HOMETOWN FAVORITE FULLER EARNS FIRST WIN IN LAS VEGAS; WHILE T. PEDREGON, ANDERSON, HINES ALSO ENTER POMONA ATOP STANDINGS LAS VEGAS -- Las Vegas' own "Hot Rod" Fuller completed the best weekend of his three-year professional career by...
HOMETOWN FAVORITE FULLER EARNS FIRST WIN IN LAS VEGAS; WHILE T. PEDREGON, ANDERSON, HINES ALSO ENTER POMONA ATOP STANDINGS
LAS VEGAS -- Las Vegas' own "Hot Rod" Fuller completed the best weekend of his three-year professional career by winning the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals to surge back into the POWERade points lead with one race left in the season.
Fuller's third win of the year in his CAT dragster and sixth of his career followed a thrilling victory Saturday in the Technicoat Top Fuel Shootout.
In Funny Car, Tony Pedregon put a stranglehold on the 2007 title chase with his fourth win of the year in his Q Horsepower Chevy Impala SS, the 36th of his career and his third in Las Vegas. The other three racers fighting for the Funny Car title in the Countdown to 1 all lost in Round 1.
Greg Anderson continued his love affair with The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with his fifth win at the facility, the eighth of the season and 51st of his career in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO. This one put him back in the points lead he held for most of the regular season.
Three-time and reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle champ Andrew Hines remained the man to beat in his category with another convincing victory on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.
"It's good to be home," Fuller said. "We won a big race yesterday but I didn't get to enjoy it because I was so focused on today. Winning $100,000 is great, but it's gone fast. A world championship lasts forever. I just got in that zone and I've been there all weekend. It's exhausting but it's worth it now.
"They told me that under the old points system, I would have clinched the championship by now. But at the same time I'm a believer in the new deal because I've seen the excitement it's generated. That's easier to say now because we're up again but I do like the way it's all turning out."
By beating a resurgent Doug Kalitta in a razor-close final - 4.531 at 327.82 mph to Kalitta's 4.537 at 331.36 mph -- Fuller moves 52 points ahead of Larry Dixon, with Brandon Bernstein (-61) and Tony Schumacher (-67) following behind in the Countdown to 1 standings.
Pedregon's win denied Ashley Force her first Funny Car victory but she made a little history just by reaching the final as no other female participant had ever made it that far. She actually had the car to beat in the final, posting a quicker 4.829 at 298.93 mph to Pedregon's 4.871 at 318.47 mph, but the veteran beat her at the starting line, leaving with a .06-second advantage.
"There're a lot of great memories here because this is where I clinched my championship in 2003," Pedregon said. "I don't know what happened to the track but we smoked the tires in the first two rounds today and were lucky to win. Then we get to the final and I know a lot of people were rooting for Ashley but the guys got it done for me. It was emotional to race her. She's family. I was over there for a long time.
"I would have been happy with a one round lead. It's a huge luxury to have a 91-point lead, believe me, I know that. But we won't change our approach. We still need to go over to Pomona and qualify this car and win some rounds. I haven't won anything yet."
Pedregon is now 91 points ahead of Gary Scelzi with Robert Hight next, 99 off the lead. Ron Capps will need a miracle to overcome his 113-point deficit.
Pro Stock winner Anderson gave up a slight lead to Coughlin at the starting line when Coughlin jumped off the pad with a .013-second reaction time to Anderson's .021-second launch, but the three-time champ had made up the difference by the 60-foot timer and went on to win convincingly with a 6.731 at 205.04 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO to Coughlin's 6.771 at 204.39 mph in his Jegs.com Chevrolet Cobalt.
"I can hardly describe the pressure of this thing," Anderson said. "All four cars in the deal are capable of winning the championship and you know that any little mistake and you're done. No one wanted to head to Pomona with their bottom lip dragging on the ground.
"We didn't win [the championship] today but we didn't knock ourselves out. We figured we'd need to at least get to the final to keep our hopes alive and we did one better than that. Thank God for Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We've got work to do in Pomona or one of those other guys will take it away, I guarantee it."
The win moved Anderson back into the points lead he held up until the first Countdown cutoff, when the top eight racers were reseeded and separated from top to bottom by 10 points each. He's now 34 up on Coughlin, who moved up to second place, and 48 up on former points leader Dave Connolly. Allen Johnson, whom Coughlin beat in Round 1, is 103 back in fourth.
Hines upped his career record versus Ellis to 7-0 with his final-round upset. After earning lane choice in the money round, Ellis dropped off pace and posted his worst pass of the day, bowing to Hines' 7.073 at 187.34 mph with a 7.144 at 185.41 mph.
"It's been pretty stressful out here," Hines said. "As it turns out we have the exact same lead going into the final race as we did a year ago. This time I'm not going to go in there and blow it in the first round like I did last year and have to sweat out what other people do for us to win. We want to keep control in our own hands."
The three-time and reigning POWERade Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, Hines earned himself a little breathing room in the points, moving 39 markers ahead of runner-up Ellis. Matt Smith is in third, 51 points back, while Peggy Llewellyn follows in fourth at a 93-point deficit.
The final race of the POWERade Countdown to the Championship, the Auto Club NHRA Finals, is Nov. 1-4 at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.