The last time the Baby Grand Nationals visited the Bullring the top five qualifiers were separated by five tenths of one second and the margin of victory in the feature was a mere three tenths of one second.
At the last event the top 10 qualifying times in the NASCAR Super Late Model class were separated by four tenths of one second. In the Legend Cars feature event, C.J. Hulsey won over Justin Irwin by two tenths of one second. In fact, of the nine features held during the last race, six of them had a margin of victory measured in tenths of a second.
Racers and race fans alike talk in tenths of a second all the time. Statistically, it seems like a huge number. If someone is turning laps that are consistently .438 slower than the race leader I might refer to them being "well off the pace," but what exactly is four tenths of one second? Literally, it is the blink of an eye. While you are reading this you naturally are blinking your eyes. You didn't think about it a moment ago and to be quite honest you never even noticed you were blinking. Now that I’ve pointed it out to you you’re trying not to blink but just give up, it’s going to happen. In fact, try and see just how fast you can blink your eye. I can tell you that it takes the average person anywhere from three to four tenths of one second for a single blink. Or in other words, the same amount of time that would place you “well off the pace” of the race leader. Amazing, isn’t it?
Now, stay with me here. In qualifying the last time out, the top three Bandoleros were separated by twenty-four thousandths, the top four Legend Cars were within eighty-five thousandths and in the Charger feature event the top four finishers all had their best lap times within ninety-two thousandths. That’s right, one-hundred thousandths equals one tenth of a second, or to put it in perspective, three times faster than you can blink. And that says it all right there. Come on out to the Bullring this weekend, race fans, and see just how much really can happen in the blink of an eye.
I was updating some info in my database (you read my last blog, right?) and I started thinking about some of the cool things I’ve found out about the drivers.
I know that prior to becoming an announcer, drivers to me were the cars. I really had little idea about who they were, they were simply faceless warriors in brightly painted chariots and to some extent I feel the big leagues of racing are still like that for me, but not so at the Bullring. Today, let’s take a peek behind the curtain.
Mario Opipari, who incidentally has one of the coolest names for rolling off the tongue, rips around the Bullring in the white and green number 53 Charger car. He has been a fixture at the Bullring for a number of years, picking up a championship back in ’07, but did you also know he was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1996? Maybe you did, because John Bisci wrote about it here http://www.lvms.com/bullring/media/news/576250.html but let’s see if you’ve been paying attention at the races, as I’ve shared most of this information at some point.
Erika Thigpen, driver of the 01e Bandolero, finished 4th in points during the 2010 season, but did you know that she is also a barrel racer? When I first heard this I thought it wasn’t possible because she was about as big as a tick. It’s true though, and you can find a link to some pics of her in action at ThigpenFamilyRacing.com.
Harold “Buckshot” Sherard is a pilot in the Bomber division, having grown up around racing in Gillette, WY, but did you also know he used to tour with David Copperfield? How in the world do you go from Gillette, WY (pop. 30,000 give or take) to touring the world with one of the greatest magicians ever? On the showbiz side of things, we’ve also had one of the soundmen from Ka racing with us, a Frank Sinatra impersonator, an Elvis impersonator and 3-time Legends Masters Champ Frank McCourt had hair like an 80’s rock star so we’ll throw him in here too. Yeah, I know. At least he had hair.
One of our racers is on the design team for the 2k Sports video games and one racer was on the original design team of the Honda Element. As a side note, he won’t tell me what they’re working on now because it’s a secret. I promised not to tell, but he still won’t share that information to the talkative guy with the microphone for some reason. Go figure.
There’s more, so much more, I could write here. In fact, I’ll be honest and tell you that I actually just came back and deleted a huge chunk of it. Why? Because I want you to come out and find out more for yourself. The next time there’s an autograph session, or after the race when you can head into the pits, walk up to your favorite driver and introduce yourself. Ask them some questions, let them know you’re a fan and the next time you’re sitting in the stands you’ll be cheering for the person behind the wheel, not just the number on the car.
5:55 p.m. – Comments from Top Fuel driver Antron Brown, who earned his 26th career NHRA victory (10 in Top Fuel and 16 in Pro Stock Motorcycle) Sunday in the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals:
“It feels incredible (to win) – especially here at Vegas. I’ve been to the final I don’t know how many times here and came up short. I always get to the final and roll the dice and I had snake-eyes come up on me. This weekend here, everything just fell right into our groove. Our team just stepped up. When the track was out there – we knew it was going to be a little cooler (today) – the guys just stepped this Aaron’s car up this weekend and it really showed through. We had to give it all we got and we duplicated it and kept it throughout eliminations and it got us in the winner’s circle. This race right here, it always tries to kick you down because so much is riding on it but we got it done. It was just an incredible weekend and I give it all up just by being blessed with the team that I’m on right now.”
(How eager were you to get back to the track after ending last season with a win?) “We were definitely ready because we learned a lot last year. It was a transition year because we basically were starting to run a car totally different than we ever ran before. We started running (Don Schumacher Racing) stuff – the chassis, their clutch program, their engine program – and their stuff made quite a bit more power than we were used to running and it took a little bit to (get used to). Once we started getting our bearings together like probably halfway through the year, and in the last four races we did good, we just got beat by better cars. That’s how tough our class is. In the offseason, the guys worked harder on our dragster and it just turned around when we got out there testing and we were running with the other DSR cars. We were gung-ho to get to Pomona so it was carrying out but we put it all together this weekend.”
5:28 p.m. – Comments from Funny Car driver Robert Hight, who earned his second win of the season and the 29th of his career Sunday in the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals:
“It’s not getting any easier. It’s a lot of hard work – that’s really what’s doing it and what’s paying off. You let your guard down just one little bit and you’re going to get beat. I had close, side-by-side races in every round. Johnny Gray stepped up in the final and made his best run of the weekend against us. If you looked at it on paper, you’d say ‘back it off a little, be safe, go down the track and get the win.’ We would not have been up here right now (if we had done that). That even makes it feel better when you can get a win like this and it be the third of the year for (John Force Racing). In this day and age and with this competition, it’s awesome.
“People always ask me, ‘Is it tough, a lot of pressure, with the team you’re on?’ I always say no, it makes it easier for me as a driver because you just go out there and you don’t have to worry about anything else. You know the car is right and the people are right. It just makes it easier for the driver so hat’s off to John (Force) and the team he’s put together.
“We’ve got to keep it going, though. We go to (Charlotte) next week. This was the 199th career win for John Force Racing and nothing would be better than getting 200 there in Charlotte. It’s another Bruton Smith track. We love their facilities; they’re top-notch, they’re the best. NHRA did such a great job with the track this weekend to get this live TV deal off.”
5:10 p.m. – Comments from Pro Stock driver Mike Edwards, who earned his 29th career victory Sunday and his second in a row at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals:
“It really is (the start to the season I’ve wanted). We started off pretty slow for us – actually pretty bad for us, really. We regrouped and came in here with a new car that had a few runs on it and just made some tremendous runs, starting right off with Friday and just continued on through today. It’s just a total team effort. My guys just did an awesome job all weekend – all of them. It’s a great win (and) we just want to try to build on this and try to improve as much as we can and keep trying to run good and make good decisions.”
(What’s made you so good here at The Strip?) “I think it’s the conditions. We run better when it gets hot in the middle of the summer. We just came here and we started off so well and we just kind of build on it. This place is pretty special. John Kite, I used to work for him years and years ago and he used to live here. We teamed up together years ago and he basically gave me my start a long, long time ago so it’s a pretty special place for me.”
(Were you concerned about the weather cooling off today?) “I was. I thought we actually slipped up a little bit on Saturday and then today, especially there in the middle of the day, we ran really, really well. We were real fortunate to get a win there in the final because we made our worst run in the final. We spun up real hard … so we were real fortunate to come away with the win.”
4 p.m. – Final results from the 12th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
Top Fuel: Antron Brown (3.887 at 318.84) def. Brandon Bernstein (3.947 at 311.13).
Funny Car: Robert Hight (4.149 at 307.79) def. Johnny Gray (4.169 at 301.81).
Pro Stock: Mike Edwards (6.695 at 205.98) def. Vincent Nobile (6.713 at 205.69).
Check back shortly for comments from the winning drivers.
2:46 p.m. – Semifinals results and final-round matchup in Pro Stock:
Vincent Nobile (6.697 at 205.88) def. Greg Stanfield (foul); Mike Edwards (6.662 at 206.95) def. V Gaines (6.704 at 205.41).
Final: Edwards vs. Nobile.
2:39 p.m. – Semifinals results and final-round matchup in Funny Car:
Johnny Gray (4.210 at 300.33) def. Tony Pedregon (no show); Robert Hight (4.155 at 309.13) def Cruz Pedregon (4.152 at 304.80).
Final: Gray vs. Hight.
2:33 p.m. – Semifinals results and final-round matchup in Top Fuel:
Brandon Bernstein (3.937 at 306.81) def. Del Worsham (4.025 at 269.03); Antron Brown (3.843 at 320.51) def. Doug Kalitta (3.940 at 314.46).
Final: Brown vs. Bernstein.
2 p.m. – Mike Edwards, in Pro Stock, is the lone defending SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals winner with a chance to repeat. Larry Dixon, the reigning event champion in Top Fuel, was knocked out in the second round by Doug Kalitta and John Force, the 2010 Funny Car winner here, was eliminated in the second round by Tony Pedregon.
Dixon, the top qualifier in Top Fuel, has five career victories at The Strip while Force, the No. 1 qualifier in Funny Car, has won three times in Las Vegas – including twice last year.
1:38 p.m. – Second-round results and semifinals matchups in Pro Stock:
V Gaines def. Shane Gray; Greg Stanfield def. Jason Line; Vincent Nobile def. Allen Johnson; Mike Edwards def. Erica Enders.
Semifinals: Edwards vs. Gaines; Stanfield vs. Nobile.
1:25 p.m. – Second-round results and semifinals matchups in Funny Car:
Cruz Pedregon def. Ron Capps; Tony Pedregon def. John Force; Robert Hight def. Jack Beckman; Johnny Gray vs. Jeff Arend.
Semifinals: T. Pedregon vs. Gray; C. Pedregon vs. Hight.
1:10 p.m. – Second-round results and semifinals matchups in Top Fuel:
Brandon Bernstein def. David Grubnic; Doug Kalitta def. Larry Dixon; Del Worsham def. Spencer Massey; Antron Brown def. Tony Schumacher.
Semifinals: Kalitta vs. Brown; Bernstein vs. Worsham.
12:30 p.m. – First-round results and second-round matchups in Pro Stock:
Mike Edwards def. Richard Freeman; Jason Line def. Larry Morgan; Allen Johnson def. Kurt Johnson; V. Gaines def. Ron Krisher; Shane Gray def. Ronnie Humphrey; Vincent Nobile def. Warren Johnson; Greg Stanfield def. Greg Anderson; Erica Enders def. Rodger Brogdon.
Second round: Edwards vs. Enders; Gaines vs. Gray; Line vs. Stanfield; A. Johnson vs. Nobile.
12:08 p.m. – First-round results and second-round matchups in Funny Car:
John Force def. Bob Bode; Cruz Pedregon def. Gary Densham; Robert Hight def. Jim Head; Johnny Gray def. Mike Neff; Jeff Arend def. Matt Hagan; Jack Beckman def. Paul Lee; Ron Capps def. Tim Wilkerson (foul); Tony Pedregon def. Bob Tasca III.
Second round: Force vs. T. Pedregon; Gray vs. Arend; C. Pedregon vs. Capps; Hight vs. Beckman.
11:40 a.m. – Tony Schumacher posted the quickest and fastest Top Fuel pass of the weekend with his first-round victory over Troy Buff. Schumacher ran 3.879 seconds at 318.17 mph and advanced to a second-round matchup against Antron Brown.
“It’s Vegas – this is the place to win,” Schumacher said after his run. “We’re early in the season and you’ve got to get the momentum now, carry it all year and be a dominant team. This Army car is as good as any car I’ve ever driven. I always talk about surrounding yourself with good guys and these nine (crew) guys are as great as any team – and I’ve worked with the best.”
11:25 a.m. – First-round results and second-round matchups in Top Fuel:
Larry Dixon def. Steve Torrence; Brandon Bernstein def. Steve Faria; Del Worsham def. Steve Chrisman; Tony Schumacher def. Troy Buff; Antron Brown def. Morgan Lucas; Spencer Massey def. Shawn Langdon; David Grubnic def. Terry McMillen; Doug Kalitta def. Bob Vandergriff.
Second round: Dixon vs. Kalitta; Schumacher vs. Brown; Bernstein vs. Grubnic; Worsham vs. Massey.
9:40 a.m. – Here are the first-round pairings for today’s professional eliminations:
TOP FUEL: 1. Larry Dixon vs. 16. Steve Torrence; 2. Brandon Bernstein vs. 15. Steve Faria; 3. Del Worsham vs. 14. Steve Chrisman; 4. Tony Schumacher vs. 13. Troy Buff; 5. Antron Brown vs. 12. Morgan Lucas; 6. Spencer Massey vs. 11. Shawn Langdon; 7. David Grubnic vs. 10. Terry McMillen; 8. Bob Vandergriff vs. 9. Doug Kalitta.
FUNNY CAR: 1. John Force vs. 16. Bob Bode; 2. Cruz Pedregon vs. 15. Gary Densham; 3. Robert Hight vs. 14. Jim Head; 4. Mike Neff vs. 13. Johnny Gray; 5. Matt Hagan vs. 12. Jeff Arend; 6. Jack Beckman vs. 11. Paul Lee; 7. Tim Wilkerson vs. 10. Ron Capps; 8. Bob Tasca III vs. 9. Tony Pedregon.
PRO STOCK: 1. Mike Edwards vs. 16. Richard Freeman; 2. Jason Line vs. 15. Larry Morgan; 3. Allen Johnson vs. 14. Kurt Johnson; 4. Ron Krisher vs. 13. V. Gaines; 5. Ronnie Humphrey vs. 12. Shane Gray; 6. Vincent Nobile vs. 11. Warren Johnson; 7. Greg Stanfield vs. 10. Greg Anderson; 8. Rodger Brogdon vs. 9. Erica Enders.
9:25 a.m. – Good morning from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and final eliminations for the 12th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals.
The forecast calls for mostly sunny skies today and a high of 80 degrees. Pre-race ceremonies for the 12th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals are scheduled to start at 10:15 a.m. (PDT) and pro eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. Make sure to check back here throughout the day for the latest news, results and driver interviews.
5:35 p.m. – Racing resumes at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 9 a.m. Sunday with Sportsman eliminations. Pre-race ceremonies for the 12th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals begin at 10:15 a.m. and final eliminations in the three pro categories start at 11 a.m.
Good evening from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and be sure to check back here Sunday for updates throughout the day.
5:05 p.m. – Comments from John Force, the top qualifier in Funny Car:
“(Crew chiefs) Dean Antonelli, taught by Austin Coil, and Ron Douglas – those two kids run the car. Guido (Antonelli) wasn't trying to run low because he said there are too many guys behind us and they'll see us do it and they'll just step it up. He just tried to run what he thought the lane would hold and we got away with it. It makes me feel good for those kids. Let's not forget that's Ashley Force Hood, my daughter's car. More than anything, I want to do good for her because that car means a lot to her and those kids that she raced with for four years. One day, I'll get out at the other end, I'll get on that freeway and you'll never see me again. I'll just disappear and leave it to the kids when they're ready to run it because I won't have a final tour and I don't like good-byes.”
(On tomorrow’s predicted cooler temperatures:) “Without a doubt, we'll step up. It'll make the track better. Where people get confused, the minute all of your gauges show you what the car will do, then you've got to play the game that what if the track isn't there...and you think the conditions are good but underneath it's not. Like I said to Guido, if we can run low e.t. or the top two, three or four, then we get to watch what everybody can do and then you can see what they can do. Otherwise, the slowest car in the field can take you out. We're going to watch the ones ahead of us and then try to look at his numbers and try to put a number, just an edge, on them.”
4:35 p.m. – Comments from Larry Dixon, the top qualifier in Top Fuel:
“They weren’t great runs today but it’s still good information. The first run, it went out there and spun the tires and I clicked it off and the second run, it kind of felt like it was doing the same thing and it knocked the burst panels out. To be honest, I’m really surprised that a 3.90 stuck for pole; I really thought there would be some cars that would actually knock that off. I think we were really fortunate that it held.
(On tomorrow’s predicted cooler temperatures:) The track temperature is what it comes down to. If you get a 10-degree cooler track, you’ll probably see three-, four-hundredths quicker (elapsed times) but you’ve got to wait and see. Fortunately for me, my job is the same whether it’s 60 degrees or 160 – it’s the same thing. We’ve just got to go out there and try real hard and know that the Al-Anabi team is going to do their best to give me a great race horse. Whether we get in the winner’s circle or not, I don’t think that really has any bearing on confidence. With a great team and driving a great racecar, we’ll do our best to try – along with everybody else. It’s not our confidence; we’ve got a great car all year long but one reason or another has kept us from advancing any further in races but I wouldn’t trade my car for (anybody else’s).”
11:05 a.m. – Kenny Bernstein said his second retirement is feeling a whole lot more comfortable than his first.
Bernstein, a six-time NHRA world champion and the first drag racer to surpass the 300-mph barrier, returned for one season as a driver in 2007 after retiring in 2002. He said this week that he is content with his role as owner of the Kenny Bernstein Racing Copart Top Fuel Dragster, which is driven by his son Brandon.
“Yeah, I think so,” the elder Bernstein said when asked if his retirement from driving was final. “I learned a long time ago not to say ‘never’ because I goofed up on that and did (retire) and six months later, I was back in there (driving) and I was having fun again.
“I don’t plan on (driving again) right now; I don’t have anything pushing me. My feelings on that today are completely different than they were two years ago. Two years ago, I was still a little itchy; it was a little tough to get out of the Monster Funny Car, to be honest about it, but I thought it was the right thing to do. I have really, really calmed down and I understand now that this is where I need to be.”
Brandon Bernstein is qualified No. 8 in the Copart Dragster going into today’s final two rounds of qualifying for Sunday’s 12th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
10:25 a.m. – Good morning from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the final two rounds of professional qualifying for the 12th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals.
The weather has changed from yesterday’s summer-like conditions; it’s cloudy and 80 degrees this morning with winds coming out of the south at 17 mph. The forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 89 degrees.
The third round of professional qualifying is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. with Pro Stock, followed immediately by the third round of Nitro qualifying. The fourth and final round of pro qualifying is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.
Check back here throughout the day, as we’ll be updating this blog with news, results and driver interviews.