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Beckman, Pritchett, Anderson & M. Smith Earn No. 1 Spots As Track Records Fall In Vegas

A day after setting the track speed record, Funny Car championship hopeful Jack Beckman made the quickest run in The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway history on Saturday, earning the No. 1 qualifying spot at the 19th annual Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil.

Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the fifth of six races in the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. The race also serves as the penultimate event of the 24-race 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Beckman powered to a record-breaking run of 3.835-seconds at 331.94 mph during Saturday’s final qualifying session, sending him to the top spot for the third time in 2019 and 27th overall in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge SRT Hellcat. Beckman will meet Terry Haddock to open raceday on Sunday. After going a Vegas-best 335.90 on Friday, Beckman and his team saved their best for last on Saturday, giving Beckman, who is second in points, valuable bonus points as he tries to track down leader Robert Hight.

“I just want the trophy now. That will make it a perfect weekend,” said Beckman, who had previously held both ends of the track record at Vegas coming into the weekend. “It just gives us a lot more confidence. The car is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. We’re not looking over our shoulder because there’s a lot of hungry competitors; we’re looking at Robert Hight. All we can control is our own destiny and you can’t look past anybody.”

Tommy Johnson Jr. qualified second with a 3.840 at 331.04, while John Force, who is third in points and qualified third, went 3.853 at 330.72. Points leader Hight qualified eighth with a 3.876 at 332.84.

Pritchett came alive in the final Top Fuel qualifying session on Saturday, making the quickest run in track history with a remarkable 3.654 at 329.83 in her MOPAR dragster. By setting the track record, Pritchett eclipsed Brittany Force’s top run on Friday, qualifying No. 1 for the first time this season and 12th time overall, also giving Don Schumacher Racing a clean sweep in nitro qualifying. She will meet Cameron Ferre in the first round of eliminations.

“It was a phenomenal pass and we made three consistent runs out of the four,” Pritchett said. “When I hit 330-feet, I knew we were going to be on a run, and to be No. 1 at the Dodge Nationals Presented by Pennzoil is phenomenal. We’ve got all the energy, it’s our first No. 1 of the season and we just hope to continue to carry this momentum. We’re just trying to stay in our zone and keep our intensity, and I’m not overthinking in the car. That’s what I’m planning to do tomorrow.”

Force was bumped to the second position with her 3.659 at a national record speed of 338.17, while Billy Torrence is third with a 3.662 at 332.34. Points leader Steve Torrence qualified fifth with a 3.691 at 329.26.

Fresh off a win at the most recent race in Dallas, Anderson stayed strong on Saturday in Vegas, securing the No. 1 spot for the second time this season with a run of 6.584 at 207.91 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro. It is also the 104th No. 1 qualifier for Anderson, who will meet Cristian Cuadra to open raceday. The four-time world champ remains in striking distance of points leader Erica Enders, who qualified No. 1 on Friday before finishing second with her 6.587 at 208.46. Bo Butner finished in the third spot after going 6.591 at 208.68.

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“It’s always been a great racetrack for me,” said Anderson, who has a class-best eight wins in Vegas. “I love coming here and racing in front of (team owner Ken Black) and his family. It’s a special weekend so far and we’ve had a lot of magic here. It makes you feel good and gives you confidence, and we’ll take it. It just takes so much to win a race in Pro Stock anymore. You couldn’t possibly bet on who’s the favorite. It just comes down to who makes zero mistakes and who puts it all together tomorrow. We’re executing perfectly so far and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ Smith was even better Saturday, lowering the track record he set the previous day to a 6.840 at 196.93 on his Denso Auto Parts/Stockseth/MSR EBR. Smith grabbed the No. 1 spot for the sixth time this season 37th time in his career, and he will face Katie Sullivan in the first round of eliminations as the veteran seeks his first playoff win of 2019.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence going into tomorrow,” said Smith, who also qualified No. 1 at the Vegas spring race. “All in all, I’ve think we’ve got a pretty fast hotrod for tomorrow. This motorcycle is running pretty mean right now. After the helmet goes on, it’s all serious and it’s all business, and we’re having a good time.”

Steve Johnson stayed second with a 6.848 at 194.18, while Eddie Krawiec qualified third thanks to his 6.864 at 195.11. Points leader Andrew Hines is right behind in fourth after going 6.866 at 194.63 on Saturday.

Stevie “Fast” Jackson, who has already clinched his first world championship, qualified in the top spot during action in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service. Jackson’s pass of 5.735 at 250.37 in his blown Bahrain1 Racing Camaro gave him the fourth No. 1 qualifier of his 2019 championship season.
Eliminations begin at 11 a.m. PT on Sunday at the Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil.

LAS VEGAS — Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the 19th annual Dodge NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the 23rd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Top Fuel — 1. Leah Pritchett, 3.654 seconds, 329.83 mph vs. 16. Cameron Ferre, 3.942, 299.33; 2. Brittany Force, 3.659, 338.17 vs. 15. Pat Dakin, 3.848, 275.62; 3. Billy Torrence, 3.662, 332.34 vs. 14. Justin Ashley, 3.786, 322.19; 4. Mike Salinas, 3.682, 329.34 vs. 13. Clay Millican, 3.763, 328.86; 5. Steve Torrence, 3.691, 329.26 vs. 12. Scott Palmer, 3.755, 312.35; 6. Terry McMillen, 3.701, 329.10 vs. 11. Antron Brown, 3.726, 325.22; 7. Richie Crampton, 3.709, 327.03 vs. 10. Austin Prock, 3.726, 330.96; 8. Shawn Reed, 3.709, 326.71 vs. 9. Doug Kalitta, 3.725, 319.45.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Troy Buff, 3.945, 261.88; 18. Cory McClenathan, 4.010, 278.40; 19. Chris Karamesines, 4.323, 200.29; 20. Jim Maroney, 8.517, 69.41; 21. Rob Passey, 8.797, 84.36.

Funny Car — 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.835, 331.94 vs. 16. Terry Haddock, Ford Mustang, 4.142, 290.07; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.840, 331.04 vs. 15. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.070, 299.00; 3. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.853, 330.72 vs. 14. Steven Densham, Mustang, 4.028, 313.29; 4. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.856, 333.58 vs. 13. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 3.943, 325.45; 5. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.861, 332.34 vs. 12. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.920, 329.10; 6. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.862, 332.02 vs. 11. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.902, 329.67; 7. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.872, 332.34 vs. 10. Paul Lee, Charger, 3.881, 332.67; 8. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.876, 332.84 vs. 9. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.880, 326.56.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Jeff Arend, 4.464, 199.94.

Pro Stock — 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.584, 207.91 vs. 16. Cristian Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 6.678, 206.04; 2. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.587, 208.46 vs. 15. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.664, 204.98; 3. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.591, 208.68 vs. 14. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.663, 206.73; 4. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.595, 208.75 vs. 13. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.655, 207.08; 5. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.599, 207.82 vs. 12. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.625, 207.82; 6. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.600, 208.07 vs. 11. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.622, 207.91; 7. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.603, 208.78 vs. 10. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.621, 207.91; 8. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.605, 208.49 vs. 9. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.620, 206.23.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Joey Grose, 6.694, 206.35; 18. Richie Stevens, 6.730, 204.60; 19. Fernando Cuadra Jr., 6.803, 202.61.

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Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Matt Smith, EBR, 6.840, 196.93 vs. 16. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 7.049, 191.78; 2. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.848, 194.18 vs. 15. Ron Tornow, Buell, 7.048, 182.92; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.864, 195.11 vs. 14. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.991, 190.86; 4. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.866, 194.63 vs. 13. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.947, 190.35; 5. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.870, 193.93 vs. 12. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.942, 194.55; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, EBR, 6.877, 194.44 vs. 11. Hector Arana, EBR, 6.933, 194.04; 7. Angelle Sampey, Harley-Davidson, 6.877, 193.90 vs. 10. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.930, 193.24; 8. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.893, 195.00 vs. 9. Angie Smith, EBR, 6.929, 192.77.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Jianna Salinas, 7.075, 188.57; 18. Eiji Kawakami, 7.180, 188.20; 19. Andie Rawlings, 7.391, 175.78.

This story was originally published on November 2, 2019. Drag Illustrated

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