NHRA: Hagan, Todd, Enders-Stevens, Hines qualify No. 1 at Las Vegas

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John Force saw his hopes of winning a record-extending 17th NHRA Funny Car championship slip slightly during Saturday’s final two rounds of qualifying in the Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas.

Points leader Matt Hagan increased his edge over Force to 41 points heading into Sunday’s final eliminations at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

There are two races remaining on this season’s schedule: Sunday’s finals and the season-ending World Finals at Pomona, California, Nov. 12-15.

Hagan, who won the 2011 Funny Car championship, earned five extra points in Saturday’s final two qualifying rounds by recording the sixth-quickest elapsed time in Funny Car history with a career-best pass of 3.983 seconds at 322.42 mph.

Hagan’s run was also a track record and the first Funny Car run that has ever dipped below four seconds at the Las Vegas facility. It was also the second No. 1 qualifying position for Hagan this season and 17th of his career.

In so doing, Hagan passed by Force, who was the provisional No. 1 qualifier on Friday, to head into Sunday’s eliminations as the final No. 1 qualifier. Force is now the No. 2 qualifier, and both drivers would face each other if they advance to Sunday’s final round.

“I’m glad we were able to do the three-second run for the fans out there,” Hagan said in an NHRA media release. “They wanted to see a three-second run. Heck when we were coming back, there were a lot John Force fans were cheering for it. Just great for my guys.”

Force, who prior to the final qualifying round Saturday, announced that PEAK Antifreeze will become a primary sponsor on his car for the majority of races in the 2015 season, qualified second (4.022 seconds at 320.66 mph), while daughter Courtney qualified third (4.024 at 320.66).

Other No. 1 qualifiers heading into Sunday were J.R. Todd (Top Fuel), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Todd, who won at Denver earlier this season, took the top spot in Top Fuel for the third time this season and the sixth in his career with a track record run of 3.732 seconds at 327.43 mph.

“To me, Las Vegas is not one of the places where I come to expect to set records,” Todd said. “The conditions are way different than they were yesterday. I think it’s going to be like this (Sunday). I honestly didn’t think it would hold up with the two cars behind us.”

Spencer Massey qualified No. 2 (3.732 at 327.43). Points leader Tony Schumacher qualified fifth (3.754 at 329.18).

In Pro Stock, Enders-Stevens also got into the track record realm, setting both ends of the mark (6.576 seconds and 209.88 mph in her two Saturday runs), earning her third consecutive No. 1, as well as her sixth of the season and 12th of her career.

Even more important, Enders-Stevens closed points leader Jason Line’s lead over her to just 23 points.

“I love racing here,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’ve got a really good hot rod. It was encouraging going into the fourth qualifying session because we hadn’t laid down a really great run yet. My crew chief said we were going after it and we sure did.”

Shane Gray qualified second (6.596 at 208.97).

Not to be left out of the track record setting frenzy was Hines (6.946 seconds at 192.55 mph). It was his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 35th of his career.

“I’ve been close a couple times,” Hines said of his bid to be No. 1 earlier this season. “It was nice to finally lay down a good clean, straight pass in my v-rod and go to the top. It’s been quite a dry spell (without a No. 1). Almost two years to the date.”

Defending PSM world champ Matt Smith, who is looking for his first win of the season, qualified No. 2 (6.882 seconds at 195.76 mph).

 

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SUNDAY’S FIRST ROUND PAIRINGS:

Top Fuel — 1. J.R. Todd, 3.732 seconds, 327.43 mph  vs. 16. T.J. Zizzo, 3.835, 316.15; 2. Spencer Massey, 3.744, 330.39  vs. 15. Terry McMillen, 3.827, 323.04; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.747, 322.81  vs. 14. Brittany Force, 3.805, 325.37; 4. Richie Crampton, 3.748, 325.14  vs. 13. Bob Vandergriff, 3.793, 320.05; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.754, 330.55  vs. 12. Billy Torrence, 3.791, 326.63; 6. Leah Pritchett, 3.755, 319.29  vs. 11. Antron Brown, 3.790, 320.89; 7. Steve Torrence, 3.760, 327.66 vs. 10. Shawn Langdon, 3.787, 320.66; 8. Larry Dixon, 3.766, 326.71  vs. 9. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.781, 320.36.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Kebin Kinsley, 3.850, 316.97; 18. Clay Millican, 3.854, 319.90; 19. Noah Stutz, 3.876, 315.19; 20. Troy Buff, 3.885, 313.73; 21. Steve Faria, 4.021, 254.71; 22. Steven Chrisman, broke.

Funny Car — 1. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.983, 322.42  vs. 16. Terry Haddock, Toyota Solara, 4.290, 294.69; 2. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.022, 320.66  vs. 15. Jon Capps, Chevy Impala, 4.163, 279.21; 3. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.024, 320.66  vs. 14. Paul Lee, Charger, 4.151, 301.40; 4. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.037, 322.34  vs. 13. Tony Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.131, 305.42; 5. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.042, 310.91  vs. 12. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.090, 311.13; 6. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.045, 318.84  vs. 11. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.089, 316.52; 7. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.061, 313.58  vs. 10. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.079, 314.17; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.065, 311.41  vs. 9. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.076, 308.35.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Cruz Pedregon, 4.719, 294.05; 18. John Bojec, 4.960, 232.51; 19. Jeff Diehl, 5.377, 202.79.

Pro Stock — 1. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.576, 209.88  vs. 16. Jeff Isbell, Camaro, 6.829, 204.29; 2. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.596, 209.30  vs. 15. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.673, 206.54; 3. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.597, 209.20  vs. 14. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.670, 206.57; 4. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.601, 208.78  vs. 13. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.653, 208.59; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.605, 209.56  vs. 12. Matt Hartford, Avenger, 6.649, 208.14; 6. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.605, 209.10  vs. 11. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.645, 207.59; 7. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.614, 209.20 vs. 10. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.633, 208.68; 8. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.616, 208.65  vs. 9. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.627, 209.36.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Steve Schmidt, 6.843, 202.48; 18. Deric Kramer, 7.308, 203.31.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.856, 194.38  vs. 16. John Hall, Buell, 7.036, 190.92; 2. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.882, 195.76  vs. 15. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.027, 189.68; 3. Michael Ray, Suzuki, 6.883, 195.79  vs. 14. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.996, 190.14; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.893, 193.60  vs. 13. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.989, 194.41; 5. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.930, 194.41  vs. 12. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.986, 191.16; 6. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 6.935, 192.49  vs. 11. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.979, 193.68; 7. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.941, 194.07  vs. 10. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.972, 191.62; 8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.960, 193.27  vs. 9. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.967, 192.06.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Elvira Karlsson, 7.037, 188.67; 18. Mike Berry, 7.062, 189.60; 19. Rhett Lougheed, 7.114, 190.75; 20. Freddie Camarena, 7.835, 191.67; 21. Lance Bonham, 7.891, 174.05; 22. Redell Harris, 9.334, 190.22; 23. Angelle Sampey, broke.

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