Las Vegas: Round five preview



LAS VEGAS – Cruz Pedregon leads the Funny Car point standings for the first time since April 25, 1998. Seven different drivers have reached a final round in the category with just four races in the books, including Del Worsham, who broke a two-year drought with his win in Houston after not making the field in the first two races of 2008.

Need a story line? It’s take-your-pick in Funny Car, where as predicted no team has yet emerged dominant and giants no longer sleep.

The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series comes to Las Vegas for the ninth annual NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, April 10-13. The event is the fifth of 24 on the tour. Brandon Bernstein (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the event in their respective pro categories.

Worsham, who has 22 career victories but has yet to celebrate a win in Las Vegas, says it feels great for his team to break out of the slump that has lasted for more than two years.

“You know, more than anything else (the win in Houston) just feels like some vindication, because I think we've had a good-running car since the middle of last year,” said Worsham, a Southern California native. “We were runner-up twice last year, and both of those races were side-by-side, so we easily could've won one or two races in 2007 and nobody would be talking about how it had been two and a half years since we last won a race. For the whole second half of last season, we were clearly one of the top ten teams in the class, but I think we were just kind of under the radar because we didn't win.”

Cruz Pedregon’s move in the points was perhaps another surprise in Houston that really should have been less shocking. In the No. 3 spot coming into Texas, Cruz was a mere 20 points behind the leader (Hight) and 14 behind No. 2 Jack Beckman. He hasn’t won a race since Las Vegas in 2006 – and that trip to the winner’s circle broke a four-year drought. But, Pedregon, elder brother of defending NHRA POWERade Series world champion Tony Pedregon, reached three final rounds in 2007, with runner-up finishes in Houston, Bristol and Dallas.

He earned the top qualifying spot with the low E.T. of the event in his Advance Auto Parts Chevy Impala SS, toppling leader Hight, who dropped from No.1 to No. 4 in the points after he failed to qualify for the show in Houston. It wasn’t all bad news for the John Force Racing camp that advanced Ashley Force to her second career final-round appearance. Ashley and her father, 14-time Funny Car world champion John Force, are fifth and sixth in the points entering Las Vegas. Tony Pedregon is third in the 18-race regular season. The regular season will be followed by a six-race playoff, the Countdown to the Championship.

“Winning races is great, but winning the championship is the bigger picture,” Cruz Pedregon said. “You can’t get any higher than No. 1, so I’m really happy for (my sponsors) that have stuck with us over the years. I’m proud of how far we’ve come and there’s no reason why we can’t keep this going.”

Newly-minted Top Fuel driver Antron Brown made a few new headlines of his own when he earned his first event win since switching this season from Pro Stock Motorcycle to the Matco Tools dragster. He now sits second in the points, behind Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon.

“I’m excited to get to Las Vegas,” said Brown, the second black driver in NHRA history to win in Top Fuel. “Anytime you win a race you look forward to the next one. Not only did we run well on race day, but we really learned some things at Houston when we struggled during qualifying. (Crew chief) Lee (Beard) and this Matco team are awesome. They’ve made my transition so seamless. We have a lot of fun things going on in Vegas and have great support from out Matco distributors. Plus, it’s Hot Rod’s (Fuller) hometown, so I know he’ll show us a good time.”

In Pro Stock, three different ‘Johnsons’ (Kurt, Warren, Allen) have qualified No. 1 this year. Of the three, Kurt Johnson has fared best this year with a runner-up finish in Houston. His father Warren comes to Las Vegas fresh off of an accident during Friday qualifying that sent his car back to the trailer with significant damage. Kurt Johnson earned the No. 1 qualifying spot at the event and is fourth in the points behind Greg Anderson, Jeg Coughlin and Jason Line. Warren Johnson is seventh.

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1 and 4 p.m. on Friday, April 11. Qualifying continues at noon and 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 12 and final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 13.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the NHRA Nationals. Call Las Vegas Motor Speedway at (800) 644-4444 or check online at, Ticketmaster or

ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise qualifying highlights at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 12. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute pre-race show, at 11 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 13. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise the race beginning at 8 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 13.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Cruz Pedregon , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force , Jason Line , Robert Hight