After going five years between No. 1 qualifiers, Alexis DeJoria has now accomplished it in back-to-back races, rocketing to the top position in Funny Car on Saturday during the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also qualified No. 1 at the 19th of 20 races during the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and the sixth race in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
DeJoria made a pair of solid runs on Saturday, but it was her pass of 3.896-seconds at 327.03 mph from Friday in her 11,000-horsepower Bandero Premium Tequila ROKiT Toyota Camry that gave DeJoria her second straight No. 1 qualifier and sixth in her career. The Funny Car standout will try for her second straight win on Sunday and is sitting in a great position as she opens eliminations against Jeff Diehl. DeJoria has enjoyed how the team has come together late in the season and she hopes to keep rolling along on Sunday.
“This is like a dream,” DeJoria said. “It’s everything we hoped for and it’s all coming together at the end of the season. The motivation that we had from this last race in Bristol, qualifying No. 1 and winning the race, just really catapulted us into the Vegas race. I’m proud of the guys and we made it down the track every run. Consistency is key and I’m just in awe right now. I’m just soaking it all in and finally everything is coming together for this team.”
John Force qualified second with a 3.902 at 328.54 and J.R. Todd is third with a 3.905 at 329.02. Defending world champ Matt Hagan moved into the points lead in qualifying, albeit by just two points over Ron Capps. Todd is 80 points back of Hagan heading into eliminations.
Top Fuel’s Brittany Force pushed the pace on Saturday and ended up with the quickest run in each qualifying session, including a stellar 3.668 at 331.94 to close out the day in her 11,000-horsepower Monster Energy dragster. That pass gave Force her 12th No. 1 qualifier in Top Fuel this season, one off the single-season record in the class, and 32nd in her career. It also closed the gap between Force and three-time defending world champ Steve Torrence to 65 points heading into raceday. Force, the 2019 event winner in Vegas, raved about her team’s performance in qualifying and she’ll try to replicate that in eliminations as she opens raceday against Troy Buff.
“It was a really successful (two days) of qualifying for our team and we made three great runs,” Force said. “It gives this whole team a boost of confidence. We’re in the hunt for this championship and we’re in a great spot. We picked up a ton of bonus points and we’re excited to get raceday started. We’re going to go out and try to make the best run every time out there and you always feel good coming into a racetrack where you’ve previously won.”
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Torrence qualified second with a 3.710 at 324.20 and could potentially meet Force in the final round. Justin Ashley moved up to third on Saturday after going 3.712 at 330.15.
In Pro Stock, points leader Greg Anderson made a move to the top during the final qualifying session, taking the No. 1 spot with a standout run of 6.655 at 205.38 in his HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro. Anderson, who earned his 98th career win in Dallas to become the all-time wins leader in Pro Stock, picked up his 11th No. 1 qualifier this year and 117th in his career. He’ll open eliminations on Sunday against Troy Coughlin Jr. hoping to move a step closer to his fifth world title.
“Everything worked out like I hoped it would,” Anderson said. “But anybody who qualifies in Pro Stock can beat anybody. I’m proud of the team and what we did. We did our job and we got a lot of those (qualifying) points. You’ve still got to go out and try to win the race. That’s the goal and that’s the goal every time you come to race. If I win, we’ll be looking good heading to Pomona. If I don’t, it will be a different story. It’s really that simple.”
Anderson will have an 92-point lead over defending world champ Erica Enders heading into raceday. His KB Racing teammate, Kyle Koretsky, qualified second with a 6.664 at 205.07 and rookie Dallas Glenn’s 6.677 at 204.20 rounded out the top three. Matt Hartford qualified fourth, giving KB Racing the top four positions, while Enders followed in fifth with a 6.690.
Matt Smith also put together an impressive run to close out qualifying in Pro Stock Motorcycle, jumping past provisional No. 1 qualifier Steve Johnson to claim the top position with a run of 6.839 at 198.23 on his Denso Auto Parts/Stockseth/Matt Smith Racing EBR. It hands Smith, the defending world champ and points leader, his fourth No. 1 qualifier in 2021 and 47th overall. Smith will face off with Michael Phillips in the opening round of eliminations, looking to cap off his weekend with another victory and move closer to back-to-back world championships.
“I made some tweaks today and made a change before Q3, and I didn’t figure we could pick up. But we ended up picking up everywhere and our bike went to the pole,” Smith said. “I know I’ve been in this situation the last four years here, and we’ve wrapped it up two of the late three years. I hope we can continue to do what we’ve done in the past, and I just want to go do my job. The way I look at it, if I win the race, I extend the points even more and that’s our goal.”
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Johnson was bumped to second with his pass of 6.848 at 196.24 and Angelle Sampey qualified third after going 6.857 at 194.49. Smith holds a 30-point lead over Sampey heading into eliminations.
In the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, Mike Castellana qualified No. 1 with a 5.793 at 245.18. It is the final race of the season in the class.
Eliminations for the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway begin at 11 a.m. PT on Sunday.