What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Vegas Doug Kalitta certainly hopes so. Specifically, the NHRA POWERade Series Top Fuel championship, which Kalitta could possibly clinch at today's ACDelco Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor ...
What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Vegas
Doug Kalitta certainly hopes so. Specifically, the NHRA POWERade Series Top Fuel championship, which Kalitta could possibly clinch at today's ACDelco Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Kalitta leads second-place Brandon Bernstein by 81 points and three-time champion Tony Schumacher by 85. If he can advance two rounds further than either competitor today, the Top Fuel title will be his.
"We just have to stay focused," said Kalitta, who already has had a successful weekend after winning Saturday's $100,000 Budweiser Shootout. "We have to treat like any other Sunday and do our best and try to go rounds."
Which is what he did on Saturday to win the Budweiser Shootout for the third time since 1998. Kalitta, who qualified fifth for today's event with a 4.530 pass, beat Bernstein and Larry Dixon before running a 4.567 at 329.18 mph in the final to beat Rod Fuller's 4.669.
"I'm happy to get the win" said Kalitta, who faces Bob Vandergriff in today's first round. "My team did a great job and I'm happy with the result.
"I was hoping for the best and looking for the win. It must have been close, because I never saw him. It's always good when you don't see the other guy."
Today, Schumacher is expected to be Kalitta's top competitor today after scoring his 13th top qualifier award with a 4.445 pass he made on Friday. Bernstein is second with a 4.522.
Schumacher was hoping to trim his deficit even more by earning an additional 20 points with a national elapsed time record, but he overpowered the track on the hit of the throttle during his final run in qualifying on Saturday.
"I went in shallow because we needed all the advantages we could get to get the national record," Schumacher said. "We had to go for it. We've had a lot of breaks go against us this year, and (Saturday) was one of them.
"But I'd rather it happen then than during the first round (today). I feel there are so many stout cars that to win this thing you have to have a lot of things happen, and we haven't been able to do it. You have to win (the rounds) you are supposed to win and half the ones you aren't expected to win...We haven't done that."
Other top qualifiers for today's event are Robert Hight in Funny Car, Jason Line in Pro Stock and Shawn Gann in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Hight took the top spot in the flopper division with a 4.677 pass he made on Saturday. Teammate and points-leader John Force, who leads Ron Capps by 51 points and Hight by 53 markers, is second at 4.711. A third Force teammate, Eric Medlen, is third at 4.712.
"We're playing hard ball out here, and we tried to hit it out of the park," said Hight, who admitted he and crew chief Jimmy Prock were trying lower the national E.T. record and earn a 20-point bonus. "I have mixed emotions. We needed to set that national record. The conditions were there and it didn't work out. But that run was the quickest I've ever made, and that was cool."
Now, he will put his championship aspirations on the line today.
"We have to be perfect these last two races," Hight said. "We have to beat (first-round opponent) Tony Bartone. The worst part of all this is that now we have to stress and worry about the first round tonight. But we have to stay focused and do our job."
Line, who could clinch his first series title if he advances one round further than teammate Greg Anderson today, set the pace in Pro Stock with a 6.705 pass he made on Friday. Allen Johnson is second at 6.726 with Dave Connolly third at 6.727. Anderson, who trails Line by 122 coming into today's eliminations, is fourth at 6.730.
"Sunday should be interesting," said Line, who faces Pro Stock icon Warren Johnson in the first round, with a possible semifinal match against his teammate. "I'm OK with racing him in the semifinals. If I get that far, the championship is probably done.
"It's good to face (Johnson) in the first round. To be the champion, you have to beat a champion. We'll see what happens. We have a very good race car right now and hopefully I can do a good job driving it (today)."
Gann topped the charts in PSM with a track-record 7.090 pass Saturday morning. Andrew Hines, who trails Antron Brown by 23 points, is second at 7.102 with Angelle Sampey, who is 61 points behind Brown, third at 7.107. Brown qualified seventh at 7.13.