Funny Car’s Bob Tasca III powered to the track speed record on Saturday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, taking the No. 1 qualifying spot on the final run of the evening at the 23rd annual NHRA Nevada Nationals.
Mike Salinas (Top Fuel), Kyle Koretsky (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also qualified No. 1 at the 20th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, and the fifth of six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Tasca went a blistering 3.842-seconds at 336.74 mph in his 11,000-horsepower PPG Ford Mustang, making the fastest run in Las Vegas in class history. Currently second in points, Tasca picked up his eighth No. 1 qualifier of the year and is looking for his fourth win this season to stay in the championship hunt. To do so, he’ll need a big Sunday and his raceday opens against Jeff Diehl. But Tasca impressed in a major way to close out Saturday and he’s excited about his team’s chances in Las Vegas.
"Hey listen, the guys were disappointed. I got back to the pit and Aaron (Brooks, co-crew chief0 goes, 'Man, I thought it would go quicker.' I said, 'Aaron, be happy. We just went No. 1 qualifier!' But that's the mentality of Todd (Okuhara, co-crew chief) and Aaron. I'm so proud of them,” Tasca said.
"At the end of the day, it's a lot of hard work, a lot of effort, and we're just trying to go out there and do the best we can. That's all we're doing. Fortunately, the car is performing, but we have a long way to go. We have to win this race tomorrow. It's a must-win race to go into Pomona with a chance. It's cool to be in the conversation."
Robert Hight got bumped to second, securing his spot with Friday’s 3.851 at 327.51, while points leader Matt Hagan took third with a 3.871 at 322.58.
Mike Salinas entered the final qualifying session in the No. 1 spot, dropped to third and then rocketed back to the top with a standout pass of 3.680 at 331.77 in his 11,000-horsepower Valley Services/Scrappers Racing dragster to close out qualifying. It gave the veteran his fourth No. 1 qualifier this season and the 15th in his career. Steve Torrence and Doug Kalitta both dipped into the 3.60s during the previous pair, bumping Salinas to third momentarily. But as part of a thrilling side-by-side run with Austin Prock, Salinas jumped back into the lead heading into eliminations, where he’ll open raceday against Rob Passey.
“We were trying to run a 3.67 but Rob [Flynn, crew chief] backed down it a little bit because he saw something that wasn't right, so he did a great job,” Salinas said. “Don't underestimate anybody in this class. Everybody is good and you have to be on your ‘A’ game. Our car has been there recently, but I've been distracted as a driver. This weekend, I fixed that. We have a lot on our plate, and we took care of it, just compartmentalizing everything and with the right people around us, we'll be just fine.”
Torrence ended up in second with his 3.683 at 331.69 and Prock qualified third thanks to a 3.696 at 328.66. Heading into eliminations, Leah Pruett leads Doug Kalitta by just one points and Steve Torrence by only six points.
Pro Stock’s Kyle Koretsky had enjoyed strong qualifying runs this weekend, but made a major move in the final session, running 6.589 at 205.66 in his Lucas Oil Chevrolet Camaro to earn his first No. 1 qualifier of the season. Running next to points leader Erica Enders, who was the provisional No. 1 qualifier, Koretsky jumped into the 6.50s and into the top position with a standout run, claiming his fourth career No. 1 spot. After a frustrating season – including three straight first-round losses in the Countdown to the Championship – late-season success would be a massive boost for Koretsky and his team. He’ll open eliminations against Jerry Tucker, looking for his first win of the season.
“We didn't give up after making a good run Q1, they kept digging and trying to get better and better every round, and that just shows the dedication of KB Titan,” Koretsky said. “The last few races, we've been behind – but they keep pushing, keep pushing me, and keep trying to make me better. We just keep on going.
“They believe in me, and that gives you a lot of confidence as a driver. That's real important. The last few races I've been down and out, but we didn't give up. A win tomorrow would do a lot for me personally. I think we have a shot, I really do. I never enter the property thinking we don't have a shot. I think I need this. I really do. I know everyone wants to win out here, but I think this weekend's mine. Vegas has been somewhat good to me in the past, so I'm going to try to get the win."
Enders, who is also the defending event winner and world champion, qualified second, going 6.592 at 208.07. Cristian Cuadra also made a big jump in the final session, taking third with a 6.604 at 206.80.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, points leader Gaige Herrera capped off a dominant two days of qualifying in Las Vegas, making the quickest run in all four sessions on his Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. He went a terrific 6.767 to close out qualifying, with Friday’s track-record run of 6.760 at 199.82 giving him the top qualifying spot for a class-record 12th time this season. He was the only rider to reach the 6.70s in qualifying and Herrera did it three times, including during both sessions on Saturday. Herrera stretched his lead to 161 points over teammate Eddie Krawiec entering raceday, meaning he’ll need to finish two rounds ahead of him to clinch the world championship on Sunday in Las Vegas.
“I'm thrilled with how we ran all weekend," Herrera said. "I'm glad to get our 13th No. 1 qualifier so far this season out of 14 races. That right there is just a big accomplishment for Andrew [Hines, crew chief], all the guys back at the shop, and me just being consistent on the motorcycle. From Friday to today, my bike is basically a bracket bike. It's consistent and fast, and that's what we want. I'm excited for tomorrow. As long as we go A to B I think we'll continue gaining little points over my teammate and getting closer.
Sunday's first-round pairings for eliminations for the 23rd annual NHRA Nevada Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the 20th of 21 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.
Top Fuel -- 1. Mike Salinas, 3.680 seconds, 331.77 mph vs. 16. Rob Passey, 3.989, 304.05; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.683, 331.69 vs. 15. Clay Millican, 3.846, 251.06; 3. Austin Prock, 3.692, 328.86 vs. 14. Kelly Harper, 3.817, 318.54; 4. Doug Kalitta, 3.696, 334.90 vs. 13. T.J. Zizzo, 3.800, 326.00; 5. Leah Pruett, 3.704, 330.96 vs. 12. Josh Hart, 3.749, 324.20; 6. Justin Ashley, 3.708, 334.82 vs. 11. Dan Mercier, 3.747, 323.89; 7. Antron Brown, 3.708, 329.10 vs. 10. Brittany Force, 3.732, 335.48; 8. Shawn Langdon, 3.711, 327.51 vs. 9. Tony Schumacher, 3.723, 331.61.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Luigi Novelli, 4.427, 198.70.
Funny Car -- 1. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.842, 336.74 vs. 16. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 4.089, 278.23; 2. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.851, 327.51 vs. 15. Steven Densham, Mustang, 4.044, 309.42; 3. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.871, 322.58 vs. 14. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.036, 296.44; 4. Ron Capps, Toyota GR Supra, 3.877, 328.30 vs. 13. Alex Laughlin, Charger, 3.998, 317.64; 5. John Force, Camaro, 3.887, 322.34 vs. 12. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.948, 323.50; 6. Chad Green, Mustang, 3.888, 324.75 vs. 11. Paul Lee, Charger, 3.915, 323.97; 7. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.893, 329.26 vs. 10. J.R. Todd, GR Supra, 3.909, 329.58; 8. Alexis DeJoria, GR Supra, 3.902, 300.26 vs. 9. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.907, 332.18.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Bobby Bode, 4.099, 288.58.
Pro Stock -- 1. Kyle Koretsky, Chevy Camaro, 6.589, 205.66 vs. 16. Jerry Tucker, Camaro, 6.651, 207.02; 2. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.592, 208.07 vs. 15. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.648, 205.69; 3. Cristian Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 6.604, 206.80 vs. 14. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.637, 205.88; 4. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, 6.605, 207.88 vs. 13. Fernando Cuadra, Mustang, 6.632, 204.57; 5. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.608, 206.26 vs. 12. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.632, 205.63; 6. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.610, 205.54 vs. 11. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.630, 206.54; 7. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.611, 206.42 vs. 10. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.617, 206.01; 8. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.612, 205.22 vs. 9. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.616, 206.70.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Eric Latino, 6.654, 205.41; 18. Chris McGaha, 6.665, 205.19; 19. Kenny Delco, 6.667, 206.16; 20. Joey Grose, 6.695, 204.23; 21. Steve Graham, 6.704, 204.98; 22. Alan Prusiensky, 6.763, 202.12.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.760, 199.82 vs. 16. Angie Smith, Buell, 12.232, 90.87; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.830, 198.85 vs. 15. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 9.995, 73.40; 3. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.842, 196.53 vs. 14. Joey Gladstone, Buell, 7.184, 151.82; 4. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.888, 194.69 vs. 13. Blaine Hale, Suzuki, 7.150, 190.46; 5. Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.895, 196.73 vs. 12. John Hall, EBR, 6.993, 192.33; 6. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.923, 195.39 vs. 11. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.959, 193.57; 7. Chris Bostick, EBR, 6.933, 193.24 vs. 10. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.941, 189.66; 8. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.935, 192.11 vs. 9. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.938, 195.11.