Las Vegas Motor Speedway Hosts NHRA Four Wide Nationals
After the four-wide events at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, drag racing fans headed to The Strip this weekend for the highly anticipated return of the 21st annual DENSO Spark Plug NHRA Four Wide Nationals. State, county, and local officials allowed organizers to sell grandstand seating at 50% capacity for the first of two races scheduled at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. After the sound of nitro-powered 11,000 horsepower engines settled over the Mojave Desert on Friday, three-time Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence, Funny Car ace Robert Hight, Pro Stocker Aaron Stanfield, and the legendary Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Matt Smith had all earned Number One qualifying spots for the weekend’s elimination rounds.
My Baby Needs a Top Fuel Wally
“You only get one chance to make a first impression and I screwed that up with a lot of folks.” - Steve Torrence
The three-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion ended his season with a commitment to becoming a more mature person both on and off the track. After earning his third consecutive Top Fuel crown, the pipeline contractor from East Texas entered the second round of the 2021 Camping World Drag Racing series with a little extra motivation to take home a Wally. As only the third NHRA Top Fuel driver to win three straight titles (behind Joe Amato and Tony Schumacher), Steve Torrence took dead aim on what would be his first Top Fuel win since the birth of his daughter.
Torrence, who won four of the last five four-wide competitions at Las Vegas and Charlotte Motor Speedway, wasted no time in grabbing the top spot in qualifying. In the final foursome, it would be Antron Brown with a .001 second advantage over Torrence off the tree. Unfortunately, Brown was out of the throttle at midtrack with Doug Kalitta and Clay Millican closing ground, but nobody came close to the 3.823 ET at 321.73 mph of Steve Torrence in the Capco Contractors nitro-powered dragster. In the end, a much better first impression to begin the 2021 season.
John Force Racing Back in Full Force
In Funny Car, John Force Racing was back after not competing in most of the pandemic-shortened 2020 NHRA Camping World Series. Robert Hight got the ball rolling in Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro by posting a 3.922 ET ahead of number two qualifier Matt Hagan. In the opening rounds of elimination, 16-time world Funny Car champion John Force proved he was back in full force winning his quad with a 3.923 ET over the defending world champion Matt Hagan. Unfortunately, the JFR drivers were eliminated in the semi-final rounds.
As the drivers staged for the Funny Car final round, reigning Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan would have appeared to be the favorite. The 38-year-old from Brownsburg, Indiana, crawled behind the wheel of his Don Schumacher Racing-prepared Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye looking for his first win of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing 2021 season. Hagan grabbed a slim advantage over Bob Tasca III leaving the start box, but Tim Wilkerson was charging hard up a center lane along with Ron Capps driving the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger. At the finish line, it would be the Ford Mustang of Tasca III with a 3.938 ET at 328.46 mph in one of the closest quad finals of the day.
Pro Stock & Pro Stock Motorcycle
Four-time Pro Stock NHRA Camping World Series champion Erica Enders came to Las Vegas looking to win her 30th Wally in her 300th start. After Friday’s qualifying rounds, Enders spent the rest of the day watching out for black cats following an “unlucky #13” qualifying spot. Fortunately, Enders doesn’t believe in black magic and worked her way through eliminations and into the final Pro Stock quad of the day. A final run of 6.656 seconds at 205.88 mph in her bright red Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro to beat Gainesville winner Aaron Stanfield, Deric Kramer, and Mason McGaha.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Ryan Oehler won his second ever Wally by beating Cory Reed (runner up), Steve Johnson and Scotty Pollacheck in Sunday’s four-wide final. The Flyin’ Ryan Racing/B&K Cylinder Heads bike was first to leave the line and finished with a run of 6.911 ET at 194.83 mph about two and a half bike lengths ahead of Reed for Oehler’s first four-wide win. After an early sellout crowd for the Four Wide event, the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series will look forward to a regular format race at The Strip for the Dodge SRT NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil on Oct. 29-31.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action April 30-May 2 with the Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, marking the final event at the facility.