The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series made its annual stop at the Strip in Las Vegas for the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals. Weather slowed up some of the on-track action as Thursday saw hurricane force winds up to 85 mph-plus which held up the NHRA Safety Safari’s ability to properly prep the track. On Friday, Mother Nature again held up pre-race track prep with some rain and wind gusts of 40 plus miles per hour. Around noon the weather subsided and NHRA’s hard working crew went right to work prepping the track. Once the track prep was finished qualifying went on but teams struggled all during qualifying to get a handle on the race track.
When race day rolled around on Sunday three-time Top Fuel champion Antron Brown stood atop all the rest of the competition. His opening round match up with Scott Palmer went by without a hitch. Brown posted a 3.752 @325 mph on the scoreboard to advance to round two. He then took down the Capco Contractors team of Steve Torrance with a 3.822 @318 mph to a 4.035 @276 mph. Brown would then take on teammate Leah Pritchett in the Papa John’s Pizza dragster. Brown made quick work of Pritchett with a 3.797 @320 mph to a 3.919 @311 mph. In the final round matchup, it would be Brown taking on yet another teammate Tony ‘The Sarge’ Schumacher and the US Army team. Brown posted the second-best run of eliminations a 3.747 @321 mph to Schumacher’s 3.809 @325 mph to capture the trophy. This was Brown’s 62nd career victory and third at this event.
The Funny Car class saw a rare upset in the opening round when number one qualifier Courtney Force and her Advance Auto Parts team was taken down by Gary Densham, the 16th qualifier. Densham put a 4.079 @287 mph to Force’s tire smoking 5.118 @153 mph. Densham’s Cinderella story came to an end when rookie Jonnie Lindberg took him down in the semifinals. On the opposite side of the ladder Tommy Johnson Jr. made his way through the field taking out Jim Campbell and the 7-Eleven team in the opening round with a 3.943 @320 mph. His round two matchup with Robert Hight and the Auto Club of Southern California team went awkwardly when Hight had a momentary lapse of concentration and double stepped the throttle and red lighted which disqualified him automatically. Johnson, meanwhile, streaked down the 1000ft race track with a 4.068 @268 mph. Johnson would then take on 16-time champion John Force and the Peak Antifreeze team. Both drivers left the starting line at the same time but Johnson’s 3.997 @319 mph was too much for Force’s 4.128 @282 mph. In the final round Johnson would score the victory over rookie driver Lindberg who was in his second race as a Nitro Funny Car driver and his second straight final round. Johnson ran the quickest pass of elimination day with a 3.933 @323 mph to Lindberg’s 4.016 @302 mph. This was Johnson’s 15th career victory and second at this event.
In Pro Stock, 17-year-old rookie Tanner Gray in his fourth career race scored his first career victory by defeating Deric Kramer, Greg Anderson, Jason Line and Bo Buntner.