Cruz Pedregon raced to his second straight No. 1 qualifier, hanging on to the top spot at Saturday’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Brittany Force (Top Fuel) and Matt Hartford (Pro Stock) also qualified No. 1 qualifiers at the fourth of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
Pedregon’s run of 3.910s at 326.71mph in his 11,000-horsepower Snap-On Tools Dodger Charger Hellcat SRT from Friday held up, giving the two-time world champion his second No. 1 spot this season and the 64th in his career. Pedregon will race for his first win of the season on Sunday, with his opening-round quad also featuring Steven Densham, Tim Wilkerson and Bobby Bode.
“We stayed No. 1 and I’m grateful for that,” Pedregon said. “The team made the right calls today and we made down the track three of our four runs. Now, we just need to keep doing the same thing, be consistent and race the track (tomorrow). You have to be smart. The guys that are disciplined and don’t press are the ones that have success. We’ll see what the day brings (on Sunday), but it’s anybody’s race out there.”
Alexis DeJoria stayed second with her run of 3.933s at 329.18mph and points leader Matt Hagan took third with a 3.936s at 327.82mph.
In Top Fuel, Brittany Force’s run 3.697s at 335.73mph in her 11,000-horsepower Monster Energy dragster from Friday easily gave her the top spot, giving the defending world champ her second No. 1 qualifier on the season and the 44th in her career. Force is after her third straight victory at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after sweeping both races last season en route to her world title, and she made one strong run on Saturday.
In the opening round, Force will have to face off with Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown, with the trio combining for 13 world titles. All three were in the final quad last year, but only two will advance past the first round on Sunday.
“Our team is very happy. We had three good runs down the track and we stayed in the top spot,” Force said. “Now we’re looking for a win. We were successful here last year and we’d love to do it again. Coming into season, we knew there was a chance for a slow start and I still feel like we’ve already outdone ourselves. We’ve made a lot of changes and done a lot of testing, but I think we’re figuring this out far quicker than we imagined.”
Steve Torrence qualified second after his 3.712s at 330.23mph from Friday and Mike Salinas moved to third in the final session after going 3.729s at 331.77mph.
A strong weekend got even better for Pro Stock’s Matt Hartford, as the veteran claimed his first career No. 1 qualifier with a run of 6.599s at 206.45mph in his Total Seal Chevrolet Camaro. Hartford, who is making his 161st career start this season, put down a pair of strong passes on Saturday, vaulting him into the top position for the first time and adding another impressive moment in what has been a strong start to his 2023 season.
The only thing missing is a victory on Sunday, something Hartford will aim to change this weekend and possibly move into the points lead for the first time in his career. His opening-round quad includes Jerry Lee Tucker, Camrie Caruso and Erica Enders, who swept both Las Vegas races last year.
“This is awesome for our entire team. We’ve been working on this since 2006 and it’s been a long time coming,” Hartford said. “Some of these people come out here and within first few races get a number one and we always just watch and go well someday we’ll get it. But it’s hats off to having a great team around me and a great racecar. We just keep our heads down and keep focused on one run at a time.
“There was a time we were 16th and just overjoyed. It’s just a different mindset as you progress through the sport. We’ve come from the bottom and we’ve worked our way up. We have a fast car right now. Our whole goal is to turn this yellow (No. 1 qualifier) hat into a blue (winner’s) hat and then turn that into a white (world champion) hat.”
Current points leader Dallas Glenn, who was the provisional No. 1 qualifier on Friday, took the second spot with a 6.610s at 205.65mph and Aaron Stanfield took third in qualifying on the strength of his 6.614s at 206.95mph.
Eliminations for the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip begin at 12 p.m. PT on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.