SATURDAY ST. LOUIS SELLS OUT AS THE LEADERBOARD REMAINS UNCHANGED
Bob Tasca III has never led the NHRA point standings in his Funny Car driving career. But after securing his sixth No. 1 qualifying, he’s hoping heading into race day as the top seed at the NHRA Midwest Nationals will put him atop the championship race.
The leaderboard remained unchanged after substantially warmer Saturday's conclusion of qualifying at World Wide Technologies Raceway Park. Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Tasca’s 3.852 elapsed time at 324.90 mph on Friday was never in jeopardy.
“Very exciting, but one round at a time, one run at a time,” Tasca said. “We really don’t pay as much attention to what the cars around us are running. We have enough data now with this car and enough track information to go up there and try to go as quickly as we can for the conditions that are presented.
“You want to be in the (championship) conversation. No one can guarantee a championship. No one knows what’s going to happen over the next four races, but you want to be in the conversation. That’s why the sponsors invest in us; that’s what the fans cheer about. We’re going to do the best we can and if we come out victorious, it’s that much sweeter. But this is what it’s all about. I’ve been around a lot of successful teams. We’ve had some good runs, but this is clearly our best run at it.”
Kalitta’s dream playoff season continued as he sealed the deal on his 53rd career Top Fuel No. 1. His best run 3.709 seconds at 331.85 mph in the first qualifying session stood the test of time.
“I was really happy with that .72 in that last session,” Kalitta said. “My car has been really consistent. I just can’t say enough about how hard everybody is working on my car. Great crowd here today, a sellout. Connie Kalitta is our fearless leader out here and given me a great opportunity over the years.
“It’s just nice when it all can come together like it has the last couple of races for my car. We’re just going to hold on and do our best and keep going rounds, as many as we can get. We’re definitely looking forward to tomorrow, whatever it gives us, and hopefully we can have it dialed in real nice.”
Pro Stock frontrunner Enders secured her third consecutive No. 1 qualifier on the strength of her Friday night time of 6.549 seconds at 209.69 mph, positioning her for a strong performance on Sunday.
“I’m definitely excited to head into race day,” Enders said. “St. Louis has always been really good to us, and we hope that the trend will continue tomorrow – but there are a lot of really tough competitors out there. I’m hopeful to park that JHG/Melling Performance car in the winner’s circle. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but I’m looking forward to it.
“I haven’t thought about [the record] on race day, but no matter when it comes, it will be a huge honor. Angelle [Sampey] was one of my heroes growing up, and we’re great friends now. To be the all-time winner for females in any form of motorsports is pretty substantial and an honor I won’t take lightly.”
Herrera’s incredible Pro Stock Motorcycle continues its road of domination as he matched Matt Hines’ record of 11 No. 1 qualifiers established 25 years ago.
His 6.716 seconds at 201.79 mph on Friday night stood the test through the three sessions.
“This is very cool. I just have to give it up to Andrew (Hines, crew chief) and all the guys at the shop and Matt, included,” Herrera said. “They're the ones that make that possible. To be able to tie Matt and get that many No. 1 qualifiers in one season, it's incredible. There have been a lot of remarkable, crazy, things I've accomplished so far this year but to add something like this to it is pretty cool.
“We tried to do different things on the bike today, the track is kind of a little tricky for us, so I feel like we made good passes considering. We'll go back and go over all our data and be ready for tomorrow. All in all, I felt pretty good on the bike and it should be good tomorrow.”
Angie Smith was involved in an accident during the second qualifying round when she became separated from her bike shortly after passing the finish line at World Wide Technology Raceway. She came to a rest in the track's shutdown area.
NHRA officials confirmed Smith was alert and conscious and was examined by medical personnel before being transported to a local medical facility for further evaluation.
A spokesperson for Matt Smith Racing has confirmed Angie suffered two broken feet and extensive road rash as a result of her crash Saturday afternoon. She is expected to meet with a skin graft surgeon on Sunday morning.
Eliminations for the NHRA Midwest Nationals begin at 11 a.m. CT on Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway in St. Louis.