race reports

NHRA Pros at Las Vegas

McMillen Breaks Through


Results compiled by Kay Burk

Photos by Ron Lewis

Top Fuel veteran Terry McMillen piloted his dragster to his first career victory Sunday, Oct. 29, at the 17th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.


Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also earned victories at the fifth of six playoff events during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.



McMillen raced to his first winner’s circle with a pass of 3.870-seconds at 253.99 in his AMALIE Motor Oil XTERMIGATOR after Brittany Force red-lit in her Monster Energy dragster. He becomes the 104th different Top Fuel winner after 195 career starts.


“This is the stuff you dream of as a small kid,” McMillen said. “To have that opportunity to go out there and get that win is truly an amazing feeling. Hats off to my crew. This is the first time in a long time where the turn arounds were really quick, and they turned around that car flawlessly. The car was really quick on the starting line, lights were good and it all just fell into place.”


On his way to victory, McMillen defeated Richie Crampton (3.784/319.45 to 8.568/87.00), Clay Millican (3.786/319.67 to 4.972/146.43) and Shawn Langdon (3.798/297.02 to 3.893/276.69).

Terry McMillen and long-time girlfriend Cori Wickler got married in Vegas before the NHRA race. Here McMillen shares his victory with their son. A great weekend all around.


Brittany Force has had an outstanding Countdown to the Championship, coming up clutch in NHRA’s version of the playoffs. In five Countdown races, Force has two victories, one runner-up finish and one semifinal finish. She’s surged from sixth in the points standings to second.

Force and her team performed well again in Las Vegas. She opened race day with a run of 3.696 seconds at 322.04 mph to dispatch Shawn Reed.


Force needed some good fortune to get past Doug Kalitta in the second round. She had to pedal the Monster Energy dragster to a pass of 4.343 seconds at 231.83 mph, but Kalitta’s car had mechanical trouble and limped off the starting line before coasting down the track.


Force then knocked out Leah Pritchett, leaving first with a .077-second reaction time and then making a winning run of 3.714 seconds at 329.34 mph to Pritchett’s 3.754-second pass at 323.81 mph.

Leah Pritchett was one of the dominant Top Fuel dragsters on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit until the Countdown to the Championship playoff began in September but after a little stumble her Don Schumacher Racing Pennzoil team got back on the right track this weekend. The four-time Mello Yello winner arrived at The Strip ranked fifth in championship points but was able to narrow her gap behind points leader Steve Torrence by six points after advancing to the semifinals.Force remains second in points overall heading into the final event of the season, trailing leader Steve Torrence by 20 points. The Auto Club Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, CA, will award 30 points per round victory instead of the normal 20, so Force is less than a round out of the championship lead as she battles for her first title.

Steve Torrence hung onto the Mello Yello point lead despite a second-round exit. Torrence had a brand new Capco Contractors dragster after a vehicle-destroying race at Dallas. In the first round a 3.741 at 328.62 got him past Terry Haddock’s 3.862/305.08, but he lost traction in the next round and lost to Shawn Langdon.


Crew chief Richard Hogan and the other members of Team Capco spent the last 10 days trying to replicate Torrence’s former dragster in every way. During testing at Indianapolis Torrence matched his career best times and at Vegas turned in a 3.694 at 330.15 mph during Friday’s second qualifying run.


“It just needs a little more TLC,” Torrence said. “We’ll be ready to rock-and-roll at Pomona.”



Matt Hagan finally broke through in the Nevada desert as he won at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the very first time. Hagan's victory was the 26th of his career.


Hagan put his HEMI®-powered, Mopar Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) in the winner's circle at the 17th annual NHRA Nationals to take his fourth victory of the season and 15th for Mopar-powered Funny Cars in 2017. It was also the 20th time at least one Mopar Dodge Funny Car from DSR has appeared in the final round through 23 events to date this year.


Hagan, whose team has struggled in the Countdown, opened his day by pushing past Gary Densham in round one on a clean pass as Densham smoked his tires near the 300-foot mark. The round win was the 300th of Hagan's career.


He next bested Del Worsham, who also struck the tires to put Hagan into the semifinal round against his DSR Mopar teammate Jack Beckman. Hagan advanced to the final by turning in his third consecutive clean pass as Beckman instantly went up in smoke.

Courtney Force took her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS to her fifth final round of the season, racing to the final of the NHRA Nationals on Sunday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.


A cylinder dropped in her Chevy in the final, though, and she fell short against Matt Hagan. But she solidified her hold on third place in the Funny Car points standings with one race remaining in the 2017 season.


Force had a stellar day behind the wheel, and her Camaro was consistent most of the day Sunday. But she slowed to a pass of 4.020 seconds at 320.05 mph to trail Hagan’s 3.942-second pass at 329.42 mph.


Still, it was her fifth final of the season, which ranks her tied for third in the Funny Car class this season. Force opened Vegas’ race day with a pedalfest against Jeff Arend. As the tires started to spin in her car, Force controlled the throttle and coaxed the Advance Auto Parts car to a run of 6.044 seconds at 152.85 mph, beating Arend’s 7.323-second run at 91.04 mph.


Force’s car was tuned up for the second round, making a run of 3.933 seconds at 330.15 mph to beat Alexis DeJoria’s slowing pass of 4.099 seconds at 259.96 mph. Force then beat John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight in the semis with another good run: 3.928 seconds at 331.36 mph.

In the most controversial pairing of the meet, in the second round of eliminations, John Force lined up against teammate Robert Hight. Force had a horrendous .193 RT and then his Camaro got out of the groove and headed for the left quard wall. Force hazed the tires and got off the throttle. Hight headed straight down the track for the win and more points toward the championship.


Robert Hight took over the points lead with a second-round victory over John Force Racing owner/teammate John Force. Hight then smoked the tires in the semifinals against another JFR teammate, Courtney Force, and finished the day 15 points ahead of Ron Capps.


“The way I look at a 15-point lead is we just have to go further than Capps at Pomona,” Hight said. “Our goal going into Pomona is to win that race and cap a championship off with a huge win at our home track in the Auto Club Finals.”


Hight came into Vegas with a 24-point deficit and then fell back one point after qualifying. But he showed off his driving prowess in the first round with a holeshot victory over Tim Wilkerson. Hight and Wilkerson ran identical 3.922-second passes, but Hight had a .062-second reaction time to Wilkerson’s .085.


John Force then followed with a victory over Capps, giving Hight a shot at taking the points lead. He ripped off a pass of 3.934 seconds at 328.38 mph to beat Force and advance to the semifinals.


There, Hight’s Chevrolet Camaro SS went up in smoke almost immediately, and he coasted across the finish line with a run of 10.402 at 83.40 mph. Courtney Force, meanwhile, was low ET for the round, running 3.928 seconds at 331.36 mph.


“You look at how this race could have gone: if we would have lost first round and Ron Capps won this race, we would have gone into the final race with a huge deficit,” Hight said. “Instead, my teammate, John Force, did some damage by taking out Capps in the first round. We got another round win, too.”

Jack Beckman had both Low ET (3.854) and Top Speed (335.57 mph) of the meet.

Ron Capps lost the lead in Funny Car points when he lost to John Force in the first round. He goes into Pomona 15 points behind Hight.



Greg Anderson loves Las Vegas and always has. It's home for team owners Ken and Judy Black, and The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway has been very good to the Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro driver for a long time. On Sunday he scored the Pro Stock trophy in a final-round meeting with KB Racing teammate Bo Butner. Anderson entered the race leading the points, and he extended his lead over No. 2 man Butner to 40 marks with the win.


"You couldn’t win the championship here in Las Vegas because we [will earn] points and a half when we get to Pomona, so I said just don’t knock yourself out of the game," said Anderson, who claimed the 92nd pole of his career in Vegas qualifying and his seventh No. 1 at The Strip. "I did all I could do this weekend. I had great runs all through qualifying with my Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, and today I just eked out every victory. This KB Racing team is amazing."


En route to the final, Anderson used the second-quickest pass of the round to defeat Alan Prusiensky, 6.677/204.76 to 6.775/203.65. In the quarterfinals, it was Chris McGaha that he sent packing, using an efficient .015-second reaction time and a low-of-the-round 6.687 at 204.20 mph to halt a 6.696/206.01.

The semifinals pitted Anderson against Summit Racing teammate Jason Line, the reigning world champion and the driver sitting No. 3 in the Pro Stock points. Both competitors were clearly hungry and launched from the starting line nearly in sync, with Anderson getting the advantage by just .003-second. At the finish line stripe, their scoreboards flashed nearly identical times to go with matching speed. Anderson and his red Summit Racing Chevy got the win light over Line and the blue Summit Racing steed, 6.716, 204.60 to 6.719, 204.60.


The final pitted Anderson and Butner against one another for the fifth time, and they entered the round dead-even with two wins each in their previous final-round meetings. Butner launched first but by just .004-second, but he fell into tire shake in the less desirable lane with fair immediacy. Anderson raced ahead to win with a 6.698-second pass at 204.70 mph.

Several teams were dressed up for Halloween. The Butner team went with “Bo Bandit” from the Smokey and the Bandit movies.


"Sure, I'm disappointed," said Butner, who has claimed his four Pro Stock wins in what has turned out to be a very impressive season for the Sportsman standout-turned Pro. "I'm here to win, don't get me wrong. But we all sat down and had a little KB Racing powwow before the final, and everybody was smiling. We started this year stating KB wanted to be 1-2-3, and I'm pretty sure unless a rock falls on somebody's head that will happen, and it can be any order. That's a big accomplishment because we didn't have an edge this year. I feel like the KB team raced smarter, which I'm fortunate to be part of. It's one thing to say something, but it looks like we might really do it. I'm proud of them. This is a good team."


"Today was huge," said Anderson. "The ultimate scenario for us at KB Racing was to eliminate the Gray Motorsports team – Drew Skillman and Tanner Gray. I didn’t think it would happen; they have great race cars and are great race car drivers. But somehow, we found a way and outlasted them today, and now they aren’t part of the equation when we go to Pomona. It’s all up to the three KB Racing drivers. That’s a dream come true, and now we’re going to have to go out there and settle it amongst ourselves. It’s just a win, win, win.”

Deric Kramer did another big burnout for the fans in his No. 52 car tricked out like a NASCAR car.



In Pro Stock Motorcycle, category points leader Krawiec rode his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a 6.924 at 193.16 defeating Hector Arana Jr. This is his third career victory at this event, seventh of the season and 43rd of his career.


“My motorcycle has been a pleasure to ride,” Krawiec stated. “I’ve got a great group of guys behind me. That make tune-up calls and make the bike as good as it is. By no means is it just one person. It’s really about the whole crew that those guys do for me and give me the opportunity to have a bike that can win a race is really something special.”


Krawiec’s road to victory was lined with wins over John Hall, Angelle Sampey and Scotty Pollacheck. The win puts him 150 points ahead of LE Tonglet who remains second. Arana Jr. rode past Katie Sullivan, Mike Berry and Tonglet.


Hector Arana Jr. emerged from a two-race funk in grand style Sunday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, racing his Lucas Oil Racing TV Buell to final round of the 17th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals before settling for runner-up honors to points leader and pending champion Eddie Krawiec.


"This was a great rebound weekend for us," Arana Jr. said. "It's just crazy how drag racing goes because there really wasn't anything drastically different when we weren't running well to what we did this weekend when everything started clicking again. It just felt like luck returned to our side and I do believe we made our own luck so we're very happy to have our bike back in top form."


Race day started with a free pass for Arana Jr. when first-round opponent Katie Sullivan couldn't get her bike to start. Arana Jr. then went on to run a strong 6.947 at 192.30 mph, which would have been tough for anyone to beat. It was almost as easy in the quarterfinals when rival Mike Berry jumped the light by -.026 seconds, earning an automatic disqualification. That time Arana Jr. ran a 6.966 at 192.99 mph.


Facing second-ranked LE Tonglet in the semifinals, Arana Jr. used a massive .100-second holeshot to steal away a huge victory, with his 7.061 at 191.10 mph more than enough to hold off Tonglet's hard-charging 7.009 at 191.62 mph.

Racing for the first time since the Englishtown event, Hector Arana Sr. suffered a red-light disqualification in Round 1, handing the win to Berry. The loss was an upset as Arana Sr. had out-qualified Berry by four sports.


"Having Dad back out here racing alongside me was super special, for both of us really," Arana Jr. said. "It was cool to see him smiling again. He loves riding that Lucas Oil EBR and we got some great data this weekend we can use in the future with that bike."


POINTS with one event to go


Top Fuel: 1. Steve Torrence, 2,527; 2. Brittany Force, 2,507; 3. Doug Kalitta, 2,443; 4. Antron Brown, 2,392; 5. Leah Pritchett, 2,361; 6. Tony Schumacher, 2,340; 7. Clay Millican, 2,326; 8. Shawn Langdon, 2,267; 9. Terry McMillen, 2,261; 10. Scott Palmer, 2,169.


Funny Car: 1. Robert Hight, 2,548; 2. Ron Capps, 2,533; 3. Courtney Force, 2,423; 4. Jack Beckman, 2,396; 5. Matt Hagan, 2,387; 6. John Force, 2,306; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,276; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 2,237; 9. J.R. Todd, 2,233; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 2,163.


Pro Stock: 1. Greg Anderson, 2,597; 2. Bo Butner, 2,557; 3. Jason Line, 2,521; 4. Tanner Gray, 2,413; 5. Drew Skillman, 2,384; 6. Erica Enders, 2,286; 7. Allen Johnson, 2,235; 8. Jeg Coughlin Jr., 2,234; 9. Chris McGaha, 2,207; 10. Vincent Nobile, 2,052.


Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Eddie Krawiec, 2,628; 2. LE Tonglet, 2,478; 3. Andrew Hines, 2,427; 4. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,406; 5. Hector Arana Jr, 2,400; 6. Jerry Savoie, 2,393; 7. Matt Smith, 2,345; 8. Karen Stoffer, 2,252; 9. Angie Smith, 2,209; 10. Joey Gladstone, 2,200.



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