Big drama in Las Vegas as Force, Hagan, Enders and Arana Jr. hit the jackpot – NHRA.com | CarTailz

It’s no exaggeration to say that the NHRA Nevada Nationals in Las Vegas feature some of the most dramatic side-by-sides of the season. As the penultimate event of the 2022 Camping World NHRA Drag Racing Series, championships are the focus and Erica Enders was the first to officially claim victory after winning her 10th Pro Stock race of the season. Enders was joined in the winners’ circle by championship hopes Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Hector Arana Jr. in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Victories don’t come much bigger than this for Force, whose last-round win over Mike Salinas put her in a narrow points lead over new leader Justin Ashley, who was upset in round one. Force won the Finals with a holeshot, 3.705 to 3.702, for her fifth win of the season and a seven-point lead over Ashley heading into the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona.

It was Force’s first win since defeating Salinas in the finals at Sonoma in late July, which was also the last time Salinas reached the finals after a strong start to the season, which saw him drive four times in the first 11 races. Force regained the point advantage she had when she entered the countdown, but had only won one round in each of the four previous events in the countdown to the championship before breaking through in Las Vegas.

Force started her trek to her 35th round of finals and her first runner-up since runner-up at the US Nationals with a first-round bye for the 15-car field thanks to her ninth #1 qualifier of the season. She then won a crucial second-lap race with fellow former World Champion Antron Brown in a battle for second place that went in her favor when Brown’s dragster Matco Tools lost traction midway through. She reached her seventh season finale with a 3.712 to finish off another former world champion, Tony Schumacher, who blew up the Supercharger downtrack.

Salinas, without a win since his win at Norwalk in late June, took his Rob Flynn-tuned Pep Boys dragster to the final, the 15th of his career, with victories over Lah Pruett, tire-smoking Clay Millican and Austin Prock, who jumped out to one wide lead before his engine turned into a flamethrower downtrack, allowing Salinas to pass for the win.

Hagan scored a crucial win over championship leader Robert Hight on the final lap to keep his hopes of a fourth World Championship alive, racing to victory with a 3.896 after Hight’s Auto Club Camaro smoked the tires early on. It was Hagan’s fourth win of the season and 43rd overall, but his first since the Epping event in early June

It was Hagan’s quick reaction, longer than crew chief Dickie Venables’ horsepower, that propelled Hagan into his eighth final of the season as he won his first and semifinal rounds with holeshots. On lap one, with his Dodge Power Brokers Charger struggling with dead cylinders, his starting line advantage over Steven Densham gave him the win by just 0.003 seconds. After beating Chad Green in the second round, Hagan used another holeshot to defeat Bob Tasca III also by 0.003s and won a close 3.92–3.90 encounter to earn his 79th career finals reach.

Hagan, who led in points for six mid-season races, is now two points behind second-place finisher Ron Capps and 83 behind Hight. Hight’s lead over Capps is 81. Capps came into the event just 10 points behind Hight, but Hight’s dominating qualifying performance and Sunday’s long run increased his lead to a more comfortable lead only the season finale.

Hight qualified his Jimmy Prock and Chris Cunningham-tuned entry for the sixth time this season, then sped past Jeff Arend, Alexis DeJoria and JR Todd with a blitz of 3.8-second passes to earn his 96th career final to achieve his 12th of the season.

A round after officially winning the 2022 Camping World NHRA Pro Stock Championship, Erica Enders finished the job by defeating teammate Troy Coughlin in a thrilling side-by-side final round. Enders celebrated her tenth win of the season by driving her Melling/Elite Camaro to a 6.640 to beat Coughlin’s 6.668.

“This whole season has been a dream come true for our entire team,” said Enders. “This season, like every season, we wanted to win races and win a championship and that’s exactly what we did. We’ve spent the whole season with a number 2 car and that didn’t go down well with any of us. It.” lit a fire among our team to become champions again.”

When Enders came to Las Vegas, she knew she would be crowned the Pro Stock Champion barring something miraculous, but she left no doubt with another dominating performance that included a 6.579 in qualifying for first place to claim. Enders didn’t let up during the eliminations as she fought her way past Kenny Delco, Dallas Glenn and Kyle Koretsky to reach the finals. She officially ended the title with her semi-final victory over Koretsky and then fulfilled another goal by winning her tenth race of the season.

“I’m not sure what it was, but I felt different today,” Enders said. “I think you have a big head start, so you should complete it. When we won the semi-final that changed. I had a peaceful feeling going into the final and was able to go about my normal business.”

Coughlin, who won his first two Pro Stock events of the season in Seattle and Topeka, moved to 20 points behind Aaron Stanfield thanks to a day of wins over Camrie Caruso, Deric Kramer and Cristian Cuadra.

Not that anyone thought it was a stroke of luck, but Hector Arana Jr. backed up his recent win in Dallas with a second straight win in Las Vegas. Arana Jr. has only raced a handful of times this season, but every time he’s raced his Buell V-Twin, which was tuned by his father, 2009 World Champion Hector Sr., he has a positive Making an Impression Ranked #15 for the Finals, where he defeated low qualifier Matt Smith with a 6.686 holeshot to 6.682. Arana’s tough road to the finals included victories over Vance & Hines teammates Angelle Sampey and Eddie Krawiec, as well as Angie Smith in the semis.

“It was a struggle just to get here,” said Arana Jr. “Dallas was supposed to be out in the last race. We didn’t have the resources to continue but we got a deal with Steve Bryson and GETTRX and that allowed us to get to the last two races. To be honest, we weren’t prepared. We had to drive home to Dallas and overhaul engines, and then we had problems on the road and had to rent an RV.

“I struggled a bit in qualifying but we had a plan for race day. I’ve won a couple of races with holeshots but you have to have the pace to get there and we had that. I have a lot of confidence right now. I can’t wait to go to Pomona and keep going. We had a long break so maybe I was a bit rusty before Dallas but we found our groove pretty quickly. We’ve been out here a long time, so I knew what we needed to do to get results. I took out both the Vance & Hines bikes and both Smith [Matt Smith Racing] Bikes and that’s never easy. Now our mission is to get the funding we need to come back next year.”

The news wasn’t over for Matt Smith, who has yet to officially complete his sixth NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle title, but things are looking very promising after putting his Denso Buell to the final lap. Smith dominated until the final round and will now lead a respectable 104 points into the season-ending Auto Club Finals in Pomona, meaning he simply needs to qualify and win the first two elimination rounds to secure the title .

Smith twice set the Las Vegas course record in qualifying, first on Friday with a 6.798 and then again on Saturday with a 6.785 to take pole for the first time in his career. Smith settled into a comfortable groove on race day with a string of 6.8 second runs in his wins over Katie Justice, Chip Ellis and Jerry Savoie.

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