If you ever thought 10,000 plus horsepower, fire breathing race cars, racing side by side at speeds well over 300 mph was extreme – try four 10,000 plus horsepower, fire breathing race cars racing side by side at over 300 mph. That is exactly what you saw at the inaugural Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Drag Strip. For the first time in many years, this spring time event was sold out.
Instead of needing four rounds of eliminations to determine the winner of a 16-car field, it only takes three rounds. Four cars compete against each other, at one time instead of the normal two. The first two across the finish line, advance to the next round. In the final round, the first car is the winner and the second car is the runner-up. Only the pro categories race 4-wide. All the other categories race in the normal 2-wide format.
In Top Fuel, the final round came down to Steve Torrence (Capco Contractors), Tony Schumacher (U.S. Army), Doug Kalitta (MAC Tools) and Antron Brown (Matco Tools). All four cars left fairly close together, but it was Torrence who pulled away for a 3.771 at 326.63 mph win. Schumacher, who had a slight 0.058 to 0.069 advantage, mustered up a 3.790 at 325.23 mph effort, as his engine started losing power as he near the finish line. Kalitta (3.914 at 273.27 mph) and Antron Brown (4.097 at 252.52 mph) finished as semi-finalists.
In Funny Car, the battle for the event title came down to J.R. Todd (DHL/Toyota/Kalitta Motorsports), Jack Beckman (Infinite Heroes/Dodge), Courtney Force (Advance Auto Parts/Chevrolet) and Tommy Johnson Jr. (Make-A-Wish/Dodge). Johnson got away first, but unfortunately too early (-0.008) and he fouled out. Johnson ran the quickest elapse time of the final round with a 3.978 at 311.70 mph. Force had the second quickest elapse time with a 4.007 at 300.53 mph, but she was slightly tardy with a 0.103 second reaction time. Todd took the win with a 4.041 at 317.05 mph. Beckman took the runner-up with a 4.052 at 312.21 mph effort.
Pro Stock had similar results to that in Funny Car, in that the car that left first, fouled out (red lighted) by leaving too early. Vincent Nobile had the best reaction time at 0.019 seconds, allowing him to take the event win with a 6.69 at 206.80 mph. Deric Kramer runner-upped with a 6.678 206.45 mph (0.031 reaction time). Bo Butner left last (0.040) and finished as a semi-finalist with a 6.682 at 206.57 mph. Chris McGaha, who fouled out, was the other semi-finalist with a 6.65 at 206.67 mph effort.
The “four-wide” format is unique and has its own pros and cons amongst drag racing fans, media and racers, but there are only two of these special events on the schedule. Prior to this season, if you wanted to experience it, you had to travel east to North Carolina. Thanks to Bruton Smith (owner of Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the Z-Max Drag way in North Carolina), you now have the opportunity to experience it on the western side of the country. The sold out crowd was not disappointed.
Greg Anderson captured the K&N Pro Stock Challenge Event title (a special race within a race for Pro Stock) and collected the $50,000 bonus. This was the seventh time that Anderson won this Challenge Event.
The next event is the NHRA Spring Nationals at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas on the weekend of April 20 through 22.