JASMINE SALINAS BEGINS THE TOP FUEL LICENSING PROCESS
From the time Jasmine Salinas climbed behind the wheel of an injected nitro-burning dragster in the Top Alcohol Dragster division back in 2019, it was understood that driving a Top Fuel dragster was inevitable. On the day after the NHRA Arizona Nationals, the inevitable happened.
Salinas made a total of three launches and made it successfully to the 330-foot mark behind the wheel of one of the race team’s Top Fuel dragsters. Salinas will continue her testing at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in April, where she intends to make her first full passes.
“My initial reaction was, ‘I know I didn’t even make a full pull, and the power of these cars is absolutely incredible,” Salinas explained. “And at that moment, right there is where I realized I want to spend this entire year taking my time because it gave me even more respect for these cars and the power that they have. I want to respect it so much and take my time with it because of the horsepower and how fast it was. I’ve 100 percent fallen in love with it, and I’m ruined, and I’ll be even more ruined when I make my first full pass.
Then there was her dad Mike, a seasoned and accomplished driver; well, he was being Dad. He did what Dads do.
“He was a hot mess all day,” she said. “I think they even had to ask him to like leave the pit because he was trying to help with everything to the point where I was like, ‘You’re not being helpful, so just go stand over there and look at something else.”
“Then my Mom, I think, was crying all day long. And then she was like, ‘Are you sure you want to do this? You know, you could step out any time.”
Mom stayed throughout the process.
“My routine from when I’m getting suited up and everything, I always hug my mom before I get in my race car,” Salinas said. “And she was there even for these runs. So, nothing changed. And it felt like I was still doing everything that I’ve been used to with my racing, and I loved it.”
The moments before driving a Top Fuel dragster can easily produce anxiety, and Salinas was prepared for the butterflies. Those butterflies never came.
“When I woke up, I was very shocked because I thought I wasn’t going to sleep and be sick to my stomach like I was going into Pomona for the finals,” Salinas said. “I remember Pomona when we were going into Saturday night before Sunday’s finals. I was up at 3 AM crying hysterically because I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if I’m ready for a championship.’ I was just so stressed out about it.”
Salinas understood there were no expectations of performance, which made all the difference in her calm demeanor.
“I didn’t put any expectations on myself except to just show up and hit the throttle,” Salinas said. “And just taking all of that pressure off of me, I was just really grateful and appreciative that I have this opportunity to take it at my own pace. So my stress levels when I woke up this morning, I was feeling great. And I was so excited. And it wasn’t until I was basically getting suited up that I was like, ‘Okay, I’m actually pretty stressed right now. I’m a little anxious and nervous.”
It was then that Salinas reverted to her A/Fuel experience to cope with the situation.
“I was like, ‘Okay, I’m just going to pretend I’m in my A-Fuel (Top Alcohol) car,” Salinas admitted. “I kept noticing I was doing that throughout the day, just pretending I was in my A-Fuel car. And there are definitely some huge things that were very different. But after I got my first pass out of the way, it was a very short launch because we were still adjusting some things with my helmet and literally only went 100 feet.
"Then the second time I went past the 330 (foot) mark, and I was like, ‘God, this is incredible.’ I understand I’m barely going anywhere, and I’m already hooked, and it’s also great because I was kind of expecting the absolute worst.”
Salinas said a great measure of her mental preparation for the opportunity came from hearing the experiences of those who had been there before her.
“I was compiling all the worst-case scenarios into one pass. Things like, I’m going to black out, and everything’s going to get blurry,” Salinas said. “I’m going to have no idea where I’m at on the track, and it’s just being prepared for the worst. And I usually try to be very positive, but for some reason was trying to like to be so prepared for anything because I just didn’t know what to expect.
“I think that was the thing that was the scariest is just not knowing what to expect and not knowing how I am going to react to this experience that’s so unique. But then, knowing that everybody else that I’ve talked to about their journeys leading up to stepping on the gas in a Top Fuel car has been very different than others. It’s just been interesting to see, I guess, where I’m at in comparison to all those other stories that I’ve heard so far.”
Salinas has competed in the Top Alcohol Dragster ranks and has earned three victories in her career. She is competing for the 2023 championship in the series while spending as much time as possible testing the Top Fuel Dragster in preparation for 2024.
Salinas began racing at the age of 15 in the Junior Dragster division. After college, Salinas began working for her family’s Top Fuel team, Scrappers Racing, as a Floater and Supercharger Assistant. She currently serves as the team’s General Manager and handles all day-to-day operations of the team.