Photos, videos courtesy NHRA

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

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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.

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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.

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Eli Tomac’s near-perfect season ended perfectly

ProMotocross.com
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From the start, Eli Tomac wanted to go into the season-ending race at Ironman Raceway with the 2020 red plate already in his possession. That final race has been know to devolve into muddy conditions and it is best not to leave things to chance.

For a rider with an almost perfect record of overall podium finishes, one would not have thought there would be much drama at the end of Round 11 at Budds Creek, but it took until the last lap of the final moto for Tomac to achieve his goal.

One reason was that Tomac’s near-perfect season was not so perfect. From the very beginning at Hangtown, Tomac struggled with poor starts to his events. Getting a bad jump out of the gate and finishing fourth in Moto 1 that weekend was not the auspicious beginning he wanted in search of his third consecutive 450 outdoor championship.

The hallmark of Tomac’s season has been overcoming bad starts. He rode through the field at Hangtown and nearly stood on the podium. Then he won Moto 2 and finished second overall. It was his first of nine consecutive overall podiums. Tomac came back the following week for a perfect sweep at Pala.

In Round 3, Tomac once again got off to a bad start. He finished fifth in Moto 1 at Thunder Valley – and then won Moto 2 in a duplication of his opening round.

In Round 5, Tomac had his worst performance until that time. He finished seventh in Moto 1. Nearly halfway through the season, a pattern was firmly established with his Moto 2 win.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

One should recall that the hallmark of Tomac’s season was strong finishes. Four the next four weeks Tomac failed to podium only one time in a moto. On that occasion, he would stumble in Moto 2 at Spring Creek in Round 8 before scoring his second perfect race at Washougal.

And that is where it got interesting. Tomac left Washougal with a 50-point advantage over Marvin Musquin. It was just the scenario Tomac had seesawed his way through the season to achieve. But it was too good to be true.

In most of his previous bad performances, there was an extenuating circumstance for Tomac’s bad start: a fall or an off course excursion. This time, he simply rode an uninspired race and finished seventh again to match his worst single moto performance. He could not fully rebound in Moto 2 and finished third.

For the first time in 2019, Tomac failed to stand on the overall podium in fourth. Worse still, he lost 10 points to Musquin and no longer had his one-race cushion.

But this is a season of recovery for Tomac. At Budds Creek last week it was reported that Tomac’s lackluster performance in Washington was due to his overdoing his chores on his Colorado ranch. Rested and restored, Tomac scored his third perfect race with Moto 1 & 2 wins. And this time, he looked sharper than he had in any previous race.

Tomac did all the could do by winning both motos, but in the closing laps at Budds Creek he needed a little help to clinch the title. As it turned out, Tomac needed the perfect performance to clinch his third consecutive championship.

In Moto 1, he narrowly edged Ken Roczen and Musquin, to give the three championship contenders a sweep of the top three spots; that was not enough to regain his cushion.

Roczen was close enough to force Tomac into The Ironman needing to score points to permanently affix the red plate on his Kawasaki in 2020, but just as Tomac’s season has been marked by second half improvements, Roczen’s has been marred by a lack of performance in the second motos.

Musquin passed Roczen late in Moto 2 last week and could have extended the drama one more week if he could have caught second-place Jason Anderson. Musquin could not erase an 11-second deficit to the runner-up and now Tomac’s almost perfect season has a distinctly perfect feel to it.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

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