2023 NHRA MENARDS NATIONALS - EVENT RESULTS
SUNDAY FINAL - ASHLEY PICKS UP HIS SIXTH AS TASCA DEFENDS TITLE; ENDERS WINS SECOND EVENT THIS SEASON
Top Fuel points leader Justin Ashley showcased his dominance in the 2023 season by securing his sixth win at the Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park. Ashley defeated defending world champion Brittany Force in what is expected to be the final Top Fuel event to ever be contested at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kan.
Alongside Ashley's victory, Bob Tasca III in Funny Car and Erica Enders in Pro Stock also emerged as winners in the 13th race of the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series.
Ashley's triumph came with a remarkable performance, clocking in at 3.702 seconds and reaching a speed of 323.58 mph in his Phillips Connect Toyota dragster. This win marked Ashley's 11th career victory and solidified his position as the championship frontrunner.
Ashley beat Josh Hart, Leah Pruett, and Antron Brown, eventually delivering low elapsed time of the event.
“We have a lot of history as a team here. Jim Epler was the first Funny Car driver to go 300 mph and he did it right here in Topeka and my father won Funny Car here in 2007. This is the first race that him and I have won professionally at the same venue,” Ashley said. “It's really exciting and each one is more special than the next. We had four incredible turnarounds today and the team did a good job. Their ability to maintain composure and consistency on and off the racetrack is really second-to-none.
“It was tough to stay focused today. We really didn't know what today was going to bring but every driver and team were under the same circumstance. We didn't know if we were going to get a race in, let alone four rounds today, was probably the biggest challenge of all. But you have a lot of confidence as a driver when you have a team like the Phillips Connect team.”
Force, who stands third in the Top Fuel [points, showcased her strength by reaching her first final round of the season. To reach the championship round, Force defeated Shawn Langdon, Steve Torrence, and Clay Millican. Notably, this marked her 36th career final round appearance.
Tasca continued his impressive performance at Heartland Motorsports Park, clinching his second consecutive victory at the venue. Tasca emerged victorious by defeating points leader Matt Hagan in the final round, boasting a run of 3.885 seconds at 332.26 mph in his BG-sponsored Ford Mustang. Tasca's win vaulted him to fifth in the points standings and marked his second win of the standout 2023 season.
Tasca faced a merderer's row of competition including Blake Alexander, Alexis DeJoria, and No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight. In the final round, Tasca chased down Hagan, producing the sole Funny Car run in the 3.80s throughout the entire weekend. It was Tasca's 14th career win.
“It was a hard-fought day and I give all the credit to the guys. Every time we warmed up the car, there was something wrong," Tasca said. "They just fought through it. The car shut off in the first round, second round, third round, we were struggling with putting cylinders out and having the safety box shut the car off. That run was a monster run (in the finals).
“That's what's different about this team from any team I've been on. I've never had the car that could just step up. This team, led by Aaron Brooks and Todd Okuhara, it's a different attitude than any I've been around. We're one of the quickest qualifying cars year-to-date, hot tracks, cold tracks, anything in between we can go up there and run low E.T. It was a big time run, a statement run for this team. Going into Brainerd and Indy, we're in the top five. If you have that leaving Indy, you have a really good chance to win the championship. This car can go to any race and win, and I don't know if I've ever been able to say that
Hagan, extending his lead by 61 points over Ron Capps, advanced to the final round for the sixth time in the 2023 season and achieved his 85th career final round appearance. His journey included victories over Alex Laughlin, Tim Wilkerson, and J.R. Todd.
Enders, the defending Pro Stock series champion, demonstrated a remarkable performance, improving with each run throughout the weekend. Ultimately, she concluded her exceptional showing by recording a time of 6.617 seconds at 206.13 mph in her Johnson's Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance Chevrolet Camaro, defeating long-time rival Greg Anderson in the final round. This victory marked Enders' second win of the 2023 season and her 45th career triumph.
Enders faced a challenging path to victory, defeating Chris McGaha and teammate Aaron Stanfield earlier in the day. In the semi-finals, she squared off against points leader Dallas Glenn, who had triumphed over Enders the day before in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge.
Enders avenged her previous loss by securing victory via a holeshot finish, gaining an edge with a reaction time of .009 seconds. The final round brought together two five-time world champions, with Enders leading from start to finish. Her achievement propelled her to fifth place in the points standings, significantly boosting her chances of another title run.
“Today was just a great day,” Enders said. “Coming in, we felt like we struggled – yeah, we were No. 4 qualifier, but my car wasn't running as great as some of my teammates, and we certainly weren't running as good as the other guys. We knew we had our work cut out for us today. Looked up the ladder first thing this morning and it was stout. It was pretty cool that I had to battle everybody from a different team this time except for Aaron.
“I'm fortunate to have such a great team that when everybody was eliminated everybody was all-hands on deck for the quick turnaround. Like always, when my guys’ backs are against the wall, they perform the best. You give Mark Ingersoll a couple opportunities, and he'll get better. That's exactly what we did today. We improved on every round. I'm just really grateful he's in my corner and I'm glad to have the guys I have that have my back.”
Anderson reached the final round for the first time in 2023 and 173rd time in his career after defeating David Cuadra, defending event winner Troy Coughlin Jr. and Deric Kramer. Glenn’s lead now stands at 228 points over Matt Hartford.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action Aug. 17-20 with the 41st annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minn.
SATURDAY QUALIFYING - HIGHT, TORRENCE, AND GLENN SECURE TOP QUALIFIER SPOTS AT MENARDS NHRA NATIONALS
The Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor qualifying leaderboard remained unchanged in the nitro ranks as Robert Hight and Steve Torrence remained atop thjeir fields while Dallas Glenn took over the top spot in Pro Stock.
Hight, driving the Cornwell Tools/AAA Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car, maintained his grip on the top spot by clocking an impressive time of 3.948 seconds at 321.19 mph during Friday's run.
“That 80 is a big number, it shows I've been doing it a long time, but it also shows I've had great teams behind me,” Hight said. “You're not No. 1 qualifier without a really good racecar. This is a tribute to all the good people I've worked with. This is big for us. I think we're turning a corner with this new combination; it's starting to respond. Jimmy [Prock, crew chief] was happy.
“It's not too late to get back in this points deal and leave Indy with the No. 1 spot. It can happen. Points and a half at Indy, we do good here, do good at Brainerd, we're right back in the thick of things. That's our mindset.”
Defending and back-to-back world champ Ron Capps took second in qualifying with a 3.950 at 314.17 and Matt Hagan’s 3.960 at 318.24 put him third.
In Top Fuel, Torrence stood ont he strength of his Friday evening run of 3.764 seconds at 326.24 mph.
Leah Pruett made a huge jump with her pass of 3.768, but the Texan hung on for his 35th career top spot. He’ll open eliminations against Terry Totten, trying to pick up his second win in three races and possibly move into the points lead in the process.
“This morning I felt safe. The conditions have changed and evolved to cloudy and cool,” Torrence said. “The big thing is, picking up bonus points throughout the rounds, that's key, that's crucial. We need to pick up those points. I've won a championship by less than two or three points. It'll be a big deal at the end. Consistency wins races and championships, and that, along with being quick, is what we pride ourselves in. We're going to do the best we can to keep this up.”
Pruett’s 3.768 at 325.77 put her second in qualifying, while Doug Kalitta went to third with a 3.799 at 316.45.
Dallas Glenn emerged as the top qualifier in the Pro Stock category after challenging Friday's leader Greg Anderson for the top spot. Driving his RAD Torque Systems car, Glenn closed out the day with a stellar run of 6.642 seconds at 205.26 mph. This marked the second No. 1 qualifier spot for Glenn this season.
“As a driver, you cannot make any mistakes,” Glenn said. “If you miss one shift, you can fall back four or five spots, just that easy. I don't know exactly what it is, but it's probably two-hundredths between No. 1 through No. 9. It's going to be a really tight field and a really tough Sunday, and we've got a lot different weather rolling in for tomorrow so that's going to throw an extra variable into the mix, but I think we have a really good car for them.”
Anderson took the second spot after making three stellar runs during qualifying, while Matt Hartford claimed third with a 6.657 at 206.23.
Eliminations for the Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor begin at 10 a.m. CT on Sunday at Heartland Motorsports Park.
Sunday's first-round pairings for eliminations for the 34th annual Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park, the 13th 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. Steve Torrence, 3.764 seconds, 326.24 mph vs. 16. Terry Totten, 4.193, 274.33; 2. Leah Pruett, 3.768, 325.77 vs. 15. Lex Joon, 4.106, 251.39; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.799, 316.45 vs. 14. Austin Prock, 4.039, 254.71; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.801, 322.04 vs. 13. Scott Palmer, 3.967, 267.69; 5. Clay Millican, 3.806, 322.04 vs. 12. Buddy Hull, 3.946, 260.86; 6. Mike Salinas, 3.808, 323.66 vs. 11. Antron Brown, 3.864, 322.65; 7. Justin Ashley, 3.818, 322.88 vs. 10. Josh Hart, 3.854, 319.90; 8. Brittany Force, 3.820, 295.59 vs. 9. Shawn Langdon, 3.826, 318.54.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Jacob McNeal, 4.397, 196.24.
Funny Car -- 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.948, 321.19 vs. 16. Jack Wyatt, Dodge Charger, 4.270, 245.54; 2. Ron Capps, Toyota Supra, 3.950, 314.17 vs. 15. Dave Richards, Ford Mustang, 4.250, 295.40; 3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.960, 318.24 vs. 14. Alex Laughlin, Charger, 4.197, 291.82; 4. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.967, 316.60 vs. 13. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 4.123, 308.64; 5. John Force, Camaro, 3.977, 317.12 vs. 12. Alexis DeJoria, Supra, 4.121, 298.27; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.991, 320.74 vs. 11. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.097, 302.82; 7. J.R. Todd, Supra, 4.011, 319.52 vs. 10. Chad Green, Mustang, 4.039, 313.73; 8. Paul Lee, Charger, 4.014, 308.35 vs. 9. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.021, 310.77.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Chris King, 4.524, 231.99.
Pro Stock -- 1. Dallas Glenn, Chevy Camaro, 6.642, 205.26 vs. 16. Fernando Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 6.762, 203.92; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.645, 205.79 vs. 15. David Cuadra, Mustang, 6.746, 204.05; 3. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.657, 206.23 vs. 14. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, 6.726, 204.05; 4.
Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.660, 207.05 vs. 13. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.719, 204.85; 5. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.660, 205.51 vs. 12. Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, 6.703, 204.42; 6. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.661, 205.63 vs. 11. Jerry
Tucker, Camaro, 6.677, 205.69; 7. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.662, 205.29 vs. 10. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.673, 206.10; 8. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.666, 205.82 vs. 9. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.667, 205.57.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Mason McGaha, 6.793, 202.70.
#2FAST2TASY - HAGAN, TORRENCE, AND GLENN TRIUMPH IN MISSION #2FAST2TASTY NHRA CHALLENGE IN TOPEKA
Matt Hagan emerged victorious in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, securing his second win for Tony Stewart Racing at Heartland Motorsports Park on Saturday. The Funny Car champion defeated Chad Green in an electrifying final round, adding to the excitement of the Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor.
Steve Torrence in Top Fuel and Dallas Glenn in Pro Stock also emerged victorious in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge held in Topeka.
Hagan ran a 3.960 seconds at a speed of 318.24 mph in his American Rebel Dodge Charger SRT Hellcatto stop Chad Green whose 4.039 seconds at 313.73 mph run came up short. He stopped J.R. Todd to reach the final round.
"That bonus money goes a long way with my guys, and you want to dig deep on the starting line for them," Hagan said. "But Chad had a .010 light against me, he was digging a little bit deeper than I was, I think. Chad's a great driver, he's come a long way with his program and what he's doing. They're a tough car, and there's just no easy draws out here. You have to bring everything you've got, and then you have to bring a little bit more. That's just what it takes to turn win lights on in a Funny Car."
"I've been very, very blessed to have (Dickie Venables) tuning the car and letting me drive the wheels off of it. I'm excited we were able to pull down our second #2Fast2Tasty win, and I can't wait to see what happens on raceday tomorrow."
In Top Fuel, Torrence secured his third consecutive victoryand did so over points leader Justin Ashley in the final round with a time of 3.767 seconds at 319.90 mph. His recent successes in Seattle, Sonoma, and now Topeka have solidified his championship aspirations, as he handed Ashley his first defeat in the bonus race. Notably, Torrence defeated Antron Brown earlier in the day and delivered the best run in his class on Saturday, further enhancing his sterling performance.
"Justin Ashley has shown himself to be a fierce competitor, and he's got a good team over there," Torrence said. "Admittedly, we've not been the CAPCO boys of the past. We're doing the best we can to get back to that. I think that at some point, we might have given these guys a false sense of hope that we aren't the team we used to be. Maybe we're not there yet, but we're coming back. It gives me a lot of confidence and makes me feel excited about the rest of the year. We're building the steam, building the momentum at the right time, and that CAPCO train is coming."
Looking ahead, Torrence emphasized the importance of challenge points
"[The Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge points] are going to be crucial," Torrence said. "We need to get those challenge points. Justin had built a little bit of a lead, and we're cutting that down."
In Pro Stock, Dallas Glenn made his presence felt in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, claiming victory against Erica Enders in the finals. Despite Enders fouling, Glenn's outstanding performance would have made it difficult to catch him. Garnering the quickest run of the weekend in his category, Glenn completed the race in 6.642 seconds at 205.26 mph in his RAD Torque Systems Chevrolet Camaro, leaving the defending world champion no room for error.
Glenn knocked Camrie Caruso in the first round.
“This definitely takes some pressure off,” Glenn said. “I've been in four or five of these already and just haven't been able to seal the deal so to finally be able to do it when I've got such a good car, it means a lot. To try to get three championship points, that's a big deal. We've got the points lead right now going into Sunday, we've got No. 1 qualifier. This car is running awesome right now and I just want to keep the momentum going.”
Eliminations for the Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor begin at 10 a.m. CT on Sunday at Heartland Motorsports Park.
Final round-by-round results from the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge at 34th annual Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park.
TOP FUEL CHALLENGE:
ROUND ONE -- Justin Ashley, 3.838, 319.67 def. Josh Hart, 4.113, 267.06; Steve Torrence, 3.879, 291.45 def. Antron Brown, 4.074, 247.47;
FINAL -- S. Torrence, 3.767, 319.90 def. J. Ashley, 3.842, 319.37.
FUNNY CAR CHALLENGE:
ROUND ONE -- Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.065, 302.75 def. J.R. Todd, Toyota Supra, 4.307, 219.83; Chad Green, Ford Mustang, 4.135, 302.75 def. Ron Capps, Supra, 4.160, 256.26;
FINAL -- M. Hagan, 3.960, 318.24 def. C. Green, 4.039, 313.73.
PRO STOCK CHALLENGE:
ROUND ONE -- Dallas Glenn, Chevy Camaro, 6.653, 205.66 def. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.685, 205.94; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.660, 207.05 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.676, 206.42;
FINAL -- D. Glenn, 6.642, 205.26 def. E. Enders, Foul - Red Light.
FRIDAY QUALIFYING - TORRENCE, HIGHT AND ANDERSON EMERGE AS EARLY TOPEKA QUALIFYING LEADERS
The Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor heated up on Friday as Steve Torrence, Robert Hight, and Greg Anderson took the provisional No. 1 qualifying spots in their respective classes. Torrence dominated the Top Fuel category, Hight shined in the Funny Car division, and Anderson led the way in Pro Stock at the Heartland Motorsports Park.
As the four-time Top Fuel world champion, Torrence showcased his skill with the only run in the 3.70s, securing the provisional top spot. Torrence completed a thrilling side-by-side run with points leader Justin Ashley, finishing with an impressive pass of 3.764 seconds at a speed of 326.24 mph in his Capco Contractors/Toyota dragster. Currently placed second in points, Torrence is eyeing his first No. 1 qualifier this season and 35th in his career, while also closing in on championship form.
"This is a huge confidence booster, just for getting the momentum going early in the weekend and getting us set up to go into tomorrow for the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge," said Torrence. "That's going to be huge going into the Countdown, where we're able to cut that lead down or see if we can cut it to nothing between now and then with Justin Ashley being so far ahead of us."
In the Funny Car category, Hight made a strong comeback following a challenging Western Swing. He powered his Cornwell Tools/AAA Chevrolet Camaro SS to the provisional No. 1 position with a run of 3.948 seconds at 321.19 mph. This performance could earn Hight his third No. 1 qualifier this season and 80th in his career. After a promising start to the season, Hight aims to regain his championship form.
"We've been struggling, and the car hasn't been cooperating with every adjustment (crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) makes," Hight explained. "He's really set on this new clutch combination, but he believes that he's the one that's been making the mistakes. It was just awesome to hear the excitement in his voice when he told me what it ran. We needed that run big time."
Anderson seeks a turnaround in his 2023 season and displayed strong potential during the qualifying round for Pro Stock. Anderson, a five-time world champion, secured the top spot with a run of 6.677 seconds at 205.38 mph in his HendricksCars.com Chevrolet Camaro. While currently placed seventh in points, Anderson hopes this performance is a stepping stone toward his 122nd career No. 1 qualifier.
"We made a lot of changes, but this year, I've been kind of let down when I get to the racetrack," Anderson admitted. "It's a great feeling I haven't had for a while, and I think we can even do better. Hopefully, we can improve."
Qualifying will continue on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. CT, with racers vying for crucial positions at the Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park.
Friday's results after the first one of three rounds of qualifying for the 34th annual Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park, 13th of 21 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday's final eliminations.
Top Fuel -- 1. Steve Torrence, 3.764 seconds, 326.24 mph; 2. Clay Millican, 3.813, 316.15; 3. Justin Ashley, 3.818, 322.88; 4. Leah Pruett, 3.834, 293.41; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.835, 316.15; 6. Josh Hart, 3.867, 314.68; 7. Austin Prock, 4.039, 254.71; 8. Lex Joon, 4.106, 251.39; 9. Terry Totten, 4.193, 274.33; 10. Scott Palmer, 4.208, 223.36; 11. Brittany Force, 4.309, 168.98; 12. Antron Brown, 4.438, 184.85; 13. Doug Kalitta, 4.725, 159.63; 14. Mike Salinas, 4.978, 140.80; 15. Buddy Hull, 5.633, 120.46; 16. Jacob McNeal, 6.094, 97.81.
Not Qualified: 17. Shawn Langdon, 7.934, 74.60.
Funny Car -- 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.948, 321.19; 2. Ron Capps, Toyota Supra, 3.950, 314.17; 3. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.967, 316.60; 4. John Force, Camaro, 3.977, 317.12; 5. Paul Lee, Dodge Charger, 4.014, 308.35; 6. J.R. Todd, Supra, 4.023, 318.77; 7. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.040, 312.93; 8. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.044, 304.74; 9. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.091, 303.91; 10. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.152, 287.96; 11. Alex Laughlin, Charger, 4.230, 289.38; 12. Jack Wyatt, Charger, 4.270, 245.54; 13. Dave Richards, Mustang, 4.320, 257.04; 14. Chris King, Charger, 4.571, 223.91; 15. Chad Green, Mustang, 5.013, 148.09; 16. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 5.384, 138.36.
Pro Stock -- 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.677, 205.38; 2. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.686, 204.63; 3. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.704, 205.16; 4. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.705, 204.70; 5. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.706, 204.20; 6. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.715, 205.07; 7. Cristian Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 6.716, 203.92; 8. Jerry Tucker, Camaro, 6.725, 205.10; 9. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.741, 203.12; 10. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.743, 205.13; 11. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, 6.751, 203.49; 12. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.793, 203.61; 13. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.793, 202.70; 14. Bo Butner, Camaro, 7.511, 125.34; 15. Fernando Cuadra, Mustang, 18.121, 45.00; 16. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 24.683, 36.18.