Brittany Force made the quickest run in each session on at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, powering to the provisional No. 1 position in Top Fuel at the 22nd annual NHRA Nevada Nationals.
Robert Hight (Funny Car), Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the 21st event in the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and the fifth of six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Looking to sweep both races in Las Vegas this year and stay in the championship hunt, Force went 3.665sat 337.24mph in her Flav-R-Pac dragster. That gave her the best runs in each of the two sessions on Friday as she looks to pick up her ninth No. 1 qualifier in 2022 and 41st in her career. She closed to within 77 points of leader Justin Ashley heading into final qualifying tomorrow, knowing she’ll need another big performance in Las Vegas to keep her title aspirations alive.
“Today’s been awesome. It’s exactly what we’ve been wanting to do,” Force said. “We need to grab points where we can because this thing’s going to come down to Pomona and it’s going to come down just a number of points, so we need to grab them wherever we can. We need a long day on race day. and we’re starting off well this week. And we’re already in a good position to solid runs. That was our goal and picking up bonus points. So, we’re right on track.”
Mike Salinas was the only other car in the 3.60s, going 3.697s at 334.73mph, while defending event winner and four-time world champ Steve Torrence is third with a 3.705s at 332.51mph. Ashley is fourth after his 3.716s at 331.85mph.
Robert Hight helped ensure a dominant Friday for John Force Racing in the nitro categories, posting identical runs of 3.857s in the two sessions in his Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS. It was an impressive showing for the points leader, who also went 331.77s and is after his sixth No. 1 qualifier of the season and 77th in his career. He entered the weekend 10 points ahead of defending world champ Ron Capps and picked up some much-needed bonus points during the first two sessions. It was also a huge momentum boost for the three-time world champion, who was eager to get back into action this weekend after a semifinal loss in Dallas.
“Those two runs, those were huge. We need every point we can get. The way I look at it, we let Ron Capps back in it in Dallas, we’re even. Ten points is nothing,” Hight said. “Having that week off between races was brutal, but I know Jimmy Prock spent that week and a half thinking about this race car. He made some changes, and I was even surprised we ran so well first session. We ran 3.85s two different ways, and the guys have a handle on this car. Picking up those six points today, that was big for us, and we need to get six more tomorrow.”
Bob Tasca III went 3.865s at 330.80mph to put him in the second spot, while J.R. Todd is third after his run of 3.870s at 333.33mph. Capps is right behind in fourth after going 3.889s.
Needing a big weekend to keep teammate and points leader Erica Enders from clinching her fifth world title, Aaron Stanfield got off to a great start on Friday, making the quickest run of both qualifying sessions, including his 6.595s at 207.11mph in his Janac Brothers Chevrolet Camaro. If that holds, it will give the young standout his fifth No. 1 qualifier of the season. Stanfield, who also has three wins this year, entered the weekend 165 points behind Enders, knowing he needed a strong showing to deny Enders her fifth world title for at least one more race.
“We just want to come out and do a good job. I know the title is a longshot,” Stanfield said. “The Elite team is having a great season and I’m thankful to be a part of it. Heck, I just want to win some races. We’ve got two to go and we’d like to win both of them. This was a good start. We made two good runs today and that sets us up for tomorrow and Sunday.”
Enders wasn’t far behind, making the second-quickest run each session. Her 6.597s at 208.26mph puts her second, while Troy Coughlin Jr. is third after a 6.606s at 208.17mph.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith continued his strong championship march, going to the No. 1 spot on his Denso Auto Parts Buell with a pass of 6.797s at 201.04mph. If it holds, it will give the points leader his fifth No. 1 spot in 2022 and 52nd in his career. More importantly, it puts Smith, who held a 51-point lead over Joey Gladstone entering the weekend, in position to continue his playoff momentum as he seeks a sixth world championship. He’s won twice in Las Vegas and a third victory would put him in an ideal position to clinch a world title in Pomona.
“This is a good start. We messed up in Q1 and blew the tire off it but we de-tuned it for Q2 and went to the top,” Smith said. “I’ve said this all along but to win a championship you’ve got to have no parts failures and not let anything stupid happen. It’s tough out here right now. Steve Johnson has a good bike. Jerry Savoie has a good bike, my wife (Angie) has a good bike and Joey definitely has a good bike.”
Angelle Sampey is currently second after going 6.807s at 198.64mph, with Steve Johnson in third after his pass of 6.832s at 195.19mph.
Legendary driver and team owner Tony Stewart made also his NHRA racing debut on Friday in Top Alcohol Dragster, going 5.219s at 276.52mph during the first session.
Qualifying continues at 12:00 p.m. PT on Saturday at the NHRA Nevada Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.