The NHRA Nevada Nationals marked the fifth and next to last event of the six-event Countdown to the Championship. In Top Fuel and Funny Car, several drivers were in very close contention for the championship. Pro Stock was nearing its end, as four-time champion, Erica Enders was pretty much, running away from the competition and would likely clinch her fifth title at this event. In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith looked to be a shoe in to win the title. The weather for the event was projected to be mild and provided for strong performances in all categories.
In Top Fuel Justin Ashley looked to be a favorite to win his first title, as he came in with an 82-point lead over Brittany Force, with Mike Salinas, Antron Brown and Steve Torrence all within striking distance. Force and her team and crew chief, David Grubnic, were on a focused mission to close in on Ashley in the point battle or win the Las Vegas event. She garnered most of the qualifying bonus points by qualifying number one and having the quickest elapse time in three of the for qualifying rounds. These performances paid dividends, as she had low elapse time in each of the first three eliminations rounds, and she blasted her way into the final round. In the process, she took out Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher. Her opponent in the final round would be the same driver she faced off against in her last event win in Sonoma, CA. That opponent was Mike Salinas of Pleasanton, CA. Salinas was also having a great weekend at the races. He qualified fourth and then took out Leah Pruitt, Clay Millican and Austin Prock on his march to the final round. Justin Ashley, the point leader, was taken out by Clay Millican in the opening round of eliminations, in what would be one of the biggest upsets of the event. In the final, Force utilized a great 0.034 reaction time to collect a hole shot 3.705 at 332.34 mph to 3.702 at 324.90 mph victory. It was her first win since the Sonoma event, where she also beat Salinas. It was her fifth win of the season and 16th of her career. In the process, she was able to erase the 82-point deficit and turned it into a seven-point lead over Justin Ashley. Salinas now sits third, 66 points back with one race remaining.
In Funny Car, Robert Hight came in with a mere 10-point lead over Ron Capps. But Capps was taken out in the second round and Hight advanced to the final round, pushing Capps to 61 points back. His final round opponent was none other than Matt Hagan, whose team had been struggling on track since his last win in June. Hagan was able to beat a tire smoking Robert Hight with a strong 3.896 at 330.23 mph winning run to keep his championship hopes alive. Hagan now sits just 63 points back in his quest for his fourth season championship. Hight, Capps and Hagan are normally strong performers in Pomona, the site of the season’s final event, so it should be a tough battle for each team. But, Hight goes in with a 61-point lead.
In Pro Stock, Erica Enders ended all hopes for opponents, as she marched into the semifinal round, where she defeated Kyle Koretsky. With that round win, she wrapped up her fifth career Pro Stock season championship. She then capped it off, defeating Troy Coughlin, Jr. to capture the event win, the 43rd of her career.
Matt Smith was able to extend his point lead over Joey Gladstone to 104 but was unable to collect the event win in Pro Stock Motorcycle. He was taken out in the final round by Hector Arana, Jr. on a 0.009 hole shot for a 6.866 at196.42 mph to 6.862 at 198.27 mph win. It was Arana’s second consecutive win, having won in Dallas two weeks ago.