2008 AC Delco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals
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Though it was warm, sometimes hot in the mid seventies to eighties, the desert track was for the most part was somewhat overcast in this the penultimate round of the NHRA POWERade Championship and the now Countdown to One. Although the economic climate is still a major concern to most, the stands were full to capacity in the sell-out race.
Tony Schumacher dominated Top Fuel from start to finish and by the end of qualifying on Saturday had wrapped up his sixth POWERade Top Fuel Championship and the fifth in a row. His one thousand foot qualifier was a powerful 3.781/318, the only car in the 3.7s in the twenty-three car field. The US Army car ably tuned by soon departing Alan Johnson was lining up for its fifteenth win of the year and Schumacher’s first victim was an up in smoke Joe Hartley, 3.824/316 to 6.648/102. Round two saw Clay Millican in the Nitro Fish car reeled in with a cylinder losing track oiling 3.851/295 to a losing 3.898/310, whilst in the semi final Larry Dixon in the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco car took a weaving top end 3.899/305 lose as The Sarge powered past to notch up the 3.833/305 win. It was a late afternoon final as Tony Schumacher sped off after Rod Fuller in the Caterpillar backed machine and at the stripe it was the 3.806/314 from Schumacher that beat Fuller’s 3.821/315.
Cruz Pedregon came into the race hoping to do well in Funny Car, a feat he exceeded by taking the event title and now leading the points into the last race at Pomona. A 4.043/309 from Robert Hight led the qualifying in the twenty car pack. Cruz Pedregon sat in third points place and faced Jack Beckman in round one but a blatant red stopped the Valvoline/MTS car from progressing and a 4.196/292 won the round. Cruz was obviously worrying his opponents as the second foe to red light against him was Gary Densham’s Racebricks Impala allowing a pedalling Pedregon the 4.180/303 win. Round three had Cruz up against number two qualifier John Force and although Force’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang was weaving about at the top end, his 4.111/300 was beaten by a car length as Pedregon’s 4.092/305 took him within just eight points of Tim Wilkerson’s lead. Wilkerson’s recent domination was ended in round one as he went up in smoke to Mike Neff. "Hight’s car scares the daylights out of me" said Cruz Pedregon. "I heard him all the way down. I tried to stay focused - I was a machine today" he added after beating Robert Hight’s Automobile Club of Southern California/Ford on a holeshot, the Advance Auto Parts ’08 Solara ran a winning 4.100/304 to Hight’s losing 4.111/304.
Jeg Coughlin paved his way to all but clinch the Pro Stock POWERade Championship he led qualifying with a 6.703/205, a new track record then blitzed his way through all comers to get to the final. Rickie Jones in the Quarter-Max/RJ Race Cars Dodge Stratus was the first to go in the initial round, an identical leave had Coughlin take a 6.719/204 win to the 6.747/203 lose. A good light in round two against Dave Connolly paid off with a 6.710/204 as the 6.717/205 was not enough from the Charter Communications car. The J&J Racing/Mopar Stratus of Allen Johnson matched Coughlin’s leave but at the end of the quarter-mile it was Coughlin’s 6.719/204 that clinched the win by a car length to the 6.744/204 lose. In the final Jeg Coughlin in the Jegs.com ’08 Cobalt kept his cool as opponent Greg Stanfield in the Attitude Apparel/Pontiac red lit away his chances, the 6.708/205 beat the slowing foul 9.459/97. "It took a lot of pressure of us to win this", said Coughlin, "apart from qualifier number three where we shook we have had a faultless weekend".
Angelle Sampey took her Rush Racing Products Buell to a 6.993/188 pole position in Pro Stock Motorcycle, the only six in the twenty-three strong class. It was fifth qualifier Chris Rivas that wrapped up the Pro Stock Motorcycle event win as first he powered his way to a round one win of 7.044/187 over Michael Phillips on his Damwaterbelt.com/DAM Sport Suzuki whose 7.114/190 was not enough. Chip Ellis on his Schumacher Electric Suzuki tried hard to catch a hard leaving Rivas in round two but the 7.052/186 told the tale over the 7.150/185 lose. A double red light shone in both lanes in the third round but Andrew Hines on the Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines V-Rod carded the worst allowing Rivas through to fight another round, 7.095/183 win to the 7.098/186 lose. In the all important final points were at a premium and Chris Rivas on the Drag Specialties/S&S/G2 ’07 Buell got away quickly leaving a somnolent Eddie Krawiec on the Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines '07 HD V-Rod on the startline, a 7.052/185 took the win light as Krawiec followed to runner up with a 7.307/152. "We will do no different to close the gap in the Championship", said Rivas later. "I will just do my job."
Jeg's Pro Mod Challenge was won by the new Champion Joshua Hernandez who qualified second after Canadian Raymond Commisso on a 6.012/239. Hernandez managed to stay ahead of Joe Baker in the first round, a 6.050/237 beating the 6.134/234. Round two saw Mike Moran slow after a good leave allowing Hernandez past with a winning 6.043/237 to the losing 8.169/123. A couple of good lights gave a great race between Joshua Hernandez and Taylor Lastor both driving Camaro’s but the 6.031/236 from Hernandez beat the 6.092/237 from Lastor. The final almost produced the events first five with the 6.001/238 from the Team Rage '68 Camaro of Joshua Hernandez as he took the winning ticket as the 6.046/238 from Mike Knowles ’63 Corvette.
The Competition Eliminator win went to Dan Fletcher, his ’08 Cobalt running an 8.167/164 on a better leave than that of runner up Steve Holloway whose '06 GTO gained second place with a 6.769/208.
Super Stock saw Anthony Bertozzi take his ’98 Grand Am to the event win with a 9.450/140 beating Dan Fletcher’s ’69 Camaro whose 9.520/139 was runner up.
The Super Comp win went to Tommy Phillips with his 9.047/166 beating the 9.044/168 from Michael Miller.
Super Gas was in the hands of Brad Pierce and his ’58 Corvette, a 10.044/142 beating the 10.023/152 from the '02 Firebird of Curt Geise.
Text and photographs ©Roger Gorringe, Eurodragster.com
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