Clay Millican, Mike Salinas Up the Ante on Side Bets at NHRA All-Star Callout
After much coaxing to attract more and younger fans by borrowing some elements that have made the Street Outlaws TV programs explosively popular, NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series fans have gotten some action – spontaneously from the racers.
It happened during Saturday’s $80,000-to-win Pep Boys All-Star Call-Out specialty race during qualifying for the Amalie Oil Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla.
Top Fuel racer Clay Millican, who figured the whole exercise was like “Street Outlaws on nitro,” introduced some wild wagering into the call-out process, just for some fun. When top-ranked Brittany Force chose No. 8 and final seed Millican as her first-round opponent in the specialty race Saturday, he startled her by challenging her to a $1,000 side bet.
"I think it caught everybody off-guard and got a chuckle out of the crowd, so it was fun," Millican said. "At the end of the day, either way, if we win or lose, the money's going to charity, so it was just fun to do it."
Then Mike Salinas upped the ante after Justin Ashley called him out, Salinas dared Ashley with a $5,000 bet.
"This is 100 percent to make it exciting for the fans, make it exciting for my crew and my guys," Salinas said. "I was going to do $10,000, but I didn't want to act like a big shot.
“Hopefully, we can build on it for the future. What I would like to see is, when we go up for qualifying, people betting on the starting line and get betting into this association and what we're doing, because it'll bring a different group of people,” he said. “That way, we make the sport more exciting.”
Then he declared, “I'm going to open up a casino at the track myself.”
That probably sent NHRA counsel into a tizzy, but everyone else had fun with it.
He said he would “carry the money with me. If I lose on the other end, I'm going to give him his $5,000. I got it in cash."
Ashley said he was caught of-guard by the challenge but said, “I should have gone in more prepared that if I knew we were going to call out Mike Salinas, there might have been a side bet that was thrown around. But when you're out there in front of people, and he's going to throw a side bet out there, you're not going to say no. It's good for the fans. It makes it that much more exciting.
"Already a lot on the line, a lot of money on the line, so throw a little bit more on top of it. It reminds me of, like, you see these drag radial deals where they throw grudge-racing wagers on it. I haven't raced before with betting money on the line, but hey, I'm all for it. I didn't need any more motivation, but now I do."
Josh Hart won the $80,000 payout for winning the Top Fuel Callout—the biggest payday of the year aside from the championship check—defeating Salinas in the final round.