Most people who travel between the U.S. and Europe put a few months into planning before getting on a plane. Jimmy Alund was given just a few days.
After getting a call from KB Racing — owned by Las Vegan Ken Black — asking him to temporarily replace Greg Anderson, Alund quickly went online and checked flights from Sweden to Phoenix.
He has since made several trips between the U.S. and Sweden, and is competing this weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. And people think commutes in Los Angeles are agonizingly long.
“It’s a busy schedule, I can tell you that,” Alund said Saturday. “I don’t have much rest, but you try to sleep on the airplanes. After work, you don’t do much than go home to your family and relax.”
The SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals is Alund’s fourth event for KB Racing while filling in for Anderson, a four-time Pro Stock series champion who had heart surgery in February. Anderson is scheduled to return for either the Houston event on April 25 to 27 or the one in Atlanta on May 16 to 18.
Alund has dominated Europe by winning eight Pro Stock championships, including last year’s. Even with all that success, he was surprised to be asked to drive the first part of the NHRA schedule.
“I thought they were kidding with me,” Alund said. “When I realized it was reality, I realized also that I needed to be in Phoenix within four or five days for testing for Pomona. It’s been a blast ever since. I’ve had the time of my life so far.”
Alund, 46, has long had his eye on America. He spends a good portion of his time here, and owns a vacation home in Port Charlotte, Fla.
“I try to spend as much time as I can over here, but I’ve got to work, and I’ve got my family and kids in school,” he said. “If I had it my way, I would probably try to be here even more.
“I would like to join NHRA and be out here full time. Of course, I would.”
He prefers American race tracks, saying the surfaces are smoother than in Europe. But finding success here hasn’t come easily. Alund is 11th in the points standings, and has failed to advance past the first round in eliminations.
“I’m used to winning rounds and winning finals and winning races and championships,” he said. “But you’re out here racing with the best in the world.”
Alund heads into today’s 11 a.m. eliminations after qualifying eighth. His top time was 6.639 seconds (208.49 mph), and Alund said he was pleased with qualifying in the top half of the bracket for the first time.
“I’m still trying for my first (first-)round win, and hopefully it comes here at the Summit race,” he said. “It was also really nice to have Greg here to work with for the first time this year. We have fun, and having him here is really great.”
Jeg Coughlin of Delaware, Ohio, qualified first in Pro Stock with a time of 6.625 seconds (209.107 mph). This is the first No. 1 spot of the season for the defending and five-time series champion.
Pro stock driver Erica Enders-Stevens, a New Orleans resident, won the K&N Horsepower Challenge and $50,000 prize. She became the first woman to win the 30-year-old event. Her time of 6.64 seconds (208.39 mph) beat Dave Connolly of Bradenton, Fla., who had to shut down because of mechanical issues.
Courtney Force of Yorba Linda, Calif., set Funny Car track records with 4.006 seconds and 325.37 mph to take the No. 1 spot, beating out her dad, John Force (4.017, 317.87). It’s her first top qualifying spot this season and fourth of her career.
Antron Brown of Pittsboro, Ind., took the first qualifying spot in Top Fuel, his second in a row in the Las Vegas spring race and fourth at this track. His best time was 3.768 seconds (325.14 mph). Brown, the 2012 series champion, won last year’s Las Vegas fall event.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter @markanderson65.