For the very first time, drag racing fans on the West Coast will have the opportunity to experience the unique 4-Wide format without having to travel thousands of miles to the East coast. Track owner Bruton Smith was so pleased with the racing and the fan support for the eastern version at zMAX Dragway outside of Charlotte that he added two more lanes to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway so western fans could also experience the ear-splitting action.
The highly anticipated first West Coast 4-Wide weekend is finally here this week.
“As a racer, you love the excitement and without a doubt, I think you’re going to see two sold-out days,” said Ron Capps, the 2016 Funny Car world champion and winner of last year’s 4-Wide event at Charlotte. “It’s great seeing this type of excitement from the West Coast for this race and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
The 4-Wide format was initially looked upon as a gimmick, and truthfully it is, but it’s been in place for eight years and draws a bigger crowd than the traditional two-wide event zMAX hosts in the fall. It only makes sense that Smith and company would elect to try it in Las Vegas. There’s no reason to believe the response won’t be similar.
It presents unique challenges for the drivers and after eight tries in Charlotte, most have come to embrace the format, particularly since it has become so popular with fans. The biggest of those challenges remains staying focused and looking at the correct light at the starting line.
“I definitely go into the four-wide races with a different mindset. The races are completely different,” Brittany Force, who also won the 4-Wide at Charlotte last year, said. “I will get in my Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster and go through my routine, but I will also spend some time on the starting line. I want to stand in each lane and look down the race track to prepare for each run no matter which lane I might be in. I want to look at the Christmas Tree and figure the visuals out before we get to race day. We have had some success racing four-wide and this is the first one in Las Vegas.”
It could also serve as a prep for drivers to knock the rust off of what was previously a once-a-year routine before they get to Charlotte at the end of April, so perhaps there will be some positive bounce for that event to offset losing the uniqueness of being the only 4-Wide strip on the schedule.
In order to add the additional lanes, the entire racing surface was redone, leaving four shiny new lanes for this first event.
“I’ll tell you what, I’m just very excited to get out there. It’s going to be a cool twist to have a battle royale and see who’s the best of the best out in the West,” Antron Brown said. “I saw the track when I was out there for the Pennzoil 400, and it looks phenomenal. The four lanes are brand new, super smooth and now they’re bringing the ‘Bellagio of drag racing’ to The Strip. Can’t tell you how thrilled I am to run four-wide on the West Coast.”
Pro Stock Stars Shine: This weekend in Vegas will also be the place to be to see the annual Pro Stock all-star event, the K&N Horsepower Challenge. Greg Anderson has won the last two K&N Challenge events and has won it six times overall. He’ll face Erica Enders in the first round of the All-Star battle.
“With the K&N Horsepower Challenge, it’s absolutely my favorite race of the year,” Anderson said. “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.”
The Challenge is a race within a race as the first two rounds of eliminations for the 8-driver event take place during Saturday’s qualifying rounds, with the two finalists squaring off in a final elimination round following qualifying to see who collects the $50,000 check for the win.
Vincent Nobile was the eighth and final driver placed in the event via a fan vote and will face reigning class champion Bo Butner in the first round. Other first-round matchups include Jason Line v. Jeg Coughlin and Tanner Gray v. Drew Skillman.
Chalk up the K&N Horsepower challenge as another beneficiary of the four-wide format as larger than normal fan attendance is anticipated.
March Madness DSR Style: And the winner is…Tony Schumacher, the only one to correctly pick the NCAA championship winning team from Villanova. No one had Michigan as their opponent, although Schumacher was the closest with Michigan in his final four. Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, and Leah Pritchett also correctly chose Villanova to go the championship game but did not pick them as the winner.
See the full picks in Nitro Shots: March Madness with Don Schumacher Racing.