1 - ANGER INTAKE MANAGEMENT - There are only so many acts of retribution Funny Car racer Bob Tasca III had at his disposal Saturday after he felt NHRA wronged him by disqualifying him and nearly putting his team out of competition over an intake manifold. 

"I was as pissed off as I have ever been," Tasca admitted in a post-race press conference after winning the #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. That run earned him the No. 2 spot in qualifying, ironically, the same spot he had been in Friday before his pass was voided. 

"I was not racing the other guys in the other lane. I was racing the NHRA and racing for the integrity and reputation of my crew chief."

And, man, did he ever send a message. 

In the final round of the #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, Tasca piloted his Ford Performance Mustang Funny Car to a blistering 3.834-second pass at 338.34 mph – the 10th-fastest time in NHRA history – to collect the specialty win in a quartet with contenders Austin Prock, Paul Lee and J.R. Todd.

"It was a vindication for two of the hardest-working, most-diligent people I've ever been around in my life, Aaron Brooks and Todd Okuhara. This was for them – 338 miles per hour, the 3.83. It just goes to show you that the hard work that they put in and the attention to detail pays off. 

"It's got nothing to do with the color of a manifold. It's all BS really, it's just noise. If you let it affect your thinking, your attitude, they win, we lose. That's the bottom line."

The fact the actions branded his team as rulebreakers stuck in Tasca's craw.

"We don't condone cheating, we would never cheat," Tasca said. "There was absolutely zero performance advantage on the manifold from Alan Johnson, who’s got a pretty good reputation in the sport (and) makes the part. Alan was very clear with NHRA, he vehemently disagreed with their decision, and then we just took one off [Steve Torrence's] car, bolted it on our car, and did everything that we did with all the other ones.

"I'm just real happy for Todd and Aaron, because even more so my reputation, it's their reputation. They're the tuners, they're the crew chiefs. I don't make these decisions."

2 - THE GREAT TASCA DEBACLE - Bob Tasca III made a monster of a run Friday night, stopping the timers during the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway at 3.849 seconds at 335.32 miles per hour. The run was good enough for 16th in the field.

Well, not initially. The run was good enough for No. 2 in the 16-car field. At the conclusion of the Q2 session, however, it became apparent that the run was living on borrowed time. NHRA’s technical department confiscated an intake manifold that by noon Saturday the series deemed questionable and unacceptable.  

Tasca was beside himself, and what was expected to be an appearance on the NHRA Insider podcast Saturday morning turned toxic in a hurry.

“We’ve had better mornings this morning,” Tasca said. “I spent time with NHRA Tech and not to derail the show, but we’re not quite sure we’re going to race today, quite frankly. We may pack up and leave, and the harsh reality is that our run last night was in question due to our manifold. We put an AJ manifold on our car, first time we have ever done that at a race and we flow our manifolds. The reason why we flow them, and Tony will attest, there are no two manifolds the same.”

And what had begun as a largely unpublicized, extended tech inspection following Funny Car Q2 suddenly became the talk of the pits at zMAX Dragway. 

NHRA released a statement shortly following the DQ’d run stating, “The intake manifold is not allowed to be altered in any form from its original, accepted state. Tasca’s intake manifold is determined to have been media blasted, and this violation is considered a technical infraction. Additional penalty may apply after further evaluation.”

Media blasting, also known as sandblasting, is a process that uses high-speed air, water, or steam to propel abrasive materials against a surface to remove contaminants, paint, coatings, or other substances. 

Tasca adamantly denies anything being done to his manifolds other than standard flow testing. 

“The only thing that we do to the manifolds, we flow the manifold,” Tasca explained. “I’m not the one flowing the manifold, but there’s a process of cleaning it that Keith Wilson does so we can get flow numbers in each part because they’re a cast part. They’re not a CNC part. It’s not a billet part. There are no two manifolds that flow the same. Not one ... there are just differences. 
“What we do is we’re able to know what each port flows and we’re able to nozzle that port up or down based on what the flow is. I guess it changes the color of the material. It’s magnesium. I guess whatever fluid [Wilson] uses changes the color of it.”

What really irritated Tasca about the situation is that when he heard rumors that he was alleged to possess illegal manifolds, he made a point to reach out to the NHRA ahead of the Gatornationals and provide his manifolds for inspections. Tasca said he provided three to the NHRA, who took possession and inspected them. 

Tasca said NHRA returned the manifolds, and he figured everything was fine with them. He ran them through Vegas and faced no issues with tech. This weekend, he was running a unit manufactured by Alan Johnson that was virtually identical.  

“We just wanted to try a different manifold,” Tasca said. “It flowed better. We felt Alan’s part was a better part. Whether or not that is for sure, I have really no idea. This is the first race we ran. … We feel it is a better part. We ran it. [NHRA] asked for it after the run. We gave it to them.” 
Tasca believed that when he left the track Friday evening that he had no reason to think the part wouldn’t get NHRA’s OK. When it didn’t, he inquired if there were dimensional changes and said NHRA officials told him there weren’t. The reason for the disqualification was the color of the intake.

Tasca immediately sought out Johnson for clarification. 

“I have the ultimate respect for Alan Johnson, and I said to him, ‘If my guys did something wrong, I will own up to it. It’s an embarrassment to me,” Tasca responded.

Tasca said Johnson adamantly stood by the legality of the product NHRA chose to disqualify.

Tasca said he was doing his due diligence because the intake manifolds in the confiscated identical except for the manufacturer. Tasca added that both flowed with the same, identical fluid. 

Tasca said he was taken aback when he pointed this out to an NHRA official.  

“‘Well, what about the manifolds I gave you in Gainesville?’” Tasca said he countered. “‘They all were flowed with the same fluid. You gave them back to me.’ 

“Then the same official told me, ‘We didn’t tell you it was legal.’”  

Tasca said he was told NHRA had since determined the unit was illegal per the rule that says any modified part isn’t allowed.

“Now, that’s a very slippery slope because we all lap manifolds, we sand them down, we sand-blow our cases to blueprint them. Everyone does it. That’s a modification. We blow up cylinder heads. We weld them up, and we CNC them. None of them return back to the original manufacturer’s specific dimensions.”

A last-minute intake manifold by Steve Torrence Racing kept Tasca in the race. 

“The truth is I feel that there’s a little bit of common sense that needs to be implemented when you make these kinds of decisions as a sanctioning body,” Tasca said. “I feel it’s lacking. I respect their decision. I respect the integrity of the sport above all things. If we do something wrong, if my guys cross the line, then we have to own it. I do not feel beyond a reasonable doubt we’ve crossed any line whatsoever when we’re having a conversation about color.”

Through it all, Tasca said he wants to have faith in the NHRA’s tech department.

“I believe that they try to do the best that they can with the resources that they have,” Tasca said. “I do believe they’re severely under-resourced because I asked a simple question: Did you check every manifold in the pit? 
“And their answer is, ‘We checked a lot of them.’ ‘Well, you didn’t check all of them.’ I feel that they probably need more resources to do their job better. But in this example, I feel there should be some degree of common sense that is implemented.”   

Tasca climbed back to the top half of the field with a 3.894, 327 run in Q3.


3 - VERY UN-KB TITAN - UN-GREG ANDERSON LIKE - It was clearly the question Greg Anderson didn't want to hear.

"Which is more unbelievable, that Greg Anderson had so many miscues in a weekend or that Greg Anderson had so many miscues and remained No. 1?" 

"That's pretty crazy, isn't it?" Anderson responded. "I don't know what to say, we got a great car, and it obviously proved it on two runs of the four runs this weekend. That was all it took to get the yellow hat, so that tells us we’ve got a great chance tomorrow – but it also tells us to cut out the mistakes."

Mistake No. 1 wasn't really a mistake Anderson or his KB Titan team could help, as an ECU failure wouldn’t allow his engine to fire in Friday's Q2 session. The car ran just fine in Q3, but in post-race inspection it was discovered that when the new ECU was hooked up, the team forgot to connect a safety switch. The run was disqualified, as well as a #2Fast2Tasty first-round win.  

If this sounds familiar, the same infraction got Elite disqualified in Las Vegas last season. 

Anderson's 6.500, 210.90 held up through four qualifying sessions.  

"You got to limit their mistakes and can't make a mistake on race day in this class or you lose, so simple as that,” he said. “Got to clean up the mistakes, but the product is there and I'm looking forward to tomorrow. When you do have a day like today, I think it gets the guys a little bit sharper and on their toes and double and triple checking everything. I really, really feel good we will not have any mistakes tomorrow, so I feel good going in to tomorrow and let the chips roll."




4 - #2FAST - STILL 2UNBEATABLE - Stop us if you've heard this before. Justin Ashley picked up a Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge victory. Saturday's victory, his first of the season, is his seventh career victory at the race-within-a-race since the program began.  

Ashley scored the win with his best run of qualifying at 3.701 seconds and 334.32 mph besting Steve Torrence, who was the runner-up at 3.740 at 332.43, Josh Hart who was third (3.796 at 318.17), and Antron Brown, who had trouble getting down the track (5.717 at 119.51).

Ashley, the Top Fuel points leader, made his way to the finals of the Challenge by winning his first quad of the day with a 3.739-second pass at 321.35 mph to advance with Brown (3.763, 324.12).

"I thought it was a great day today. Yesterday, we fell behind a little bit. We wanted to run a little bit better, a little bit quicker. So it was important for us to come out here today and start to set a new tone for ourselves," Ashley said. "We had a nice 3.739 earlier in the day, and running that 3.701 was really important for our team. It gives us a lot of confidence going into tomorrow.

"It doesn’t matter if it’s qualifying or if it’s the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, we want to win each and every lap that we make down the race track. This is a testament to the team we have. Mike Green, Tommy DeLago, and this whole SCAG team, they do a great job and have been working hard, really since the offseason, putting us in a position to win," Ashley continued. "If it’s a race, event or challenge, it’s equally tough to win because the Top Fuel field is just that good. Just really proud of the guys and happy to be a part of it.” 

Ashley's 3.701 not only earned him championship points and a cash prize, but also bumped him up to No. 3 in the qualifying order. He'll take on Tony Stewart (No. 6), Doug Foley (No. 11) and Dan Mercier (No. 14) in the first round of eliminations.


5 - HERERRA ONLY NEW LEADER - Gaige Herrera’s qualifying dominance in Pro Stock Motorcycle continued Saturday, but it took until the final session when the defending world champ put together a track-record run of 6.671 at 202.70 on his RevZilla/Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. 

Herrera was the only Mission Food Series competitor to qualify No. 1 on Saturday, who wasn’t already at the top of the leaderboard.    

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) secured No. 1 qualifiers at the fifth stop on the 21-race tour. 

Herrera’s No. 1 marked his 11th consecutive No. 1 qualifier dating back to last season. It’s already the 16th career top spot for the Vance & Hines rider, who will look to stay perfect this season Sunday.  

“Yesterday, we had a malfunction on the first run that set us back, and then we ran 6.68 on the second and that was a good run,” Herrera said. “Today, I ran a 6.70 and then that 6.67, and that’s just our team learning how to fine-tune the new fuel. There was not much left on my bike. It went straight and required very little correction. Tomorrow will be a lot of fun.”



6 - ERICA GETS A BREAK, THEN CRACKS THEM - Defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders admitted her team has been behind the eight-ball so far this weekend. Then a gift reinstatement with Greg Anderson's DNQ put her in the final round of the #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, where she beat Dallas Glenn, Jeg Coughlin and Jerry Tucker for her second win of the season. 

"Getting the win by default and being reinstated, I always joke and say, 'Don't give us a second chance,’" Enders said. "We were able to prove that right there. But best run on the weekend, on that last session, to put us in the middle of the pack, which isn't ideal, but the good news is it doesn't matter during four-wide."


7 - FOUR WIDE IS BETTER IN DRAG RACING - Tony Stewart is already starting to find his comfort zones in drag racing. And while he's accustomed to having drivers on each side of him simultaneously in other forms of motorsports, drag racing brings about a different kind of challenge. 

"The fact that some of the drivers, it's confusing for them," said Stewart, who got his first four-wide experience last year in Top Alcohol. "So, you take all these guys that have a ton of experience and make them uncomfortable. I'm already uncomfortable starting, so that automatically starts evening the odds out a little bit. And, to me, I look at it like it's a short track and heat-race style. It's like you don't have to win your quad, you just got to run in the top two to go to the next round. 

"It's anytime the guys and girls that do this every day and every week, when they're uncomfortable and I start uncomfortable and I like this format, then it just kind of closes that gap, I feel. It makes me feel like I'm at that much less of a deficit."


8 - YOU DONE DONE IT NOW, RICKIE! - It only took two CIC infractions, but the doorslammer legend and Hall of Famer Rickie Smith has a bye run into the finals of Competition Eliminator. 

After demolishing the A/Pro Modified index in qualifying with a -.906 under and 5.764 elapsed time, Smith beat David Billingley’s Econo Altered with an “off-pace” 5.907 elapsed time. The -.763 under performance dropped his index to 6.41. That did little to slow Smith, who used a .03 light and 5.833 to beat Lonnie Johnson. 

Smith will face either Steve Szupka or Joel Warren in the finals.  

9 - HENDRICK SAVES BRITTANY - With the loss of major sponsors ahead of the 2024 season, there was a chance Brittany Force might have had to miss a few races in her quest to secure a third NHRA Top Fuel championship. Then NASCAR team owner and successful auto dealer Rick Hendrick stepped in to save the day. 

The situation began when Frank Tiegs, owner of the Fav-R-Pak brand, discontinued the sponsorship ahead of the 2024 season, and later passed away on February 8 at the age of 66. The brand was a sponsor on multiple races for Force's dragster. Force still runs the brand on his cars out of loyalty. 

With HendrickCars.com on Brittany's dragster, she was able to race this weekend in Charlotte as well as three other races this season: Virginia Motorsports Park (June 21-23), a return visit to Charlotte (Sept. 20-22) and the Texas Motorplex (Oct. 10-13), the final two being part of the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship.

“Rick Hendrick has always been my hero,” John Force said. “He has excelled in everything that he has ever done in the automotive industry and motorsports. When I first saw Greg Anderson’s HendrickCars.com Pro Stock Camaro, I knew that Hendrick hit a home run, and I hoped that someday I could be a part of it, too.”
The colorful Force has long revered Hendrick’s success as a motorsports empresario. Known universally simply as “Mr. H.,” Hendrick has a NASCAR-record 14 Cup championships and 306 wins in NASCAR’s top three tiers.   
John Force readily admits he’s tried to emulate much of the way Hendrick has built his organization into a NASCAR powerhouse. Force has learned those lessons well, based on the success of his own motorsports empire.   

“With races becoming available in NHRA with my daughter Brittany, I thought there could be a chance to partner with them, so our president Robert Hight made the call to Rick Hendrick and the Hendrick Automotive Group," Force explained. "With my partnership with Chevrolet, it made a win-win situation for all involved."

What many might not know is that Hendrick was a drag racer before he got into NASCAR. He still likes to take a spin down the strip from time to time. 

“I love drag racing. It’s where I found a love for motorsports, going to the local dragstrip with my dad and competing in my ’31 Chevy,” Hendrick said. “I have been a fan of John and his family for a long time, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to partner with Brittany and Chevrolet. I know they will be terrific representatives for the HendrickCars.com brand.”

Linked-In File Photo

10 - CAMRIE RETURNS TO THE TRACK - Camrie Caruso returned to the drag strip this weekend on crutches and is looking forward to returning to driving as soon as possible. 

Earlier in the week, Caruso was featured on the CompetitionPlus.com POWER HOUR show, where she discussed the cause of the accident at the NHRA Arizona Nationals that left her sidelined with a broken fibula and a sprained ankle. 
“Honestly, to be completely honest with you, the engine was off after I crossed the finish line,” Caruso explained. “I made the run. We didn’t make it down, as everybody saw. I crossed at like 8.90 at 142, which those cars are capable of 210, so clearly not a full run. Went through the finish line, was slowing down because I didn’t make a full run, hit a bump. 

“Unfortunately, the car came up when it hit a bump and I was on the brake, so unfortunately, when the car got air, it got them really hot. They came down locked up, and into the wall, we went. And Dallas [Glenn] honestly worded it perfectly in Competition Plus’ article. Jason Line had the same incident happen to him.”

Caruso described the incident as a perfect storm of sorts. 

“It’s unfortunate,” Caruso said. “It was a new car. … That track is really bumpy as soon as you cross the finish line, and it just upsets the cars. I know for a fact that a lot of people were harder on the brakes that didn’t hit the wall, that were in different lanes and stuff. So when you just get air and you hit the wall, it locks them up.

“I’m very black and white. I’ve heard a million stories of what happened. Everybody wants to have an opinion, everybody wants to know what happened. Everybody’s quick to throw stones, but yet they’re not in the race car, and they’re not out there racing. So you just got to look at the facts and realize, ‘Hey, unfortunately, it was the perfect storm.’    

“Just got to put it behind you, get back on as soon as possible. Obviously, we can get the car fixed, get me fixed, and move forward because it’s an accident. Obviously, we all wish it didn’t happen, but it did.” 




1 - IT'S ON A GOOD 'UN - John Force might have thousands of runs under his belt, but one thing always seems new to him every time: He can feel a good run in the seat of his pants. 

"That was fast," Force said of his 3.820, 330.96, also the 10th quickest run in NHRA Funny Car history. "In fact, the way it left, I don't feel sitting back in the seat, but it's just a feeling, a sensation. Like when the car moves, how do you turn it so quick? You don't even think about it. It's just seat of the pants, seat of the butt. 

"I've always driven that way. I can tell it's fast. I can't tell you how fast. Couldn't tell you it's slow. I'd be lying if I said that, but it felt like it was going to be good and we just wanted to be consistent … go down the track again." 

Force was also quick in the first session with a 3.893, 325.69.

"I'm proud for me mentally, because every time something goes wrong, it's just the way people look at you for your age – and they should," Force said. "Then I pull it out of the hat, but you got to give them credit, the team really supports me. 

"I'm not the future. I've done my time, but I'm still loving it. I'm going to do some more. You're not going to get an announcement out of me. When I'm gone, I'll jump the fence, and that'll be the end of it. So I always said, that's how I'll go. I don't like goodbyes. Don't like getting emotional. I'm a very emotional guy. When the good Lord tells me it's time, but after that, well, changed my mind. Going to stick around a little bit."


2 - WHEN ALAN'S SMILING - Doug Kalitta always smiles. Lately, the iconic drag racing tuner Alan Johnson has been smiling a lot. 

After Friday's two sessions, Johnson had a big one as his driver, defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Doug Kalitta, was the quickest in both Friday sessions, first with  3.711 in the opening session and then a 3.691, 337.92, to close the first day.   

"It's always good to keep Alan Johnson happy," Kalitta said. “He's really got this thing running. And we've got Mac Savage and really all my guys that are working their tails off on this thing. So, yeah, just reading the conditions and just being able to do that, it amazes me what all these crew chiefs do. Just glad my car was running like it is."

Kalitta said he felt like the car was on a strong run at the hit. 

"It left strong ... And, yeah, I've been running this car now for a couple of races," Kalitta said. "It's kind of a new chassis for us and the thing drives really nice. It seemed pretty smooth right down the middle. It was good to get a good result here after a long day." 




Gary Nastase/Auto Imagery

3 - DANG COMPUTERS - Greg Anderson will tell you he loves everything about Pro Stock, but computers, he could do without. Evidently, a faulty ECU (electronic control unit) kept Anderson from making his Q2 qualifying attempt. 

"It started up and ran for a couple-of-three seconds and then it shut itself right off," Anderson said. "I thought the way it did that, ‘Ohhhhh, that's not good. It may not fire again,’ and it didn't. We are going to have to come out and do better than that."

Anderson's Q1 run of 6.500 seconds at 210.9 miles per hour stood as the provisional low qualifying run. 

"We came back and changed the ECU out, put a new program in, fired right up," Anderson said. "So I think we're good to go tomorrow. But it's always scary to me. I'm not one of those guys that just never really thought computers would even catch on, to be honest with you. But they have, and they're forcing me to use one every run and it let me down. So that's why I am not a big fan of computers. 

"Hopefully, that's it for the weekend and we got it out of the way at an opportune time and nobody was able to go around me tonight, which obviously I was shocked at."  

Teammate Brandon Foster's car failed to start, too.

"When we got back to the pit, we threw the computer up to it, hooked the computer up and it shows it has no computer data, no computer program, any kind in the ECU," Anderson said. "So somehow, the whole program got erased from the ECU. No one asked me how that could happen. 

"We've got all the experts over there right now trying to figure that one out. So it's just another computer program that's way the hell above my head. I'll never figure it out. But they're over there working on it now. We brought the experts in. So hopefully, they can figure it out." 

Anderson can only imagine what could have happened considering what transpired in the first session.  

"When you get conditions like this where you don't have sun beating on the racetrack and it's cool – it's 65, 70 degrees out there – that's what these Pro Stock cars love, and you got to come prepared when you come up there," Anderson said. "You can't be shy because the cars are all going to run fast. So you got to basically run what you run, which is everything we brought. So we did, we threw it all down the track. Race track held everything fine. 

"Track is great, car ran great, driver didn't screw up, and we went to the pole." 


4- MATT SMITH SETS THE PACE - When defending Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Gaige Hererra stumbled in the first session, multi-time champion Matt Smith took advantage with the provisional No. 1, a 6.685-second elapsed time at 201.61 miles per hour.

"We've done a lot of testing since Gainesville," Smith said. "We've been to three different racetracks and four different times. So, we've made a lot of runs, not only just me, but trying to get Jianna [Salinas] up to speed, but we found a little bit in our 60 foot. It didn't show today; don't know why. 

"I think the air's just so good right now that my tire’s out of control. We're shaking the tire all the way through low gear, so I'm not reaping the benefits of what we saw in testing, but it still ran good, so I know there's more there. I feel like we should have went .66, maybe .65, but Gaige is on .69, so we're right there with him. 

"Like I told everybody, if we can roll within .02 or .03 of the fastest bike, we have a shot. You just don't have a shot if somebody's .08 ahead of you."

Herrera rebounded in the Q2 session with a 6.696, 201.79, to land second quickest.





5 - MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING - John Force intends to retire one day, but if race fans believe he's stepping aside for Jordan Vandergriff, they are reading too much into the situation. 

"We are just talking, and I don't have a spot right now," Force said. "I like the kid. I like the Vandergriff name. I raced with his family for years. He's done those reality shows and now does some stuff with FOX. He came in and tested a Funny Car for us." 

It wasn't just any Funny Car that Vandergriff drove, though. Vandergriff drove Force's Peak-sponsored Funny Car, and he made multiple 300-foot runs.

"I know he can drive a Top Fuel car, and I'm very interested in him right now," Force said. "And I will just leave it at that."

Force said he intends to return to Funny Car, and it remains uncertain whether it will be three Funny Cars and a dragster or two Funny Cars and two dragsters. He also added that the plan is for the sidelined driver, Robert Hight, to return. 

"I have to be prepared, and I plan to bring my full team back," Force said. "I'm not going to race forever, so I am looking at younger drivers."





6 - JOHNSON DEFENDS VANCE & HINES - Steve Johnson, at first glance, doesn't appear to be a fierce defender, at least not physically. Johnson took to social media in the days leading into the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals to defend a team that appears to need no advocate. 

Johnson stepped up for Vance & Hines amid heavy criticism and alleged improprieties related to blocks, cases, bodies, and fuel. 

"It wasn't so much defending Vance & Hines as it was defending the entire process of the sanctioning body," Johnson explained. "Vance & Hines stepped up and made cases when the cases weren't made anymore. When Suzuki wanted a body, Vance & Hines did it. They have resources, they have depth. And the fuel, the fuel didn't have anything to do with Vance & Hines, and I wanted it off their shoulders."

If anyone has earned the right to speak out, it clearly is the 38-year Pro Stock Motorcycle veteran Johnson, who once had his bike sent to an event in a shipping crate. 

"What was being said, in my perspective, was wrong," Johnson said. “All of it was wrong. The million dollars a year in trying to insinuate that Vance & Hines is in NHRA's pocket and NHRA's corrupt, all that stuff drove me crazy and nobody said anything after two weeks."

Johnson was as stern as one can be. All he needed was a platform to tell the "other" side of the story. 

With his gripes written in his head, Johnson first attacked the rumor of special blocks and cases. 

"The Suzuki block ran was created in 1985 with the intention of creating 80 horsepower," Johnson said. "The inline valve four-cylinder bikes now deliver in the range of 400-plus horsepower. The cases they run are now discontinued, forcing teams to search the junkyards for extras and replacements."

And as Johnson sees it, Vance & Hines got lambasted for filling a need with a better product.  

"It was a need and demand, and our class was going to go away without them," Johnson said. "That is not an advantage, it is sustainability. 

Then came the debate of the new Hayabusa bodies. This season, Suzuki wanted to celebrate the 25th anniversary and understandably redesigned a body to fit with its marketing direction. 

"It was said the Suzukis would get new bodies, new cases and special fuel, and that was a narrative to say how unfair this is," Johnson said. "They get all of this stuff and the V-twins don't. It's not unfair, it was a necessity."

The Suzuki combination had been running bodies that in some cases dated back to 1996. 

"Suzuki is in the business of trying to sell brand-new motorcycles," Johnson said. 

Johnson said before the current bodywork, multiple versions of the Hayabusa were produced and some were simply unsafe. At best, Johnson said, the bodies were heavy, and "not made right."

Johnson pointed out that Suzuki had asked for a better design, and Vance & Hines stepped up, using advanced technology to create a new design. 

The new carbon-fiber body by Vance & Hines was not made to have an advantage, but instead a marketing program for the manufacturer and with the blessings of NHRA.

"At the end of the day, these were available to everyone who wanted to buy," Johnson said. "You can't see my emotion on my face when I'm talking about this. It wound me up because this is my family. They might not like me a lot of times or sometimes, but this is my family. And when somebody says something wrong in my eyes, I'm going to say something back at them. And again, it wasn't so much defending Vance & Hines, it was defending the process of what we have."

Johnson pointed out the parts are available if someone wants to purchase them. There's only one, he said, that isn't, and the reason why is completely understandable. 

"There's no rule that says they have to sell the manifold," Johnson said. "You want the manifold, make it yourself."

Johnson said he has nothing to gain in defending Vance & Hines outside of preserving the integrity of Pro Stock Motorcycle that he feels takes a beating with each allegation. 

"I buy their crankshaft and a cam sprocket and cam chain from them," Johnson said, pointing out he could buy other parts or engines. "I have carburetors. I'm the only one that runs carburetors out here. And MSD ignition, I'm the only one that has that. So I don't even think there's anybody out here with a Monster cylinder head.

"I'm on my own boat and I like it this way. I'm learning a lot, but I just wanted the facts stated. They tried to get the fans to listen to their rhetoric and then try to pressure NHRA to make a decision based upon fan appeal, and I hated it. I wanted the fans to know the truth through my perspective."




7 - BITTERSWEET BIRTHDAY - If it appears Fernando Cuadra Sr. is getting pushed out of the company and drag racing because he turned 65 years old Friday, it's because he is. But it is of his own doing. This was Cuadra's plan from when he returned to drag racing at the start of the decade.

"I'm 65, and my sons are 25. They are taking over the company today," Cuadra said. “That was the plan I put in place when we started. Their first payroll paycheck to 12,000 employees starts today. We race together, and then I am finished."

Cuadra is done. He's done working. He's done playing drag racing. 

"They will take over everything," Cuadra reiterated.

The sons, Fernando Jr. (28) and twins Cristian and David (25) were raised to be on the same page from birth. 

"The three of them slept in the same room with three different beds," Cuadra said. “That meant they had to decide what to watch on television at night, who got the bathroom, and when. They were taught how to work together early on."

Cuadra's decision was one that transcended an edict handed down to his kids, as he also signed an agreement with the board of directors at his Corral Boots business, that he'd step aside at 65 years old. 



8 - CLUTCH PERFORMER - The Paul Lee clutch performer train continues to roll. In the last four races this season, Lee has driven his Funny Car to a No. 5 or better qualifying spot. So far, he is clearly enjoying his finest season. 

"For our team and the budget we have, a nine out of a 10," Lee said when asked to rate his team. "Jonnie and Jon are doing a great job along with the rest of the guys on the team. This is a team sport, and everyone is putting the car together correctly. We're not making mistakes and (we’re) having a great time. It's a lot more fun when you are going down the track."

This is the first season for rookie nitro tuner Jonnie Lindberg, who is assisted by legendary tuner John Medlen. Clearly, the two tuning minds had a vision of how the car needed to run Friday evening. 

"Whatever we threw at this track, it ate it up," said crew chief Jonnie Lindberg. "It almost shook the tire there. I'm happy it made it down the track again." 



9 - RICKIE'S RACING COMPLICATED - It's been 50 years since Rickie Smith went class racing. This weekend, the drag racing Hall of Famer has returned to his roots while racing Competition Eliminator. 

Smith is racing his nitrous-injected Mustang in A/Pro Modified class this weekend. He made two runs on Friday, a 5.786 elapsed time, -.884 under his index, and followed up with a 5.764, -0.906. 

"It's not bracket racing, but I don't want to run so fast that I hit my index," Smith said. "If I run too fast I can still win, but it will be tough the next round. You got to be very calculating in this class."

Smith is learning quickly just how complicated Comp Eliminator can be. If he runs more than .50 under his index, he gets punished with the CIC (Competition Index Control). For instance, if Smith were to duplicate his -.906 performance in his first round against David Billingsley, his index will be lowered by .40 for the second round. His 6.67 standard will become a 6.27. Additionally, should he run another event, his 6.67 will adjust permanently to a 6.57.

"Just gotta be careful down there, you can't pedal the throttle down there with a nitrous car," Smith said. "But I'm having fun."

Smith said the last time he's run the "long tree" was in 1974. 

"I'm just making myself concentrate on the top bulb, when it comes on ... I mat it," Smith said. "Then I am mashing on the button to make myself a little late. I just cannot pay attention to the other cars because most of them are going to be 300 feet or so out on me. I just gotta stay focused."

10 - 7.049, 193.05 - Greg Stanfield comfortably covered the Factory X field after the first session. The Factory X cars are racing this weekend in the two-car format. Stanfield's 7.049, 193.05 gave him a comfortable lead over Jesse Alexander’s 7.287, 187.26.