Las Vegas: GM Racing final report

GM Racing Sweeps The Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway - Pontiac, Chevrolet, GMC head to the Victory Podium LAS VEGAS, April 13, 2008 - The grandstands were at full capacity today under sun-drenched skies at The Strip at Las...

GM Racing Sweeps The Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway - Pontiac, Chevrolet, GMC head to the Victory Podium

LAS VEGAS, April 13, 2008 - The grandstands were at full capacity today under sun-drenched skies at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The thousands on hand for the 9th annual Nationals were treated to an exciting GM Racing clean sweep of the three professional categories that included an all-Pontiac GXP Pro Stock final round between Jason Line and Greg Stanfield, a Chevy Impala Funny Car victory for Tim Wilkerson and a Team GMC Top Fuel win for Cory McClenathan.

Jason Line captured his first national-event victory of the season by defeating Greg Stanfield in a close all-Pontiac GXP final round. The 38-year-old Minnesota native and current resident of Troutman, N.C., entered raceday with his Summit Racing Pontiac qualified in the No. 2 position. Line defeated Johnny Gray in round one running 6.772 seconds at 203.74 mph, Jeg Coughlin in round two with a 6.789 e.t. at 203.83 mph, and in the closest race of the day, Kurt Johnson in the semifinals with a 6.793 second run at 203.58 mph.

In the finals against Stanfield, both Pontiacs were close to even off the starting line with Stanfield's GXP grabbing a slight advantage, but by the 330-foot marker, Line's Pontiac edged ahead and crossed the finish line with a winning 6.782 e.t. at 203.83 mph. Stanfield followed with a 6.816-second run at 203.16 mph. Line's margin of victory was .03 of a second.

"This is the best car I've had in a year and a half," Line said. "This is really exciting and a big deal for us, and today we managed to get it done. The engine didn't perform as well today as we would have liked, but the car made up for it and the chassis department saved us. Especially when we had to race Kurt (Johnson) in that right lane. Everybody struggled to get down it (the right lane) but that 6.79, I have to admit, was a pretty impressive run by anybody's standards."

For Line, it was his third final-round appearance this season, his 14th career win, his first at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and his first Pro Stock victory in a little over a year (Houston/2007). The 2006 POWERade champion now moves into a tie for first place in the Pro Stock standings with Team Chevy's Jeg Coughlin Jr.

"You always hope that a win like this can turn things around and maybe set you up for a good run," Line said. "We're getting our confidence back and when you look at how we've performed this year as a team, I'm really proud of the guys who work on the car and back at the shop who make something like this possible. This Summit Racing Pontiac GXP was an incredible racecar this weekend, and to be able to combine that with a decent driving effort is really gratifying as a competitor. To do this at a Summit Racing sponsored event in Ken and Kenny Black's hometown makes it even more special."

Stanfield was looking to capture his first career Pro Stock victory, but his Attitude Apparel Pontiac GXP came up a fraction of a second short at the finish line. Stanfield qualified in the No. 8 spot and defeated Greg Anderson in round one, pole-setter Kenny Koretsky in round two and Jim Yates in the semifinals before facing Line in the title round.

The 42-year-old resident of Bossier City, La., was making his 5th career final-round appearance in the Pro Stock category and his first since the 2007 NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. Stanfield's sterling effort this weekend was his best yet this season and moves him up one spot in the POWERade points standings from 10th place to ninth.

"It was an excellent weekend for us," Stanfield said. "The track was tricky and that was the bottom line for us. Jason is a good racer and that's a strong team. We got one of the Summit cars in the first round and came up a little short in the finals - I missed the tree in that last round. Right now it's been tough for me to win one but we're not giving up. We're going to get one of these.

"We were clicking today - everything felt really good. The competition is brutal out here and I'm just glad to be a part of it. There was no guarantee we were going to get by anybody today, but we made four solid runs, runs we can go back, look at and learn a lot from, and that in itself is very satisfying. We'll go to Bristol and test and work on raceday stuff. That's where the track changes so much that we don't have as good a handle on it as we would like, but I like the way the car is running right now. We were lacking a little bit, but this weekend was a bug step in the right direction."

In addition to Line and Stanfield, there were four GM branded cars that advanced to the semifinal round in Pro Stock including Pontiac GXP driver Jim Yates and Team Chevy driver Kurt Johnson. Yates qualified the Wiley X Pontiac GXP in the No. 13 spot and defeated Ron Krisher in round one and Allen Johnson in round two before losing to Stanfield in the semis.

"It was a great day," Yates said. "I'm excited that we got our Wiley X Pontiac GXP to the semifinals - we had a real good shot at going to the finals. We had some breakage in the engine in the semifinals and we had to swap engines before the semifinals, something we've never run before. We didn't have the fuel curve right where it needed to be. Those engines are from Ron Krisher's shop and they're making competitive horsepower, we just haven't done a good job with the car to get it where it needs to be. Any time you come out here and go two rounds from the No. 13 qualifying spot, that's a pretty good deal. It's really helping our team right now to get these rounds in because we're getting runs down the track and we're learning what to do under those conditions. I believe that will pay dividends for the next five to 10 races because it's giving us a good look at the track - like practice on an active racetrack. It's definitely going to help our program and we'll take them while we can.

"Ron brought everybody from his team over here to help us get that engine changed. His son John was here, everybody we had, and having that many people pitching in is usually a luxury we don't have. There's been plenty of times when we've been swinging an engine with just two or three of us and not have time to get it done. We had time to get it done, warmed it up, took it to the scales weighed the car, got the weight right on it, and then were the first car to get back in the lanes - and everything was together perfectly. That's a tremendous achievement by this team. The only thing that would have helped would have been a run on the car and we'd have known how to jet the carburetors. Every engine is different, every intake manifold is different, so we had the engine way to lean. The crew did a great job and Stanfield's Pontiac GXP was a little faster than mine."

Kurt Johnson qualified the ACDelco Chevy Cobalt in the No. 3 spot and defeated May Naylor in round one and Warren Johnson in round two before losing to Line in round three. Johnson's Chevy Cobalt posted the quickest e.t in the rounds one and two of eliminations.

"We'll head home, go to Atlanta and take the stuff apart," Johnson said. "At least we have a good setup when we come back for the ACDelco Nationals in the fall. It takes everything perfect to win these races. We ran decent, I struggled on the tree a little bit but came back with a .035 against Jason and the thing was soft, so I can leave here feeling good. We didn't get the trophy, but looking at the computer I felt we could have picked up another couple hundredths on reaction time and a hundredth in the car. When you look at it and you figure out how to win the race."

With two No. 1 qualifying awards and a semifinal round appearance at Gainesville (Fla.), Tim Wilkerson has been pounding loudly on the winner's circle door this season in the Funny Car category. Today the Levi Ray & Shoup Chevy Impala SS driver knocked it completely down and captured his first victory in nearly five years by defeating Ashley Force in the final round. It was Chevrolet's third Funny Car victory this season in only five attempts.

"We've had a good car all year," Wilkerson said. "We've had some mechanical failures and I made some mistakes tuning the car at Houston when we put a hole out in the second round there against Del (Worsham), but he just had his stuff together and whooped me. But this is kind of cool for the single-car teams, don't you think? We have Tony Pedregon winning one, and me and Del, and I think that's really cool. The NHRA has done a really good job leveling the field, and the Chevy Impala, that body is really helping us out. That thing is the cat's meow when it comes to these bad tracks."

Wilkerson qualified the LRS Chevrolet in the No. 2 position, missing his third raceday pole of the year by just .001 of a second. But on raceday, his Chevy Impala SS was tuned almost perfectly to a racetrack that gave other crew chiefs fits in the hot 85-degree weather. In round one, the Springfield, Ill., resident defeated Jim Head by running the quickest elapsed time of the day at 4.943 seconds. In round two, Wilkerson beat defending POWERade champion Tony Pedregon with the quickest e.t. of the session at 4.966 seconds. Wilkerson got by Ron Capps in the semifinals with 5.179 second run at 286.25 mph. After losing lane choice to Ashley Force in the finals, Wilkerson's LRS Chevy Impala rose to the occasion, launched first, and ripped down the less-preferred right lane in 4.962 seconds at 292.58 mph. Force followed with a 4.993 second run at 313.95 mph. Wilkerson's margin of victory was .064 of a second.

It was Wilkerson's sixth career victory in 19 final rounds, his first win at LVMS, and he advances to a career-best second place in the POWERade points standings, just five points behind first-place Ashley Force.

"We did the best we could and my crew did a great job," Wilkerson said. "The U.S. Smokeless guys helped us change a motor between rounds because I hurt the motor against Ron Capps, and that was a big deal too.

"Ashley and me had a good side-by-side race in the finals, and I knew it would be close," Wilkerson said. "If you remember, in Q3, we had a good side-by-side run, and she went 4.96 and I went 4.95, so I knew they weren't going to go up there and back up. Last year at Indy I raced her in the first round and she embarrassed me to death. I wasn't going to go up there and leave anything on the table. We went up there swinging hard and this time we got lucky."

In Top Fuel, Cory McClenathan defeated Antron Brown in the final round and carried the GMC colors to the winner's circle for his first national-event victory since October 2006, and his first ever at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

McClenathan qualified the FRAM/GMC dragster in the No. 5 position and defeated J.R. Todd in round one with a 4.6309 e.t. at 324.05 mph, Morgan Lucas in round two with a 4.815 e.t. at 305.91 mph, and Brandon Bernstein in the semifinals with a 4.760 second run at 315.12 mph. In the championship heat against Antron Brown, McClenathan's dragster crossed the finish line with a 4.654 e.t. at 315.86 mph to Brown's 4.703-second run at 315.93 mph. McClenathan's margin of victory was .041 of a second.

It was McClenathan's 30th career win, his 52nd career final round appearance and his second final-round appearance this season moving the 45-year-old resident of Indianapolis into fourth place in the POWERade standings.

"To say the least, it's about time," McClenathan said. "It's been a couple of years since we've had a competitive car. To win Richmond was great, our 29th victory, but to come here, exactly 30 races later and win my 30th Top Fuel event - incredible! Thanks to Mike Green, all the guys who work on my team, DSR - it's just one of those things where we've had a lot of sponsors stick with me through some tough times. FRAM has been incredible, GMC, Matco Tools, Jegs, Nordic Boats came on board. It was a very tricky track but our Goodyears did the job, we kept that left lane for lane choice and we worked it. It all came together and it was fantastic."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Antron Brown , Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , Ron Krisher , Cory McClenathan , Greg Stanfield , Kenny Koretsky , Tim Wilkerson , Ashley Force , Allen Johnson , Johnny Gray , Jason Line , J.R. Todd