LAS VEGAS – official series release — NHRA photo —
Jack Beckman raced to a track record performance to lead Funny Car qualifying Friday at the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals.
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) also were qualifying leaders in their categories at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
Beckman, who is in position to earn his third No. 1 qualifying position of the season, powered his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger to a track record time of 3.916 seconds at 322.88 mph in the day’s final qualifying session at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Beckman opened qualifying here in 11th after his car lost traction early in the run. Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at 1 and 4 p.m. to set the starting lineups for Sunday’s noon eliminations.
“If there’s cloud cover tomorrow that run is definitely in jeopardy,” Beckman said. “Whether it stands or not, when we struggled on the first run we were really aggressive. That makes it more difficult because we don’t have any data from that run. It’s gratifying as a driver to know the crew can come back after a run like that and still go to the No. 1 position.”
Courtney Force qualified second with a 3.928 at a track record speed of 326.08 in her Traxxas Chevy Camaro and was followed in the lineup by Phoenix winner Tim Wilkerson, who posted a 3.936 at 320.66 in his Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang. Points leader Robert Hight qualified seventh in his Auto Club Camaro with a 3.980 at 320.05.
In Top Fuel, Winternationals winner Torrence led qualifying with a 3.728 at 325.30 in his Capco Contractors dragster. Torrence was quickest in the first qualifying session with a 3.73 and then nearly ran quicker than the track elapsed time record on his second attempt of the day.
“That’s a heck of a way to start the weekend with a 73, and we were not expecting that at all,” Torrence said. “We were trying to run a little quicker (in the second) session but didn’t do everything we needed to. It still ran a 72 and that’s good enough for No. 1. Hopefully that stands for tomorrow.”
After the hot start to open the season Torrence struggled a bit in the past two races, but says his team, which is led by crew chiefs Richard Hogan and Bobby Lagana and tuning consultant Alan Johnson, is back on track after making some adjustments to the car since the Gatornationals in Florida.
“The guys did a lot of work over the last week and we changed a lot of things on the car,” Torrence said. “There was some data we obtained from Brittany (Force’s) car with how it has been running and we changed our car over to that. That’s the great thing about our unique alliance and it’s working real well.”
Points leader Force, who like Torrence is also a client of tuning consultant Johnson and has advanced to finals at the last two races, qualified third in her Monster Energy dragster with a 3.768 at 316.90. Doug Kalitta qualified second in his Mac Tools dragster with a 3.732 at 327.19.
Series points leader Line led the Pro Stock order with a performance of 6.687 seconds at 205.98 mph in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro.
Line, who has advanced to every final this season and hasn’t qualified lower than second at any event, is continuing his momentum at this event, a hometown race for his team owner Ken Black.
“I’ve said it before, we are the least worst right now,” Line said. “Everyone is making gains and we have a lot of work to do. I am glad to be the No. 1 qualifier. The race is really won at the shop and we had a very busy offseason. It has been a lot of things, but it really came down to the effort.”
Bo Butner qualified second with a 6.693 at 205.41 in his Jim Butner Auto Camaro and Line’s teammate Greg Anderson qualified third in his Summit Racing Camaro with a 6.694 at 205.88.
Line will be one of eight drivers who will race for $50,000 on Saturday in the K&N Horsepower Challenge, an all-star bonus event for the 200-mph factory hot rod class. Third seed Line will meet Shane Gray in the opening round. Top seed Anderson will open the bonus race against fan vote winner Jeg Coughlin Jr. Erica Enders is the two-time defending winner of the event, and she will face fellow two-time Challenge winner Allen Johnson in the opener. Chris McGaha and Drew Skillman will meet in the other round one pairing.
Line has been a runner-up in the K&N Horsepower Challenge three times, but has never won. He hopes to change that stat tomorrow.
“It probably is my best chance to win it and everyone is saying it’s my turn, but this is drag racing and you don’t get turns,” Line said. “I am hoping tomorrow I can do that. We’ve got great hot rods right now, these Summit Camaros are really fast.”