LAS VEGAS -- Vegas Motor Speedway 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.
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."
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."
"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.
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.
LUCAS OIL SERIES: The SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals also will feature competition in six categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, where the future stars of the NHRA POWERade Series earn their racing stripes. Many of those competing in this all-inclusive series are based in Nevada, California, Arizona and Utah. Defending winners span the West Coast, including Joey Severance (Spanaway, Wash.), Top Alcohol Dragter; Jay Payne (Claremont, Calif.), Top Alcohol Funny Car; Frank Aragona (Old Bridge, N.J.), Comp Eliminator; Jody Lang (Puyallup, Wash.), Super Stock; Matt Constant (Stockton, Calif.), Stock; and Rodney Lee (Portland, Ore.), Super Gas. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 9 a.m. on April 10, with eliminations starting on April 11 at 8 a.m. ESPN2 will provide one hour of Lucas Oil Series television coverage on April 20 at 11 a.m. (ET).