It was billed as twice as wide and twice as loud but it was 10 times the fun for DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals winners Steve Torrence, J.R. Todd and Vincent Nobile.
Their smiles on the victory platform were wider than the new track at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
One of the pacesetters said he might even be taking a shine to this crazy thing called four-wide drag racing.
“The format — I’ve been saying all along I’m not a fan of it,” Todd said after notching his third Funny Car victory in 14 starts since switching from Top Fuel, where he was a nine-time winner. “But it’s definitely cool to be the winner of the first four-wide here in Las Vegas. So I guess I’ve got to somewhat like it.”
The Kalitta Motorsports driver got the holeshot in a final that included Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr. and No. 1 qualifier Courtney Force.
“I’d say it’s just the traditionalist in me,” Todd said about his aversion to the four-wide style. “But it’s new and it’s exciting and it draws a huge crowd, and that’s what our sport needs if we’re gonna keep it going.”
Torrence, who seemed destined to win last year’s Top Fuel championship before finishing runner-up to Brittany Force, started 2018 strong with a victory in Phoenix during the second race meeting. He said he didn’t expect to win at LVMS on four lanes, two lanes or any other combination of lanes.
“We rode the struggle bus all the way through qualifying,” said the second-generation driver who defeated his father, Billy, in the first round Sunday and an all-star final quad that included multitime champions Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown and always formidable Doug Kalitta.
“You go up there in the final and you’ve got (Brown), you’ve got Tony Schumacher and you’ve got Doug — all those guys are legends, at least in my eyes. It was a tough final.”
It was a tough final as well as a close final for Nobile — the Camaro driver won his 10th Pro Stock race but first in two seasons by stopping the clock .0007 ahead of Deric Kramer in the final quartet.
“That was our third engine this weekend — which is three too many for a Pro Stock car,” Nobile said.
“On Friday we struggled qualifying, then we put in a second bullet, and that thing was even more of a turd. Then finally after our first round (Sunday), we put in our backup backup. Obviously, that’s the one that should have been in there in the beginning.”
Sunday’s winners, as was the case with virtually all the drivers, lauded LVMS for building a near-perfect race track.
“Hats off to Las Vegas Motor Speedway,” Todd said. “It was like going for a Sunday drive down there.”
■ LVMS’ first four-wide NHRA drag race was an overwhelming success as both Saturday qualifying and Sunday final eliminations attracted sellout crowds, estimated at about 25,000. It was the first time the spring race drew multiple announced sellouts.
■ When the NHRA cars return for the Toyota Nationals Oct. 25-28, they will run on only two lanes. The second LVMS race will be the penultimate event in the Countdown to the Championship, the six-race playoffs that determine the NHRA champions.
Four-Wide Nationals winners
Top Fuel: Steve Torrence, Torrence Racing Dragster, 3.771, 326.63 mph
Funny Car: J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 4.041, 317.05 mph
Pro Stock: Vincent Nobile, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.690, 206.80 mph