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Tue, 30 Oct 2012, 15:36 PM

Notes from Jim Luikens' Reporter's Notebook
Courtesy of Jim Luikens

LAS VEGAS -- The bright lights of Las Vegas, perfect weather, a timely event date that is adjacent to the renowned SEMA Show and, for the last six years, a slot in NHRA's Countdown to the Championship has been a winning formula for the fall drag race at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Such was the case again this year as all of the above elements combined for a large crowd and yet another memorable event.

Just as March is famous for "Wearin' the Green" one of the things that October is now known for is "Wearin' the Pink." To raise awareness for Breast Cancer Research, Pink has become the de facto color for the tenth month of the year. Drag racers did not let that go unnoticed as pink sprung up everywhere here. From pink accents on the track's starting line itself to special paint schemes and uniforms the color pink was everywhere.

Courtney Force's Traxxas Funny Car takes my award for the most attractive pink color scheme of the weekend while the crew of Terry McMillen's Amalie Top Fueler wins my award for the most attractive pink uniforms. Other cars sporting special pink color schemes this weekend included Antron Brown and Leah Pruett. The pink team uniforms from the McMillen crew will be available for auction starting November 1st on

Surprisingly, one of the first drag cars to sport a pink color scheme, Ron Capps' NAPA Funny Car, carried its normal blue and yellow paint this year. It did have some slight red and silver accents but no pink could be seen anywhere. Ron made up for his lack of pink by winning the gold as the Fuel Funny Car Eliminator.

Courtney was not the only Force running a special paint scheme this weekend. Her father, John, debuted his new Destination Force comic book with a matching Destination Force paint scheme on his Mustang Funny Car. The comic book was the brainchild of his daughter Ashley and portrays John as a super hero that wins a Funny Car Championship in a most unusual way. Bob Engels, Jule Selbo, and Josh Miller assisted Ashley in the writing of the story while Doug Sirois provided the illustrations. Since the cover says Episode 1 it must be assumed that other editions will follow.

In Top Fuel Bob Vandergriff secured his first win in more than a year with a final round victory over Tony Schumacher. Earlier in the day Bob had proclaimed that this was the finest car he had ever driven, even finer than his Dallas winner last year. His 3.832-second run in the final was easily enough to beat the Sarge's tire-smoking 5.543-second elapsed time. Bob's win was only the second in his 15 final round appearances.

Surprising twists and turns throughout T/F eliminations saw Antron Brown's lead trimmed to three rounds of competition while Ron Capps' F/C victory closed Jack Beckman's lead to just four points over Ron. Meanwhile, the P/S and P/S Motorcycle points leaders race days went pretty much according to plan with both winning at this event. Only a mathematical chance remains that someone besides Allen Johnson and Eddie Krawiec will be their respective class' champions.

Both the Funny Car and Pro Stock finals saw all Dodges with two Chargers in the Funny Car final and two Avengers in the Pro Stock final round.

The P/S Ford Mustang of J.R. Carr and crew chief Frank Gugliotta continued its impressive 2012 season. Of the three P/S Mustangs competing here this weekend they were the only blue-oval to qualify. The team has competed in seven NHRA events this year and have qualified all seven times. The team's goal for this season was to qualify at every event they attended and, with only Pomona yet to go, they have achieved their goal. Next year they plan on running more events and will also be looking for their first round win as a team.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle Matt Smith had a very impressive weekend as he qualified third and went to the final round where he was the runner-up to champion-elect Eddie Krawiec. Hoping for better results Jerry Savoie and his White Alligator Racing Suzuki Hyabusa had hooked up with the Smith team this weekend. After suffering through three sub-par qualifying attempts it looked like the team had it all together for the fourth and final qualifying session. However, a change in pairings created a mixup and Jerry was not able to make a run, thus ending up outside the field. This was expected to be Savoie's final 2012 appearance due to neck surgery that is scheduled for this week

In Top Alcohol Dragster 22 cars attempted to make the 16 car field. The final qualifying session, which was held after dark on Saturday night, was one of the most exciting I have ever experienced. Nearly every pair that went down the track saw two new competitors bump into the field only to be replaced by two others on the next run. Someone had to be left without a chair when the music stopped with all that going on. Hometown hero, and T/AD World Champion, Duane Shields was one of the unlucky competitors as his best elapsed time of 5.446-seconds left him 18th on the qualifying sheet, two positions out of the field.

A new-school Dodge Challenger made it to the final round of both Stock and Super Stock. In S/S Larry Stewart and his 2010 Challenger came up short against Dan Fletcher's old-school 1969 Camaro. Meanwhile, in Stock former U.S. Nationals winner Jeff Teuton and his 2009 Challenger made it two for two in the loss department for the new Challengers as they were defeated by Bo Butner's 2012 Mustang. Bo's win was his second of the day, as he had won Comp earlier in the day, while Dan's win was the 80th of his great career The quickest qualifiers in S/S and Stock were also new-school cars as Ray Skillman grabbed the S/S pole with his 2010 Mustang and Todd Patterson was low in Stock with his 2012 Camaro.

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