By MIKE BURGHARDT
The 17th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at the Strip in Las Vegas Nevada, was filled with upsets and surprises. One big surprise was the failure of Ron Capps and his Napa Dodge team to make the 16-car qualified field in funny car. Capps had been running strong this season, with a season opening win in Pomona, a #1 qualifier in Phoenix and a runner-up finish in Gainesville. Another surprise upset of the event was when #16 qualifier in Top Fuel (Steve Chrisman) took out the #1 Top Fuel qualifier (Steve Torrence) in the opening round of eliminations.
In Top Fuel, this season, there had been two first time winners (Leah Pritchett and Brittany Force) and it looked like there could be third one. Troy Buff and his Bill Miller Engineering team, were giant killers during eliminations, as he defeated Richie Crampton, Brittany Force and J.R. Todd in his march to his first ever final round to face Antron Brown and his MATCO Tools dragster team. Buff made it close, as he left first (0.012 to 0.053), but Brown was able to get by him with a 3.843 at 314.68 mph to 3.918 at 307.58 mph to claim his 55th career event win.
In Funny Car, 10 of the 16 cars qualified in the 3-second zone, led by Jack Beckman and his Infinite Heroes Dodge team at 3.916 seconds. Fans were treated to some extremely close racing, including the second round matchup between John and Courtney Force. The 16-time series Funny Car Champion took a close win with a 3.991 at 322.6 mph to 3.996 at 321.58 mph. In another close battle, Alexis DeJoria and her Tequila Patron Toyota team took out Robert Hight and his AAA of Southern California Chevy Camaro team in a tight 4.005 at 315.86 mph to 4.004 at 320.20 mph, by getting a 0.073 to 0.076 starting line advantage. She then went on to end John Force’s day in a semi-final round matchup. On the other side of the ladder, Del Worsham turned in consistent 4.0 second runs to advance to the final round in his DHL/Toyota funny car. In the final, DeJoria took a starting line advantage and extended it to a 3.968 at 315.49 mph to 3.988 at 323.58 mph victory. It was her fourth career Funny Car event and first win in 34 events, since her last win at this same track 2014.
The Pro Stock category has been dominated by the Summit Racing team this season and things would not be any different at this event. The three car team qualified 1-2-3 and all three cars made it to the semi-final round. Bo Butner defeated teammate, Greg Anderson to advance to the final round with a strong 6.703 at 205.47 mph to Anderson’s 6.755 at 205.88 mph. Anderson had just won the K&N Horsepower Challenge (special race within a race for Pro Stock) and the $50,000 prize the day before. Jason Line, and his Summit team, then took out the reigning series champion Erica Enders to advance to the final round against Butner. In the final, Line took a quick victory, as Butner fouled out with a “red light” (foul start). Line turned in a strong 6.712 at 206.32 mph effort to claim his 39th career event title. This was Line’s fourth final round appearance this season and second career win at the Las Vegas track.
The point leaders going into the seventh annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, NC (April 22-24) are Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock).
Every event can be seen on the Fox Sports 1 Network, with most events featuring same-day coverage.