Las Vegas II: GM Racing final report

LAS VEGAS, October 28, 2007 - He's back. Not that he went anywhere, but three-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson returned to familiar territory with his eighth win of the season at today's 7th annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals at...

LAS VEGAS, October 28, 2007 - He's back. Not that he went anywhere, but three-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson returned to familiar territory with his eighth win of the season at today's 7th annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his first since his Sonoma victory in July. Anderson drove his Summit Racing Pontiac to an elapsed time of 6.731 seconds at 205.04 mph to defeat Jeg Coughlin in the JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt with a 6.771 e.t. at 204.39 mph in the final round. Anderson's sixth career win at The Strip (spring and fall races) moved Anderson into first place in the drivers standings with a 34-point lead over Coughlin heading into the season's final race next weekend at Pomona (Calif.).

"I've had such great luck out here at The Strip," Anderson said.  "I love
this place and I love the fans out here.  We have great crowds out here
and it feels like home.  I really ought to consider moving here because
it sure has been good to me.  The extra family and friends of team owner
Ken Black (who lives in Las Vegas) absolutely helped us.  We needed
something like that.  We love the man.  He's done everything for me.  I
would not be up on this stage without Ken Black.  He's meant everything
to this team with all that we've done the past few years.  He's the
greatest team owner in the world and the greatest person in the world.  I
owe everything to him.  I feel bad because we really haven't performed
well lately.  I started to wonder, but Ken's always remained positive."

Anderson ended a six-race win drought in which he lost to Coughlin's teammate Dave Connolly three times in final rounds. Ironically, it was Coughlin's defeat of his teammate in today's second round that ended Connolly's historic five-race winning streak.

"We just haven't been "A", No. 1 lately," Anderson said. "We've certainly been trying hard but things just haven't been turning out. Dave Connolly's been dominating this class and everybody knows that. He was certainly the favorite coming in here. It's been awhile since we've had to operate from the underdog role, and that's what we had to do this weekend. We came here last week and tested for three days and made a lot of runs. I think that really was the key. The car was flawless today. The car won the race today. The driver held his own and the engine was so-so, but the car was it today. That's a result of all of the testing last week that this Summit Racing crew put in. Rob Downing (crew chief) just did a fantastic job today and I'm dedicating this win to him. If ever there was a race that he was the man, it was here. We couldn't come in here and win the championship, but we certainly could come in here and lose it, and we didn't want to do that. We kept ourselves in the game and now we've got to build this confidence into Pomona and race just like we did today.

"We've got the bull's eye back on our back, no doubt about that, but I'd much rather be in that position. I really didn't like being the chaser. I'd rather be the chasee. That's what we've been the last few years and I'd like to be that guy they're all shooting for. The bigger the pressure the better we seem to perform. I can't imagine more pressure than what we had today."

After qualifying No. 9 for today's eliminations, two-time Pro Stock champ Coughlin defeated fellow Countdown competitor Allen Johnson in a do-or-die first-round clash, teammate Connolly in a tough second-round match-up, and then Pontiac driver Greg Stanfield in Round 3 to advance to his 59th career final round against Anderson.

"Hat's off to Greg and that team, they ran a great race there," Coughlin said. "We said coming in that we probably needed to win the race to stay in the title hunt, but as it turns out we came up one round win short of that goal and yet we're still very much alive. As we predicted, the championship will probably come down to the very end and it's exciting to be right in the middle of it all. Greg's got a little lead on us so it's on us to out-perform him in Pomona. I feel confident this team will be up to the challenge, especially after turning the corner like this here in Las Vegas."

Coughlin had mixed emotions facing his teammate in the second round. Connolly entered Las Vegas as the POWERade points leader and had won an incredible five national events in a row and had a running total of 21 consecutive elimination-round wins. Coughlin used a near-perfect reaction time of .006 seconds with a 6.775 elapsed time at 203.80 mph to get the holeshot win over Connolly's quicker but losing 6.773 e.t. at 204.91 mph.

"We finally got the car to launch without moving hard to the right," Coughlin said. "It actually went left a little bit. Obviously, that was a huge win for the team. These guys have all been working so hard on getting this car to listen to us and they delivered big-time right there. That might be one of those rounds you can point to later as 'the one.' It was tough to race Dave there because we're teammates and I know how bad he wanted it, but he's not out of this deal by any means."

"That wasn't the note we wanted to go out on," said a dejected Connolly. "I thought we had the better car. I might have driven too conservatively and he did a better job of getting down the track. It's unfortunate it went down like this. This team is very strong and we want to finish no worse than second. It will be very disappointing if we don't finish second after the season that we had."

Anderson leads the four-driver field for the Countdown to 1 into Pomona with 3,136 points. Coughlin's runner-up finish at Las Vegas moves him into second with 3,102 points, and Connolly, who led the Pro Stock field in points coming into Las Vegas, drops to third with 3,088 points. Dodge driver Allen Johnson is fourth with 3,033.

Joining Anderson and Coughlin in the semifinal round was Greg Stanfield in the PiranaZ Pontiac GTO who qualified a solid 12th for today's eliminations and then beat No. 5 qualifier Ron Krisher in Round 1 and No. 4 qualifier Justin Humphreys in Round 2 to before bowing out to Coughlin in a good semifinal match-up. In the semis Coughlin had an elapsed time of 6.779 seconds at 203.89 mph to Stanfield's losing 6.785 e.t. at 203.65 mph. Stanfield made it to the final round at the season-opening Winternationals at Pomona but has failed to advance past the second round since until today's semifinal performance.

"The way our year's been, just to go to the semifinals, we're all happy with how the weekend turned out," Stanfield said. "I think the driver was wanting a little more than that, but just for me to get back into the racing groove and get my head back on straight, to do that is great. The car seems to be real happy right now. Like I said, the driver just needs to do his job on race day and make the right calls. We'll go to Pomona, get in the middle of it and see if we can't mix it up and ruin somebody's day."

In Funny Car, Pedregon Racing carried the flag for Team Chevy as both Tony and Cruz advanced to the semifinals, but unfortunately the brothers were on the same side of the eliminations ladder and faced each other in the semis. Points leader Tony drove the Q Horsepower Chevy Impala SS to a win over Jerry Toliver in Round 1 and Jeff Arend in Round 2 while Cruz in the Advance Auto Parts Chevy Impala SS upset No. 3 qualifier Gary Scelzi in Round 1 and bested Phil Burkart in Round 2 to set up the Pedregon-Pedregon semifinal match-up. In the semifinals, Tony took the win, driving his Chevy to an elapsed time of 4.912 seconds at 316.08 mph as Cruz hazed the tires and slowed to an 8.841 e.t. at 106.37 mph. In the finals Pedregon defeated a car from his former employer, John Force Racing. He got a holeshot win over Ashley Force with an elapsed time of 4.871 seconds at 318.47 mph to Force's quicker but losing 4.829 e.t. at 298.93 mph.

"I've got an outstanding group of people that I hired," Pedregon said. "It's been a heck of a day and I owe it all to my team. Anybody that wants to come to The Palms, we're going to be making a lot of noise there tonight. I was glad to see that John Force (recovering from an accident at Dallas) was here today. I forgot how much I really love that guy. I had the best teachers coming up in my career."

Pedregon came into Las Vegas with the points lead and amazingly all three of his other competitors for the championship, Ron Capps, Robert Hight and Gary Scelzi, lost their first-round matches. As a result of today's victory, he goes to the season's final race at Pomona next weekend with a nearly insurmountable 91-point lead over Scelzi.

"I play a little blackjack every now and then and I love poker, but I would have never bet that Capps, Robert (Hight) and Scelzi would lose in Round 1. I've got to thank my brother Cruz for pulling through and beating Scelzi in the first round. It just worked out. We wanted to go into that last race with the lead, but we never imagined it would be like this. But we're not going to lose focus. We've got to go there and we've got to do our business. We've got to qualify and do whatever it takes. Until they hand me that check, I'm going to keep racing like I always have been."

Pedregon will lead the four-driver Funny Car field for the Countdown to 1 into Pomona with the points lead with 3,147 points, Gary Scelzi in second with 3,056 points, Force Racing's Robert Hight in third with 3,048, and Ron Capps in fourth with 3,034.

Team Chevy's Larry Dixon was the points leader in Top Fuel for the Countdown to 1 in his Don Prudhomme Racing-prepared dragster coming into Las Vegas, but a second-round loss to event runner-up Doug Kalitta leaves him second in points to Rod Fuller heading into next weekend's contest at Pomona. Las Vegas winner Fuller is first in the standings with 3,135 points, Dixon is second with 3,083 points, Brandon Bernstein is third with 3,074 points, and Tony Schumacher is fourth with 3,068.

In the Sportsman ranks, Bo Butner from Floyds Knob, Ind., drove his '07 Chevy Cobalt to the Comp Eliminator title, Dan Fletcher from Churchville, N.Y., drove to victory in Stock Eliminator in his '69 Camaro, Ryan McClanahan from Alta Loma, Calif., won Super Stock in his '07 Chevy Cobalt, and Kevin Moore from Littleton, Colo., drove to the Super Gas title in his '34 Chevy.

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Don Prudhomme , Greg Stanfield , Ashley Force , Phil Burkart , Brandon Bernstein , Allen Johnson , Bo Butner , Jeff Arend , Jerry Toliver , Dan Fletcher , Robert Hight , Rod Fuller , Justin Humphreys , Dave Connolly , Ken Black