Photos, videos courtesy NHRA

NHRA: Robert Hight, Antron Brown, Greg Anderson are first day 4-wide No. 1 qualifiers at Las Vegas

Leave a comment

Robert Hight (Funny Car), Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) are the provisional No. 1 qualifiers following Friday’s first of two days of qualifying for the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.

This is the first-ever four-wide race at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It’s sister track, zMAX Dragway in suburban Charlotte, has held a four-wide race annually since 2010.

The second round of qualifying will be Saturday, with final eliminations set for Sunday for the fourth race on the 24-event 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

In Funny Car: Hight set the pace with a run of 3.693 seconds at 321.42 mph. He’s hoping to hold on to his lead in Saturday’s final two qualifying rounds – for his first No. 1 qualifier of the season (he had eight last season – to go into Sunday’s eliminations as the driver to beat.

“I know we will likely have to improve our time to hold onto the No. 1 qualifier tomorrow,” Hight said. “Everyone at Las Vegas Motor Speedway worked their tails off over the winter to get this track done, but they got it done ahead of schedule and did an amazing job.”

Tommy Johnson Jr. currently sits in second (3.983 seconds at 315.49 mph), while teammate Ron Capps is third.

In Top Fuel: Brown is the provisional No. 1 with a run of 3.772 seconds at 324.83 mph. Like Hight, Brown is also seeking his first No. 1 spot of the season heading into Sunday’s eliminations.

“Our goal is to keep getting better and better each day because we haven’t been hitting our marks so far this year,” Brown said. “But Vegas has always been a breakout race for us, and we are hoping to do that again this year.”

Doug Kalitta qualified second (3.786 seconds at 320.51 mph, as he seeks his second win of the season (won in the season-opening race at Pomona, California).

In Pro Stock: Anderson paced his class (6.669 seconds at 206.45 mph). He is looking for his second consecutive and 95th career No. 1 qualifying position after earning the top spot at Gainesville.

“We had an extra challenge today in preparing for the four-wide, but we hit it on the bulls eye from the intel we got from my team,” Anderson said. “Today was a pretty cool day, and I can’t tell you how great a job this track did on the race surface, it has great traction and each lane is done as well as the others.”

Qualifying continues at 3:10 p.m. ET on Saturday.

**********************

FIRST DAY OF QUALIFYING RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Antron Brown, 3.772 seconds, 324.83 mph; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.786, 320.51; 3. Leah Pritchett, 3.802, 320.58; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.817, 318.39; 5. Billy Torrence, 3.819, 313.66; 6. Richie Crampton, 3.829, 313.66; 7. Brittany Force, 3.846, 301.60; 8. Scott Palmer, 3.850, 322.50; 9. Terry McMillen, 3.917, 252.05; 10. Troy Buff, 3.931, 283.37; 11. Clay Millican, 3.987, 236.46; 12. Terry Haddock, 4.025, 270.92; 13. Mike Salinas, 4.111, 278.46; 14. Steve Torrence, 4.394, 182.26.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.963, 321.42; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.983, 315.49; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.992, 316.82; 4. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.005, 313.00; 5. Jonnie Lindberg, Toyota Camry, 4.011, 306.46; 6. John Force, Camaro, 4.018, 314.39; 7. Gary Densham, Ford Mustang, 4.021, 306.26; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.028, 310.05; 9. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.040, 302.28; 10. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.048, 312.93; 11. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.055, 310.48; 12. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.087, 310.91; 13. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.153, 303.91; 14. Jeff Arend, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.202, 288.83; 15. Phil Burkart, Charger, 4.307, 288.52; 16. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.319, 216.69. Not Qualified: 17. J.R. Todd, 4.824, 164.01; 18. Jim Campbell, 5.023, 163.18; 19. Bob Bode, 5.728, 137.81; 20. Cruz Pedregon, 14.504, 64.70.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.669, 206.45; 2. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.681, 205.63; 3. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.702, 205.32; 4. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.705, 205.10; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.709, 204.63; 6. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.710, 204.94; 7. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.714, 205.57; 8. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.715, 204.35; 9. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.722, 205.51; 10. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.734, 205.38; 11. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.734, 204.88; 12. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.747, 205.44; 13. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.754, 204.05; 14. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.797, 203.25; 15. Joey Grose, Camaro, 6.961, 200.02; 16. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 7.074, 196.39.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Ben Hanley relieved to make Indy 500 debut

Leave a comment

Qualifying for the Indy 500 is never an easy task, especially for a new driver and team, and with 36 cars vying for 33 starting positions last weekend, 34-year-old rookie Ben Hanley knew there was a chance he and his DragonSpeed team would not make the show.

“I wouldn’t say we were very confident, but we wanted to [make the field],” Hanley told NBC Sports. “The biggest thing we were trying to achieve was to not be on track on Sunday in the shootout because it only takes one mistake or one little issue and that’s it, you’re not in the race.”

But Hanley would not have to worry about being bumped from the field. He qualified 27th after making three attempts on Day 1, which was enough to lock the No. 81 team into the show. Not too shabby for a driver and team making only their third NTT IndyCar Series start.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch, full daily schedules

“That last run everything just came together,” Hanley said. “We trimmed out a little bit more and found a good balance of trim and grip over four [qualifying] laps and it was enough to get us through.

“It was a huge relief to get through in P27. A massive achievement for everybody involved.”

Indeed it was a massive achievement, as DragonSpeed is one of the smallest teams in the garage, with no corporate sponsors and a tiny team of around 20 personnel. Many of those were picked up by the team just a week before qualifying, when members of the team’s regular crew were denied entry into the United States due to visa issues after leaving a sports car race in Italy.

“It was all down to the team organizing some people who were in and around Indianapolis who weren’t needed for the race weekend,” Hanley said. “Obviously, I don’t think many people are going to refuse the chance to work on a car that’s trying to qualify for the 500.”

Though the team made its first Indy 500 on Day 1 of qualifying, the DragonSpeed team did not spend Saturday night out late celebrating. Instead, Hanley said the extra time was spent preparing for the race.

“We went straight on to race prep then for the car, so Sunday was a good day for the guys to take time to prep the car into the race spec and get everything sorted out in a nice, organized manner.”

Following the Indy 500, DragonSpeed will run two other races this season at Road America and Mid-Ohio. The team is hopeful that a good run at Indy will result in an opportunity to run a bigger schedule next season and attract sponsors.

Hanley stated that though he’s happy to have made the Indy 500 starting grid for the first time in his career, the magnitude of his feat hasn’t hit him yet.

“It hasn’t really soaked in yet,” he said. “I think it will soak in on Sunday when we roll out to the grid.

“It was such a huge relief to not be involved in Bump Day. Even just watching [Bump Day] it was intense, especially with the weather. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be involved in that.”

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter