Courtesy: Kevin McKenna, www.NHRA.com

Cory McClenathan claimed his first Top Fuel win in more than a year, and Tim Wilkerson ended a winless drought that extends back to the 2004 Sonoma event during the final rounds of the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. McClenathan, in his first full season as a member of Schumacher Racing, won his 30th career title when he defeated recent Houston winner Antron Brown in the final, 4.65 to 4.70.   Wilkerson, the top qualifier at two of the season's first five events, relegated Ashley Force to a runner-up for the second-straight event following a close 4.96 to 4.99 final. 

McClenathan and Wilkerson were joined in the winner's circle by former POWERade champion and Summit-backed racer Jason Line, who claimed his first win of the season over Greg Stanfield, who was seeking to win his first Pro Stock event.

Despite track temperatures that exceeded 130 degrees, McClenathan never ran slower than 4.78 on race day as he drove his Fram dragster to wins against Top Fuel "brat pack" members J.R. Todd, Morgan Lucas, and Brandon Bernstein, good friends who often socialize away from the track.  A regular on the NHRA tour since 1991, McClenathan was appearing in his 51st career final and scored his first win in Las Vegas. He has now claimed wins at 15 different NHRA venues.

"To say the least, it's about time," said McClenathan. "It's been a couple of years since we even had a competitive car. To win my 30th race exactly 30 races after my last win is incredible. Thanks to [crew chief] Mike Green and all the guys that work on my team and the crew at Don Schumacher Racing. It's great to be a part of that team. Hopefully, I will be able to finish my career there.

"I kept lane choice all day and we worked it. We also had a lot of help from all of the other teams. There was a sea of different colored uniforms over there and that happens at the shop too. There were 30 guys working on our race car. I just stayed back and did my job when it was time to race.

"Antron Brown is a great driver who is learning really fast and Lee [Beard] is a great crew chief so I was taking nothing for granted. We made some good runs and it was good enough to get the job done."

Two weeks after winning his first Top Fuel event, former Pro Stock Motorcycle ace Brown nearly claimed his second title with a solid performance from his Matco Tools dragster. Brown was solid in the opening round with a 4.68 win against Bob Vandergriff's UPS dragster but he later had to pedal the car in his tire-smoking wins against Kalitta Racing teammates Hillary Will and Doug Kalitta.

Following the win, McClenathan is now ranked fourth in the POWERade standings, behind reigning champ Tony Schumacher, Larry Dixon, and Brown.

Only eight four-second runs were recorded on race day in Funny Car and Wilkerson and Force were responsible for six of them. Wilkerson powered past Jim Head in the opening round with a 4.94 and later stopped Tony Pedregon's special-edition Palms entry with a 4.96. In the semifinals, Wilkerson managed to out-pedal Ron Capps, who won his first two rounds of the season in his NAPA Dodge.

"This is kind of cool to see the single-car teams right in this deal, don't you think?" said Wilkerson. "Del [Worsham] won in Houston and I won here. This is good for the little guys, NHRA has done a good job of leveling the playing field. The weight deal kind of played into our hands. I'm fortunate that I'm fat and happy. Last year, we were 100 pounds overweight and then they added 100 pounds to the minimum weight and that played right into our hands. 

"This was a hard weekend. The track was treacherous from time to time but NHRA did a good job and the Goodyear tires worked well today. The U.S. Smokeless guys helped us change motors after I hurt one against Ron Capps.

"My daughter, Rachael is 16 and she's a big Ashley [Force] fan, I'm a big fan too. Every time I'm around her, I'm impressed. I want to see Ashley get her first win but I don't want to be the guy in that stat. As for Rachael, she'll be alright. She wants to see me win too. Force, a finalist at the recent O'Reilly Spring Nationals in Houston, took over the points lead in Funny Car following her round two win over Gary Densham and then extended it by stopping surprise semifinalist Bob Bode, who has earlier upset low qualifier Robert Hight's Auto Club Mustang. Force currently holds a slim five-point lead over Wilkerson in the POWERade standings. Cruz Pedregon, who entered the event atop the standings, is now third, 32 points behind.

Line scored a huge win for Las Vegas-based team owner Ken Black and event sponsor Summit Racing Equipment with his 14th career Pro Stock victory. Line, who also has a Stock Eliminator title to his credit, also pulled into a tie for the POWERade points lead with reigning champ Jeg Coughlin following his final round win against Stanfield. In qualifying, Line's Pontiac GXP was second quickest car behind Ken Koretsky's Nitro Fish Pontiac. Line then waded through a tough field on race day, rolling past Johnny Gray, Coughlin, and former Las Vegas winner Kurt Johnson to reach the final. Against K.J., Line, who has occasionally been criticized for his driving, got off the starting line first by a hundredth of a second, and then extended the advantage for a close 6.79 to 6.80 victory.

"I get beat on for my driving or lack thereof so many times; it's redeeming to finally win again," said Line. "I know it was probably deserved. I mean the numbers don't lie. I have struggled at times but to win at the Summit race is a huge deal for us.

"Today, I had the best car that I've had for a year and a half. It was the car that got it done today. The engine didn't perform as well as I would have liked it to but the car worked great, especially in the right lane. Everybody struggled in that lane but when I ran that [6.79] in the semifinals it was an impressive run by anybody's standards.

"This is three finals in five races and that's by far best start to a season that I've ever had," said Line. "It also feels really good to be tied for the points lead. I'd like to think this is the start of a lot of good things to come for Greg and myself."Stanfield, behind the wheel of his Attitude Apparel GXP, also put together a solid run that began with an upset win over Line's Summit teammate, heavily favored Greg Anderson, who shook the tires and slowed. Stanfield got past low qualifier Koretsky on a holeshot in round two and then advanced to his fifth career Pro Stock final with a 6.82 to 6.87 win over two-time POWERade champion Jim Yates.

The Lucas Oil Sportsman champions crowned at the event were Jeff Isbell (Top Alcohol Dragster), Jay Payne (Top Alcohol Funny Car), Lou Ficco Jr. (Comp), Gregg Luneack (Super Stock), John Shaul (Stock), and Randy Balough (Super Gas).