After the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis Labor Day weekend, Jasmine Salinas parked her Top Alcohol dragster in a corner of her father’s shop and turned her attention to 2024 and NHRA’s Top Fuel category.
The Top Alcohol car is there for any of her sisters who might want to race it, but for the 31-year-old Salinas, it’s now history. She is focused on assembling her Top Fuel team while serving as general manager of her father’s Top Fuel operation.
Salinas, who obtained her Top Fuel license at Indianapolis, is scheduled to make her debut in the NHRA nitro class in the 2024 season opener at Gainesville, Florida. She plans to run the entire season so she can contend for rookie honors. Her team will be based in her father’s shop and gearing up for a two-car operation has been “very interesting.”
“There’s so much more than just pulling out a second car and just showing up at the race track,” Salinas says. “You’d think when you put together the first car and you figure out how to do everything, you’d think it’d be the same (to make it a two-car operation), but it’s pretty complicated.”
There’s an eight-person team to hire, and a team transporter and tools to acquire.
“Everything that goes into the day-to-day operations of the race team in one form or another I’ve found myself in this position of trying to learn what it means to manage one team, but also getting all of the guys that we have prepared to have a second car,” Salinas says. “We’re trying to train our guys to step into the role of being mentors and teachers to other people that are going to be coming in.”
None of those who worked on her Top Alcohol team will transition to the Top Fuel operation. They are obtaining jobs with other Top Alcohol teams. She said they actually began looking at possible Top Fuel team members, who they could “pull out of retirement”, at the season’s beginning.
Salinas is seeking sponsorship and that’s unknown territory for her since her father’s team has always been self-funded. She told her father, Mike Salinas, that part of the reason she wanted to move to Top Fuel was so she could learn how to represent companies and understand their marketing goals.
Mike Salinas has provided his daughter with what she describes as an “overload of advice, but probably in the best possible way.” She’s also sought advice from three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown. Both men have told her not to lose herself in the process of chasing her goals and not to let other people change her, and not to forget who she is and where she came from.
“I’ve been learning so much about myself,” Salinas says. “I think the biggest thing is probably getting myself outside of my comfort zone. I’ve always been a little shy.”
Salinas isn’t sure if she will continue as general manager next year because this year was “really challenging” serving as GM and driver. She described it as an “insightful” experience since the team is a family operation.
“I think I’m just an adrenaline junkie,” Salinas says.
Salinas plans a Top Fuel test before the season ends and then extensive testing during the off-season.