Friday’s NHRA qualifying at Las Vegas lays down solid baseline for Saturday

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Saturday’s second round of qualifying for the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip in Las Vegas will have a lot to live up to after Friday’s first round of qualifying.

And we’ve got the videos below to prove it!

Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) had great runs as the fourth of the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series kicked off.

Saturday will be the final round of qualifying, followed by Sunday’s final eliminations.

Recapping Friday’s events:

TOP FUEL: Torrence was the fastest in both qualifying sessions, including recording a field-best of 3.779 seconds at 310.91 mph.

“To go out and run low of each session was huge for us,” Torrence said. “We were back in the lanes and saw a couple of 3.79s roll up on the scoreboards, and we figured someone could go .77, .78. The run really surprised me; it left really good, but at about 900 feet, it knocked the panels out of the blower. It surprised me it still went that quick out of power.”

Torrence has been knocking on victory’s door, reaching the semifinals in each of the first three races of the 2014 season.

Here’s Toreence’s best run from Friday:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_3QPCU2dKg&w=560&h=315]

FUNNY CAR

Matt Hagan is tired of being No. 2 at Las Vegas. He’s twice been a runner-up there and on Friday made it clear he wants No. 1 on Sunday, with a best run of 4.063 seconds at 320.58 mph against Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in both of Friday’s qualifying runs.

“I always try to put the extra effort in during qualifying but especially when we’re running a teammate,” Hagan said. “It is bragging rights when you go out and lay one on your teammate. That always puts a smile on my face.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuickJ518Z8&w=560&h=315]

PRO STOCK

Jeg Coughlin Jr. looked as if he’s ready to defend last year’s season championship, running a best-of-field 6.625 seconds at 208.78 mph.

Coughlin is seeking a sixth career win at Las Vegas, which would put him one behind Greg Anderson’s record of seven. Anderson is still sidelined, recovering from offseason surgery.

“We’d like to carry this over into Saturday and the K&N Horsepower Challenge,” Coughlin said. “We’re putting our game face on now. There is $50,000 going to the winner, and one of the fans will win a Toyota Tacoma. It’s very fitting for the high-stakes race to take place here at The Strip.”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UU-rLujbvo&w=560&h=315]

Here’s Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 15th annual SummitRacing.com NHRANationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Top Fuel — 1. Steve Torrence, 3.779 seconds, 322.27 mph; 2. Antron Brown, 3.797, 322.96; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.797, 319.75; 4. Richie Crampton, 3.798, 319.98; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.816, 322.96; 6. Bob Vandergriff, 3.831, 319.52; 7. Brittany Force, 3.834, 311.34; 8. Spencer Massey, 3.837, 320.89; 9. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.847, 312.57; 10. Shawn Langdon, 3.848, 316.90; 11. Clay Millican, 3.874, 295.59; 12. Terry McMillen, 3.936, 309.77.

Not Qualified: 13. Troy Buff, 4.028, 237.88; 14. Steven Chrisman, 4.327, 206.64; 15. David Grubnic, 5.102, 134.70; 16. Mike Strasburg, 5.594, 115.82; 17. Steve Faria, 5.820, 112.62.

Funny Car — 1. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.063, 317.05; 2. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.069, 311.99; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.075, 314.61; 4. Chad Head, Camry, 4.076, 308.07; 5. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.084, 313.66; 6. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.093, 315.19; 7. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.102, 308.64; 8. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.108, 310.63; 9. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.115, 310.13; 10. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.116, 305.98; 11. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.122, 293.03; 12. Paul Lee, Charger, 4.124, 306.81.

Not Qualified: 13. Bob Tasca III, 4.148, 307.30; 14. Tony Pedregon, 4.163, 295.92; 15. John Force, 4.172, 301.07; 16. Jon Capps, 4.223, 278.23; 17. Jeff Diehl, 4.297, 293.98; 18. Gary Densham, 4.444, 224.28; 19. Jeff Arend, 4.783, 169.93.

Pro Stock — 1. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.625, 209.17; 2. Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.625, 208.46; 3. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.627, 209.04; 4. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.627, 208.26; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.630, 208.94; 6. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.632, 208.94; 7. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.632, 209.17; 8. Jimmy Alund, Camaro, 6.639, 208.49; 9. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.647, 207.72; 10. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.657, 209.07; 11. Steve Kent, Camaro, 6.657, 207.56; 12. Deric Kramer, Avenger, 6.686, 207.59.

Not Qualified: 13. Matt Hartford, 6.686, 207.34; 14. Mark Wolfe, 6.740, 205.76; 15. Larry Morgan, 6.765, 206.95; 16. Rodger Brogdon, 6.813, 206.67.

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AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”