Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – LAS VEGAS, NV – The spring trip to Las Vegas for the 19th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals is a highlight for longtime Pro Stock standout Greg Anderson.
The first of two NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series races at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway also includes the annual K&N Horsepower Challenge featuring eight top Pro Stock drivers, with a hefty $50,000 payout going to the winner.
Anderson has won the NHRA’s longest-running specialty race for the last two years and six times overall in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro, adding one more thrilling element to this weekend’s race which features the first four-wide racing event on the West Coast.
“With the K&N Horsepower Challenge, it’s absolutely my favorite race of the year,” said Anderson, a four-time Pro Stock world champion. “I love it. There’s no stress, just the chance to win some cold-hard cash. I love doing that and taking part in it. It’s also (team owner) Ken Black’s hometown and I just love going to this race. It’s the coolest race in my book and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) and Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including finals coverage starting at 6 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 8. It is the fourth of 24 races and a chance for Anderson to get his 2018 campaign on track. Considering his eight career wins in Vegas, it may be the perfect venue to start a hot streak.
Anderson has been impressive in qualifying in 2018, taking the No. 1 spot at the most recent race in Gainesville. But raceday has provided a stiffer challenge, as Anderson has been bumped out in the second round at each of the first three races. It’s certainly a nod to the talent level in the class, but Anderson knows he is capable of more and is looking forward to proving that this weekend in Las Vegas.
“We’ve just been a tick off with our execution on race day and that’s what it has come down to,” said Anderson, who has 90 career Pro Stock wins. “We’ve been a little off there and we have to find a way to change that. We know how to do it, we just have to get back to doing it. By the time you get to the second round, it’s usually like a final-round match-up. It’s just difficult right now. But we need a big day. If we find a way to win (the K&N Horsepower Challenge), I guarantee that will help my confidence. We’re just going to go up there and give it everything we’ve got.”
Anderson will face off with Erica Enders in the first round of the specialty race, which takes place on Saturday. Other first-round matchups include Vincent Nobile meeting No. 1 qualifier and defending world champ Bo Butner, Jason Line racing Jeg Coughlin, and Tanner Gray matching up with Drew Skillman. It’s a loaded lineup, but Anderson enjoys the extra excitement of the weekend, which will be at an all-time high for the race as it features the debut of four-wide racing in Las Vegas. The four-wide racing adds a must-see element to the weekend, but it is one Anderson has come to appreciate.
“It’s fun and it’s neat to change things up and it absolutely adds more excitement,” Anderson said. “Hopefully we’ll see a packed grandstand (this weekend). I love seeing that. Nothing makes you feel better as a driver, and that really gets you excited and jacked up. I like to get excited in the car. I feel like that really helps me.”
Brown earned his second straight win at the spring Vegas race in Top Fuel in 2017, and is seeking his first win in 2018 against the likes of points leader Steve Torrence, Gainesville winner Richie Crampton, and defending world champ Brittany Force.
Defending Funny Car event winner Johnson is after his first win of 2018, facing off against Pomona winner Robert Hight, Phoenix winner Courtney Force, and Gainesville winner Jack Beckman.
The event also features competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, as well as the Mickey Thompson Tires NHRA Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series. After nitro qualifying on Friday, the Segal Motorsports Fire Starter, American Freedom Fighter & Lucas Oil Muy Caliente Jet Cars will thrill the fans. Known for their pre-run flame shows and after burner pops, jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers. Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. on Friday, April 6 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 7, at 12:10 and 2:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, April 8.