race reports

NHRA pros at Las Vegas

Vegas Goes Four-Wide

Results compiled by Kay Burk

Photos by Ron Lewis

Steve Torrence raced to the Top Fuel victory Sunday, April 8, at the 19th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as the inaugural four-wide racing experience for fans on the West Coast came to an end in front of a sellout crowd.


J.R. Todd (Funny Car) and Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) were also winners at the fourth event on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.



The final TF quad finished: Torrence, Schumacher, Kalitta and Brown.


After struggling during qualifying, Steve Torrence recaptured his four-wide form and drove the Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster to a convincing victory.


It was the Texan’s second straight four-wide win and made him the first Top Fuel driver to win four-wide races at two different tracks (Las Vegas and Charlotte).


Torrence couldn’t get down the race track on any of his first three qualifying runs because of clutch issues. But crew chief Richard Hogan got the problem fixed and set it up the same way as part-time teammate Billy Torrence’s (Steve’s dad) and the dragster qualified at No. 5 on the final attempt.


Torrence advanced out of the first quad by finishing second to Clay Millican and won the second -round quad.


In the finale, he had the lead by half track and never looked back, winning in 3.771 seconds with Tony Schumacher second at 3.790, followed by Doug Kalitta and Antron Brown.

Tony Schumacher was the top qualifier for the 86th time in his career and the second time this year. He won the first round of eliminations despite an engine that let go with a fireball when a fuel line broke.


Schumacher was philosophical about the runner-up finish.


“We moved up in points [to second], so that’s a good thing,” he said. “You don’t always have to make world-record runs. You’ve just got to beat the other cars.”


He added, “We literally made it to the finish line one time this weekend and it was our first qualifying run. It’s the little things – we broke a fuel line in the first round today and got away with it. We’re working on the details, and the trophy’s usually in the details. We’ll get it figured out.”

Making his second Top Fuel appearance of the season, Billy Torrence had another strong showing even though he didn’t advance beyond the first quad. The elder Torrence actually outqualified his son by one position and almost beat him out for the second transfer spot in the first quad when both ran 3.811.


Tommy Johnson Jr. was off the line too quickly in the final quad.


After Friday’s two qualifying session, J.R. Todd’s DHL Camry was not in the show. However, Jon Oberhofer and Todd Smith made the right adjustments and Todd moved from 17th all the way to the No. 3 starting spot.


In the first quad, Todd was matched up with his teammate Shawn Langdon, Bob Tasca III and John Force. Todd and the DHL team were ready. Todd was stout on the tree, and the DHL Camry blazed the track in 3.959 seconds. That gave Todd the best elapsed time in the first round and gave him lane choice in the quarterfinals over Tommy Johnson Jr., Del Worsham and John Force.


In the second-round quad, Johnson Jr. was able to cross the finish line first, but Todd got there second on a double holeshot. The DHL Toyota was the slowest that session, but thanks to Todd's reaction time he defeated Worsham and Force.


The holeshot victories were not finished. Todd would line up in the third lane with Courtney Force, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. beside him. Johnson was done at the line with a red light start, but Todd's reaction time was the best of the remaining three. That would come into play as he was able to holeshot Courtney Force to the stripe. He then outran Beckman to claim his first Four-Wide Nationals win, first Vegas win, third Funny Car win and 12th of his career.


Todd became the third different Kalitta Motorsports driver to win in the season’s first four races.


"In funny cars, you can cheat a little bit on the starting line. In dragster racing, everyone's pretty much in agreement that they aren't going to roll it in on each other, but in funny cars you can steal a few thou on race day,” Todd explained. “I might have been able to get about five thou in the second round today, but it was enough to turn on the win light.


“In funny cars, you have to be on your 'A' game every time you roll up to the Christmas tree. It's a matter usually of who gets off the line first is going to turn on the win light. Before the first round, Shawn and I came up with a plan and what we were going to do - and we executed it. I think the reaction times told the story."

Jack Beckman started race day from the No. 13 seed, unfamiliar territory for the driver who hasn’t qualified outside of the Top Three for the past six events, dating back to Dallas 2017.


The Gainesville Funny Car winner was hoping to have back-to-back wins, but at Las Vegas he was the runner up. However, he was able to move up in the points, now leading second-place Courtney Force by 36 points.


The Infinite Hero team stayed at Las Vegas Monday to test some of the changes they made to the car.



The Pro Stock final order was Nobile, Kramer, Butner and McGaha.


Vincent Nobile hadn’t had a victory since October 2016 at Maple Grove Raceway, but his name is now in the history books as the first four-wide Pro Stock winner at Las Vegas.


He picked up his 11th career victory and first at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when he ran a 6.591 at 210.44. He bested Deric Kramer, Bo Butner and Chris McGaha in the final round.

“We worked our butts off this weekend,” the Elite Motorsports Mountain View Tires Camaro driver said. “That was our third engine, which is three too many for a Pro Stock car. On Friday, we struggled in qualifying. Unbeknownst to us, our motor was being hurt. We didn’t break anything; it was just wearing itself out. Then we put in a second bullet and that thing was even more of a turd. It came right off the dyno. Finally, after the first round we put in our backup backup, and obviously that’s the one that should have been in there to begin with.”


In the first quad Nobile finished second to Anderson, and Nobile advanced in the third quad while Anderson did not.

Greg Anderson qualified No. 1 and repeated as winner of the K&N Horsepower Challenge, but fell in the semifinal quad although his 207.62-mph pass in the second round was the fastest any of the Pro Stockers went all weekend long.


“We got off to a decent start – it wasn't a great start first round, but it was good enough.,” Anderson said. “We just made the wrong decision second round and blew the tires off. I wish I had an excuse, because it was our race to win. But we just didn't make the right call today. In this room, there is no room for error, and we made a mistake. But overall, a great weekend for KB Racing, two cars in the DENSO Four-Wide Nationals final, we got that cool K&N Horsepower Challenge trophy yesterday, we were No. 1 qualifier. I can't wait to get to Houston and get back on track."  



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