Now she knows what to expect. 

This is how it is for Top Alcohol Dragster graduate turned Top Fuel driver Jasmine Salinas as she made her big show debut on Friday at the NHRA Winternationals. 

It wasn’t a national event victory, but it was enough of an experience so she will better know what to expect going into the NHRA Arizona Nationals next weekend. She had been trained well for the opportunity, but as most who have been in the situation will attest, it takes the experience to make it all synch up with the training. 

For her, she lined up against two of the best in a car she hadn’t driven before. Salinas was licensed in a Scrappers Racing backup car, but the car she piloted in Pomona was the same one her dad, Mike Salinas, had driven. Impressively, the final fitting for her in the No. 1 Scrappers Racing Top Fueler was Friday morning. 

Salinas had a solo run on her first qualifying session and then lined up against Tony Schumacher. She had a first-round match against Doug Kalitta, but that ended with a mechanical failure prior to staging. 

“I feel very accomplished after this weekend,” Salinas said. “This wasn’t how I expected to begin racing in Top Fuel, but I’m proud of my dad for putting his health first. This team is amazing. They’ve had a lot thrown at them in the past week, including adapting to a new driver, and no one was really sure how I would be showing up mentally, including me, with all of this taking place. But I truly believe they are the best crew out here, and I don’t think I could have gotten into this car without them. They gave me the confidence I needed after being out of the driver’s seat for eight months.”

The first round mechanical failure was a broken throttle cable that Salinas admitted was from a driver who could barely open a jar yielding to a stronger than usual when in the car left foot. 

“I think everything happens for a reason,” Salinas said. “I’m a strong believer in that. It was a learning lesson for our team. All of the good moments are great learning experiences. Having freak moments are good experiences, too. I think it was an overall great weekend where I had a lot of learning moments.”

Salinas admits the learning curve was straightened a good measure through familiarity. The same crew that helped her license was the same group who were there for her competition debut.

“I don’t think I could have gotten into that car with such short notice, with everything that was going on my family personally, if it wasn’t for this specific group of [guys],” Salinas said. “It’s been a privilege to get to know them all personally and as a group, seeing them work with my dad. When I started my licensing and testing for Top Fuel, they were the same exact group, so at least with this group, I had that kind of baseline. I had that trust and familiarity there. That made a huge difference. 

“After experiencing the amount of support I’ve had this weekend, if this is how we’re starting out the season, I can’t wait to see what happens next.”