2023 NHRA BETWAY CAROLINA NATIONALS- EVENT RESULTS
SUNDAY FINAL - KALITTA GAINS MOMENTUM TOWARDS FIRST TITLE AS TASCA, ANDERSON, HERRERA POST WINS
NHRA Top Fuel's most successful driver to have never won a series championship moved closer with his second consecutive national event victory.
Doug Kalitta headlined the champions at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway. He picked up win No. 52 by knocking off speed merchant Mike Salinas in the final round.
Joining Kalitta was Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Kalitta, who led the first day qualifying at the second stop on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Series, started from third on the qualifying grid. He used wins over Steve Torrence, Shawn, Langdon, and Leah Pruett to reach the final round.
In the final round, he overcame a Salinas holeshot with a 3.696, 333.49 run to win and take over the championship point lead.
“We had to tune it up for the final, and Mike was right there,” said Kalitta, who picked up back-to-back wins for the first time since 2016. “It was a good day for all my guys. I’m glad I’m along for the ride for whatever we end up with. It’s a great start (to the Countdown) for us, and I just have a ton of support from everyone who has followed me over the years."
Sunday's win marks the second for the Mac Tools-sponsored team's backup dragster, which was pressed into action when the team's primary car was damaged last weekend in Reading, PA.
“We’re just going to keep plugging away," Kalitta continued. "We’ve just got to keep going rounds, and it’s a matter of getting and staying consistent. I just want to try to stay ahead, however we have to do it. Everyone in this class is driving the wheels off these things, and there’s a bunch of great cars. It’s tough, and you’ve got to take advantage of the opportunities when you get them. I’m happy to be here, and it’s a good spot to be in, for sure.”
Championship contender Tasca remained in the championship talk as he scored a resounding victory over points leader Robert Hight in the final round.
Tasca did it impressively, using a holeshot and a 3.933, 329.26 in his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang to fend off Hight's 3.932, 326.95. This win marked Tasca's third victory of the 2023 season and the 15th of his career, propelling him to second place in the points standings.
“It was a big win for our program," said Tasca, who pulled to within 25 points of Hight. "I said on TV, I wish the fans could have had a live feed to my pit. Every person on our team, crew chiefs included, thrashed to swap the engines. For me, that is the most gut-wrenching part of racing. There is nothing I can do. I'm at home when I'm in that car, and the stage bulb is on because I know I have a shot at it. So, this win is dedicated to the team.
"I think we're somewhat racing with a chip on our shoulder this year. How many people in this room would have thought Bob Tasca would be (25 points) out of first? The bottom line is we've really come together as a team, probably more so than any point in my career, and the car really sees it. I'm so impressed with the car they've given me. I've always wanted to win at all the Bruton Smith tracks, and I know he's smiling down from above. I've thought the world of their family; our families have been close, and it's really cool to have a trophy from every Bruton Smith track."
Anderson, the 100-plus national event winner, proved he's still got the fire in the belly by driving to win No. 102 over teammate and regular-season champion Dallas Glenn.
The Hendrickcars.com-sponsored driver turned in a 6.554-second elapsed time at 209.23 for the victory. His road to the final included victories over Elite Motorsports drivers Jerry Tucker, Cristian Cuadra, and Erica Enders.
After the season he's had, it seems unnatural to associate Herrera with any first-time victory in Pro Stock Motorcycle. However, that's what the sophomore NHRA competitor did, picking up his first Countdown to the Championship victory in the 500th event since the class became an official category. He had already won seven times this season.
Herrera ran a 6.726, 201.34 mph to win against Hector Arana Jr., who had a red-light start. With this triumph, Herrera reclaimed the points lead and scored his sixth win of the season, recovering from an early elimination in the playoff opener.
Herrera returned to his familiar surroundings atop the championship point standings, where he now leads Matt Smith by 52 points, the equivalent of over two rounds of competition.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action Sept. 29-Oct.1 with the NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway in St. Louis.
SATURDAY QUALIFYING - HISTORIC AND FAST SATURDAY QUALIFYING AT ZMAX DRAGWAY CONCLUDES UNDER THE LIGHTS
History was made on a rain-delayed Saturday Night at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals. Mike Salinas became the first Top Fuel driver to cover the first eighth mile of the 1000-foot racing course at over 300 miles per hour.
Salinas was joined by Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), and Gaige Hererra (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
The charter member of the Phillips Connect 300 to the Eighth Club, Salinas established a new zMAX Dragway track record as he scored the No. 1 qualifying effort with a 3.647 elapsed time at 338.00 miles per hour behind the wheel of his Valley Services/Scrappers Racing dragster. The monumental run on a rain-delayed Saturday evening session ranks as the fifth-fastest in Top Fuel history.
Salinas quickly credited crew chief Rob Flynn and Arron Cave for the monumental performance.
“The track was amazing. (Crew chief) Rob (Flynn) and Arron (Cave) getting this thing ready for us – I never get involved with that, but I had this ‘all or nothing’ that we’ve been doing,” Salinas said. “We’ve been working on this for a while, and our car has been close several times in testing. We knew we were going to do it; we just didn’t know when. Tonight was the perfect time to do it. The car seemed to like what we’re doing, and Rob and Aaron are amazing every run. We are a real team, and I’m just happy to be part of what they’ve put together.
“We’ve been close, and to put together a run like this it is awesome. These are the types of things we’re out here for and what it’s all about. What an amazing run.”
Antron Brown took the second spot, going 3.655 at 332.75 – and 299.00 to the 1/8-mile – and Doug Kalitta, who won last weekend in Reading, qualified third with a 3.665 at 331.61.
In Funny Car, Hight exemplified the term explosive in stark examples. After grenading an engine in a fiery run on Friday, the current points leader returned on Saturday to snatch away the track record from Matt Hagan and take the top spot with a 3.824 elapsed time at 330.15 mph in his Cornwell Tools/AAA Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car.
Hight now has 82 No. 1 qualifiers to his credit.
“Sometimes when you really go up there and push and try really hard, it doesn’t work out,” Hight said. “Everything has to come together, and there are a lot of variables. It’s a science, but there is some luck with it. Everything has to come into place. But we were pushing; we wanted to go out there and get the No. 1 spot. I never get too hopeful, but to do it by .001 that tells you how close this racing is.
“Matt Hagan and I had a race last weekend that was even closer, and that’s pretty amazing. Hats off to my guys for rebounding from a tough go of it yesterday. I have a lot of confidence in this team. This is a great racetrack. We’ve had a lot of success here over the years, and it was cool to see records fall here tonight.”
Hagan, who closed out the night with a strong 3.828, will take second with his 3.825 at 333.49, and Bob Tasca III moved to third with a career-best run of 3.836 at 331.94.
Saturday didn’t provide conditions conducive to improving the Pro Stock division. As a result, Erica Enders remained on top with her Friday 6.509 at 210.18 mph pass in her Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance Camaro. She now has back-to-back No. 1 qualifiers and 33 overall.
“Today didn’t really go as planned, but making that monster run yesterday was significant,” Enders said. “It showed that what we had in Reading carried over here in Charlotte. We’ll make the adjustments accordingly. I’m proud for the No. 1 position. All of those points are going to matter at the end of the game.”
Camrie Caruso took the second spot with a 6.525 at 209.20, and defending event winner Aaron Stanfield qualified third with a 6.533 at 210.50. Points leader Matt Hartford, who won the last two races, qualified eighth with a 6.542.
Herrera finished out the Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying with his tenth No. 1 qualifier of the season as his Friday evening run aboard the Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. His 6.731 at 200.44 from Friday stood as the strongest on a soggy Saturday.
On the monumental 500th Pro Stock Motorcycle race in NHRA, Herrera would love to pick up his seventh win of the season.
On the weekend of Pro Stock Motorcycle’s 500th career event, Herrera hopes to pick up his seventh win this season. He’ll open eliminations against Jerry Savoie. and could move back into the points lead with a big day.
“I feel really confident going into tomorrow. I have a really bad hot rod; it’s fast and has been all season,” Herrera said. “To be able to get 10 out of 11 No. 1 qualifiers, it’s just remarkable. I give all the credit to the Vance & Hines Mission Suzuki team and all the guys at the shop for all their hard work. That run we did yesterday was really good for the conditions, and it wasn’t the perfect run, but it was really good. Today, we were trying a few little things, but we’ll go back to what we basically ran Friday and be ready for tomorrow.
“I missed out on a couple today as far as qualifying, but at the end of the day, I think we’re going to do good tomorrow, and that’s where you’re going to get as many points as possible.”
Eddie Krawiec jumped to second on Saturday with a run of 6.766 at 200.00, and Angie Smith took third after going 6.805 at 197.48. Points leader Matt Smith qualified ninth.
Eliminations for the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals begin at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday at zMAX Dragway.
Sunday's first-round pairings for eliminations for the 15th annual betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway, the 17th 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, 3.647 seconds, 338.00 mph vs. 14. Mike Bucher, 8.073, 75.01; 2. Antron Brown, 3.655, 332.75 vs. 13. Spencer Massey, 3.766, 319.52; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.665, 331.61 vs. 12. Steve Torrence, 3.726, 328.70; 4. Brittany Force, 3.673, 335.48 vs. 11. Clay Millican, 3.725, 317.64; 5. Josh Hart, 3.680, 332.59 vs. 10. Austin Prock, 3.725, 325.53; 6. Tony Schumacher, 3.692, 331.12 vs. 9. Shawn Langdon, 3.719, 330.39; 7. Justin Ashley, 3.698, 333.74 vs. 8. Leah Pruett, 3.709, 332.59.
Funny Car -- 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.824, 330.15 vs. Bye; 2. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.825, 333.49 vs. 15. John Smith, Charger, 7.896, 91.19; 3. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.836, 331.94 vs. 14. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota GR Supra, 7.705, 91.78; 4. John Force, Camaro, 3.861, 329.02 vs. 13. Alex Laughlin, Charger, 4.594, 190.22; 5. Ron Capps, GR Supra, 3.864, 327.90 vs. 12. Dave Richards, Mustang, 4.135, 256.11; 6. Chad Green, Mustang, 3.871, 328.78 vs. 11. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.016, 309.98; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.876, 325.06 vs. 10. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.937, 327.59; 8. J.R. Todd, GR Supra, 3.892, 330.63 vs. 9. Paul Lee, Charger, 3.901, 326.00.
Pro Stock -- 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.509, 210.18 vs. 16. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.587, 208.36; 2. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.525, 209.20 vs. 15. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.582, 210.41; 3. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.533, 210.50 vs. 14. Eric Latino, Camaro, 6.573, 209.01; 4. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.535, 210.41 vs. 13. Cristian Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 6.561, 209.75; 5. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.535, 209.30 vs. 12. Jerry Tucker, Camaro, 6.558, 209.30; 6. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.540, 209.46 vs. 11. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.550, 208.75; 7. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.541, 209.39 vs. 10. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.550, 209.07; 8. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.542, 207.50 vs. 9. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, 6.547, 209.14.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Larry Morgan, 6.621, 207.53; 18. Fernando Cuadra, 6.635, 207.82; 19. Brandon Miller, 6.654, 206.23; 20. Alan Prusiensky, 8.804, 100.40.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.731, 200.41 vs. 16. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 7.004, 189.04; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.766, 200.00 vs. 15. Ron Tornow, Victory, 7.000, 191.95; 3. Angie Smith, EBR, 6.805, 197.48 vs. 14. Chris Bostick, EBR, 6.964, 192.33; 4. Chase Van Sant, Suzuki, 6.806, 198.06 vs. 13. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.932, 194.91; 5. Chip Ellis, EBR, 6.817, 199.05 vs. 12. John Hall, EBR, 6.922, 196.16; 6. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.833, 201.04 vs. 11. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.890, 192.17; 7. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.835, 196.19 vs. 10. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.843, 195.17; 8. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.839, 194.52 vs. 9. Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.840, 196.39.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Marcus Hylton, 7.226, 189.55; 18. Lance Bonham, 7.407, 176.74.
FRIDAY QUALIFYING - HAGAN BLASTS HIS WAY TO THE TOP; KALITTA, ENDERS AND HERRERA END UP ON TOP
The first day of the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals was a record-setting affair as Matt Hagan laid down a new zMAX Dragway track elapsed time record. The event marks the 17th race on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series and the second race in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Also claiming top spots were Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Hagan, who announced earlier in the day a multi-year deal with this weekend’s sponsor Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage, made the quickest Funny Car run of the year when he stopped the timers at 3.825 seconds at 333.49 mph. The run also marked the fastest a Funny Car had since Phoenix 2022.
It was also a nice bounce back for Hagan and his team after falling by a crushing .0001 in the second round last weekend against points leader Robert Hight.
“That was a great moment right there,” Hagan said. “It’s just a great day and what a lap to lay down there. When they’re on a run like that and they’re digging, they’re a handful and that’s why we love driving these things. I’m so proud of my guys.
“A run like that is a huge confidence-booster and it’s just nice to be able to put that in the bank. I can’t say enough about my guys and it was just a great day. These cars are probably the most humbling thing I’ve ever dealt with in my life. You’ve got to be peaking at the right time and if we want to be champion, we need to win two or three more races this year. That’s our mindset and our mentality right now.”
Ron Capps, the defending back-to-back world champ, claimed the second spot with a time of 3.885 seconds at 329.02 mph, while Chad Green followed in third place with a time of 3.887 seconds at 327.27 mph. Unfortunately for points leader Robert Hight, he sits in the 15th position due to a massive explosion on the starting line during his run.
Since exploding a slick on his Top Fuel dragster in Reading last weekend, Kalitta has been on a Top Fuel tear. He drove to the provisional No. 1 in Friday’s lone session with a 3.665 elapsed time at 331.61 mph in his Mac Tools dragster.
Kalitta came into Charlotte third place in poiunts on the strength of his Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
“This car is happy to be on the track,” Kalitta said. “I’m just really happy for all my guys and this whole team. Charlotte is one of the greatest places we run and we’re hungry to keep this momentum going. So far, so good and we’ll see what we’ve got after tomorrow.
“We’ve got plenty of confidence right now and the conditions are going to be good (this weekend). This team has been gelling really well and hopefully we can keep it going. They’ve been making me look good. We’re going to keep our head down, keep trying to get round wins and see what we can do.”
Enders drove her way to the top of the Pro Stock qualifying list with a run of 6.509 seconds at 210.18 mph. If this performance holds, it will mark her fourth top spot this year and 33rd in her career.
“The whole season started off really crappy for us, as everybody knows, and we just kept our heads down and went to work,” Enders said. “We said it’s not going to matter until the final six and here we are. We’re running really well again so we’re absolutely thankful for that. That’s what I mean but this is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to get to the end of the season and then perform as perfectly as possible in the Countdown.”
Hererra returned to familiar surroundings atop the Pro Stock Motorcycle division with a 6.731, 200.44 mph pass on his Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. Currently second in the standings, Herrera is aiming for his 10th No. 1 qualifier and hopes to secure his seventh victory of the year, marking his first career Countdown to the Championship victory.
“We’re happy with that run and we’re just trying to get redemption back from Reading,” Herrera said. “It put us down a little bit, but it’s another race and we’re just looking forward to two more rounds of qualifying tomorrow and then raceday on Sunday. This is one of my favorite tracks and I’m just happy to be back here.”
Qualifying continues at 1:00 p.m. ET on Saturday at the betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway.