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.