The Denso Spark Plug NHRA Nationals at “The Strip” in Las Vegas, featured the first of two 4-wide season events. The other such event is in North Carolina. The track features two added lanes, allowing four cars (one per lane) to compete at once. Instead of four total rounds of racing, there are three. Only the professional categories, Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle compete in this format. The first two racers to the finish line in each “quad” advance to the next round. In the final round, the first one to the finish line is the event winner, the second is the runner-up and the third and fourth are the semi-finalists.
In Top Fuel, Mike Salinas of San Jose qualified in the top spot and marched to his first career event win in any category of auto racing. He was consistently the first one to the finish line in each “quad” he was in. With elimination round elapse times of 3.747 at 328.86 mph, 3.769 at 325.45 mph and 3.801 at 330.39 mph in the final round, Salinas was not going to be denied his first ever win. Two of his daughters also competed at this same event. Jasmine Salinas competed in the quickest sportsman category, Top Alcohol Dragster. She was able get to the semifinal round in her injected nitro dragster. His other daughter (Jianna Salinas) competed in Pro Stock Motorcycle, narrowly missing the field. Racing is definitely a “family affair” in the Salinas family. Brittany Force was the Top Fuel event runner-up, with a strong 3.810 at 321.42 mph final round effort.
In Funny Car, Tim Wilkerson took the top qualifying spot and made it all the way to the final round quad. In the final round of Wilkerson, JR Todd, Tommy Johnson and Jack Beckman, it was Todd (3.970 at 319.07 mph) who reached the finish line first for the event title, followed by Johnson. Low elapse time of the event honors went to Wilkerson with a 3.895 at 323.50 mph effort in qualifying. The runner up in funny Car was Johnson with a 3.975 at 313.29 mph.
Bo Butner scored his third Pro Stock category event win of the season, out of four events. He qualified #1 and marched through a very tightly qualified field. In the final round, he was the slowest of the three cars (6.677 at 206.67 mph) competing (Greg Anderson 6.655 at 207.94 mph, Matt Hartford 6.667 at 206.51 mph, and Jason Line 6.674 at 206.99 mph), but was able to get off the starting line first and hold on for a triple holeshot win.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith, the 2018 season champion, qualified in the top spot with a 6.879 at 196.76 mph. But, it was Hector Arana Jr. who captured the event title. Arana bested a final round quad of Matt Smith, Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines. Hines’ motorcycle failed to start, Smith scored the quickest time of the round (6.903 197.02 mph) and Krawiec ran 6.923 at 194.41 mph. Arana’s better reaction time (0.014 to 0.048) secured the victory over Smith with a (slower) 6.907 at 195.79 mph.