7:30 p.m. -- Comments from Larry Dixon, the top qualifier in Top Fuel:
(On trimming Tony Schumacher's lead from 47 points to 41 points) "You can pick up the nickels and pennies and all those kind of points in qualifying but when you get to 20 points a round on race day, that's what makes up big chunks. At this point, I'm not looking any further than (first-round opponent) Morgan Lucas. He's got a great car, he's a Countdown car, so you've just go in there and race your race and don't ever get ahead of yourself. One round at a time."
(On The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he has won four times) "It's a great racetrack. You get to see some great numbers go up on the board whether the sun's out or it's nighttime. And the fans, there are just tons of people here. I signed so many autographs for people from Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia and Europe - you don't get that at Richmond, you get it in Las Vegas so as far as the marketing group that puts on this race, it's great. We obviously love what we do but when you roll up to the starting line and you're sitting in the water and you look off to the side and you see the stands full, it makes you proud of what you do for a living. The credit goes to the Vegas track for promoting it and getting them in there. It's a good feeling."
7:45 p.m. -- Comments from Matt Hagan, the top qualifier in Funny Car:
"We've had a great weekend so far and the only way we can top this off is with a win tomorrow. We've had a good team, a good car, and we've shown that we can run down there even in the heat this morning. We had a good tune-up and I think that's what (crew chief Tommy DeLago) is going to do tomorrow; he's going to go right back to what we did this morning ... and go right down the track. Hopefully, our plan will come together and work for us. Hopefully, we just go out there and get the win light to turn on - that's my main goal. That's really what our focus is this weekend, is to go some rounds and hopefully get to the final and win this thing."
7:15 p.m. -- Comments from Mike Edwards, the top qualifier in Pro Stock:
(On his chance to clinch his first world championship on Sunday) "It's gonna be a huge day for us. We're all excited about it. We look forward to it and hope we can do it. It's been a long, precious season, I can say that for sure, no matter what the outcome this weekend. We worked really hard and we're in a position now to do something we've never been able to do.
"We're going to go into tomorrow like it's another first round - like all season long. We just have to focus on that lane and hope for the best. It's just like any other race ... but there's a lot riding on it. We're definitely enjoying it. We're looking to seal the deal. It's been a great year and this is a great opportunity and we're just looking forward to it."
7:05 p.m. -- Comments from Hector Arana, the top qualifier in Pro Stock Motorcycle:
"It's awesome. Everything has happened so fast this year. It has been an awesome year. All I need to do is stay consistent and I should prevail (in the championship). I worked hard for a long time and struggled. After I got home, my kids always would say, 'hey dad, did you win ...dad, did you win?' After a while, they stopped asking. (Having success) was my biggest way to show my kids that if you work hard and sacrifice a lot (it pays off). Now they know if you believe, if you work at it and don't give up, it'll work out. That's what I want - I want respect from my kids."
6:45 p.m. - Here are the 16 qualifiers in Funny Car for the ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals:
1. Matt Hagan; 2. Ron Capps; 3. Robert Hight; 4. Tony Pedregon; 5. Bob Tasca III; 6. Cruz Pedregon; 7. Tim Wilkerson; 8. Jack Beckman; 9. Mike Neff; 10. Jim Head; 11. John Force; 12. Del Worsham; 13. Jeff Arend; 14. Ashley Force Hood; 15. Gary Densham; 16. Grant Downing.
6:20 p.m. - Here are the 16 qualifiers in Top Fuel for the ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals:
1. Larry Dixon; 2. Steve Torrence; 3. Antron Brown; 4. Tony Schumacher; 5. Cory McClenathan; 6. Brandon Bernstein; 7. Shawn Langdon; 8. Thomas Nataas; 9. Doug Kalitta; 10. Spencer Massey; 11. Bob Vandergriff; 12. David Grubnic; 13. Urs Erbacher; 14. Stig Neergaard; 15. Terry McMillen; 16. Morgan Lucas.
4:50 p.m. - Here are the 16 qualifiers in Pro Stock for the ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals:
1. Mike Edwards; 2. Vinnie Deceglie; 3. Ron Krisher; 4. Greg Anderson; 5. Johnny Gray; 6. Allen Johnson; 7. Rodger Brogdon; 8. Larry Morgan; 9. Jason Line; 10. Warren Johnson; 11. Jeg Coughlin; 12. Greg Stanfield; 13. Ronnie Humphrey; 14. Ryan Ondrejko; 15. Rickie Jones; 16. Kurt Johnson.
4:05 p.m. - Here are the 16 qualifiers in Pro Stock Motorcycle for the ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals:
1. Hector Arana; 2. Andrew Hines; 3. Matt Smith; 4. Eddie Krawiec; 5. Karen Stoffer; 6. Junior Pippin; 7. Michael Phillips; 8. David Hope; 9. Craig Treble; 10. Douglas Horne; 11. Shawn Gann; 12. Steve Johnson; 13. Jim Underdahl; 14. Larry Cook; 15. Freddie Camarena; 16. Mike Berry.
3:20 p.m. - Rod Fuller, a Las Vegas resident and a seven-time winner on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, is watching this weekend's NHRA Las Vegas Nationals from the sidelines. Fuller said he is optimistic that he will be able to secure sponsorship to return to the Top Fuel ranks to start the 2010 season. Fuller won at least one Top Fuel national event from 2005 to 2008.
2:30 p.m. - Provisional pole-sitter Larry Dixon recorded the fastest pass (3.837 seconds) in third-round Top Fuel qualifying. Brandon Bernstein turned in a run of 3.853 at 317.27 mph) and improved from eighth to fourth. Dixon, Steve Torrence and Tony Schumacher remained first through third going into the final session later this afternoon.
In third-round Funny Car qualifying, provisional pole-sitter Matt Hagan's 4.153-second pass was fastest of the session and was followed by Cruz Pedregon (4.161) and Jim Head (4.168). Ashley Force Hood, second in Funny Car points and previously unqualified, now sits 15th with one round of qualifying remaining.
12:55 p.m. - Mike Edwards, Vinnie Deceglie and Ron Krisher remained atop the Pro Stock speed chart after three rounds of qualifying. Edwards posted the quickest run of the third round at 6.664 seconds.
12:30 p.m. - Hector Arena, Andrew Hines and Matt Smith retained the top three spots in Pro Stock Motorcycle after the third round of qualifying. Eddie Krawiec, the provisional fourth qualifier, posted the quickest third-round time at 7.023 seconds.
11:50 a.m. - Good morning from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where clear skies will greet racers today for the final two rounds of professional qualifying for the ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals.
Once again, it's a beautiful day today; the temperature is 63 degrees and there isn't a cloud in the sky. As soon as the Matco Tools Pro Mod Clash completes its first round, professional qualifying will get underway with Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock, followed immediately by the third round of Nitro qualifying.
Check back here often, as we'll be updating this blog throughout the weekend with news, results and driver interviews.
8:05 p.m. -- Just a reminder that racing will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday and another beautiful day is on tap with a projected high of 78 degrees. Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and Nitro qualifying will be at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Good night from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and be sure to check here Saturday and Sunday for constant updates from the ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals.
8 p.m. -- Comments from provisional Top Fuel pole-sitter Larry Dixon following two rounds of qualifying: "It was obviously a far more outstanding run than our first run today.
I just went out there and it was just a nice, nice lap. Track conditions were perfect. The air was cool and it held up. I didn't know it was going to run that good. When we spun the tires the first run today, I figured they might clam it down just to make sure we got down the track and got qualified. It was a great run for the Al-Anabi team. There's a lot on the line the next two weeks so we're out there trying to do our best."
7:40 p.m. - Second-round Nitro qualifying has been completed and Larry Dixon (Top Fuel) and Matt Hagan (Funny Car) are the provisional pole-sitters. Hagan's run of 4.030 seconds at 313.88 mph was the quickest and fastest ever at 1,000 feet. Dixon's run of 3.805 at 318.24 moved him from 24th to the top of the speed chart.
7: 15 p.m. -- Comments from provisional Funny Car pole-sitter Matt Hagan following two rounds of qualifying: "It is awesome. It was a great, smooth run - I didn't have to drive it around a whole lot. It just went out there and did what it was supposed to do; it went right down the track. I drove it a little bit hard but when it feels that good, it's hard to pull your foot out of it. Some of the fastest runs, I feel like, are some of your smoothest runs. These nice, fast runs are just so smooth. We've definitely got a fast hot rod."
7:10 p.m. -- Comments from provisional Pro Stock pole-sitter Mike Edwards following two rounds of qualifying: "This is unbelievable. It's been quite a season. To come out here and run like this - my hat's off to my guys. Ever since Richmond, my guys at the shop got fired up and they've been working non-stop. This thing is extremely fast and I'm just so proud of the team. I'm living my dream and it's close to coming true."
6:55 p.m. -- Comments from provisional Pro Stock Motorcycle pole-sitter Hector Arana following two rounds of qualifying:
(On leading the points with two races remaining and eyeing his first NHRA world championship) "It's something that I've always, for 20 years, looked at. I've wanted to do this and wanted to do well and wanted the fans to love me and know who Hector is.
I'm accomplishing all of these things so it's an awesome feeling. I don't want to worry about it too much because I don't want to lose my concentration. All I need to do is stay focused and keep racing."
6 p.m. - The lights are on and have taken effect at The Strip and second-round Nitro qualifying is underway. Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) are the top qualifiers after two rounds in their respective categories.
5 p.m. - Larry Dixon trails Tony Schumacher by 47 points in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Top Fuel standings with two races remaining in the season. Although Dixon admits there is a sense of urgency in his quest to win a third world championship, he said he is not approaching this weekend any differently.
"I would say (it's) the same way that we've approached every weekend," Dixon said. "You just go out there and try to be low every session in qualifying and try to get as many qualifying bonus points as you can and, on race day, try and win four rounds. It's the same thing as everybody else is doing but you're running out of races to do it. It's becoming more important to do it.
"We've had four poles in a row so far for the Countdown. We've got that qualifying thing down; we just need to close the deal on race day. We've been able to make up over a round of racing just in those qualifying points. If we're going to be in contention at Pomona, the qualifying points are going to make the difference."
Dixon was last among the 22 Top Fuel drivers after the first round of qualifying as he failed to make a full run.
4:30 p.m. - Steve Torrence sits atop the speed chart after the first round of Top Fuel qualifying with a pass of 3.831 seconds at 314.17 mph. Shawn Langdon is second (3.855 at 313.29) and Cory McClenathan is third (3.860 at 315.86).
3:55 p.m. - Among the notable spectators taking in the first round of professional qualifying today at The Strip is longtime professional wrestling great Ric "The Nature Boy" Flair. Flair watched from behind the starting line as several Top Fuel dragsters made their qualifying passes.
3:40 p.m. - Funny Car points leader Robert Hight grabbed the provisional pole with a pass of 4.090 seconds at 305.42 mph. Jack Beckman was second fastest at 4.121 at 305.01 and Tony Pedregon was third at 4.133 at 304.74.
3:15 p.m. - John Force has a pair of streaks he would like to extend in the final two races of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season. Force holds the NHRA record of 22 consecutive seasons with at least one victory, but is winless so far in 2009.
He also has a streak of 24 consecutive seasons in which he has made at least one finals appearance but has yet to advance to a final this season. Force said he is confident he can extend those streaks either here in Las Vegas or at the season finale in Pomona, Calif.
"That's what I've got to do," Force said. "We've really struggled, we've found a lot of things and we made a lot of changes. The car has started to show potential over the last couple of races and I think we're going to be okay. If nothing else, I would like to keep those records but, in the end, the championship is what it's all about. If I can get my car back in the game, that will get them a shot at the title in 2010."
2:50 p.m. - Mike Edwards grabbed the top qualifying spot in Pro Stock and Andrews Hines was fastest in Pro Stock Motorcycle after one round of qualifying.
A series of delays throughout the morning and early afternoon has the first round of Nitro qualifying running behind schedule. The Funny Cars still are qualifying and the Top Fuel dragsters are on deck.
2:20 p.m. - Ron Capps, fourth in Funny Car points in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, sees this weekend's NHRA Las Vegas Nationals as crucial in his quest for his first NHRA world championship. Capps returns to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after winning the spring event here.
"I'm not sure it gives us an edge," Capps, a five-time winner this season in the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge, said, "but you always feel comfortable going to a place you've done well at. Right now, more than anything, we have to focus on just doing the best we can, and try to collect every point we can." Robert Hight leads the category by 13 points over Ashley Force Hood. Tony Pedregon is third, 48 points behind Hight, and Capps is 63 points off the pace in fourth.
"Having to do well at these last two races raises everybody's attention to detail, including the crew members, crew chiefs and drivers," Capps said. "The biggest thing that we're hoping for -- and it's ironic because we're (in) Vegas -- is that the odds of somebody dismissing the people in front of us in eliminations and our taking advantage of it will work in our favor. Going to the final round and facing somebody who is not in front of us in points is how we're going to gain ground.
"We could focus on all the points and get excited but the bottom line is, if we don't go to the final round ourselves, we're not going to have a chance in Pomona (the final race). So, we have to do the best we can in situations that are in our control and hope that the odds are in our favor that somebody is able to beat either Robert, Ashley or Tony in front of us."
1:45 p.m. - Tony Schumacher is favored by Las Vegas oddsmakers to win the Top Fuel crown this weekend - and with good reason. In addition to winning five races this season and leading the Top Fuel category by 47 points over Larry Dixon, Schumacher is the most successful Top Fuel driver at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with five victories.
Ron Capps and Tony Pedregon are tied with three victories here in Funny Car, Greg Anderson leads all Pro Stock drivers with six victories in Las Vegas and Chip Ellis, Andrew Hines and Angelle Sampey have two wins each at The Strip in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Other favorites to win this weekend, according to The Palms Resort & Casino and the South Point Hotel & Casino, are Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock).
1:05 p.m. - Good afternoon from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where it's obvious that Mother Nature is a drag racing fan.
After two days of cold, blustery weather in Southern Nevada, it's a beautiful day today for the first round of professional qualifying for the ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals. It's mostly sunny and 62 degrees with a slight breeze (6 mph) as the first professional runs are set to begin soon.
Professional qualifying will begin with Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock, followed immediately by the first round of Nitro qualifying.
Check back here often, as we'll be updating this blog throughout the weekend with news, results and driver interviews.
If there has ever been a week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with more fan events, I wasn't here for it - and I've been here almost 11 years.
This week promises to have something for everyone. Whether you like drag racing, sprint cars, stock cars, poker, boxing, watching your kids dress up for Halloween, autograph seeking or are simply in a charitable mood, we have it all this weekend.
The racing action is highlighted by the Las Vegas NHRA Nationals. This is the next to last event in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series and titles are up for grabs in all four professional categories.
No division is bringing more intrigue or excitement than Funny Car. Robert Hight, the son-in-law of legendary racer John Force, holds a slim 13-point lead over his sister-in-law Ashley Force Hood. Hood, Force's 26-year old daughter, is poised to be the first woman to ever win a professional Funny Car NHRA championship. Tony Schumacher is trying to hold off a fearsome foursome of Larry Dixon, Cory McClenathan, Antron Brown and Brandon Bernstein in Top Fuel. In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hector Arana and Ed Krawiec are in a tight battle. The only division that is settled is Mike Edwards in Pro Stock.
Sportsman racing begins Thursday and the pros qualify on Friday and Saturday. Final eliminations are set for Sunday at 11 a.m.
But the events surrounding the racing begin on Wednesday. The annual Cards For Kids Charity Poker Tournament benefitting Speedway Children's Charities will be Wednesday at the Cannery Hotel and Casino on Craig Road. Bernstein, Dixon, McLenathan, Greg Anderson and Karen Stoffer are just some of the NHRA drivers who will test their skill against race fans and poker enthusiasts. Walk-ups are welcome. We deal the cards at 7 p.m.
Thursday night brings us the annual NHRA Fanfest on Fremont Street. More than 25 of the biggest names in drag racing will be on hand to sign autographs beginning at 6 p.m. This event has typically brought hundreds of fans to downtown Las Vegas and is the most popular driver autograph session on the NHRA circuit.
Throughout the weekend, we will be collecting canned goods at the entrance gates. All food collected will be delivered to the City Mission of Las Vegas. This is a great opportunity to help the less fortunate as we approach the holiday season.
And in the midst of all the heart-pounding drag racing action on Saturday will be a little head pounding as well. Thanks to Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Productions, we will have professional sparring taking place in the midway between pro sessions on Saturday afternoon. Professional boxers Sugar Shane Mosley and Victor Ortiz will be on hand to sign autographs as well.
While the big guys are knocking heads, our youngest race fans will be competing for prizes in our annual Halloween costume contest. The judging will take place near the boxing ring on Saturday afternoon.
And if all this isn't enough, we also have Speedfest 2009 at the Bullring on Saturday night. Our 3/8-mile paved oval will play host to a 50-lap Supermodified race, USAC Western States Midgets, a 120-lap SRL Southwest Tour Series feature, a Bomber Enduro and Legends racing.
I'm tired just writing this, but as you can see, there's something for everybody this weekend. We hope to see you here, there and everywhere this weekend.
Hi everyone! My name is Rachel Commeford and I recently joined the LVMS staff as the new Director of Speedway Children's Charities.
I was born and raised in upstate New York in the small town of Elbridge - just outside of Syracuse. I attended Buffalo State College majoring in communications with an emphasis in broadcasting. Buffalo was far enough away from home, yet close enough if I needed a home cooked meal. After graduating, I realized that I didn't have to tolerate 120 inches of snow a year and I could work somewhere warm.
After moving to Las Vegas, I worked several different jobs in radio and print media. I landed a gig as fundraising manager for Special Olympics Nevada and at that very moment I realized event planning is not just event planning when it comes to the not-for-profit world. I always had a love for media, but when I started at Special Olympics, I knew I had found a passion something - a passion to do something worthwhile and help those in need. During my three years at Special Olympics Nevada, I gained a lot of experience that I am ready to put in to action at Speedway Children's Charities. The team at LVMS is fantastic, and we are eager to launch this into something excellent!
I look forward to seeing you at future events. Remember, seats are still available for the Sixth Annual "Cards for Kids" Poker Tournament at the Cannery Hotel & Casino on Wednesday, October 28th at 7 p.m. Register online or call 702-632-8242 for more details.
Thank you for the warm welcome!