The NHRA Top Fuel class has a new points leader with Leah Pruett’s Round 1 loss Sunday at the Nevada Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. And it has a new contender or at least spoiler with Sunday’s winner Mike Salinas, who scored a runaway victory over traction-troubled Justin Ashley in the final round.
In successive rounds, the top three ranked drivers lost, and the scramble left Steve Torrence at the top of the leaderboard with a 15-point advantage over No. 2 Doug Kalitta.
Kalitta, winner of the first two Countdown races, lost to Josh Hart in the second round Sunday but dropped to no worse than second in the standings. He leads third-place Leah Pruett by 19 points.
“Josh had a better light [reaction time] than I had. It’s unfortunate and obviously bad timing,” Kalitta said. “We’ll lick our wounds for a couple of weeks and get back at it. That’s all we can do. We knew it was going down to Pomona – that’s for sure.”
Salinas improved from sixth place to fourth, just 76 points off Torrence’s pace heading into the Nov. 10-13 Auto Club Finals at Southern California’s In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip.
The victory was Salinas’ second of the year and first since the season opener at Gainesville, Fla.
Torrence assumed the points lead after defeating Brittany Force in the quarterfinals but lost to Ashley in the semifinals.
“Obviously, we’ve got some work to do at Pomona, but it ain’t over yet,” Torrence said. “The good thing is that there are points-and-a-half (available).”
Hight Tightens the Screws on Funny Car Leader Hagan
The Funny Car final came down to the top two qualifiers – who for a time late Saturday night took turns being No. 1. Bob Tasca III originally was the top starter and Hight was second, but the NHRA Technical Department ruled that the headers on Tasca’s PPG Ford Mustang were out of compliance and granted Hight the No. 1 berth. That moved Hight to second – and added some friction to an already simmering rivalry.
In the end, Hight won handily Sunday as Tasca ran into tire shake and ultimately was no threat.
But Tasca is a big threat—one of several—to Hight’s quest for a fourth Funny Car championship. So is fellow three-time champ Matt Hagan, who remains in first place by just 15 points over No. 2 Tasca. Hight is two points behind Tasca, with points and half an added incentive at the Auto Club Finals at Pomona, Calif., in two weeks.
Ron Capps squashed any chances to break into the title mix at the season finale by losing int the first round Sunday. Capps is a distant fourth in the standings.
“We dug ourselves a hole in Dallas [at the previous race]. It was almost a must-win situation,” Hight said after claiming the victory in his Cornwell Tools Chevy Camaro for John Force Racing. “These other guys are running right with us. “We’re not running away with this thing.”
As for his rivalry with Tasca, Hight was diplomatic, saying, “Some guys you want to beat more than others. That’s a good car. He’s driving good. We have our hands full.”
Enders Notches 47th Win in Pro Stock
In another classic showdown with 103-time winner Greg Anderson, Erica Enders won easily to remain perfect in four final-round appearances.
That prompted her colorful and often-unfiltered team owner Richard Freeman to point to her and declare, “That’s the baddest bitch on the planet.”
The No. 1 qualifier said what she has figured out is “that you can’t do it alone. No matter how much negativity is around you, as long as you don’t let it in your boat, it can’t sink you. That’s the biggest lesson from this weekend, with all the adversity we had to get through.” That included having one of her early qualifying rounds being disqualified on a technicality.
“When our backs are against the wall, our boys perform flawlessly,” Enders aid of her Elite Motorsports crew on her Melling/SCAG Chevrolet Camaro. We came in here with the lead, and Greg is on my heels. I’m just really proud.”
Anderson had wanted to produce a victory for sponsor Rick Hendrick. For the longtime
NASCAR team owner Hendrick, this is a sadly memorable weekend. The Cup Series tour competed at Martinsville, Va. It was 19 years ago this Oct. 24 that Hendrick Motorsports’ private plane, which was carrying 10 people to attend the race at Martinsville, crashed into the mountains on a missed approach to the airport there. No one survived. Among the casualties was Rick Hendrick’s son Ricky, a Busch Series driver and heir to the family empire. Also on board were family members John Hendrick, his twin daughters, and members of the racing team’s staff.
Anderson said he “absolutely” wants to give Hendrick a victory this weekend to salve some of the lasting scars of the air tragedy.
“Anything I can do to help him out with all he's done for me and how he supports me. I just I feel like I can't ever do enough, so, if I could have a big weekend this weekend and ease some of those memories for him, make some of the bad memories go away for a little while, hopefully I can play a small part in that,” the KB Titan Racing headliner said.
Anderson said for Hendrick, the sting of losing his loved ones “never goes away. But you can probably block it out for a few hours if you get some really good instant news. And that's the best news he can get. That man loves to win. That's why he races, because he loves to win. He doesn't just race to have fun or to go race. He races to win. When he wins, he has a great time. And yes, I think for a fleeting moment at least, he can forget about the bad memories.”
Herrera Nearly Clinches Pro Stock Motorcycle Crown
Gaige Herrera will have to wait until Pomona, Calif., to make his Pro Stock Motorcycle championship official. But he left no doubt that the 2023 title will be his after dismissing Vance & Hines Mission Foods Suzuki Hayabusa teammate Eddie Krawiec for the third straight event and the fourth time overall.
Herrera earned his 10th victory of the season in 14 races and ran his elimination-round record to 46-4 as he reset the track record on his final run with a 6.75-second quarter-mile elapsed time.
Six times this year, four times in final rounds, Herrera has denied four-time class champion Krawiec his milestone 50th victory.
Herrera said his motorcycle “has been on rails all weekend—all season. A year ago, I never would have expected to be in this situation. I’m very thankful for the opportunity. That was a big one, three (straight) finals for us]. I took Ed out again, not allowing him his 50th. All in all, we’re going home with the Wally, and I’m really happy.”
Castellana Earns Pro Modified Championship
Mike Castellana, the veteran Pro Mod racer from Muttontown, Long Island, N.Y., said his goal simply was to win the event. He did that for his first of the year, with a runaway victory over Kevin Rivenbark in the final round.
But he clinched his first NHRA Fuel Tech Pro Mod championship in the second round of eliminations Sunday.
Once Castellana eliminated Dmitry Samorukov in Round 2 Sunday, he had to wait through Sidnei Frigo’s victory against Mason Wright in the next pairing to find out if he clinched the title. For Castellana, it came down to the Rivenbark-Justin Bond match-up. Bond lost to Rivenbark, handing the crown to Castellana.
“I had no clue we could win a championship. We’ve been chasing this one a long time,” Castellana said. “We came so close a few years back, but we got it this year.”
Castellana capitalized on the fact that points leader and 2022 champion Kris Thorne crashed his car and lost to Frigo Saturday night.
NHRA Nevada Nationals
Final finish order (1-16) at the 23rd annual NHRA Nevada Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race is the 20th of 21 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series.
1. Mike Salinas; 2. Justin Ashley; 3. Steve Torrence; 4. Josh Hart; 5. Doug Kalitta; 6. Austin Prock; 7. Brittany Force; 8. Tony Schumacher; 9. Leah Pruett; 10. Clay Millican; 11. T.J. Zizzo; 12. Antron Brown; 13. Shawn Langdon; 14. Dan Mercier; 15. Kelly Harper; 16. Rob Passey.
1. Robert Hight; 2. Bob Tasca III; 3. Matt Hagan; 4. Blake Alexander; 5. Paul Lee; 6. Alexis DeJoria; 7. Cruz Pedregon; 8. Alex Laughlin; 9. Chad Green; 10. Jeff Diehl; 11. Ron Capps; 12. Tim Wilkerson; 13. Steven Densham; 14. J.R. Todd; 15. John Force; 16. Terry Haddock.
1. Erica Enders; 2. Greg Anderson; 3. Jeg Coughlin; 4. Matt Hartford; 5. Kyle Koretsky; 6. Fernando Cuadra Jr.; 7. Cristian Cuadra; 8. Troy Coughlin Jr.; 9. Bo Butner; 10. Jerry Tucker; 11. Deric Kramer; 12. Aaron Stanfield; 13. Mason McGaha; 14. Camrie Caruso; 15. Fernando Cuadra; 16. Dallas Glenn.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
1. Gaige Herrera; 2. Eddie Krawiec; 3. Jianna Evaristo; 4. Jerry Savoie; 5. John Hall; 6. Steve Johnson; 7. Marc Ingwersen; 8. Joey Gladstone; 9. Hector Arana Jr; 10. Matt Smith; 11. Kelly Clontz; 12. Ryan Oehler; 13. Chris Bostick; 14. Blaine Hale; 15. Karen Stoffer; 16. Angie Smith.
Top Fuel -- Mike Salinas, 3.673 seconds, 333.16 mph def. Justin Ashley, 5.796 seconds, 120.56 mph.
Funny Car -- Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.851, 326.79 def. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 4.235, 268.28.
Pro Stock -- Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.557, 208.23 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 23.892, 36.48.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.755, 198.32 def. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.847, 198.70.
Pro Modified -- Mike Castellana, Chevy Camaro, 5.703, 250.74 def. Kevin Rivenbark, Ford Mustang, 8.536, 109.77.
Legends Nostalgia Funny Car presented by Modern Warriors -- Bobby Cottrell, Chevy Camaro, 4.731, 242.32 def. Geoff Monise, Pontiac Firebird, Broke - No Show.
Summit Super Pro -- Billy Boyko, Dragster, 7.533, 179.25 def. Tony Virgilio, Dragster, 7.773, 167.72.
Summit Pro ET -- Mike LaRose, Dodge Dart, 9.035, 146.78 def. Randy Burwell, Ford Pinto, 10.579, 124.84.
Summit Sportsman -- Jake Biscay, Chevy Wagon, 12.536, 101.06 def. Denny Renninger, Olds Cutlass, 11.907, 111.86.
Summit ET Motorcycle -- Patrick Roetto, Hayabusa, 9.199, 142.09 def. Michael Konopacki, Kawasaki ZX10, 8.607, 147.54.
Summit Street Legal EV -- Joshua Rogers, Model Y, 13.190, 104.98 def. Darrel Goheen, Model Y, 12.098, 112.37.
Round By Round
ROUND ONE -- Tony Schumacher, 3.697, 326.87 def. Shawn Langdon, 3.744, 323.74; Brittany Force, 3.704, 331.04 def. Antron Brown, 3.739, 315.34; Justin Ashley, 3.736, 326.79 def. Dan Mercier, 3.752, 304.87; Josh Hart, 3.740, 326.40 def. Leah Pruett, 3.699, 332.26; Steve Torrence, 3.694, 332.51 def. Clay Millican, 3.705, 331.12; Mike Salinas, 3.695, 334.15 def. Rob Passey, 7.672, 92.00; Austin Prock, 3.719, 289.51 def. Kelly Harper, 3.806, 317.27; Doug Kalitta, 3.683, 334.73 def. T.J. Zizzo, 3.719, 318.99;
QUARTERFINALS -- Ashley, 3.703, 331.69 def. Prock, 3.727, 319.07; Salinas, 3.688, 334.48 def. Schumacher, 3.867, 313.80; Torrence, 3.674, 330.72 def. Force, 3.785, 311.85; Hart, 3.734, 329.67 def. Kalitta, 3.710, 330.55;
SEMIFINALS -- Salinas, 3.663, 333.82 def. Hart, 3.745, 325.30; Ashley, 3.730, 328.46 def. Torrence, 3.680, 331.77;
FINAL -- Salinas, 3.673, 333.16 def. Ashley, 5.796, 120.56.
ROUND ONE -- Paul Lee, Dodge Charger, 3.899, 326.08 def. Chad Green, Ford Mustang, 3.998, 265.69; Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.940, 319.52 def. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 5.468, 134.22; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.347, 226.54 def. Steven Densham, Mustang, 4.727, 170.58; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.816, 332.67 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, Foul - Red Light; Alex Laughlin, Charger, 4.089, 309.06 def. Ron Capps, Toyota GR Supra, 4.090, 254.04; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.889, 330.72 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 6.844, 98.13; Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.749, 275.06 def. J.R. Todd, GR Supra, 4.830, 253.56; Alexis DeJoria, GR Supra, 3.923, 326.16 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.674, 164.49;
QUARTERFINALS -- Tasca III, 3.986, 316.67 def. Pedregon, Broke; Alexander, 3.935, 321.12 def. Laughlin, Broke; Hight, 3.859, 333.99 def. DeJoria, 4.085, 247.79; Hagan, 3.892, 331.36 def. Lee, 3.947, 317.64;
SEMIFINALS -- Tasca III, 3.886, 332.84 def. Hagan, 3.901, 328.38; Hight, 3.868, 330.55 def. Alexander, 7.579, 89.89;
FINAL -- Hight, 3.851, 326.79 def. Tasca III, 4.235, 268.28.
ROUND ONE -- Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.577, 207.27 def. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.612, 207.69; Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.573, 208.26 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.582, 207.75; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.595, 207.43 def. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 19.861, 60.39; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.584, 208.07 def. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 7.370, 142.10; Fernando Cuadra Jr., Ford Mustang, 7.202, 207.72 def. Fernando Cuadra, Mustang, 10.550, 84.01; Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.552, 208.36 def. Jerry Tucker, Camaro, 6.595, 208.39; Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, 6.601, 207.75 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.597, 205.57; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.554, 208.81 def. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.625, 207.30;
QUARTERFINALS -- Coughlin, 6.616, 206.70 def. C. Cuadra, 6.615, 207.75; Hartford, 6.589, 207.78 def. Cuadra Jr., 6.612, 206.86; Enders, 6.570, 208.36 def. Coughlin Jr., 6.616, 207.88; Anderson, 6.583, 207.98 def. Koretsky, 6.567, 207.91;
SEMIFINALS -- Anderson, 6.566, 207.88 def. Hartford, 7.294, 153.42; Enders, 6.578, 207.91 def. Coughlin, 6.948, 144.12;
FINAL -- Enders, 6.557, 208.23 def. Anderson, 23.892, 36.48.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
ROUND ONE -- Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.986, 191.00 def. Chris Bostick, 16.491, 42.61; Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.889, 192.17 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.956, 193.88; Marc Ingwersen, 7.000, 192.28 def. Ryan Oehler, 6.969, 193.07; John Hall, 6.881, 193.90 def. Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.949, 194.46; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.891, 194.18 def. Blaine Hale, Suzuki, Foul - Centerline; Joey Gladstone, Buell, 6.840, 197.22 def. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.856, 197.94; Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 16.501, 42.85 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, Broke - No Show; Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.786, 198.41 def. Angie Smith, Buell, Broke - No Show;
QUARTERFINALS -- Krawiec, 6.864, 197.08 def. Johnson, 6.959, 189.73; Savoie, 6.925, 192.41 def. Hall, Foul - Red Light; Evaristo, 6.950, 192.77 def. Gladstone, 7.244, 146.93; Herrera, 6.795, 196.93 def. Ingwersen, 7.026, 169.57;
SEMIFINALS -- Krawiec, 6.845, 197.57 def. Evaristo, 6.897, 193.29; Herrera, 6.815, 196.85 def. Savoie, 6.906, 193.07;
FINAL -- Herrera, 6.755, 198.32 def. Krawiec, 6.847, 198.70.
Updated Points Standings
Point standings (top 10) following 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 -
1. Steve Torrence, 2,483; 2. Doug Kalitta, 2,468; 3. Leah Pruett, 2,449; 4. Mike Salinas, 2,407; 5. Justin Ashley, 2,401; 6. Antron Brown, 2,337; 7. Brittany Force, 2,303; 8. Austin Prock, 2,256; 9. Tony Schumacher, 2,248; 10. Clay Millican, 2,227.
1. Matt Hagan, 2,539; 2. Bob Tasca III, 2,524; 3. Robert Hight, 2,522; 4. Ron Capps, 2,400; 5. John Force, 2,297; 6. J.R. Todd, 2,283; 7. Chad Green, 2,275; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 2,270; 9. Alexis DeJoria, 2,249; 10. Alex Laughlin, 2,245.
1. Erica Enders, 2,576; 2. Greg Anderson, 2,462; 3. Matt Hartford, 2,421; 4. Dallas Glenn, 2,397; 5. Aaron Stanfield, 2,363; 6. Troy Coughlin Jr., 2,362; 7. Kyle Koretsky, 2,288; 8. Deric Kramer, 2,283; 9. Cristian Cuadra, 2,245; 10. Camrie Caruso, 2,237.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Gaige Herrera, 2,690; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 2,509; 3. Matt Smith, 2,421; 4. Hector Arana Jr, 2,419; 5. Jianna Evaristo, 2,276; 6. Chase Van Sant, 2,254; 7. Marc Ingwersen, 2,243; 8. Angie Smith, 2,234; 9. Steve Johnson, 2,223; 10. Kelly Clontz, 2,188.