the left side of the race track. Of the 15 elimination races contested in Pro Stock, 12 wins came via the left lane and of the three drivers to win from the right side, one came virtue of a red-light start.

"There's at least a (hundredths of a second) difference," said Allen Johnson, driver of the Johnson and Johnson Mopar Dodge. "You are definitely giving something up on (the right) side of the race track."

Greg Anderson didn't dispute that assumption. But he also said you have to make do.

"It's a struggle going down that right lane," Anderson said. "But you gotta figure it out.

"It's certainly not a bad lane, but you do give up about a hundredth of a second. Why, I don't know. Maybe it's the timing clocks."



a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website




Jim Head beat Ashley Force in the second round, but it wasn't before experiencing this nasty boomer. (Marty Reger photo)



a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website



The eighth annual Summitracing.com Nationals will be defined not by who races Sunday, but rather who doesn't.

The sport’s top two qualifying streaks came crashing down at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as Funny Car's John Force and Top Fuel's Doug Kalitta failed to qualify for the fifth event on the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series tour.

Force had made the 16-car field in the past 395 events he entered, while Kalitta's streak ended at 164 races.

"I had opportunities just like everyone else," said Force, who was bumped from the field when Jack Beckman drove his MTS Dodge Charger to a 4.837 pass at 321.73 mph. "We didn't get the job done - it's that simple."

Force, who last failed to qualify for a NHRA race at the World Finals in 1987, began the final session on the No. 16 bump spot. But he put his Castrol Ford Mustang back into the field with a steady 4.852. He then watched both Tim Wilkerson and Jerry Toliver fail to bump him out before Beckman put himself in the field with his 4.83 run.

But Force, who is still dealing with the tragic death of team driver Eric Medlen last month, put it all in perspective. He also noted that his daughter, Ashley Force (No. 4 at 4.748), and son-in-law Robert Hight (No. 2 at 4.740) would carry the team banner on Sunday.

"I'm good," he said. "There are bigger things in life that I've faced and missed, so has John Medlen. This is only a little stepping-stone. We've been climbing mountains lately.

"I don't let myself get down in these situations. I will come out tomorrow and root the kids on and hope we can get a win. We'll take a little look at our hot rod and probably test here on Monday and get her ready for Atlanta. I just want to get out of here with a safe race.

"If you can take the accolades when you're on top, that's easy. But if you can put up with it when you're beat in the dirt then it shows what you are made of. And right now, my whole team's been beat up. But we're just going to rally them. Bottom line, I've got no complaints. I thank the sport, I thank the fans, I thank the media and I thank God. I love this job and there's not a better job in the world."

The light at the end of the tunnel for Force was when he saw his daughter make the quickest pass of her young career with a 4.74 that put her in the No. 4 position.

"That meant everything to see her run that number," Force said. "She's my baby. All my daughters are my babies, and Robert is my baby and Eric was my baby. I let her know that her 'ol man's smiling."


Said Beckman: "I apologize to all the John Force fans, but we came here to get the car in."


Kalitta also suffered the same heartbreak after he failed to qualify for the first time since the 2000 season. He was bumped out when J.R. Todd made a 4.618 run. Kalitta's quickest pass of the weekend was a 4.641.

"It’s terribly disappointing, but no one here will hold their head down," Kalitta said. "We didn’t make it, and that’s that. We just had a bad weekend. It happens, and we’ll move on. I really think this will just make us a lot stronger. We’ll be okay."

Said Todd: "I hated to bump out Doug. But it's cutthroat out here. I needed this, because the stress level was unbelievable."


They weren't the best two runs in Tony Schumacher's POWERade Series career, but the four-time NHRA champion is optimistic despite making two aborted runs on Saturday.

"Well, I think I just went 12 feet, total (Saturday)," said Schumacher, who will face No. 16 Todd after taking the pole with the 4.479 he ran on Friday. "But (crew chief) Alan (Johnson) is the type of guy who can learn something from two runs like that. Unlike a lot of teams, it will be as useful for him as if we went down the track.

"I don't care if I qualify No. 1 or No. 16, as long as I'm going to the race track (with the U.S. Army team).

"It's going to be a fun race. Is going to be a battle."

Tony Schumacher, winner of the past three POWERade Series Top Fuel championships, showed Friday that he can also turn left. The Chicago resident spent the down time during Friday's qualifying by making laps at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at the Richard Petty Experience. The veteran Top Fuel driver said he has no plans to switch fulltime to oval racing, but that he will compete in two NASCAR Grand National West Series events for famed Bill McAnally Racing.

"I just want to learn," Schumacher said. "It's just so different. I've run Formula Fords at Skip Barber's school. But it so different. Every word, everything you do is the opposite of what we do.

"I'll give you one example. I pulled in the pit and (the instructor) told me, 'you have a left tire going down. I want you to pull in the pit and line up with me." It doesn't get any clearer than that. I pulled in and the guy keeps moving towards the wall, so I just keep moving with him, because I used to lining up the nose of my car with him. Then he jumps over the wall. Then it hit me; he meant the side of the car.

"It's just a whole different thing. I told them, 'Guys, I go 330 mph and I'm good at doing that. Well, I can drive a stock car, going 180 mph. But what my mind is used to doing, and what this car is capable of doing, are two different things. I told them, 'Just teach me.' But believe it or not, learning to drive in that car, will make me better driving (in Top Fuel)."

STILL ON CLOUD 9 - A day later, Brady Kalivoda was still marveling over Friday night's career-best run of 4.490 at 329.83 mph that put him in the No. 2 hole for Sunday's Summitracing.com Nationals.

"My cheeks are literally hurting from smiling so much," said Kalivoda, whose Coghlan Motorsports team decided to skip Saturday's afternoon session. "I'm a smiley guy. I smile a lot, but to make a run like that is outstanding."

Especially after Kalivoda, who hadn't driven in NHRA competition in nearly two years, wasn't sure what he ran.

"As a cool as it was to run a (4.49), I just get to stand on the throttle," Kalivoda said. "I knew it was on good run, a really good run, but I didn't know how much of that sensation was as a result of having not been in a car in two years. But as it turned out, I shouldn't have been surprised because (crew chief) Keith Adams said (before) it was going to run a 4.49."

- Whit Bazemore, who made the move to Top Fuel this year after nearly 20 years competing in the Funny Car class, made another historic, run after dipping into the 4.4 range with a solid 4.498 pass. He stayed in the No. 4 spot and will face Cory McClenathan in the first round.

"(Crew chief) Lee (Beard) and the guys are doing a tremendous job," Bazemore said. "Lee feels that I can handle some horsepower so he’s finally turning the wick up. We have a car that can win. Basically, it’s up to me to get us in the winner’s circle. That’s the challenge. We have to dig deep and make all those things happen tomorrow.

"The performance of the car is great, but the most important thing is that I’m excited to be here and want to race. That wasn’t the case at Houston at the last race. There’s too much risk if you don’t love it. This weekend proved to me that I still do, and that’s the most important thing. Anytime there’s a tragedy, it forces you to re-think your commitment."

Doug Herbert's early-season struggles continued during qualifying for Sunday's Summitracing.com Nationals.

The veteran has yet to win a round of racing and now has failed to qualify for the past two events.

"We’re frustrated," Herbert said, "But we're determined. We know we are better than this, and we’re going to fix it. We’ll spend time testing on Monday to get things figured out. Then we’ll head to Atlanta ready to race and ready to win."


The third time was the charm for Mike Ashley, who after twice coming up short after earning the provisional pole, will start from the No. 1 position after earning the top spot with a 4.725 at 334.32 mph he ran on Friday.

"I'm very humbled (to qualify No. 1), but at the same time it's very satisfying to see," said Ashley, who faces No. 16 Jack Beckman in the first round. "When you put a group together like we have, you have a vision that you can make things happen. And we made things happen."

But he also knows Sunday will be a new day.

"I think, with what's forecast for tomorrow, you're going to have to run 4.70s all day," Ashley said. "I think our car can run 4.60s, like anyone else can. I'm not saying we can run 4.65, but a .68, .69 is doable."

Q POWER - Saturday's afternoon session could have been nervous time for veteran Tony Pedregon. The Southern California native had struggled all weekend and was out of the 16-car field going into the final session. But Pedregon responded with a stout 4.763 to move into the No. 5 position. Pedregon, who missed the field at this event last season, will face Kenny Bernstein in the first round.

"It was just about believing in your product," said the driver of the Q Racing Chevy Monte Carlo. "It's tough, and there was some pressure, but I believe in the team I've assembled. I had faith in my guys, and I knew if it went halfway, it would go all the way."

, BUT MAKES PROGRESS – Jerry Toliver didn't qualify for Sunday's Summitracing.com Nationals, but he did show he can get his Rockstar Toyota Solara down the race track after making a 4.859 pass during Saturday's first session.

The veteran was on the outside of the 16-car field when he made his pass in the final session. But he failed to make the field after smoking the tires just past the 330-foot mark.

- Steve Macklyn, who nearly burned his Pontiac Firebird to the ground on Friday night, returned to make two passes on Saturday. He backpedaled twice before settling for a 6.324 in the first session. He then made a steady 5.079 in the afternoon session.


Jeg Coughlin Jr., a two-time Pro Stock champion, continued his recent success and earned his second consecutive pole with the 4.733 pass he made on Friday. But more importantly, Coughlin and Victor Cagnazzi Racing teammate Dave Connolly stayed ahead of KB Racing stalwarts Greg Anderson and Jason Line, who have combined to win the past four POWERade Series titles.

"We have a great one-two punch," said Coughlin, who will face Max Naylor in the first round. "Greg threw out quite a number (6.737) in the final session, but we're going to have a great day (Sunday).

"I feel great starting from the pole. This is outstanding. There's really been no stone un-turned, from our chassis shop to our engine builders. They've been doing a great job. We're trying to get up there to run with the KB cars. They've had a little head start the past couple years. But we're sneaking up on them. Dave and I will do the best we can driving and hopefully we make the right calls on setups and can win four rounds tomorrow."

Greg Anderson may not begin Sunday's Summitracing.com Nationals from the pole, but he showed Saturday he's still on top of his game, after scoring the best run of the day with a 6.737. He just missed the No. 1 position, which went to Coughlin's 6.733.

"It was a good run. We carried the wheels like the jelly bean guy," said Anderson, referring to Ed "the Outlaw" Jones in his wheel standing-fire truck, sponsored by Jelly Belly. "We struggled through three sessions that weren’t up to our par and this last run was a confidence builder for this KB Racing team.

"In those three sessions we were having issues and making mistakes. It’s not a comfortable feeling going into Sunday when you’re making mistakes. It’s good to know you finally made the right move and went the right direction. That will give us something to tune this Summit Pontiac from for tomorrow. At least now we figured out how to do it. We have to be on our game tomorrow and not make a mistake."

Bill Windham, who was unhurt after nearly flipping his car during a pass on Friday, did not make any passes in either of Saturday's qualifying sessions. The National Tire and Battery Chevy Cobalt was removed from competition by the team as a precautionary move.

"That was only my second qualifying run in the car . . . and I made a rookie mistake," Windham said. "We had a problem at the starting line and that distracted me. The tires hooked up and the car got out of the groove on the left side.

"I didn’t touch the brake once. The instincts from when I drove the Formula car took over and I kept turning the wheel to prevent it from rolling over . . . and it worked. I was happy nothing got damaged, but I feel bad for our sponsors. We wanted to be in the show this weekend."

a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website





FRIDAY 2-13 FIRST ROUND PS,FC LAS VEGAS 102.jpgThis could be a difficult weekend for John Force Racing, which is competing in its first event since the tragic death of Force driver Eric Medlen, who died from injuries suffered in a testing crash last month.

But Force said Friday that the NHRA community of drivers, crew members and team owners, as well as the fans, have made it much easier.

"These are all my friends," Force said. "It shows that NHRA is a real family. We are going to stick together and get through this.

"I'm excited to get back to business and give props to my sponsors like Castrol and Mac Tools...I'm just glad to be here."

The Force team put on a solid performance in its first day back. Robert Hight qualified second on Friday with a 4.740, with Ashley Force fourth at 4.793. John Force, who had the top spot in Friday's afternoon session, is No. 14 at 4.888.

The team returned to competition after making several changes to their Murf McKinney chassis, including the addition of significant amounts of additional padding around the helmet area and new safety R-3-type seven-point harnesses.

Force’s early grade on the changes was very positive. "I haven't crashed yet," Force said. "But right now, I would say an A+."


Friday_Summit_tim 715.jpg ANOTHER NO. 1 FOR SCHUMACHER - Three-time defending Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher qualified at the top of the list 13 times last season. He continued that success Friday after taking the No. 1 position with a pass of 4.479 seconds at 329.83 mph.

"It was fine," Schumacher said. "All last year I joked that qualifying No. 1 doesn't win races, doesn't win championships. But we won the championship by 16 points, and technically it came from qualifying No. 1. I will never complain about qualifying No. 1 again.

"I'm happy. (Crew chief) Alan Johnson's happy. It's cool."

Joe Hartley proved two weeks ago he can indeed run with the big boys. Now, fresh his first Top Fuel final at Houston, he’s seeking more. He wants a race win.

"I would love to get one of those Wallys," Hartley said. "We got a taste by going to that final (at the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals in Baytown, Texas). We don't know if we'll ever get that opportunity Friday_Summit_tim 702.jpgagain, but yes, (a race win) is one of our goals."

Hartley is currently No. 8 with a 4.559.

Brady Kalivoda wasn't on the top of the E.T. charts when Friday qualifying wrapped up, but the Phoenix resident was still all smiles.

Kalivoda scored a career-best run after making a 4.490 second pass at 329.83 mph in the evening session.

"Yeah, baby! My job is easy," an enthusiastic Kalivoda said when informed of the career-best pass. "(Crew chief) Keith Adams and the crew do all the work. I just get to drive it."

Whit Bazemore, who is in his first season FRIDAY NIGHT 2-13 LV 042.jpgdriving in Top Fuel after nearly 20 years in Funny Car, also scored a career-best pass with a 4.501. He is currently in the No. 4 position.

JR Todd, winner of two races this season and No. 2 in points, is currently not qualified after only being able to muster a 4.671 pass on Friday. Doug Kalitta, who finished second in points last season, is on the bump at 4.651.

The list of non-qualifiers also includes Doug Herbert and Melanie Troxel.


No competitor is closer to the John Force Racing team than Tony Pedregon. The Southern California native drove for Force for eight seasons before leaving to form his own team prior to the 2004 season.

So it's no surprise that Pedregon's thoughts are still with his former team, which is making its first POWERade Series event since the tragic death of Force driver Eric Medlen.

"There's still a piece of me over there," said Pedregon, who was hired to drive Force's second car in 1996, the same year Medlen joined the crew. "I'm no different than anyone else. I'm a very emotional person, and I understood John's decision to (skip the O'Reilly Spring Nationals near Houston two weeks ago). You look how this sport has evolved, and we have obligations. We're in the business to deliver for these companies. It was very special for me that his sponsors understood, and even I got e-mails and text messages from my sponsors, who are (Castrol's) competitors.

"That was real touching to me. It kind of put my head in the right place. My opinion is that it was time for John to come back. I respect him for sitting out a race, but (team Force) is driven by certain things and John Medlen was on a mission to make things better, and a lot of what they did (with the changes to the Funny Car chassis) we'll make it lot better for all of us."

Pedregon says he will make the same changes following the completion of this race.

"We're already scheduled," he said. "Our chassis goes right to Murf McKinney's (shop in Indiana) after the event."

Friday_Summit_tim 687.jpg BEEN THERE, DONE THAT - Mike Ashley has qualified No. 1 on Friday night before. He hopes the third time will indeed be the charm after taking the Funny Car provisional pole Friday night with a very stout 4.725 at a mind-boggling 334.32 mph, the fastest Funny Car speed in NHRA history.

"Torco Fuel is the baddest fuel in the land," said Ashley, who has never qualified on the pole. "I know we got what it takes.

"I'm just really proud of my team. This is a whole new world for me, forming and owning my own team. We put this together and I think we have a pretty solid program."

But can he stay No. 1 by the close of qualifying on Saturday?

"If the conditions stay the same as tonight, this won't hold," Ashley said. "But I don't think they will. It's going to get hotter.

"I want to win a race for (sponsor Evan Knoll), who has stood by me. Qualifying No. 1 is a step up for our program, now we have to back it up with four round wins on Sunday."

- Robert Hight scored the No. 2 spot on Friday after running a solid 4.740 in the evening session. He achieved the elapsed time despite shutting it off just past the 1,000-foot mark.

"It was running hard," Hight said. "I got oil all over the windshield, so I clicked it early."

FRIDAY 2-13 FIRST ROUND PS,FC LAS VEGAS 057.jpg TOLIVER RETURNS - It wasn't exactly a triumphal return to nitro coupe racing for Jerry Toliver, but the POWERade Series veteran wasn't exactly complaining, either.

Toliver, driving the Rockstar Energy Drink Toyota Solara, shook the tires hard near the 330-foot marker and slowed to an 11.974 pass during Friday's first qualifying session. He smoked the tires just past the 330-foot mark in Friday's second session, improving slightly with a 10.15 run.

But no one knows more than Toliver that baby steps are required before you can run. He knows success will take time.

"It feels great to be back," Toliver said. "I just wish we had the time to test (before coming to this weekend's event). We just got our license and here we are. So we're behind the curve a bit, but we'll get it figured out. We'll come up with our baseline and go from there."

Jon Capps, the younger brother of Funny Car veteran Ron Capps, made a successful start to his own career in the nitro coupes, making a 4.995 second pass at 296.63 mph and taking the No. 6 position in Friday's first qualifying session. He is currently on the bump.

Funny Car drivers Tommy Johnson Jr., Ron Capps, Cruz Pedregon, and Gary Scelzi will see if they are just as adapt at driving Thunder Roadsters as they are at handling an 8,000-horsepower nitro coupe. The foursome is slated to compete in a 'special' match race Saturday night at The Bullring, which is adjacent to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"It's going to be a heckuva race," Capps said.

Scelzi hopes to win, but he also knows what to do if he doesn't, especially if Capps scores the win.

"I'm sure it's going to be a good race," a joking Scelzi said. "If we can't beat (Capps), we'll beat him up after the race."

Gates open at 5 p.m. with the first of several races on tap beginning at 7 p.m.


jegs_friday_edited-1.jpg ONE-TWO CAGNAZZI PUNCH - Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Dave Connolly, who both run out of the Victor Cagnazzi Racing operation, took the top two spots during Friday's qualifying.

Coughlin, who joined the team last fall, is No. 1 with a 6.733, while Connolly fell into the No. 2 hole with an identical 6.733. Coughlin takes the provisional pole due to his better speed of 204.26 mph, compared to 203.49 mph.

"This is a real tribute to the engine shop and the chassis shop as well," Coughlin said. "It's really exciting.

"It would be very exciting if we could stay (Nos. 1 and 2). It would be an optimum spot. But we're not getting ahead of ourselves. But we have two bad hot rods and we're going to do our best to keep them up front."

Ken Black, the man behind the KB Racing team's recent dominance of the Pro Stock class, was honored by Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the Las Vegas Chapter of Speedway Children's Charities during the second annual Mel Larson Night of Champions dinner at the Belagio Hotel and Casino on Wednesday.

"This has been a big week for Ken," said KB Racing driver Greg Anderson, who has won three of the past four Pro Stock titles and 41 national events since 2003. "I can't think of a guy who deserves it more."

This weekend, Anderson hopes to honor Black in his own way - by winning the Summitracing.com Nationals.

"We've had a lot of success here," said Anderson, who has won four times at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway since 2003. "But we haven't won here (the past two years). We hope to change that."

Justin Humphreys' first competitive pass in Pro Stock competition didn't quite go as planned. The Maryland resident, who has teamed with engine guru Richard Maskin, shook the tires on the hit of the throttle during Friday's first qualifying session and coasted to the finish line in a very sub-par 25.567 at 26.58 mph.

Humphreys improved in the second session Friday, bumping in the No. 16 spot with a steady 6.803.


a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website



BILL’S WILD RIDE - Bill Windham was unhurt after nearly flipping his car during a pass in Friday's evening session.

Windham, from El Dorado Hills, Calif., got loose just before halftrack. The car then slid across the centerline, nearly flipping, but Windham was able to bring back under control. 

a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website





J_Todd.jpgHOLLYWOOD TODD - J.R. Todd’s emotional victory at Houston provided all the drama and emotion a Hollywood movie could produce. But it was a fitting conclusion to a month that had tested his resolve.

Todd did win the season-opening Winternationals but was taken aback – as were Tuttle and the rest of the crew – when their crew chief departed after two races. And the death of Todd’s close friend Eric Medlen cast a pall that still hangs over the sport.

But there is the April 1 triumph at Houston Raceway Park that helped brighten everyone’s spirits. No one expected the team – with newcomer Johnny West and Tuttle sharing tuning duties – to rebound like Yao Ming sweeping the NBA backboards.

“We weren’t all that outstanding at Houston,” Todd recalled, “but we were just consistent the way we ran. We were locked into running low 4.60s (seconds) and getting down the track. If you do that every round you are making the car running next to you run better than that. We didn’t overpower the track and didn’t get crazy with the tune-up. Sometimes that’s what it takes.

“The last time we were at Las Vegas we were in the final round. Hopefully we can continue our success at the track. I never doubted Dexter or Johnny; I just felt it would take a lot longer to get our car dialed in than what it did. I was really glad to get that win considering everything that happened with the crew changes we had. I definitely wanted to win it for Eric. I was emotionally drained at the end of the day.”

B_Bernstein.jpg UNFINISHED BUSINESS - Brandon Bernstein isn’t different from Houston race winner Todd in seeking a win in the memory of his fallen friend – Eric Medlen. He hopes this weekend provides that opportunity.

“Eric loved life and he loved racing,” said Bernstein. “I miss Eric terribly at the race track. Sometimes I still expect him to come walking through the pits with that big grin he always had. But when I’m driving the Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster, I have a picture of me with him and our good friend (Top Fuel driver) J.R. Todd taped in the cockpit. It helps me feel closer to Eric, almost as if he’s riding along with me.

“I still have a storm of emotions about being at the racetrack. On one hand, there’s a big void because Eric’s not there. On the other hand, there’s some camaraderie with being around our group of friends.

“The next race we are fortunate enough to win will be dedicated to Eric. I know our whole team feels the same way.”

ON DISPLAY - Bernstein and his father will display the New York-New York Hotel & Casino logos on their race cars, the official Las Vegas hotel of Kenny Bernstein Racing. “Our team especially enjoys the restaurants and ‘The Roller Coaster’ in the Big Apple of Las Vegas,” said Bernstein. “It’s like having a little of Vegas’ Lady Luck riding along with you.”

M_Troxel.jpgONE TRACK MIND – Defending event champion Melanie Troxel has only one thing on her mind -- to repeat and take home the crown again of one of NHRA's more prestigious events on the tour.

Troxel already has one 2007 final round appearance at Phoenix and knows her Vietnam Veterans POW/MIA dragster, led by crew chief, Richard Hogan is clearly capable of matching her 2006 performance.

"I feel that Las Vegas is one of everyone's favorite races of the year," said Troxel, who has made 12 final round appearances. "The facilities are beautiful and that track has been really good to both me and my husband, Tommy, who has won there several times himself and us winning there last year."

Her march to the 2006 title included defeating David Baca, her present teammate, Morgan Lucas, Doug Kalitta, and in the finals David Grubnic.

"As a driver you have places where things work out for you, but there isn't any actual advantage you have, but you do well in certain places," said Troxel.

"Certainly, the biggest part of our performance comes from Richard's abilities. He does seem to have a very good setup for this Vegas racetrack. We have historically run better at the cold weather tracks. We're seeing our performance stepping up with our No. 2 qualifying spot at the last race (Houston) and we're in the perfect position to breakthrough with another win."

C_McClenathan.jpgPAYING ATTENTION EARLY - In 15 full seasons of Top Fuel competition, Cory McClenathan has not paid much attention to his position in the points this early in the season. Until now.

And, as he heads into Vegas -- McClenathan says simply: “We need to start winning rounds on Sunday. It’s important that we get into the top eight as soon as possible.”

McClenathan comes to town three places out of eighth. He’s only four points shy of the top 10, but that won’t make any difference when it comes to the sprint for the big trophy and check.

In an effort to pick up the car’s performance, the Carriers -- Andy and Mark -- are bringing in respected clutch expert John Stewart for this race.

“This will give Wes Cerny (crew chief) and Tony Shortall (assistant crew chief) another set of eyes,” McClenathan said. “Wes and Tony have a good combination but they have some issues in the clutch area. Stewart has a lot of experience working in the bell housing. I think he can help us run more consistently. And when we do that, we will start winning more rounds.
“Stewie is a good friend of mine. I asked if he would come and help us this weekend and he agreed.”

McClenathan’s best showing at The Strip is runner-up in 2002.

H_Will.jpgONE FOR THE BOSS - Hillary Will has spent a lot of time at both testing and in competition at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. She has a good reason for doing so.

"I'm so glad to be going back to Las Vegas Motor Speedway,” said Will. “For me, it seems like it's my home track. It is the home track of our team owners, Ken, Judy, and Kenny Black, so a win at LVMS would be extra special. The Black Family has been so supportive since the formation of our team in late 2005. My crew chief, Jim Oberhofer, my other teammates and I always discuss how thankful we are to have them for team owners. We know we are very fortunate.”

Will has experienced both highs and low at LVMS but knows that a win here would take on added meaning.

“We suffered what could have been a season-ending disaster two and a half months ago at Las Vegas Motor Speedway before our season even started,” recalled Will. “We lost every piece of our dragster in a horrific preseason testing crash. However, we never lost the unwavering support of the Black Family and we never lost our determination to win.

“We have run well at the Vegas track in the past and I have had some success here before. I got my first national event win here in 2005 in my top alcohol dragster. I am confident that my KB Racing Top Fuel team can get our first NHRA win at LVMS this weekend."

M_Lucas.jpg NEW ATTITUDE - Morgan Lucas has a new crew chief and a new racing philosophy.

Lucas brought on board veteran crew chief and tuner, Rahn Tobler to his Lucas Oil Top Fuel team with the idea of propelling his operation into the NHRA Countdown to the Championship. With Las Vegas being the fifth event of the young season, Lucas realizes he has only 11 races to get back in the top eight and although he's mired in 14th in the standings, knew a change had to be made.

"We needed to develop a strategy to get us back in the points chase," said Lucas. "Rahn shares our thinking in winning races. We're here to win championships and need to make up some lost ground to gain access into the NHRA POWERade Countdown to the Championship. It's very important to us to make to the inaugural elite class.

"Our philosophy now is to improve our qualifying efforts more consistently which we hope will enable better results on Sunday. Las Vegas will be a great place to do all that. It's a perfect place with great media coverage, tremendous fans and a race we all want to win."

R_Fuller.jpgHE’S THE MAN – Yep, "Hot Rod" Fuller is the man. A Las Vegas resident, Fuller enters the eighth annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals atop the POWERade Top Fuel standings.

“I’m coming home as the points leader and that was my goal coming into the season," Fuller said. "It’s always cool to come back home, but leading the points is really cool. I’m excited that the Silverton Casino is helping us out. That’s my local place and I’m excited to work with them. My goal is to win this race. We did well last fall. I want to win this race really badly, even more than Indy.”

Fuller has advanced to at least the semifinals at six of the last eight races, with one victory (Phoenix 2007) and two runner-up finishes (Dallas and Richmond 2006).

HELL ON WHEELS - Having experienced somewhat of a roller coaster season to date, U.S. Army Top Fuel driver, Tony Schumacher, will look to get back to his winning ways this weekend.

Schumacher has collected a win (at the ACDelco Gatornationals last month), a semifinal round appearance and a couple of first round losses during the early portion of the 2007 schedule.

“We just haven’t been able to establish any consistency as yet,” said the Chicago native, who was taken out in the opening round at Houston Raceway Park by Brandon Bernstein two weeks ago. “I’m confident we’re going to get better as time moves along.”

Schumacher will be hoping the success formula that he’s utilized the last three years at The Strip will carry over into ’07. He has three wins to his credit at the state-of-the-art drag strip, one of which that came at the spring event in 2004.
“It’s a wonderful facility with a great racing surface,” he offered. “Since we started going out there in 2000, there have been a lot of terrific performances turned in.”

W_Bazemore.jpgABOUT FACE – It’s full steam ahead for Whit Bazemore.

I’m looking forward to the Vegas race," Bazemore said. "I want to get back to racing where I love it. We thought about Eric Medlen a lot at Houston and it wasn’t a fun place to be. I want to get back to racing in a good place. We’ve got a good car and a good team. We’re going to go there with an aggressive state of mind. That’s what it takes to be successful. I’m excited to go to Vegas.”

Bazemore enters the Las Vegas race ranked fourth in the POWERade standings. He trails teammate and points leader Rod Fuller by 47 points.
At the last race, Bazemore earned his 30th career pole by driving to a run of 4.514 seconds at Houston. He became the 15th driver in NHRA history to qualify No. 1 in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.



R_Capps.jpgSIBLING SENTIMENTS – Ron Capps enters this weekend’s event following back-to-back season victories, the same as in 2006, and will be watching over his brother Jon as he makes his professional Funny Car debut at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Capps will not be distracted, however, from focusing on maintaining his win streak, something he wasn't able to cash in on at last year's event, where he was runner-up to Cruz Pedregon.

"We were on a two-race winning streak, kind of like we are on right now," said Capps, whose best career win streak is two in a row. "We almost made it three in a row.

"Right now it's a very, very eerie feeling as far as the points go. We won Gainesville and Houston last year and went into Las Vegas with the possibility of going three in a row and we made it all the way to the final round and lost to Cruz Pedregon. I think Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) is still kicking himself for going into tire smoke in that round. We hadn't smoked the tires in so long at that point.

"There was a lot on the line at the time. We were starting to extend the points lead out and here we are again in kind of the same boat," added Capps, 83 points ahead of Tony Pedregon after four events. "I know we have the Countdown to the Championship to look forward to and being in the top eight. I tell you, the more and more we get into the season, the more difficult it looks to get into that top eight. It's not going to be an easy task at all.

"Ace had told me early in the season that all we can do is show up at each race and try to win every race, and all the points will come with it. That's the plan right now.

"Vegas is going to be a strange weekend. We definitely missed racing against the John Force team in Houston. They're going to come back and they have a mission. They have a mission not only to get into the Countdown, but there's a lot of inspiration and a lot of emotion that's going to be going on with John Force Racing. I can tell you, we're all glad to have them back and it's going to be nice to get back to some kind of normalcy, although it will never be the same without Eric Medlen.

"It's also going to be an exciting event because I have my brother debuting in the professional Funny Car class. When we won in Gainesville, we ran against (Jon's crew chief) Paul Smith in the final round (with Phil Burkart driving), and that's the car Jon is driving. It's his hometown and some big things are happening for him. He's worked his tail off, and I kind of feel like a parent. I'm going to have a little bit of a distraction going to the starting line and watching my brother run."

Capps is still seeking his first Funny Car championship.

C_Pedregon.jpgSTARTING POINT – For Cruz Pedregon, a ninth place finish in the 2006 Funny Car points began with a win in Las Vegas.

“Our Advance Auto Parts Team is really excited about going back to The Strip at Las Vegas,” said Pedregon. “We won this event last year and I’d like nothing better for this team than a return trip to the Winner’s Circle.”

Coming off a final round appearance at the Spring Nationals in Houston, it’s clear the Advance Auto Parts team is focused on consistent performance necessary to achieve victory.

“We really feel like we’ve turned the corner, “said Pedregon of his team’s performance. “All the hard work by our entire team is starting to pay off. Our crew chief, Wayne Depuy, is the best in the business and I am confident he’ll continue to give us what it takes to win.”

bgw_3477.jpgYEAH, HE'S A ROCK STAR - Some guys just have that rock star mentality.

Fast driving, fast talking Jerry Toliver is eager to take his seat in the new nitromethane-fueled ROCKSTAR Energy Drink Toyota. If nothing else, it means the warp-speed preparations and testing of the past month are over and now he and the team can concentrate on running races and winning rounds on Sunday.

“I am really looking forward to getting back into NHRA POWERade Series competition,” said Toliver, who is returning after a two-year absence with ROCKSTAR Energy Drink as his primary sponsor. “The ROCKSTAR team is ready to go. We have been operating at a 24/7 pace just to get here but, we finally got over all the hurdles. Now it’s time to race and I couldn’t be more excited. The staff at ROCKSTAR has been very supportive and great to work with. Now it is my job to put them on the podium.”

Coming back with him is legendary crew chief Dale Armstrong, who served in the same capacity with Toliver from 1998-2001 when they were sponsored by the World Wrestling Federation (now Entertainment). His finest season was 2000 when he gave John Force a season-long title tussle before finishing third. He won three times in seven final rounds. His first race win came in 1999 and he added another in 2004, when he drove the Schick Quattro razors Toyota.

“We have a very talented group of guys, headed by Dale Armstrong,” said Toliver. “He knows how to do his deal. We would’ve liked to have had more testing time, but I’ll be honest with you, it felt good to get back in the car. I was comfortable in it and I think I drove well in testing.

“Maybe because it was my second time coming back (after a two-year layoff), but driving a Funny Car is just like riding a bicycle. You just get back in there and do it. I’m a little rusty and have been walking myself through each pass mentally. It’s extremely important not to forget the proper sequence of things to do in the cockpit, but that will improve with every lap. One thing I can say is you never stop learning how to drive a Fuel Funny car. These cars are animals and it’s truly a challenge each time you go down the track”.

“We are looking forward to running on a good racetrack. We finished testing at Tucson earlier in the week and, unfortunately, that track couldn’t hold our horsepower.”

G_Scelzi.jpgSPRING BACK, FALL FORWARD - Gary Scelzi has done quite well at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the majority of his successes coming in the fall event and not in the spring.

Scelzi, who has three Top Fuel championships and one Funny Car crown under his belt, was the 2004 Funny Car winner at The Strip in the fall, and runner-up in 2005 (from No. 1). His only triumph at the first Las Vegas event of the season was qualifying No. 1 in 2005. Driving the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger R/T for Don Schumacher Racing, he's looking to change that at this weekend's SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals.

"We always do well at at the October race at Las Vegas," said Scelzi, winner at the season-opener in Pomona, Calif., this year. "The first race of the year in Vegas hasn't always been that good. We don't really understand why. The conditions are very similar, the race track is fabulous. We absolutely love going there, because the race track doesn't fall off as bad when the sun comes out.

"It's one of those race tracks that, yes, you have to be cautious when the sun is on it, but not as cautious as at the majority of the race tracks where we go when there's sun.

"We're excited about going there; we've done well there in the past. And with two first-round losses and a second-round loss this season (following the victory in Pomona), we need to break that jinx and get ourselves in the final."

2-1.jpgNOT A BULL IN A CHINA SHOP, IT’S AN IMPALA - It's slightly bigger, far more "swoopy," clearly designed to go fast, and this Chevy Impala is brand new. It also has an odd little sunroof, no doors of any kind, and it belongs to Del Worsham, who plans to race it this weekend. The debut of the new Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Impala will mark the end of Team CSK's three-year run with the Monte Carlo.

The Impala arrived at Worsham Racing's headquarters about a month ago, and is now mounted, painted, and ready for vinyl graphics. The design of the new body is the result of extensive wind tunnel testing, and it's quite a departure from the Monte Carlo, which was radical in its own right back in 2004. Worsham is excited to get his new piece on the track, and he believes the new body will help his team make the move to the next level, as they compete for a spot in the NHRA "Countdown" playoff field.

"The Monte Carlo was pretty cool when it first came out, and it's been a great car for three years," Worsham said. "During that time, though, the other manufacturers out here have gotten a leg up on us, and our car was looking more and more like yesterday's news. The new Impala is really something, and it's going to be quite a bit different to drive, I imagine. Tommy Johnson got the first one, at the beginning of the season, and he said the first thing he noticed was that it's a bit easier to see out of. It's going to be interesting, and hopefully it's going to be fast.

"You can walk around the car and clearly see where the key design changes have been made, and they should give us a more slippery car that still produces the downforce we need. Other than the slightly different view, the only thing I hope to notice is that the car stays stuck at the top end. When you spin the tires a little down there, you tend to drop cylinders and hurt things, and that's not good. This body looks great, so I'm anxious to get it on the car and go racing with it."

Worsham's last body style switch, from the Pontiac Firebird to the Monte Carlo, came right in the midst of a serious winning streak in 2004. He had taken the trophy at two of the first four races, and was leading the points when it came time to make the change, all of which caused Worsham to have more than a little concern about fixing something that wasn't yet broken. Still, he knew the swap had to be made, and he went on to win three more races that year, all in the newer car.

"We had won Phoenix and Gainesville that season, and had won a bunch of other races in the old Firebird, so it was hard for me to make the change," Worsham said. "But, our blue team had made the switch in Las Vegas, and they went right out and won the race with it, so I knew it was something we needed to do. The Monte Carlo served us well, but this time we're in a little different situation. I haven't won a race since late in 2005, so anything that helps us be more competitive is good. Hopefully it won't take us long to figure out what the new body likes, and we'll be able to get right after it."

J_Beckman.jpgBENDING IT LIKE BECKMAN - Jack Beckman drove in only his fourth-ever NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car national event after joining Don Schumacher Racing following the U.S. Nationals last October in Las Vegas. He left with his first victory in that class, then went on to qualify No. 1 and reach his second straight final round at the season finale in Pomona, Calif. The California native also set both ends of the national record.

Beckman's national elapsed-time record has since been eclipsed, but the driver of the Mail Terminal Services Dodge Charger R/T still holds the national speed record and is looking for a repeat win at this weekend's SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals, the first of two season events at this track.

"I'm excited because Vegas has always been a horsepower track, which the MTS Dodge and (crew chief) Todd Okuhara like," said Beckman, who's had a tough start to the new season. "It's a little bit more forgiving than some of the tracks we raced on already. It's a little more forgiving than some of the tracks we're going to be at after that, and I think it's a great opportunity for us to get our confidence back and I don't see any reason why we can't go back out there and win it.

G_Densham.jpg LETHAL MIX – The most potent mix in the world is nitromethane and slot machines. Gary Densham is ready to mix the two this weekend. He did it five years ago and won in Las Vegas.

“The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a great place for us,” Densham said. “We’ve had success there in the past, and I can’t think of a better place than Vegas to get our first win of the '07 season.

“There’s no doubt that we’ve struggled a bit, but that’s part of this crazy drag racing business we all love so much. You have to be able to take the bitter with the sweet at this level because with the competition as tight as it is, it’s impossible for anyone to win every event.”

The former high school teacher from Bellflower, Calif. feels the slogan “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” doesn’t apply to the Torco Racing Fuels/Racebricks Collectables team.

“I’d like nothing better than to show our great sponsors and the rest of the world that we’ve come to play with the best our sport has to offer and bring home a win,” Densham said. “The Strip is by far one of the best facilities for not only the fans but also the drivers and teams. It’s bad fast and everybody has a great time at this great facility. Let’s not forget that this is the entertainment capital of the world and nothing would thrill me more than to entertain everyone, including our team, with a win.

M_Ashley.jpgA REAL CHARGER - According to a 2003 NASA-funded environmental study, once a bolt of lightning strikes, there is a more than 35 percent greater chance it will strike in the same area again, often-times repeatedly. Two-time Pro Modified World Champion Mike Ashley, driver of the Torco Race Fuels, Inc. Dodge Charger nitro Funny Car, is banking on that fact as he heads into Las Vegas for the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals.

The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway has been the site of several pivotal wins for Ashley, and he's looking for another. In both 2004 and 2005, Ashley walked away from the venerable facility with Pro Mod World Championships, having clinched the crown with round-wins at the track. In the spring of 2005, Ashley won the event in Pro Mod, and at the fall event of that same year, The Strip was the site of his first-ever round win behind the wheel of a Funny Car in his abbreviated five-race rookie season.

"There's no doubt that I love coming to Vegas, I've had a lot of really good success here," Ashley said. "Although I don't really believe any of those wins were from luck, in this town, you always hope a little bit of that rubs off on you, too."

"We had the quickest and fastest car in Houston, and coming into this event, we're feeling really strong and confident. Brian [Corradi, crew chief], Mark [Oswald, former World Champion and Gotham City Racing's Engine Development chief] and the guys have the Torco Dodge flying, and I know we'll run some good numbers.

"They say that a smart man only places a bet when he's assured of the outcome, and I'd definitely place odds this weekend on 'The Kid from Long Island.' I am confident that we'll perform very well."




J_Line.jpgTHE ODDS - The odds that Jason Line will win the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals is five-to-two.

Why has Station Casinos’ odds maker Micah Roberts established Line, the driver of one of the two KB Racing LLC-owned, Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GTOs, as the second favorite behind teammate Greg Anderson, who is the frontrunner at five-to-nine odds?

One reason is that Line, who by self-admission is usually a slow starter each season, is off to a fast getaway in 2007.  Last season, it took Line 13 races to jump into the top spot in points.  This season, the reigning NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion, has assumed the point lead once after race two and currently, after four races, is second, 45 points behind Anderson who leads with 468 points in the “Countdown to Eight” segment of the “Countdown to the Championship,”

Another reason, directly related to points, is that Line has been to two final rounds in the four races contested thus far in 2007, winning at the last race in Houston.  His round record is 9 wins and 3 losses, his best start ever after four races since turning pro in 2003.

While he still is looking for his first win at Vegas, the 37-year-old driver, who was born in Minnesota and now calls North Carolina home, does have two final rounds at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  Line finished runner-up both times, once to Richie Stevens in the fall race last year and in the fall of 2004 to his teammate.

Line does hope the odds established by Roberts means that he is going to fair well at the eighth running of SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals.

“I do think that we have a shot to win the race and a shot to be No. 1 qualifier,” said Line, as he reflected on the odds.  “It does seem like it gets harder all the time to win a race.  The competition has got that good.  I feel like we have a good car and while it’s been a while since we had back-to-back wins, I think that if I drive like I’m capable we can put this Summit Racing Pontiac in the winner’s circle no matter the odds.”

E_Enders.jpgYOU MEAN THIS ISN’T A SHOPFEST? - Asked about her favorite racetracks, the 23-year-old Pro Stock star pointed to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the site of this weekend's eighth annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals.

"I love that race mainly because the shopping in Las Vegas is awesome," she said.

It's not the typical response, but with the huge influx of female competitors in the professional ranks over the last few years, it's one the media types will probably hear more and more often.

Piloting the Racegirl/Mach 1 Air Services Dodge Stratus R/T, Enders has already proven she knows her way down the quarter-mile just as well as she does the lavish underground mall at Caesar's Palace Forum Shops. In 30 race day starts, she has laid claim to every class record for female racers, including most final-round appearances, most low qualifying efforts, quickest and fastest pass, and most round wins.

"It's neat being the first girl to do all these things," said Enders, who together with her sister Courtney was the subject of a wildly successful Disney Channel movie entitled Right On Track. "Now we want to be the first female to win a Wally in Pro Stock. We feel strongly it's going to happen. We just need everything to fall into place."

Enders is solidly in the POWERade top 10 and has had the quickest and fastest car in the class on a number of occasions this year.

A_Johnson.jpgMOMENTUM BUILDER - Allen Johnson’s goal is to keep the momentum rolling from his Houston success. Although victory is always the ultimate goal, Johnson has his team focused on one main objective: consistency.

“What we’re trying to do is qualify both Richie and I in the top eight,” remarked Johnson. “We’re trying to be more consistent on each run, get down the track, and build on each run. That’s our main goal and focus, to really be consistent and be in the top eight in qualifying, instead of rolling the dice and going for broke, or setting up too conservative and ending up fourteenth.”

Johnson’s wants himself and teammate Richie Stevens in the top eight in points when the NHRA POWERade’s Countdown to 4 cutoff hits. The new points system cuts the field down to the top eight drivers after the 17th race, with points readjusted in 10 point increments. After the 21st event, the field will be reduced to the top four drivers for the Countdown to 1 for the championship.

“We want to be consistent, be in the top eight in qualifying, and always go rounds on Sunday,” Johnson again emphasized. “We want to work toward making the Countdown to 4.”

D_Connolly.jpgLUCKY DRAW – Dave Connolly is ready for some good fortune in Vegas. He’s hit the jackpot once here, winning the 2005 spring race. He also finished second last April.

 “I’m definitely ready to go racing,” Connolly said. “We’ve had pretty good luck at The Strip. I also won the Pro Stock Super Bowl (special) race there (in February). It’s a pretty good track. I think it will be easier for us to race on than it was at Gainesville (Fla.) and Houston (the last two NHRA POWERade Series stops).”

Semifinal finishes for Connolly and Jeg Coughlin, his Slammers Ultimate Milk teammate, at Houston carried them to third and fourth in points, respectively. Each driver felt he should have advanced to the title round. Connolly, a master at quick starting-line reactions, found himself, atypically, on the opposite end of a hole-shot decision in Houston. Now he’s eager to forget about it in exchange for more round wins on Sunday, ideally four in a row and a winner’s circle visit again.

“The crew took everything back to the shop (in Mooresville, N.C.) and went through it,” said Connolly. “We’ve done a good job going down the track on Sundays. I’ve been to the semifinals twice already. Now we want to get that first win in our Torco/Slammers Ultimate Mike Chevy Cobalt, and I can think of no better place to do it than Vegas.”

W_Johnson.jpgJUST WIN, BABY – Warren Johnson’s resume has a glaring absence.

“I have yet to win in Las Vegas, but I see no reason why we can’t take care of that minor detail this weekend,” said Johnson. “Things are progressing nicely with our GM Performance Parts GTO.  Terry (crew chief Adams) seems to be getting a handle on the car, and we’ve made some gains in the motor department.  As a result, we’ve been sneaking up the qualifying ladder at the last few races. Now, if we can send the driver an alarm clock, we should be in great shape.

“In reality, most everyone in Pro Stock is in similar shape. Fields have been getting progressively tighter, and we’ve been seeing names that are normally in the mix sitting on the sidelines on race day. You just have to have your act completely together to win, which is our game plan going into the weekend.”

Although a win at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway has so far eluded the six-time champion, (making it one of only two stops on the POWERade circuit where WJ has yet to win) Bruton Smith’s magnificent multipurpose motorsports facility remains at the top of his list of tracks on which he likes to compete. Catering equally to the spectators, sponsors and racers since 2000, it has already hosted its share of historic drag racing moments, and “The Professor” hopes to add his own entry this weekend.

“It is always a pleasure to race at a Bruton Smith-owned facility,” stated Johnson. “Bruton and his management realize that they have one customer, namely the spectators. Without the fans in the stands, there would be no sponsors or racers. Therefore, much like we do with our racecar, they quickly address any issues that may arise, such as the removal of the infamous bump where the tunnel goes under the track.

“Overall, it’s a pretty decent track to race on. Naturally, located in the middle of the desert, there can be an issue with sand blowing on it, particularly at the top end. However, the track’s layout is designed to contain the problem by minimizing its elevation, and throughout the weekend they are constantly cleaning it. 

“In addition, it’s located at an altitude of 2200 feet, which significantly reduces the power our naturally-aspirated engines can make. Taking this weekend’s forecast into account, I believe we should be running elapsed times in the low to mid 6.70’s, but what really matters is that we are competitive with everyone else in our class, which is what we’re shooting for. We’re not about to be overconfident, but I wouldn’t bet against our GM Performance Parts GTO.”

J_Humphreys.jpgCOMMON GROUND - What do Pro Stock drivers Richie Stevens and Justin Humphreys have in common?

They both won races in their last visit to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Stevens defeated Jason Line in NHRA’s October race and Humphreys, meanwhile, won the Outlaw 10.5 event at the Street Car Super Nationals in November.

Humphreys moved into Pro Stock this year after several successful seasons in Sport Compact and Nopi series and he’s eagerly awaiting the SummitRacing.com Nationals (Friday through Sunday) because it will be his first race driving a car powered by Richard Maskin-built engines with sponsorship from Evan Knoll ’s Knoll-Gas Energy. Maskin is one of the sport’s premier horsepower makers.

“Las Vegas is one of my favorite tracks and I enjoy the city, too,” said Humphreys, who’s four races into his NHRA Pro Stock career. “We are looking forward to a successful relationship.”

Maskin helped guide Jim Yates to Pro Stock championships in 1996-97 and Jeg Coughlin Jr. in 2000. He also was successful providing winning engines to other Pro Stock and Pro Stock truck teams.

Humphreys already has seen the paper-thin line that can separate qualifiers and non-qualifiers. He qualified 16th at Gainesville, Fla., and missed by three-thousandths of a second at Houston two weeks ago.

R_Stevens.jpgLOOKING FOR ONE - Richie Stevens is looking to notch his name in the event win column for the first time in 2007 at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals.

“We won the fall race at Vegas in 2006, so coming back is going to be uplifting for me,” said Stevens. “It’s a track that I’ve done decent at in the past. The weather is usually nice out there and the track is an awesome facility. I’m looking forward to getting back out there. It’s a track that I’ve proven myself on and done real well at, and hopefully we can go and capitalize on what we did last year.”

For some, the call of the Vegas nightlife might be a strong draw, but Stevens is focused on winning at the track, and not on the famed Vegas Strip.

“You have to know your limits,” Stevens said. “When I get on the track, I’m focused on one thing, and that’s driving the car. We’re saving the big party for Sunday.”

Recent test sessions have also paid off for Stevens and Johnson, who both drive cars tuned by J&J Racings’s Roy Johnson. If all goes well, one of the J&J drivers will be leaving Las Vegas with a Wally.

“We had a big test session before Houston, and we’ve been working on the cars a lot,” said Stevens. “We’ve had the power all along. We’re trying to get these cars to run identical, that way we can make similar calls on the cars. If I’m a few pairs ahead, and my car doesn’t respond right, we can make the adjustments on Allen’s car, and vice versa. Allen and I ran really well down in Houston, and I think we’re getting things back on track. Hopefully we will show it this weekend in Vegas.” 

a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website