Sarver, Herbert, K. Johnson and Hines earn top honors at the Strip; Coughlin one round win away from Championship. LAS VEGAS - Bruce Sarver scored his sixth career No. 1 Funny Car qualifying position Saturday at the second annual ACDelco Las...
Sarver, Herbert, K. Johnson and Hines earn top honors at the Strip; Coughlin one round win away from Championship.
LAS VEGAS - Bruce Sarver scored his sixth career No. 1 Funny Car qualifying position Saturday at the second annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Doug Herbert, Kurt Johnson and Matt Hines also were the No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the $2 million race, the 23rd of 24th events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Sarver set a track record for elapsed time as he powered his Whitecap Toyota Celica to the finish line in 4.773 seconds at 317.12 mph to lead the 16-car field for the third time this season. Sarver also was the top qualifier at The Strip in April of 2001.
A tremendous fire occurred in the cockpit of Sarver's Celica during Friday's qualifying session, but the Alan Johnson-owned team was able to bounce back and score the top position.
"The run last night was so good but then a misfire occurred," said Sarver, who was unharmed in the incident. "The body of that Celica is amazing because we have been on fire several times this year and that body has a special resin on it, but when it's on fire you don't even know it. Starting out today we wanted to go fast and then the sun came out and Alan wanted to make sure we just got in the show. Then we hoped we would get a cloud cover for the later session and then we could show them what we got. That's what happened and that's exactly what we did."
Herbert blasted his Snap-on Tools dragster to the end of the quarter-mile in 4.537 at 301.13 for his second No. 1 qualifying position of his career, both coming in the past three races. Herbert's dragster had a slight mechanical problem as his engine broke near the finish line and still managed to lead the quickest Top Fuel field of the year. Herbert will meet Mike Strasburg in the opening round of eliminations.
"That run scared the heck out of me," said Herbert. "I had my eye closed down there until right before it blew up. All of the sudden the last three races with Wes Cerny helping us out, we have been doing pretty good. He's a pretty smart guy. He's been doing this for 30 years and he knows something. In the last three races we have qualified No. 1, No. 2, and now another No. 1 and that's pretty good. I wish we could have had a streak like that at the beginning of the year."
Current Top Fuel points leader Larry Dixon qualified his Miller Lite dragster in the No. 2 spot and will face Scott Weis in the first round of eliminations. Kenny Bernstein, who entered the race 108 points behind Dixon in the standings, is No. 4 in the ladder and will line up opposite another legend, Shirley Muldowney, in his first matchup of the day. Muldowney defeated Bernstein earlier this season in the second round of competition at Columbus, Ohio.
Johnson was the Pro Stock No. 1 qualifier for the first time this season and for the 21st time of his career. He drove his ACDelco Chevy Cavalier down the track in 6.921 at 199.20 to lead the field into eliminations. Johnson's Cavalier also is one of three cars competing at the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals that are adorned with a special KISS paint scheme honoring the legendary rock band.
"This is a dream to qualify No. 1 at my sponsor's race and with the special KISS graphics on the car," said Johnson. "We're going to try and be consistent on race day, go up to the starting line and do our job, and not worry about what anyone else does. We've run well at the last few races."
The biggest Pro Stock story of the day was the situation regarding the POWERade championship. Current points leader Jeg Coughlin qualified in the No 5 position but his two closest competitors in the standings, Jim Yates and Greg Anderson, both posted a DNQ (did not qualify). Coughlin only needs to win his first round matchup against Scott Geoffrion to clinch his second NHRA Pro Stock championship in the past three years.
"We're still trying to do an autopsy to see what happened," said Yates, who now has two DNQ's on the season. "Our focus right now is to get some pride back and go and win the last race (of the year). I'm a realistic person and for all practical purposes, the points championship is over. This is not the way we expected, or even remotely anticipated, losing the title."
Hines notched his fifth top qualifying spot of the season and the 44th of his career as he rode his Eagle One Suzuki to the top of the Pro Stock Bike order when he recorded both ends of the track record with a pass of 7.217 at 191.08.
"It's great to be the No. 1 qualifier again, the track conditions are unbelievable and we were looking to take advantage of that," said Hines. "We've struggled in Las Vegas in the past and we figured it was time to go in another direction as far a the tune-up was concerned. We are happy to start at the top of the ladder, but it doesn't mean anything unless you translate it into four good runs on Sunday."
Professional eliminations begin Sunday at 11 a.m.