LAS VEGAS – After completing just one round of eliminations on Friday, sportsman competitors were greeted with a full day of racing action on Saturday at the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. With as many as four rounds of competition on Saturday the sportsman classes were left with only the semifinal competitors by the end of the day. See below for story lines from each class.
Check out our NHRA Toyota Nationals event preview here to see the Team DragChamp picks for each class.
The story coming into the race was David Rampy’s chase to 100 national event wins. That dream ended in the third round when Rampy lost by .002 to Team DragChamp competitor Jeff Lane.
DragChamp picked Lane to win the race in our event preview and he will face Doug Engels in the semifinals. David Billingsley earned the bye to the final round.
Tyler Bohannon came into the event chasing Justin Lamb in the national points but a first round loss will likely keep him out of the championship picture. Team DragChamp is still alive as Jimmy DeFrank is going to the semifinals on Sunday.
Other Team DragChamp picks Dan Fletcher and Jody Lang fell from competition in the fifth and third rounds respectively. Fletcher took out Lang in round 3 with perfect light and then fell to Justin Lamb in round 5 in an epic battle.
Fletcher was perfect at the tree for the second time in eliminations to Lamb’s .015. At the stripe, Fletcher gave it back to Lamb posting a .024 over 10.524 to Lamb’s dead on 8.728. The margin of victory for Lamb was just .001-second. To make matters worst for Fletcher, Lamb will receive a bye run in the semi’s so technically the race was for a spot in the final. That’s devastating financially for Fletcher since he makes his living driving racecars and the difference between $500 for a fifth round loss and a minimum of $5,000 for a final round finish is huge.
In the semifinals, Lamb will have the bye while DeFrank will pair against Pete Peery to determine who will meet Lamb in the final round.
Current national points leader Brian McClanahan needed to advance to the fourth round to extend his points lead over Justin Lamb. While Brian made it to the third round, he missed the tree and fell to Joe Sorenson which will increase the drama at next weekend’s LODRS event where he and Justin Lamb will battle for the championship.
Team DragChamp drivers Larry Gilley, Justin Lamb, and Brad Burton all fell in the early rounds of eliminations.
The semifinals will see former multi-time world champ Jeff Taylor take a bye to the final round while Dwight Machael and Chris Stephenson meet to determine who will face Taylor in the final round.
As a side note, Taylor has been brutal at Vegas. His worst light in eliminations has been a .024 and in the last four rounds he’s defeated a who’s who of Stock competitors including Brad Burton, Jimmy DeFrank, Al Corda, and Leo Glasbrenner.
Coming into the event several competitors had a shot to add to their national points total but only Mark Grame has capitalized on the opportunity this week. Most notably current leader Don Nichols needed only to win two rounds to improve his score but fell in round one. Like the Stock Eliminator points chase, next week’s LODRS event will put added pressure on the racer’s as the championship will most likely be decided at that event.
As with Stock, the Team DragChamp picks didn’t fare so well at Vegas as Bradley Johnson, Ryan Herem, and Ray Connolly all fell in the early rounds of competition.
Ken Mostowich will take his beautiful Camaro to the final round as he has the bye in the semifinals on Sunday. Kevin Wright and the Mark Grame will face off in the semifinals for their shot at a final round appearance.
The race between Wright and Grame should be a great one as both have been on kill all weekend. Wright hasn’t been worst than .016 at the tree and made 3 of 4 runs within .006 of the index. Grame has been just as hot as he began eliminations with three straight runs in which he posted dead-on the index laps. Grame’s packages for the first three rounds were .016, .017, and .004. It should be fun to watch these two go head-to-head on Sunday.
Aaron Kinard came into the event needing a late round finish to overtake current national points leader Devin Isenhower. With a fifth round red light, Kinard did almost that as he is now less than one round behind Isenhower, who is out of chances to improve his score. In his fifth round matchup with Rob Willis, Kinard turned it red by a “thou” which may end up costing him the national title. Kinard will need another fifth round finish next weekend at the Las Vegas LODRS event in order to overtake Isenhower.
Canadian Casey Plaizier also has an outside shot at the national championship but must make the final round this weekend and again at the season ending World Finals. Plaizier is still in competition this weekend as he made it to the semifinals on Sunday to keep his championship dreams alive. Plaizier will meet Rob Willis in the semifinals while 2018 Toyota Sonoma Nationals event winner Matt Blodgett will receive the bye to the final round.
In a rough weekend for Team DragChamp members Steve Collier fell early, Michael Miller dropped out in round 3, and Kinard fell in round 5.
As the Big Show moves into Sunday, Team DragChamp has just two chances to keep our win streak alive. We’ll be cheering on Jeff Lane in Competition Eliminator and Jimmy DeFrank in Super Stock.
DragChamp is your source for NHRA drag race results. Visit DragChamp daily for the latest news, results, and updates from NHRA sportsman drag racing.