Beckman Headlines Top Qualifiers In Las Vegas

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Jack Beckman claimed the No. 1 spot in NHRA Funny Car qualifying Saturday in Las Vegas. (NHRA Photo)
Jack Beckman claimed the No. 1 spot in NHRA Funny Car qualifying Saturday in Las Vegas. (NHRA Photo)

LAS VEGAS – A day after setting the track speed record, Funny Car championship hopeful Jack Beckman made the quickest run in The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway history on Saturday.

His record-breaking run was enough to earn Beckman the No. 1 qualifying spot at the 19th annual Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil.

Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories.

Beckman powered to a record-breaking run of 3.835 seconds at 331.94 mph during Saturday’s final qualifying session, sending him to the top spot for the third time this year and 27th overall in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge SRT Hellcat.

Beckman will meet Terry Haddock to open race day on Sunday. After going a Vegas-best 335.90 mph on Friday, Beckman and his team saved their best for last on Saturday, giving Beckman, who is second in points, valuable bonus points as he tries to track down leader Robert Hight.

“I just want the trophy now. That will make it a perfect weekend,” said Beckman, who had previously held both ends of the track record at Vegas coming into the weekend. “It just gives us a lot more confidence. The car is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. We’re not looking over our shoulder because there’s a lot of hungry competitors; we’re looking at Robert Hight. All we can control is our own destiny and you can’t look past anybody.”

Tommy Johnson Jr. qualified second, while John Force, who is third in points, qualified third. Points leader Robert Hight qualified eighth.

Pritchett came alive in the final Top Fuel qualifying session on Saturday, making the quickest run in track history with a remarkable 3.654-second pass at 329.83 mph in her MOPAR dragster. By setting the track record, Pritchett eclipsed Brittany Force’s top run on Friday, qualifying No. 1 for the first time this season and 12th time overall, also giving Don Schumacher Racing a clean sweep in nitro qualifying.

She will meet Cameron Ferre in the first round of eliminations.

“It was a phenomenal pass and we made three consistent runs out of the four,” Pritchett said. “When I hit 330-feet, I knew we were going to be on a run, and to be No. 1 at the Dodge Nationals Presented by Pennzoil is phenomenal. We’ve got all the energy, it’s our first No. 1 of the season and we just hope to continue to carry this momentum. We’re just trying to stay in our zone and keep our intensity, and I’m not overthinking in the car. That’s what I’m planning to do tomorrow.”

Force was bumped to the second position with her 3.659-second pass at a national record speed of 338.17 mph, while Billy Torrence is third. Points leader Steve Torrence qualified fifth.

Fresh off a win at the most recent race in Dallas, Anderson stayed strong on Saturday in Vegas, securing the No. 1 spot for the second time this season with a run of 6.584 seconds at 207.91 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro. It is also the 104th No. 1 qualifier for Anderson, who will meet Cristian Cuadra to open race day.

The four-time world champ remains in striking distance of points leader Erica Enders, who qualified No. 1 on Friday before finishing second with her 6.587-second pass at 208.46 mph. Bo Butner finished in the third spot.

“It’s always been a great racetrack for me,” said Anderson, who has a class-best eight wins in Vegas. “I love coming here and racing in front of (team owner Ken Black) and his family. It’s a special weekend so far and we’ve had a lot of magic here. It makes you feel good and gives you confidence, and we’ll take it. It just takes so much to win a race in Pro Stock anymore. You couldn’t possibly bet on who’s the favorite. It just comes down to who makes zero mistakes and who puts it all together tomorrow. We’re executing perfectly so far and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Smith was even better Saturday, lowering the track record he set the previous day to 6.840 seconds at 196.93 mph on his Denso Auto Parts/Stockseth/MSR EBR. Smith grabbed the No. 1 spot for the sixth time this season 37th time in his career, and he will face Katie Sullivan in the first round of eliminations.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence going into tomorrow,” said Smith, who also qualified No. 1 at the Vegas spring race. “All in all, I’ve think we’ve got a pretty fast hotrod for tomorrow. This motorcycle is running pretty mean right now. After the helmet goes on, it’s all serious and it’s all business, and we’re having a good time.”

Steve Johnson stayed second with a 6.848-second pass at 194.18 mph, while Eddie Krawiec qualified third. Points leader Andrew Hines is right behind in fourth.

Stevie Jackson, who has already clinched his first championship, qualified in the top spot during action in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service.

Jackson’s pass of 5.735 seconds at 250.37 mph in his blown Bahrain1 Racing Camaro gave him the fourth No. 1 qualifier of the season.