LAS VEGAS – Top Fuel points leader Shawn Langdon continued his push to a world championship by racing to the qualifying lead Friday at the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Courtney Force (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Adam Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders in their categories at the fifth of six events in the NHRA Mello Yello Series Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Qualifying continues Saturday at 12:15 p.m. (ET) and 2:45 p.m. before Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations.
Langdon, who is seeking his first series title, powered his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to a run of 3.778 seconds at 324.28 mph to lead the qualifying field. If it holds, it will be his seventh No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 13th career in his career. Langdon has a class-best six wins on the season, including the most recent event in Reading, Pa.
“The Al-Anabi team just did a phenomenal job preparing the race car and making two great runs down the track,” said Langdon, who posted the quickest time in each qualifying session. “They were clean runs and we just want to continue that. This Al-Anabi team didn’t stop after winning in Reading. We went back to the shop, continued to work hard and we found some improvements in the car.”
Seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher, who has won a class-best six times in Las Vegas, powered his U.S. Army dragster to the second position with a run of 3.784 at 324.59. David Grubnic is currently in third after his pass of 3.790 at 306.12, while Spencer Massey, who is third in the points standings, is fourth after going 3.818 at 321.65 in his Battery Extender dragster. Doug Kalitta is second in points and his run of 3.857 at 321.12 in his Mac Tools dragster and sits in 10th place after two sessions.
In Funny Car, Force paced the category with a 4.052 at a track-record speed of 318.24 in her Traxxas Ford Mustang. Force is currently seventh in points and would claim her second No. 1 qualifier of the season and fourth of her career if it holds. Jack Beckman, who sits third in points and is the defending world champion, ran an identical 4.052 in his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger, but had a slower pass of 315.56.
“It definitely felt good on that pass,” Force said. “It flew down there and my team did a great job. It felt good to make a solid pass. We love being here and we’ve had some pretty good luck at this track. We just want to be consistent and we want to finish up the season well. Our goal, obviously, is to get the championship, but we really want to finish better than fifth, which is what we finished last year.”
Following Force and Beckman in the third spot is Cruz Pedregon, who went 4.064 at 316.01 in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry. Matt Hagan, who is second in points, ran 4.078 at 313.00 in his Magneti Marelli/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger, while series points leader John Force will go into Saturday qualified sixth after posting a 4.085 at 308.99 in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.
In Pro Stock, defending world champion Johnson was in command during both qualifying sessions, taking the top spot with a 6.651 at 206.99 in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenge. Johnson, currently fourth in points, is seeking his fourth No. 1 qualifier of the season and 32nd of his career. He had the quickest run during both sessions, giving Johnson a chance to make a last-ditch attempt to win another championship.
“We have to win both of the last two races, but our team is certainly up for it,” Johnson said. “We’re motivated and we have it on kill, and we want to win both of these races. If we do that, I think we’ve got a shot. We’re going to go for it on every run and that’s our goal. You just need a little luck, but maybe we’ll have a big exciting finish.”
Johnson’s teammate, points leader Jeg Coughlin, is currently in the second position after going 6.655 at 207.11 in his JEGS.com Avenger. Mike Edwards, who is third in points, powered his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro to the third spot after a run of 6.657 at 207.34.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana ran a 6.946 at 193.38 on his ProtectTheHarvest.com/MAVTV Buell to lead qualifying in the two-wheel category, jumping 16 qualifying spots during his impressive pass during the second session. Should that run maintain the top spot, it would be the second No. 1 qualifier of the season for Arana, who continues to impress during his rookie season.
“These past couple races I haven’t had the best of luck, so I definitely need this,” Arana said. “We work hard, but it’s really tough out there. My dad (Hector Arana Sr.) made a great call going up there for that second run. I want to do well here this weekend and I need to stay focused, and ride to the best of my ability.”
Hector Arana Jr., who is second in points, is currently second after going 6.965 at 190.89 on his Lucas Oil Buell during a strong second-session run. Points leader Matt Smith qualified in the eighth position after the first day of qualifying, sending his Viper Motorcycle Company Racing Buell down the track in 7.021 at 191.97.