LAS VEGAS — Defending Top Fuel world champion Larry Dixon raced to the qualifying lead Friday at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Cruz Pedregon and Mike Edwards also were qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Dixon, who claimed one of his 12 season victories here last year by defeating Cory McClenathan in the final round, posted a 3.904-second run at 312.78 miles per hour in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to lead the qualifying order in the 7,000-horsepower category.
Teams in all three categories battled warmer than normal weather conditions with track temperatures reaching more than 130 degrees. Dixon, who was ninth after the first qualifying session, said he was proud of his team’s effort to rebound to the top on their second try in the tricky conditions.
“We’re fortunate that it stuck,” Dixon said. “A 3.90 in those conditions I thought was a great run. If we get cooler weather tomorrow that run might not even stay in the show. That’s how much the guys out here can pick it up. For today it was a great run by the team and it got us qualified.”
Dixon’s Al-Anabi Racing teammate Del Worsham, the point-leader who became the 15th driver in NHRA history to win in both nitro categories with his victory three weeks ago in Gainesville, Fla., was second with a 3.938 at 305.42. Antron Brown was third in his Matco Tools dragster with a 3.939 at 311.34.
In Funny Car, Pedregon just edged 15-time world champ John Force for the top spot with a performance of 4.145 at 306.19 in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry. Defending event winner Force was second with a 4.169 at 304.25 in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang.
“It felt great,” Pedregon said of the run. “My confidence meter was about a zero going into that session because on the first run the car sounded weird and was acting weird. We’re about 70 degrees warmer than when we were No. 1 qualifier about a month ago in Pomona. We change everything except for the chassis and the body on the car to negotiate the run in these conditions. It’s a great track but the heat really loosens it up and makes you have to pull in a few horses. Happy would be an understatement. We’re on cloud nine. It’s just qualifying, but we were the best today.”
Three of Force’s fellow Ford Mustang drivers – Tim Wilkerson, Robert Hight and Bob Tasca — are third through fifth, respectively. Series point-leader Mike Neff is 16th in his Castrol GTX Mustang with a 5.280 at 142.04.
Edwards led Pro Stock with a 6.709 at 205.63 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP. Edwards, who has a great record in hot conditions, was quickest in the first session and actually improved on that run when the track was warmer in the afternoon.
“I think we made such a good run the first session I think we were closer than everybody else,” Edwards said. “I think you’ll see it close up tomorrow. The track was very hot today. I was really impressed with how we kept up with the track today and improved on our run. I was really happy with all the decisions we made and we’re off to a good start. The gap will definitely get closer tomorrow because everybody will get it figured out.”
Rookie Vincent Nobile is second with a 6.736 at 205.44 in the Mountain View Tire Dodge Avenger and recent national record-setter Rodger Brogdon was third in his Racers Edge GXP with a 6.736 at 205.32. Series leader Jason Line, a winner of the first two races of the season, is eighth with a 6.749 at 205.01 in his Summit Racing GXP.