Spencer Massey didn’t have a full-time NHRA ride in 2010, but there was little to doubt about his ability.
He was considered a promising young driver, and the powerful Don Schumacher Racing team saw enough of his potential to put Massey in one of its Top Fuel dragsters.
Massey since has justified that faith, finishing second in last year’s series standings. Then on Sunday, he recorded his second victory of this season, defeating teammate Antron Brown to win the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Massey was clocked at 3.830 seconds and 323.89 mph to defeat Brown, who had a time of 3.849 and speed of 315.86.
Robert Hight continued his hot streak by winning his third event in a row to move up a spot into first place in the Funny Car standings. He defeated Bob Tasca III, running 4.154 seconds at 312.93 mph. Tasca finished in 4.213 seconds at 292.14 mph.
Allen Johnson (6.648 seconds, 207.30 mph) won the Pro Stock class over Vincent Nobile (6.738, 207.53).
Massey, who also won the Full Throttle Series opener at Pomona, Calif., on Feb. 12, climbed a notch to third in the Top Fuel standings. Brown, who took over the No. 1 spot, and Morgan Lucas are ahead of him.
"This year, it seems like everybody has stepped up tremendously," Massey said. "You have to count every 1,000th of a second. Back 10 years ago, it was almost 100ths of a second or by a 10th of a second."
The 29-year-old Texan finished sixth in 2009 before Don Prudhomme’s team folded. Massey managed to make only one event the following season before Schumacher picked him up.
It turned out to be a good move, but this also is a team with three of the top four drivers in the standings. And the team that placed two drivers into Sunday’s final.
"Even though we are teammates (and) we do share stuff, whenever we’re going to run against each other, trust me, nobody shares anything," Massey said.
"We want to beat them just as bad as we want to beat anybody else out there in the category."
Hight, 42, was the only top seed to win one of the three professional classes. He also became the first No. 1 seed in Funny Car ever to win the spring race in Las Vegas.
These are good times for Hight, who is on a three-race winning streak for the second time. The 2009 series champion also has been good in Las Vegas, now having won five times at The Strip, including last year’s spring race.
That success probably helped Hight and his team adjust to a cooler track Sunday following two days of temperatures in the 80s.
"The conditions here are a little different. They’re a little trickier than at other places," Hight said. "It’s a little harder to make power. You’re halfway to Denver (in elevation). But we have a lot of data. We have a lot of good crew chiefs."
He doesn’t want to stop working and hates that the next event, in Charlotte, N.C., is nearly a two-week wait. So Hight, rather than catch up on rest, will return to The Strip today for testing.
Johnson, 52, wants to celebrate his victory. He recently took a Caribbean vacation, and joked about heading back.
This win bolted him from seventh to fourth in the Pro Stock standings, sitting behind Greg Anderson, Jason Line and Mike Edwards.
"We’ll be something to reckon with for the championship if we can just be consistent," said Johnson, who twice has finished as high as fourth. "We’re right there with them, if not ahead of them a little bit. We want to keep it that way."
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.HOW LOCAL DRIVERS FARED
Jon Capps, did not qualify.
Justin Lamb, lost in semifinals; Roger Kato, lost in third round; Don Kruse, lost in third round; Jeff Farrar, lost in second round; Jimmy Lintz, lost in second round; Gary Reust, lost in second round; Karen Comstock, lost in first round; Chris Naffziger, lost in first round.
Jon Irving, lost in fourth round; Roger Comstock, lost in second round; Jeff Davison, lost in second round; Robert Cruzen, lost in first round.
Errol Farmer, lost in fifth round; Dwight Machael, lost in fourth round; Jon Irving, lost in third round; Earl Blake, lost in first round; Robbie Irving, lost in first round; Paul Wong, lost in first round.
George Garbiso, lost in second round; Greg Hicks, lost in second round; James Earl, lost in first round; Meaghan Henderson, lost in first round; Bill Koski, lost in first round; Garrett Wiles, lost in first round.
Justin Lamb, lost in second round.