The NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship points championship was starting to level off in a straightforward direction when two good ‘ol country boys left almost everyone scratching their heads following the Midwest Nationals outside of St. Louis, the third stop in the six-race playoff series. 

Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Clay Millican (Top Fuel) secured victories at World Wide Technology Raceway Park and, in doing so, helped them to climb the ladder of championship points.

Joining them in the winner’s circle was Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Hagan’s win marked the fifth for the Tony Stewart Racing season, which could easily be described as feast or famine. His victory over defending NHRA Funny Car champion Ron Capps marked his 48th career victory. 

Hagan definitely didn’t back into the title as he stopped past national event winner Alexis DeJoria, then 16-time champion John Force, and points leader Bob Tasca III before reaching the finals against Capps. By defeating Capps, Hagan significantly closed the gap on current points leader Bob Tasca III, trailing by only 13 points with three races remaining in the season.

“We knew we had to win this race to be in the hunt for this thing,” Hagan said. “It feels like it’s meant to be, and I’m just enjoying the ride. [The team] sat down and looked across from each other, and it’s one of those things where you go, I’m going to dig for you, you dig for me, let’s make this happen. I think that’s what makes it happen: having a core group of guys you want to work hard for. You want to show up for them, and today, they all showed up for me, and I felt like I showed up for them.

“The pressure is huge. I was telling (crew chief) Dickie Venables, damn, this is a lot of pressure, but that’s what you want. That’s what we’re here for. If we didn’t have the pressure, we didn’t have a shot. The pressure was huge – you just have to find a way to capitalize on it.”

For his part, Capps reached his seventh final round appearance of the season and the 147th in his career. Although he faced disappointment in the final against Hagan, Capps remains a contender for the championship, trailing Tasca by only 33 points in fourth place.

For the record, Top Fuel drag racing and internet superstar Millican now holds the Illinois State Top Fuel championship, having swept both NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series there. He won the Route 66 Nationals back in May, and while the track is listed in St. Louis, the land it is on is officially in Madison, Illinois.

Millican scored his third win of the season behind the wheel of the Parts Plus/Comp Cams-sponsored dragster for Rick Ware Racing, running a 3.758 seconds elapsed time at 331.94 mph to beat Leah Pruett in the championship round. 

“Man, what a day. This is huge,” Millican said. “He gave us a hot weekend, and man, (crew chief) Jim O (Oberhofer) just showed again that when it’s hot out, look out. We got away with a couple, but we outperformed the cars we raced, and I am so proud. I mean, this was huge. Jim O will quickly tell you, give me a track above 90 degrees and look out. Needless to say, with this perspiration on my face here, it’s above 95 degrees out there, and it was all day. I am already talking to the man upstairs; bring on the heat in Dallas, baby. 

“Our goal is obviously top 10, as far as we can possibly get. It’s way too big a gap to think about chasing down No. 1, but three wins for this Parts Plus team is huge.” 

Pruett’s final was her fourth of the season and the 23rd in her career. She had a banner day, stopping Shawn Langdon, points leader Doug Kalitta, and Steve Torrence. She trails Kalitta by 47 points. Torrence is 51 points back of Kalitta, and Justin Ashley is 77 points behind.

Don't look now, but Pro Stock's winningest driver is surging at the right time. Anderson made it back-to-back as he stopped third-gen drag racer Aaron Stanfield in the Pro Stock final round. He ran 6.552 seconds at 209.92 mph in his HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro to beat Aaron Stanfield in the finals. 

With back-to-back round wins over Enders, Anderson has now pulled into second in the championship points standings, just 26 points out of the lead. His latest final round came at the expense of Jerry Tucker, Deric Kramer, and Enders.

“I'm back in the game. I've legitimately got a shot at this championship with three races to go, and that's all you can ask,” Anderson said. “I went to the first race at Reading and lost in the first round, and I've said it a million times – you can't win the championship at the first race of the playoffs, but you can lose it. I was knocking on the door and knocking myself out of it. if I didn't have a big recovery at the next race, I was out of it. I'm back in the fight, and I have a great hot rod, but there are so many great cars so many great drivers in this class right now. It's incredible. These next three races are going to be a bare-knuckled brawl.

“From the first round on, it's like racing the final, every week. Right now, if you don't do a perfect job round one you go home. There’s no telling what's going to happen from here on out. I feel fantastic about the way things have gone these past two weeks. With the job my guys have done on my racecar and even the job I've been able to do behind the wheel, it feels great.”

Then there's Herrara, the sophomore Pro Stock Motorcycle racer, who is unstoppable, even from inside his own camp. Once again, Herrera made a mockery of final eliminations, eventually stopping teammate Eddie Krawiec in the final round. He ran a 6.728 seconds at 201.79 mph, for the win. 

Herrera now leads the defending champion Matt Smith by 99 points at the halfway point in the championship chase. He tied the single-season record for qualifying No. 1 in Pro Stock Motorcycle history with his 11th top spot of the year.

“Hopefully, I still have a job after knocking Ed off, but that final round was good for our whole team” Herrera said. “All day, I had a very consistent motorcycle, and the first round was probably the most nervous round for me. Racing Joey he's always a tough competitor, so I knew he was going to be on it. All day has been really good. 

“I can't give enough credit to the whole Vance & Hines Mission Suzuki team. I still can't believe I got that phone call almost a year ago now to race for them. It’s been incredible, and I'm proud to be part of it.”

Krawiec reached the final round for the second time this season and the 93rd in his career, thanks to round wins against Ryan Oehler, Jianna Evaristo and Smith.

The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action Oct. 12-15 with the 38th annual Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex in Dallas.


Bob Tasca III has never led the NHRA point standings in his Funny Car driving career. But after securing his sixth No. 1 qualifying, he’s hoping heading into race day as the top seed at the NHRA Midwest Nationals will put him atop the championship race.

The leaderboard remained unchanged after substantially warmer Saturday's conclusion of qualifying at World Wide Technologies Raceway Park. Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Tasca’s 3.852 elapsed time at 324.90 mph on Friday was never in jeopardy. 

“Very exciting, but one round at a time, one run at a time,” Tasca said. “We really don’t pay as much attention to what the cars around us are running. We have enough data now with this car and enough track information to go up there and try to go as quickly as we can for the conditions that are presented.

“You want to be in the (championship) conversation. No one can guarantee a championship. No one knows what’s going to happen over the next four races, but you want to be in the conversation. That’s why the sponsors invest in us; that’s what the fans cheer about. We’re going to do the best we can and if we come out victorious, it’s that much sweeter. But this is what it’s all about. I’ve been around a lot of successful teams. We’ve had some good runs, but this is clearly our best run at it.”

Kalitta’s dream playoff season continued as he sealed the deal on his 53rd career Top Fuel No. 1. His best run 3.709 seconds at 331.85 mph in the first qualifying session stood the test of time. 

“I was really happy with that .72 in that last session,” Kalitta said. “My car has been really consistent. I just can’t say enough about how hard everybody is working on my car. Great crowd here today, a sellout. Connie Kalitta is our fearless leader out here and given me a great opportunity over the years.

“It’s just nice when it all can come together like it has the last couple of races for my car. We’re just going to hold on and do our best and keep going rounds, as many as we can get. We’re definitely looking forward to tomorrow, whatever it gives us, and hopefully we can have it dialed in real nice.”

Pro Stock frontrunner Enders secured her third consecutive No. 1 qualifier on the strength of her Friday night time of 6.549 seconds at 209.69 mph, positioning her for a strong performance on Sunday.

“I’m definitely excited to head into race day,” Enders said. “St. Louis has always been really good to us, and we hope that the trend will continue tomorrow – but there are a lot of really tough competitors out there. I’m hopeful to park that JHG/Melling Performance car in the winner’s circle. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but I’m looking forward to it. 

“I haven’t thought about [the record] on race day, but no matter when it comes, it will be a huge honor. Angelle [Sampey] was one of my heroes growing up, and we’re great friends now. To be the all-time winner for females in any form of motorsports is pretty substantial and an honor I won’t take lightly.”

Herrera’s incredible Pro Stock Motorcycle continues its road of domination as he matched Matt Hines’ record of 11 No. 1 qualifiers established 25 years ago.

His 6.716 seconds at 201.79 mph on Friday night stood the test through the three sessions. 

“This is very cool. I just have to give it up to Andrew (Hines, crew chief) and all the guys at the shop and Matt, included,” Herrera said. “They're the ones that make that possible. To be able to tie Matt and get that many No. 1 qualifiers in one season, it's incredible. There have been a lot of remarkable, crazy, things I've accomplished so far this year but to add something like this to it is pretty cool. 

“We tried to do different things on the bike today, the track is kind of a little tricky for us, so I feel like we made good passes considering. We'll go back and go over all our data and be ready for tomorrow. All in all, I felt pretty good on the bike and it should be good tomorrow.”

Angie Smith was involved in an accident during the second qualifying round when she became separated from her bike shortly after passing the finish line at World Wide Technology Raceway. She came to a rest in the track's shutdown area. 

NHRA officials confirmed Smith was alert and conscious and was examined by medical personnel before being transported to a local medical facility for further evaluation. 

A spokesperson for Matt Smith Racing has confirmed Angie suffered two broken feet and extensive road rash as a result of her crash Saturday afternoon. She is expected to meet with a skin graft surgeon on Sunday morning.

Eliminations for the NHRA Midwest Nationals begin at 11 a.m. CT on Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway in St. Louis.


Sunday's first-round pairings for eliminations for the 12th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway, the 18th 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. Doug Kalitta, 3.709 seconds, 331.85 mph vs. 16. Lex Joon, 3.920, 314.09; 2. Mike Salinas, 3.710, 329.75 vs. 15. Cody Krohn, 3.819, 319.07; 3. Antron Brown, 3.714, 331.69 vs. 14. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.816, 314.46; 4. Justin Ashley, 3.730, 331.69 vs. 13. T.J. Zizzo, 3.814, 326.24; 5. Steve Torrence, 3.733, 330.72 vs. 12. Josh Hart, 3.793, 324.20; 6. Tony Schumacher, 3.734, 329.83 vs. 11. Brittany Force, 3.791, 330.72; 7. Clay Millican, 3.740, 334.07 vs. 10. Austin Prock, 3.770, 318.62; 8. Leah Pruett, 3.742, 331.04 vs. 9. Shawn Langdon, 3.748, 328.86. 
Did Not Qualify: 17. Buddy Hull, 3.920, 312.06; 18. Terry Totten, 20.894, 158.39. 

Funny Car -- 1. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.852, 324.90 vs. 16. Jack Wyatt, Dodge Charger, 4.173, 264.49; 2. Chad Green, Mustang, 3.886, 330.47 vs. 15. Alex Laughlin, Charger, 4.140, 304.94; 3. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.888, 326.79 vs. 14. Dave Richards, Mustang, 4.132, 292.90; 4. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.914, 325.06 vs. 13. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.079, 299.00; 5. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.927, 326.40 vs. 12. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota GR Supra, 4.008, 324.44; 6. Bobby Bode, Mustang, 3.937, 293.47 vs. 11. J.R. Todd, GR Supra, 4.005, 321.04; 7. Ron Capps, GR Supra, 3.952, 324.90 vs. 10. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.982, 321.04; 8. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.953, 323.89 vs. 9. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.981, 320.66. 
Did Not Qualify: 17. Dale Creasy Jr., 4.179, 296.11; 18. Chris King, 4.771, 187.50. 

Pro Stock -- 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.549, 209.69 vs. 16. Eric Latino, Camaro, 6.609, 207.21; 2. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.549, 207.75 vs. 15. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.605, 208.62; 3. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.558, 208.97 vs. 14. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.602, 208.36; 4. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.560, 208.81 vs. 13. Jerry Tucker, Camaro, 6.595, 208.81; 5. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.569, 208.65 vs. 12. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.590, 208.91; 6. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.570, 209.07 vs. 11. Cristian Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 6.583, 208.81; 7. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.570, 208.01 vs. 10. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.582, 208.39; 8. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, 6.575, 207.69 vs. 9. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.581, 207.62. 
Did Not Qualify: 17. Fernando Cuadra, 6.627, 207.85; 18. Robert River, 7.050, 196.07. 

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.716, 201.79 vs. 14. Joey Gladstone, Buell, 7.061, 160.69; 2. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.766, 201.76 vs. 13. Chris Bostick, EBR, 7.026, 187.63; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.773, 201.25 vs. 12. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.953, 193.82; 4. Chase Van Sant, Suzuki, 6.774, 198.70 vs. 11. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.880, 198.93; 5. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.796, 199.14 vs. 10. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.879, 196.85; 6. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.841, 197.31 vs. 9. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.874, 196.44; 7. Cory Reed, Suzuki, 6.870, 195.48 vs. 8. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.874, 197.88. 


Doug Kalitta isn’t in domination mode as much as he appears in catch-up form. He secured the provisional No. 1 qualifying position during first day qualifying for the NHRA Midwest Nationals outside St. Louis, Mo. 

Joining Kalitta atop the leaderboard were Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
This event marks the 18th out of 21 races in the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and the third out of six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Kalitta, who is now pulling off the kinds of performances many expected him to showcase in 2022, thundered to the top of the list with a 
3.709-second elapsed time at 331.85 mph in his Mac Tools/Toyota dragster. If his performance stands, it would mark his second No. 1 qualifying position this year and the 53rd in his career. 

“Everybody is running really close, and we somehow snuck by them,” Kalitta said. “Hat’s off to (crew chiefs) Alan Johnson and Brian Husen and all my guys; they’re really working their tails off on this car, and it’s definitely showing. Consistency is everything in this sport, and that was a nice A to B run for us. It was close, but we pulled it off. 

“We’re all hungry. I always love coming to St. Louis. Just a lot of great memories here and a great racing town. This is really a good start for us here for the first qualifying run. The competition is tough, and everybody is running well. I just feel really fortunate to pull off the low qualifier so far.”

Behind Kalitta, Mike Salinas took the second spot with a run of 3.710 at 329.75, followed closely by Antron Brown in third with a 3.714 at 331.69.

Just like Kalitta, Tasca is on top of his game, setting the pace for the Funny Cars with a 3.852 elapsed time at 324.90 miles per hour in his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang. 

“We’ve been working on this all season long, starting in testing,” Tasca said. “We had to have the setup to go out here and run with the big teams when the conditions were good. We had flashes of that early in the season, worked on it when the conditions were good, and just seeing this car run really hard. Aaron Brooks, Todd Okuhara, they have a lot of confidence in the setup. They were trying to run .85 and the car ran .85.

“This wasn’t a fluke; they told me to keep it on the inside until about a half-track and then pull it back slowly. Normally, you muscle a Funny Car, but in this example, you’re really just finessing it. You can’t be a one-trick pony. You have to be able to throw down when it’s hot and be able to pull it back and still throw down when it’s cool.”

Blake Alexander secured the second spot at 3.888, and John Force is in third at 3.914. Notably, points leader Robert Hight sits in the 13th spot after Friday’s qualifying.

Enders has been a dominant performer in Pro Stock qualifying lately and provided more of the same with the provisional No. 1, a 6.549, 209.69 behind the wheel of her Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance Chevrolet Camaro. 

If her performance holds, Enders would secure her third consecutive No. 1 qualifier, fifth this season, and the 34th in her career. History is on her side at St. Louis, as Enders has won the past four years at this venue, totaling six wins overall. Another victory this weekend would mark her 47th career win and make her the winningest female driver in NHRA history.

“It definitely felt awesome,” Enders said. “I say this a lot, but I feed off of Mark Ingersoll, my crew chief. I really enjoy his confidence because it, in turn, gives me confidence. This place has always been amazing to me. To have the last four years in a row is pretty awesome. It’s Mark’s home track, and he wants to swing hard here. We’re really excited.

“My sister and I have coined the phrase; everything changes in St. Louis. We’ll just go ahead and hope that’s going to be the outcome. When we went into the Countdown, we haven’t won one yet, but I said three races in a row; in three weeks, I’m going to know where I stand, and maybe my stomach can relax a little bit. It’s so fun coming here. I’m excited to have things change in St. Louis.”

Troy Coughlin Jr. secured the second spot in Pro Stock with a pass of 6.558 at 208.97, followed closely by Greg Anderson in third with a 6.560 at 208.81. Points leader Matt Hartford currently sits in the fourth position with a time of 6.565.

Hererra was being Herrera as he rode his way to the top spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying with a 6.716, 201.79 on his Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. If his performance holds, Herrera would secure his 11th No. 1 qualifying position in his sophomore season out of 12 races in the category. 

“I’ve been having fun all year, and all the little changes, they’re out to get us as a team or me,” Herrera said. “Just to have that feeling. Basically, Matt (Smith) is doing everything he can to try to knock us off the top. I think that makes us drive harder, push harder, and me as a rider, try to be more consistent. I had a .029 light there today, and last weekend I had an average of .032. It makes me try harder and push harder, and the same for Andrew (Hines, crew chief). He wants to give me the most consistent but fast motorcycle, so I think overall, it just drives us to keep on pushing. I’m just excited to be a part of it. I’m very lucky to ride for them and be part of it.”

Defending world champion and defending event winner Matt Smith, who trails Herrera by 52 points heading into the weekend, is currently second with a 6.766 at 201.76, and Eddie Krawiec is third with a 6.787 at 201.40.

Qualifying continues at 1:30 p.m. CT on Saturday at the NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Friday's results after the first one of three rounds of qualifying for the 12th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway, 18th of 21 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday's final eliminations.

Top Fuel -- 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.709 seconds, 331.85 mph; 2. Mike Salinas, 3.710, 329.75; 3. Antron Brown, 3.714, 331.69; 4. Justin Ashley, 3.730, 331.69; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.734, 329.83; 6. Leah Pruett, 3.742, 331.04; 7. Clay Millican, 3.745, 328.62; 8. Shawn Langdon, 3.748, 328.86; 9. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.816, 314.46; 10. Cody Krohn, 3.819, 319.07; 11. T.J. Zizzo, 3.832, 321.88; 12. Lex Joon, 3.920, 314.09; 13. Steve Torrence, 5.464, 119.76; 14. Austin Prock, 5.936, 110.86; 15. Josh Hart, 6.142, 110.64; 16. Brittany Force, 6.651, 88.33. Not Qualified: 17. Buddy Hull, 7.396, 78.78; 18. Terry Totten, 20.894, 158.39. 

Funny Car -- 1. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.852, 324.90; 2. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.888, 326.79; 3. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.914, 325.06; 4. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.928, 328.78; 5. Bobby Bode, Mustang, 3.937, 293.47; 6. Chad Green, Mustang, 3.959, 328.86; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.982, 321.04; 8. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.079, 299.00; 9. Dave Richards, Mustang, 4.193, 275.84; 10. Alex Laughlin, Charger, 4.220, 295.40; 11. Jack Wyatt, Charger, 4.296, 240.77; 12. Dale Creasy Jr., Charger, 4.904, 159.61; 13. Robert Hight, Camaro, 5.445, 131.48; 14. Ron Capps, Toyota GR Supra, 5.770, 122.43; 15. J.R. Todd, GR Supra, 6.023, 111.12; 16. Alexis DeJoria, GR Supra, 6.387, 114.01. Not Qualified: 17. Cruz Pedregon, 7.564, 91.85. 

Pro Stock -- 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.549, 209.69; 2. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.558, 208.97; 3. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.560, 208.81; 4. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.565, 207.85; 5. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.569, 208.65; 6. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.570, 208.01; 7. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.573, 209.10; 8. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Ford Mustang, 6.575, 207.69; 9. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.582, 208.39; 10. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.582, 207.15; 11. Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, 6.583, 208.81; 12. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.605, 208.62; 13. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.615, 207.27; 14. Jerry Tucker, Camaro, 6.622, 207.15; 15. Fernando Cuadra, Mustang, 6.627, 207.85; 16. Eric Latino, Camaro, 6.627, 206.61. Not Qualified: 17. Robert River, 7.123, 196.07; 18. Deric Kramer, 7.971, 122.87. 

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.716, 201.79; 2. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.766, 201.76; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.787, 201.40; 4. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.796, 199.14; 5. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.841, 197.31; 6. Chase Van Sant, Suzuki, 6.847, 194.21; 7. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.910, 195.96; 8. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.929, 194.60; 9. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.953, 193.82; 10. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.961, 193.40; 11. Chris Bostick, EBR, 7.026, 187.63; 12. Joey Gladstone, Buell, 7.061, 160.69; 13. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.190, 149.38.