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.