By Rob Geiger, NHRA.com

Las Vegas' own "Hot Rod" Fuller completed the best weekend of his three-year professional career by winning the seventh annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals to surge back into the POWERade points lead with one race left in the season. Fuller's third win of the season follows a thrilling victory Saturday in the Technicoat Top Fuel Shootout, moving his total winning for the weekend to $190,000.

In Funny Car, Tony Pedregon put a near stranglehold on the '07 title chase with his fourth win of the year. The other three racers in the Countdown to 1 all lost in Round 1. Greg Anderson continued his love affair with The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with his sixth win at the facility. This one put him back in the points lead he held for most of the regular season. Three-time and reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle champ remained the man to beat in his class with another convincing victory.

After completing the 17 races of the season with a commanding 184-point lead, Fuller watched his advantage reduced to just 10 points when the playoffs started in Indianapolis with the Countdown to 4. He's trailed ever since, until finally regaining the top spot here with his impressive win in the Caterpillar dragster.

By beating a resurgent Doug Kalitta in a razor-close final -- 4.531 at 327.82 mph to Kalitta's 4.537 at 331.36 mph -- Fuller moves 52 points ahead of Larry Dixon, with Brandon Bernstein (-61) and Tony Schumacher (-67) following behind in the Countdown to 1 standings.

"It's good to be home," Fuller said. "We won a big race yesterday but I didn't get to enjoy it because I was so focused on today. A $100,000 is great but it's gone fast; a world championship lasts forever. I just got in that zone and I've been there all weekend. It's exhausting but it's worth it now.

"They told me that under the old points system, I would have clinched the championship by now. But at the same time I'm a believer in the new deal because I've seen the excitement it's generated. That's easier to say now because we're up again but I do like the way it's all turning out.

"I thought being at home would help me be more comfortable but last night I went to bed at 9:45 and then I woke up at 2 in the morning and I was wide awake, ready to go. That's how much this deal means. I couldn't get back to sleep."

Fuller is now 3-3 in final rounds this year and 6-8 lifetime. A winner at the last stop in Richmond, Va., Kalitta falls to 1-1 in money rounds this year and 30-24 for his career.

Pedregon's win denied Ashley Force her first Funny Car victory but she made a little history just by reaching the final as no other female participant had ever made it that far in the class. She actually had the car to beat as her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang posted a quicker 4.829 at 298.93 mph to Pedregon's 4.871 at 318.47 mph, but the veteran had dusted her at the starting line, leaving with a massive six-hundredths of a second advantage. This was Pedregon's 36th career win.

"There're a lot of great memories here because this is where I clinched my championship in 2003," Pedregon said. "I don't know what happened to the track but we smoked the tires in the first two rounds today and were lucky to win. Then we get to the final and I know a lot of people were rooting for Ashley but the guys got it done for me.

"It was emotional to race her. She's family. I was over there for a long time. To see John [Force] back at the track after all he's been through was so great. I've had a lot of teachers and he was definitely one of them. People are saying he looks worn out but I think he looks great.

"I would have been happy with a one-round lead. It's a huge luxury to have a 91-point lead, believe me, I know that. But we won't change our approach. We still need to go over to Pomona and qualify this car and win some rounds. I haven't won anything yet."

It was a huge day for Pedregon and his Q Horsepower team in the Countdown to 1 points as the other three racers in the championship hunt all bowed out in Round 1. He's now 91 points ahead of Gary Scelzi with Robert Hight is next, 99 off the lead, and Ron Capps needing a miracle to overcome his 113-point deficit.

Pro Stock winner Anderson gave up a slight lead to Coughlin at the starting line when Coughlin jumped off the pad with a .013-second reaction time to Anderson's .021-second launch, but the three-time champ had made up the difference by the 60-foot timers and went on to win convincingly with a 6.731 at 205.04 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO to Coughlin's 6.771 at 204.39 mph in his Jegs.com Chevrolet Cobalt.

This was Anderson's eighth win of the year, which ties him for the class lead with Dave Connolly. It was also the 51st win of his career. Coughlin drops to 3-4 in 2007, and 37-22 overall.

"We just haven't been A-1 lately," Anderson said. "Dave Connolly has been running so strong and there was nothing any of us could do. But we came here and tested the wheels off this car and figured it out. The car was the star today, and my crew chief Rob Downing was perfect. I dedicate this win to him.

"I can hardly describe the pressure of this thing. All four cars in the deal are capable of winning the championship and you know that any little mistake and you're done. No one wanted to head to Pomona with their bottom lip dragging on the ground.

"We didn't win [the championship] today but we didn't knock ourselves out. We figured we'd need to at least get to the final to keep our hopes alive and we did one better than that. Thank God for Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We've got work to do in Pomona or one of those other guys will take it away, I guarantee it."'

The win moved Anderson moved Connolly and back into the points lead he held up until the first Countdown cutoff, when the top eight racers were reseeded and separated from top to bottom by just 10 points each. He's now 34 up on Coughlin, who moved up to second place, and 48 up on former points leader Dave Connolly. Allen Johnson, whom Coughlin beat in Round 1, is 103 back in fourth.

Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod rider Hines upped his career record versus Ellis to 7-0 with his final-round upset. After earning lane choice in the money round, Ellis dropped off pace and posted his worst pass of the day when it mattered most, bowing to Hines' 7.073 at 187.34 mph with a 7.144 at 185.41 mph.

Hines is now 5-2 in final rounds this season and 13-9 in his career. Ellis suffered his first loss in six trophy-round appearances.

"It's been pretty stressful out here," Hines said. "We've never been crazy about the second cutdown and if it hadn't happened we'd be up by 90 points or so. But as it turns out we have the exact same lead going into the final race as we did a year ago. This time I'm not going to go in there and blow it in the first round like I did last year and have to sweat out what other people do for us to win. We want to keep control in our own hands.

"We've been working hard since the last race in Dallas," Hines said. "I think my dad made about 100 pulls on the dyno looking for more horsepower. We have five spare motors in the trailer, all ready to go, and we only used the one all weekend. We're totally prepared."

The three-time and reigning POWERade Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, Hines earned himself a little breathing room in the points, moving 39 markers ahead of runner-up Ellis. Matt Smith is in third, 51 points back, while Peggy Llewellyn follows in fourth at a 93-point deficit.

RACE NOTES (Courtesy Lachelle Seymour/NHRA Public Relations):

TOP FUEL
·         "Hot Rod" Fuller earned his first victory in front of his hometown fans in dramatic fashion, doubling up his purse with a win in Saturday's Technicoat Top Fuel Shootout. Fuller piloted his CAT dragster to a 4.531 at 327.82 mph ahead of runner-up Doug Kalitta, who turned in a 4.537 at 331.36 in his Mac Tools dragster.

  • Fuller won the Shootout in his second career appearance in the bonus event when he drove to a 4.527 at 329.99 around the Vietnam Veterans/POW-MIA dragster driven by Melanie Troxel (4.526, 326.40). The total winner's purse for doubling up was $150,000, bringing his total winnings for the weekend close to $200,000.
  • It was Fuller's third win of the season, sixth of his career and first in Las Vegas.
  • Fuller moved up one spot to the point standings just in time for the final event of the season, the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif. next week.
  • All four drivers in the Countdown to One advanced to the second round. Larry Dixon, who led the points coming into Las Vegas, dropped to second when he lost in the second round to Doug Kalitta. Tony Schumacher, third entering this race, dropped to fourth with his second-round loss to Morgan Lucas. Brandon Bernstein moved up a spot when he advanced to Round 3, where he lost to Doug Kalitta.
  • Schumacher qualified No. 1 in his U.S. Army dragster, posting a 4.482 at 327.59.
  • David Baca's Matco Tools dragster crew earned the Full Throttle Pit Crew Championship award.

 

FUNNY CAR
·         Tony Pedregon put some distance between himself and the other three drivers still in the hunt for the championship in the Countdown to One when he drove his Q Horsepower Chevy Impala SS to a win over Ashley Force.

  • Pedregon piloted his ride to a 4.871 at 318.47, to a quicker-but-losing Ashley Force's 4.829 at 298.93 in her Castrol Ford Mustang. It was his fourth win of the season, the 36th of his career and his third in Las Vegas.
  • At 24 years old, Force became the first woman to reach a final round in NHRA POWERade Series Funny Car history.
  • While all four drivers in the Countdown advanced out of the first round in Top Fuel, the Funny Car contenders were less lucky - only Tony Pedregon made it out of Round 1. His blocker, brother Cruz Pedregon, knocked contender Gary Scelzi out of the race.
  • Hight, third in the points entering Las Vegas, exited in the first round at the hands of Jim Head after qualifying No. 1. No. 4 in the Countdown standings entering Las Vegas, Ron Capps lost in the first round to Phil Burkart Jr.
  • Robert Hight qualified No. 1 with a 4.763 at 322.58 in his Auto Club Ford Mustang to earn the Skoal Showdown award.
  • Scelzi's Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger crew earned the Full Throttle Pit Crew Championship award.


PRO STOCK
·         Greg Anderson broke Dave Connolly's five-race winning streak when he earned his eighth win of the season, the 51st of his career and sixth in Las Vegas.

  • Anderson drove his Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GTO to a 6.731 at 205.04 to Jeg Coughlin's 6.771 at 204.39 in his Jegs.com Chevy Cobalt in the final round to regain the points lead in the Countdown to One. Connolly fell to third when he lost to Coughlin, his teammate, in the second round. Coughlin jumped to second place in standings with his final-round appearance, and the fourth driver in the Countdown to One, Allen Johnson, remained in fourth place when Coughlin beat him in the first round.
  • Connolly qualified No. 1 to earn the K&N Filters Horsepower Challenge award behind a 6.725 at 205.57 in his Torco/Seelye Wright Chevrolet Cobalt.
  • Vieri Gaines defeated Jason Line by a .0036-second margin of victory in the first round of Pro Stock eliminations to earn the Motel 6 "Who Got the Light" award.
  • Kurt Johnson and his ACDelco/Hulk Hogan Chevrolet Cobalt Pro Stock crew earned the Best Appearing award.
  • Anderson's Summit Racing crew earned the Full Throttle Pit Crew Championship award.


PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
·          Andrew Hines earned his fifth win of 2007, the 13th of his career and his second in Las Vegas when he rode his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a 7.073 at 187.34 over No. 1 qualifier Chip Ellis. Ellis carded a 7.144 at 185.41 on his Drag Specialties S&S Buell.

  • Hines increased his lead to 39 in the point standings with the win, while Ellis moved from third to second with his runner-up finish. Matt Smith fell from second to third with his second-round loss to championship hopeful Peggy Llewellyn, who remains in fourth place.
  • Ellis topped the qualifying standings with a 7.023 at 189.60 on his Drag Specialties S&S Buell to earn the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle award.
  • Ellis' Drag Specialties S&S Buell crew earned the Full Throttle Pit Crew Championship award.

 

POWERade FAN NATIONALS

  • Sean Porter, 14, of Boulder City, Nev., beat out hundreds of local fans to win the POWERade Fan Nationals event title. At every event, local fans compete against each other to win a trip to the Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif. in November. With the win, Porter was able to stand in the POWERade Series winner's circle with the professional winners of the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals.