18th Annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway

This reporter first started covering motor sports as a sports writer for Copley News Service in Los Angeles, California, in the early ‘60s. My first National Hot Rod Association race was at an event in Pomona, Calif.  Since then I have written about the NHRA whenever the opportunity arrived. I even participated in a couple of drag races at the old (gone for many years) Stardust Speedway and Drag Strip. God that makes me old! And one of the guys who helped big-time in making the world stop and watch what was going on was an old truck driver, with a graffeled voice like none-none-another named John Force. Of course, there were some great ones with weird nicknames, like “Snake,” etc. who set it up for the guys roaring down that strip of asphalt for a 1/4 of a mile today.

In a career spanning 42 seasons, John Force routinely has defied the odds while paying little attention to conventional wisdom. It’s a strategy that has worked out okay for the former big rig truck driver if you call 16 championships and 149 tour victories okay.


John Force

The upshot is that even though he is only seventh in Mello Yello driver points entering this week’s 18th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the sport’s most successful pro driver still believes he can win another title at the wheel of a much-improved PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro.


“This PEAK Camaro has gotten better every week,” said the former Driver of the Year for all American motorsports (1996). “It has consistency now. (At the last race at Charlotte) it went down the racetrack every run in qualifying and every run (on race day). Overall, as a team, we’re doing good.

“It’s a long way to that championship and we are running out of races,” he grudgingly admitted, “but I never give up as long as there’s a chance. Things happen. It’s drag racing. I know we’ve got our work cut out for us but if we go out and win Vegas, we’ll see where it goes?”


Winning Vegas” is something Force knows how to do. After a horrid first 10 years at The Strip during which he won just one time in 17 attempts, the Hall of Famer has turned things around, winning five of his last 16 Vegas starts including Toyota Nationals’ titles in 2010, 2013 and 2016, the first two paving the way to championships.

PEAK Camaro

After a start to the 2018 season where Force made multiple trips to the hospital after on track incidents, the racing icon turned around and won the Mile-High Nationals at Denver and extended to 31 the number of different seasons in which he has won at least one tour event, a feat unparalleled in professional sport.


“I want to win, and I know I still can,” Force said. “This isn’t NASCAR. I don’t have to drive around for three or four hours. I’ve been doing this a long time. I know the drill. When it’s over, I’ll know it’s over – but it ain’t over yet!”


Although he is on the verge of win 150, Force will be focused on something much grander.

“It’s all about the championship,” Force said. “If I can’t get it and Courtney (youngest daughter Courtney Force, driver of the Advance Auto Parts Camaro) can’t get it, then I’m going to try to take out the guys who are chasing Robert (Hight, the current points leader and president of John Force Racing) so he has the best chance of winning.”

Nitro qualifying at the Toyota Nationals is scheduled at 12:30 and 3:00 p.m. on Friday, 12:30 and 2:45 p.m. Saturday. The single elimination tournament will begin at 11:00 a.m. Sunday.


Jeg Coughlin Jr.

The JEGS Mail Order team will be represented at this weekend’s NHRA Toyota Nationals by Jeg Coughlin Jr., who will be racing in the Pro Stock class. Coughlin Jr. is once again racing as a teammate to two-time world champion Erica Enders. The Elite team also includes Pro Stock racers Vincent Nobile and Alex Laughlin. Jeg Jr.’s crew chief is multi-talented Rickie Jones, who has extensive experience as a driver, chassis builder, and tuner. The Elite team also includes crew chiefs Rick Jones, Mark Ingersoll, and Brian “Lump” Self, who regularly share data.


After 22 of 24 events, Jeg Jr. enters this week’s event at the No. 2 ranked driver in the Pro Stock class. Jeg is 130-points out of first place with two races remaining.  At the most recent NHRA event in Charlotte, Jeg Jr. qualified No. 4, and reached the quarterfinal round where he lost to Jason Line. Jr. has won at least one NHRA national event at 24 different tracks including The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The only current stops on the on the NHRA Mello Yello tour where he has not won are the events in Epping, N.H, and Norwalk, Ohio.


So far this season, Jeg Jr. has recorded Pro Stock wins in Chicago, Bristol, and Sonoma. He has also earned the Super Comp title in Richmond, Va.  During his career, Jeg Jr. has won the Pro Stock title five times in Las Vegas. He claimed a win at the inaugural event in 2000 by beating Warren Johnson and returned in 2001 and 2002 to post final round wins over Jim Yates and Warren Johnson, respectively. Jeg Jr. also won back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009, beating Greg Stanfield in both final rounds. In addition to his five Pro Stock wins, Jeg Jr. has also posted three runner-up finishes in Las Vegas.


Scott Palmer

After fighting and scratching their way into the playoff field, Scott Palmer and his dedicated crew were dreaming of big things for their CatSpot Organic Cat Litter Top Fuel dragster. But the first four of six playoff races have yielded just one elimination-round win, leaving the team searching for a way to bust their mini-slump at this weekend’s 18th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals.


“We need a change of luck,” Palmer said. “As the leader of this group, I know how hard my guys have worked this season, first to get us into the 10-car playoff field and then to put us in position to have a bunch of success down the stretch. For whatever reason, we have just fallen into this slump and we need to get past it.

To change their fortunes, Palmer, teammate Dom Lagana (who drives a part-time schedule himself) and crew chief Jason McCulloch have been pouring over their own data as well as the information they receive from the two-car CAPCO race team, which is in position to clinch the 2018 title this weekend with primary driver Steve Torrence.


“Dom tried some new things on the clutch on his Magic Dry Absorbent Top Fuel dragster at the last race in Charlotte and we run the exact same clutch so basically we are using what he learned in Charlotte and are going to apply that to our car this weekend,” Palmer said. “That alone should pick up our performance.”

Prior to the start of the event, Palmer will attend the NHRA Fan Fest on Fremont Street, which takes place from 5-7:30 p.m., Thursday. Always a fan favorite, Palmer will be signing autographs and posing for pictures with race fans at the event.



Murray SawChuck

Murray the Magician aka. Murray SawChuck, who performs 5:00 p.m. shows at the Laugh Factory, inside the Tropicana Las Vegas, hit a HUGE milestone on his most recent project YouTube, with achieving 1 million subscribers this week! Murray is officially a YouTube Star after building his fans and subscribers on social media over three years along with his producing partner social media genius Seth Leach. Seth Leach started doing YouTube videos when he was just 13 when YouTube first started out really studies the pulse of the industry.

Seth saw Murray perform at the Tropicana in 2013 and followed him on Instagram and YouTube. After about two years Seth reached out to Murray via Instagram telling him, “Your magic Is great and should be going viral, but no one is seeing it the way you are sharing it!” After that first connection Murray and Seth formed a partnership and business and now are celebrating a massive milestone in social media history reaching over 1 million subscribers and fans.

This makes Murray The Magician the first and only YouTuber to have a resident show on the Las Vegas strip. Murray celebrates his show opening at the Tropicana Las Vegas Laugh Factory this Wednesday Oct. 24, 2018 and will be celebrating much more when he takes the stage with his over 1 million subscribers.

Murray is also a regular on History Channel’s Pawn Stars in his 10th season and CW’s Masters of Illusion in his 5th season.


Taste of Downtown-Epicurean Event

The Taste of Downtown-Epicurean Event makes its debut at The Plaza Hotel & Casino on Thursday, Oct. 25, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The event, sponsored by the Nevada Restaurant Association (NvRA), features 25 notable restaurants from the heart of the city, along with a premier selection of libations.   Guests will spend the evening poolside at the Plaza indulging in the amazing cuisine and cocktails offered from nearly two dozen popular downtown establishments.


“We are proud to host the inaugural Taste of Downtown-Epicurean Event, a must-attend event for anyone who wants the opportunity to taste selections from downtown’s finest chefs, all for a great cause,” said Jonathan Jossel, CEO of the Plaza Hotel & Casino. “Downtown Las Vegas has become a popular culinary destination, and we are excited to showcase all that the area has to offer at Taste of Downtown.”


“This event provides Las Vegans the opportunity to help fund the scholarships for high school students interested in culinary careers, they are our future workforce” said NvRA President and CEO Katherine Jacobi. “The Plaza’s pool is a great venue to enjoy the unique culinary cuisine of downtown Las Vegas while helping local students realize their culinary dreams.”


Tickets to the Taste of Downtown-Epicurean Event are $65 and can be purchased at www.plazahotelcasino.com. Proceeds from the event support the Nevada Restaurant Association’s education and scholarship programs, including ProStart®, a national high school culinary skill and restaurant management program.


Well, gang, you all know where I’ll be this weekend. See ya there!

I’m outa here!

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