LAS VEGAS (April 15, 2023) – Brittany Force and the Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac Chevrolet dragster team will start race day from the No. 1 spot for the second time this season, 44th time of her career and second time at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Force and the Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac team earned their No. 1 qualifying spot off their 3.697-second pass at 335.73 mph from Friday evening. They followed it up with a 3.751-second pass at 334.15 mph early Saturday afternoon. Crew Chief David Grubnic took advantage of the fourth qualifying session to test. The Monster Energy machine would run into tire smoke for only a 6.831 at 84.07.
“Our Monster Energy team’s very happy, we had three good runs down the racetrack, the one yesterday got us into the top spot, and we stayed there. Overall, a good start to the weekend. The hard work starts tomorrow on race day. We’re looking for a win. We were successful here last year, winning both the spring and fall events. It was our first win of the season, and we’d love to do it again,” Force said. “We knew coming into that second run today that it was going be risky, it was either going to go, or it wasn’t. But we were safe enough in the show with that 3.69 from yesterday that we wanted to use today to test. So, it didn't quite go down there, but again, that was the plan. We still are testing some things. We’re still probably going to be, if we’re well qualified and have the opportunity, we’ll probably do it again in the future.”
Cruz Pedregon stayed atop the Funny Car field with his Friday 3.910, but not without a little drama. The final quad — consisting of Pedregon, Matt Hagan, Robert Hight, and Ron Capps — was delayed for an hour and 50 minutes after Paul Lee had the misfortune of having an oil line come off that put oil into two lanes. With the air cooling, Pedregon’s 64th career and second straight No. 1 was not assured until all four crossed the finish line, all under four seconds, but with Capps the quickest at 3.93 while Pedregon clocked a solid 3.956.
"It was a little bit nerve-wracking but it all worked out and we ended up No. 1, and I'm proud of the Snao-On team. We made the right calls and only misfired on one run [a 4.09 in Q3],. If you can get a nitro car to make three out of four qualifying runs, that's a good weekend."
"Honestly, I thought low e.t. was wrapped [before we ran] and I hate to say it because I don't want to sound like we're counting our chickens but I felt given the temperature of the track and the conditions, I didn't think it was in the cards for anyone to run better than our .91. it gets hotter later in the day here and then doesn't cool down as fast as it does in places like Sonoma or Pomona."
The biggest surprise of the meet so far was J.R. Todd not qualifying in Funny Car, probably not totally surprising after having two cars destroyed at the Winternationals. Todd and DHL team could never find their footing in Vegas, charting a best run of just 4.27. It’s Todd first ever DNQ in 129 starts in Funny Car. His last DNQ was at the 2013 U.S. Nationals, while he was still competing in Top Fuel on a part-time basis.
"It's been a forgettable weekend, but I put the blame on me," said Todd. "I should have done a better job earlier in the week keeping the thing in the groove and not come down to Q4 to try to get in the show. All in all, I feel bad for the guys who put in the work this past week to get this DHL GR Supra back on track and Dan and Joe at PBRC and everybody at Kalitta Motorsports in the fab shop for busting their asses to get us back out here. This is a tough pill to swallow, but I'm sure we will stay and run on Monday to get this thing figured out. It's still early in the season. A lot of racing left. I told these guys that I'm sorry. They deserve better than this. I wanted to get them a win this week; that's the way I can pay them back, so we still got plenty of time to try and do that."
It came as a surprise to many that five-time event winner Hartford had yet to gain a low qualifier award until this weekend. He made his first start in Pro Stock in 2006 at Maple Grove Raceway, and the Four-Wide Nationals marked the 161st race of his career. For most of this season and in the latter half last year, though, he's experienced a surge of power and performance. He was No. 2 qualifier in Phoenix, then went to Pomona the following weekend and won the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge and secured a final-round finish in the main event.
Ahead of this weekend's event, Hartford was eager to see where he stood in the elevated, dry and warm conditions of Las Vegas.
"Maybe we had the car to beat in Pomona, but this is a whole new environment," he said. "Right now, we just have to focus on qualifying, and there's no one to beat here except ourselves. Our goal is to go up there, try to run at the top of the page, and continue our momentum."
The plan started to come together on Friday, but Hartford's KB Titan Racing teammate Dallas Glenn nabbed the provisional pole, holding Hartford back in the No. 2 position and achingly close to that coveted top spot with a solid 6.635-second pass.
"There was a time we were 16th and just overjoyed," said Hartford. "It was like, wow, we're in. But last night we were all sitting at dinner with our heads down, like, 'We're No. 2; we know we could have gone to No. 1, we just missed it.' It's just a different mindset as you progress through the sport."
Pleasingly for Hartford, the early round of qualifying on Saturday came with a change of command as he blasted to a 6.599 in his Total Seal/CIP1 Chevrolet Camaro to unseat Glenn, and in the warmer conditions on Saturday afternoon, no one could get around it. The deal was done, and Hartford was set to start from the No. 1 spot and square off with one of the toughest quads of the opening act. He will race Phoenix winner Camrie Caruso, reigning world champion Erica Enders, and Elite Motorsports-powered Jerry Tucker.
"The first thing is just to make sure you get in, get both [pre-stage] bulbs lit on your tree before the seven seconds is up, and just be ready," said Hartford. "You just have to focus on everything you can do correctly in your lane and see what happens."
The NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway continues eliminations scheduled for Sunday at noon. Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) continues with a qualifying show Saturday at 9:30 p.m. ET. Eliminations will air on FS1 Sunday at 9:30 p.m. ET.
See the recap by NHRA National Dragster staff:
Take a look at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Saturday photo gallery:
Photo's: NHRA | NHRA National Dragster
Content: John Force Racing PR | NHRA