Salinas, Hight, Glenn, Herrera qualify No. 1 at NHRA Route 66 Nationals
Camrie Caruso drove to the win at the first NHRA Pro Stock All-Star Callout, claiming the victory over Aaron Stanfield on Saturday as part of the Gerber Collision & Glass NHRA Route 66 Nationals presented by PEAK Performance at Route 66 Raceway.
In the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, Justin Ashley (Top Fuel) Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won the bonus event in Chicago. Mike Salinas (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) Dallas Glenn (Pro Stock) and Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also qualified No. 1 at the sixth of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
Caruso, who was seeded eighth in the eight-car field specialty race, went 6.524s at 211.03mph in her Tequila Comisario Chevrolet Camaro in the final round to slip past Stanfield’s 6.525s. The 2022 NHRA Rookie of the Year claimed her first career Pro Stock win earlier this year, following with an impressive performance in her first appearance at Route 66 Raceway, which is hosting its first NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series race since 2019.
“I told the guys at the beginning of the year I want to win all the specialty races this year, as well as obviously as many races as possible,” Caruso said. “This Pro Stock All-Star Callout gave us another chance to bring home a trophy at a racetrack I’ve never been to before. This was a whole bunch of new and first-time excitement for us this weekend. We managed to get it done. I’m excited and I couldn’t be more thankful.
“After the first round we had to change engines. We hurt the engine pretty good and couldn’t continue with it. We won and we didn’t really have a whole lot of time to come back up for the final, but the guys pushed through and made it happen. They gave me a great car and it all worked out in the end.”
Glenn claimed his first No. 1 qualifier with a track-record run of 6.510s at 210.70mph in his RAD Torque Systems Camaro. It came in the opening round of the Callout, but Glenn left the starting line too soon, ending his shot at a double-win weekend. Still, the points leader was enthused about his car in what is Glenn’s first Pro Stock appearance in Chicago.
“That run had extra pressure with the Callout race, but I went red. I knew I was red before red light came on,” Glenn said. “I just knew I was letting go early but the run just felt awesome. I was kicking myself the whole time but somehow, I accidentally managed to hit every shift absolutely perfect and keep it dead straight. It was a very nice run and it definitely should be some good momentum going into tomorrow.”
Charlotte winner Deric Kramer jumped to second in the final session with a pass of 6.515s at 210.11mph, while Bo Butner’s 6.519s at 210.21mph in the last qualifier sent him to third.
In Top Fuel, Ashley became the first two-time winner in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, going 3.728s at 331.12mph in his 11,000-horsepower Phillips Connect Toyota dragster to knock off Austin Prock’s 3.742s. Ashley won the bonus event in Pomona and followed it up with another fantastic performance in Chicago, getting past Antron Brown in the opening round on a holeshot on Saturday and following with a victory against Prock thanks in part to an outstanding .046 reaction time.
“It’s very exciting, this deal does mean a lot to us. It’s a new deal and we’re really grateful for Mission Foods and how they’ve put on this challenge,” Ashley said. “Anytime you add an additional opportunity to race and collect bonus points along the way I think it’s special and I think it means a lot. It was a really exciting day, a great day, and I think we did a good job of running well and setting the tone for ourselves going into tomorrow. This place is beautiful and to be able to see the attendance today was really encouraging.”
Salinas’ 3.686s at 333.41mph from Friday in his Gerber Collision & Glass/Scrappers Racing dragster held up for his first No. 1 qualifier this year. He will open eliminations against Chicago-area native T.J. Zizzo. Prock’s 3.694s from Friday has him second, while Doug Kalitta bumped up to third in the final session after going 3.702s at 329.75mph.
“This is really big. Some of the higher ups at Gerber were on the line with us and they’re very pleased with what we did,” Salinas said. “It’s packed here. It’s pretty cool to be back here with all the fans. I was No. 1 qualifier here in 2019 so it’s pretty cool. I just want to finish it better than I did then (when he was runner-up in 2019).”
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Capps picked up his first win in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, going 3.941s at 328.30mph in his 11,000-horsepower NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra. The reigning world champion was set to face Terry Haddock in the finals of the specialty race, but Haddock’s car broke on the starting line, helping hand the victory to Capps, who was thrilled to win the bonus event for the first time.
“Every driver and crew chief and team that I talked to about this Mission deal was pumped,” Capps said. “They turned Saturday qualifying and made it insane. It really drives you and gets you going, so it’s a great program. When we saw the first one happen and we weren’t in it, we were bummed. Those points are so important and it’s such a great program, and I’m so excited we were finally able to win one.”
Hight maintained the top spot in Funny Car thanks to his impressive 3.831s at 335.07mph from Friday in his 11,000-horsepower Cornwell Tools/Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS. It gave Hight his first No. 1 qualifier of the year as he also closed Saturday with the quickest run of the day during the final session. He’ll open eliminations against Dale Creasy Jr., looking for his second straight win this year. Cruz Pedregon’s 3.889s at 327.59mph gave him second and J.R. Todd’s 3.906s at 333.00mph was third.
“We’ve been changing some combinations around a little bit and we’ve qualified No. 2 a couple times this year. We’ve been right there this year,” Hight said. “There’s a lot of great cars. It’s great timing to be No. 1 at the first race with Cornwell Tools. It’s going to be a battle tomorrow but it’s going to be fun. The fans are the ones who win in deals like this.”
Herrera continued to be nearly unstoppable in Pro Stock Motorcycle, crushing the Route 66 Raceway record books and earning the first Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge victory in the category as well. He easily held onto the No. 1 qualifier with another massive run in the final round of the challenge, dispatching Chase Van Sant with a run of 6.672s at 200.32mph on his Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki. It’s the quickest run in Route 66 Raceway history in the category, eclipsing the mark he set on Friday.
He added another 6.677s in his opening-round win against Jianna Evaristo in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge before his standout run against Van Sant. It also gave the points leader his third straight No. 1 qualifier to open the season as he looks to win at his home track in his first appearance at Route 66 Raceway. Herrera will face Ron Tornow in the opening round.
“It means a lot. Obviously, Mission is a big sponsor for us, and for Mission to put this on and to be part of it is just a big deal alone,” Herrera said. “But to be able to get the win means a lot to the whole team and myself to be able to do that for Mission. (Crew chief) Andrew (Hines) has this thing on rails and it’s the baddest bike out here. It’s showing. They’re flexing their horsepower for sure.
“It would mean a lot to win here (on Sunday). It’s my first time racing here, having a lot of friends and family here. It’s special. The amount of support I have and everything. If I’m able to get a win here tomorrow, it would definitely be a special one.”
Chip Ellis took the second spot with a 6.756s at 200.68mph and Hector Arana Jr. qualified third thanks to his 6.759s at 201.85mph.
Eliminations for the Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by PEAK Performance begin at 11 a.m. CT on Sunday at Route 66 Raceway.