Pruett, Hight, Enders and Herrera top Bristol qualifying, while Ashley and Tasca III win delayed New England Nationals
Gaige Herrera continued his perfect run in Pro Stock Motorcycle on Saturday at Bristol Dragway, winning the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge and securing his fourth straight No. 1 qualifier at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
In the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) also won the bonus event in Bristol. Leah Pruett (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) all qualified No. 1 at the eighth of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
In the final round of the bonus event, Herrera was quicker on the starting line against Hector Arana Jr., posting a .009 reaction time and a run of 6.849-seconds at 194.83 mph on his Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. It’s Herrera’s second Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge victory this season, with his run of 6.808 at 198.61 earlier on Saturday giving him the No. 1 qualifier. Herrera hasn’t lost a round in 2023 and will aim for his fourth straight win on Sunday as he opens eliminations against Ron Tornow in what also is Herrera’s Thunder Valley debut.
“It makes me feel better that I went out there and did my job,” Herrera said. “I had to fight the bike a little bit from going towards the wall, and I think that's why we slowed up a little bit. But that was a good run with Hector. I was glad to get the holeshot and come out on top. Just to be a part of the whole Mission Challenge is very cool.
“It’s been a wonderful journey so far. This whole season has been a dream come true, like I've been saying, and to do it like we've been doing it is just incredible. I'm just glad to be part of it.”
Arana Jr. qualified second with a 6.839 at 199.02 and Eddie Krawiec’s 6.855 at 198.03 put him third.
Stanfield claimed the win in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge on Saturday in his Janac Brothers Chevrolet Camaro, going 6.637 at 206.32 in his Camaro to defeat points leader Dallas Glenn. Stanfield, the defending event winner in Bristol, claimed his first victory in the specialty race on the strength of two outstanding runs, knocking off Deric Kramer in the opening round with a 6.631 at 206.80. The young standout will look to defend his Bristol crown on Sunday and make it a double-win weekend in the process.
“This is really cool. Qualifying is normally about just making a nice clean run, so to add a little competition in there and to turn on the win light and get a little redemption is great,” Ashley said.
“Drag racing has a lot of highs and lows, and we've been struggling a little bit the beginning of the season, but they've been working very hard. We've turned it around, and I've just got a really good hot rod. I had a really good racecar pretty much all year last year, and I think we're getting back to that place.”
Enders officially earned her first No. 1 of the season, as her run of 6.627 at 205.88 from Friday in her Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance Chevrolet held up. It also gives the defending and five-time world champ her 30th career No. 1 qualifier and plenty of momentum as she heads into eliminations. She’ll open eliminations against Mason McGaha, searching for her first win of the season.
“I definitely feel a lot more confident than we have heading into the other Sundays so far this season,” Enders said. “We seem to have a racecar back underneath us and that's truly exciting, we just have to go to work tomorrow, execute the best that we can and try to park the JHG/Melling Performance car in the winner's circle.
We'll see what happens tomorrow, but hopefully it's a long, successful Sunday here in Bristol. I'm just so, so thrilled that we're back. It's just really exciting. No matter what happens, we've just worked so incredibly hard, these guys haven't had a day off in months, and you're seeing it come to fruition.”
Stanfield qualified in the second spot and Cristian Cuadra’s 6.632 at 206.04 put him third heading into Sunday.
In Top Fuel, Pruett enjoyed her first No. 1 qualifier of the season for Tony Stewart Racing, as her run of 3.745 at 322.42 in her 11,000-horsepower Rush Truck Centers dragster from Friday easily stood up on Sunday. It’s also the 14th career No. 1 spot for Pruett, who will open eliminations against Spencer Massey. Pruett has been solid for the bulk of the 2023 season, but she will be looking for her first win of the season and first victory at Bristol Dragway on Sunday.
“This No. 1 is just a testament to the consistency that this team has had all season long. It's the culmination of our performance that has led up to this,” Pruett said. “There is nothing like racing on Sunday and racing in Thunder Valley. We got the highs and the lows and the emotions of racing in qualifying. You get the echo of the cars here, and hopefully, we echo our performance of qualifying No. 1 and bring that into raceday all day. I'm eager. It's going to be an early morning for all, but the fans will have a good long day of watching cars.”
Brittany Force qualified second with a 3.747 at 334.48, and Torrence’s 3.753 at 329.10 gave him the third slot.
Funny Car’s Robert Hight earned his second No. 1 spot this season and 79th in his career on the strength of his 3.938 at 321.35 from Friday in his 11,000-horsepower Cornwell Tools Chevrolet Camaro SS. Hight will take on Alex Laughlin to open eliminations aiming for his second career win at Bristol Dragway.
“My team has a pretty good handle on all the conditions – we've raced a lot of different conditions, and we have a lot of data to look at,” Hight said. “We do have a new combination, and we're trying to get through that, but if we get the cylinder dropping fixed, this thing will have three-second runs all day tomorrow. That's probably what it's going to take to win, especially first round.
“Tomorrow is a new day, we're starting from a good spot, we're back with Cornwell for tomorrow, and we need to get them their first win.
Capps took the second spot with his 3.962 at 318.92 from Friday and Chad Green’s 3.969 at 322.50 gave him third.
Eliminations for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals begin at 10 a.m. ET on Sunday at Bristol Dragway.
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Sunday's first-round pairings for eliminations for the 22nd annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, the eighth 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. Leah Pruett, 3.745 seconds, 322.42 mph vs. 16. Spencer Massey, 3.928, 308.50; 2. Brittany Force, 3.747, 334.48 vs. 15. Antron Brown, 3.907, 292.90; 3. Steve Torrence, 3.753, 329.10 vs. 14. Shawn Langdon, 3.842, 323.97; 4. Justin Ashley, 3.755, 327.74 vs. 13. Doug Foley, 3.841, 287.66; 5. Mike Salinas, 3.762, 327.35 vs. 12. Josh Hart, 3.819, 321.12; 6. Doug Kalitta, 3.764, 319.22 vs. 11. Clay Millican, 3.808, 327.11; 7. Dan Mercier, 3.768, 317.72 vs. 10. Tony Schumacher, 3.797, 323.58; 8. Austin Prock, 3.787, 326.08 vs. 9. Cameron Ferre, 3.795, 322.11.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Lex Joon, 4.095, 248.16.
Funny Car -- 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.938, 321.35 vs. 16. Alex Laughlin, Dodge Charger, 4.182, 302.08; 2. Ron Capps, Toyota Supra, 3.962, 318.92 vs. 15. Dave Richards, Ford Mustang, 4.160, 294.24; 3. Chad Green, Mustang, 3.969, 322.50 vs. 14. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.125, 297.55; 4. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.972, 329.26 vs. 13. Bobby Bode, Mustang, 4.094, 268.28; 5. Alexis DeJoria, Supra, 3.999, 322.88 vs. 12. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.072, 318.39; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.004, 318.99 vs. 11. Dale Creasy Jr., Charger, 4.067, 281.60; 7. J.R. Todd, Supra, 4.025, 325.53 vs. 10. John Force, Camaro, 4.063, 324.36; 8. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.038, 314.61 vs. 9. Mike McIntire, Toyota Camry, 4.044, 300.80.
Did Not Qualify: 17. John Smith, 4.250, 305.15; 18. Paul Lee, 4.295, 212.59.
Pro Stock -- 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.627, 205.88 vs. 16. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.692, 204.20; 2. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.631, 206.80 vs. 15. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Ford Mustang, 6.679, 205.47; 3. Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, 6.632, 206.04 vs. 14. David Cuadra, Mustang, 6.671, 205.01; 4. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.638, 205.79 vs. 13. Jerry Tucker, Camaro, 6.670, 205.38; 5. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.642, 205.94 vs. 12. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.661, 204.98; 6. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.643, 205.91 vs. 11. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.656, 206.23; 7. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.643, 204.54 vs. 10. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.655, 205.66; 8. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.651, 206.20 vs. 9. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.653, 206.07.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Chris McGaha, 6.708, 204.79; 18. Fernando Cuadra, 6.709, 204.63; 19. Larry Morgan, 6.741, 204.20.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.808, 198.61 vs. 16. Ron Tornow, Victory, 7.062, 189.71; 2. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.839, 199.02 vs. 15. Marcus Hylton, 7.057, 189.58; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.855, 198.03 vs. 14. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 7.014, 193.79; 4. Angie Smith, EBR, 6.856, 197.36 vs. 13. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.984, 193.65; 5. Chip Ellis, EBR, 6.857, 196.73 vs. 12. John Hall, Buell, 6.943, 193.57; 6. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.875, 195.36 vs. 11. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.942, 193.52; 7. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.891, 194.16 vs. 10. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.928, 195.28; 8. Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.904, 196.39 vs. 9. Chase Van Sant, Suzuki, 6.911, 193.85.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Lance Bonham, 7.260, 181.89; 18. Chris Bostick, 7.346, 186.30.
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Bob Tasca III powered to his first win of the season on Saturday at Bristol Dragway, knocking off legendary Funny Car driver John Force in the final round of the NHRA New England Nationals, which was completed as part of a doubleheader weekend in Bristol.
Top Fuel’s Justin Ashley also claimed the victory at the seventh of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season. The winning runs from Tasca and Ashley also gave each driver a victory in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge bonus race.
Due to weather, eliminations from the Epping, N.H. race were postponed to this weekend as part of the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, with Tasca earning the victory at what is considered his home race. In the championship round against Force, Tasca went 4.032-seconds at 322.96 mph in his 11,000-horsepower PPG Ford Mustang. It is Tasca’s first victory of the season and 13th of his career.
Tasca knocked off Ron Capps in the opening round of eliminations, which took place on Friday in Thunder Valley, and then recorded three round wins on Saturday, including victories over Robert Hight and No. 1 qualifier Chad Green to reach the final round. Tasca, who knocked off Force in a final round at Sonoma last year, quickly chased down the 16-time world champion, picking up the win and the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge victory in the process. But to win his home race – even if it came in Bristol – meant a great deal to Tasca
“I would have gone to Alaska to get this trophy," Tasca said. "It's a win that I've always dreamed about winning at a racetrack I grew up at. It's the first track I ever went down. But we just felt like this whole season was building for us. I’m just so impressed with Todd Okuhara, Aaron Brooks, and the team.
“I went up to Force before I got in the car and I said, ‘Force, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you.’ To race John Force in the finals, at his age to do what he does out here, it'll never be done by anybody. I have so much respect for John. There's no one I get up for like that. If I have to win a race in the final round and have John Force alongside me for the New England Nationals trophy, it's going to be a long time before I forget that win.”
Force reached the finals for the first time this season and 265th thanks to round wins against Tim Wilkerson, Alex Laughlin and J.R. Todd.
Top Fuel’s Ashley enjoyed a terrific day on Saturday in Bristol, racing to his third victory this season and third win in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge as well, knocking off Tony Schumacher on a holeshot in a thrilling final round. Ashley went 3.846 at 324.12 in his 11,000-horsepower Phillips Connect/Toyota dragster to hold off Schumacher’s 3.835 at 323.65 on the strength of a .041 reaction time.
It’s also Ashley’s eighth career win and gives him another memorable moment in Thunder Valley after he won the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals a year ago. He doubled up on Saturday, going through an impressive array of challengers that included reigning world champion Brittany Force, four-time world champ Steve Torrence and eight-time champion Schumacher. He’s the only multi-time winner in Top Fuel this season and in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, and Ashley will have a chance for a clean sweep of the weekend on Sunday.
“This is so special. Every race is special, when you know you go into the weekend having an opportunity to win, but coming here and knowing we have three opportunities to win and then taking care of two of them already just makes it so significant,” Ashley said. “It's just a testament to the group we have. We have our work cut out for us tomorrow, but for tonight, we're going to enjoy this one.
“It comes down to the work we put in during the off-season. We knew the competition was going to step up. The guys did what they needed to do, found ways to improve, ways to get better. That consistency was really the result of the work that was put in the off-season.”
Schumacher advanced to his first final this season and 157th in his career thanks to victories over Shawn Langdon and Mike Salinas.
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BRSTOL, Tenn. -- Final round-by-round results from the 10th annual NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway, the seventh of 21 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:
ROUND ONE -- Steve Torrence, 3.753, 329.10 def. Austin Prock, 3.787, 326.08; Antron Brown, 12.919, 78.93 was unopposed; Brittany Force, 3.747, 334.48 def. Josh Hart, 4.201, 202.85; Tony Schumacher, 3.797, 323.58 def. Shawn Langdon, 3.846, 316.82; Leah Pruett, 3.745, 322.42 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.764, 319.22; Justin Ashley, 3.755, 327.74 def. Dan Mercier, 3.768, 317.72; Mike Salinas, 3.762, 327.35 def. Clay Millican, 3.888, 271.79;
QUARTERFINALS -- Ashley, 4.097, 255.92 def. Force, 4.322, 274.05; Torrence, 3.897, 321.81 def. Brown, 4.442, 197.65; Schumacher, 4.487, 178.50 was unopposed; Salinas, 3.848, 322.58 def. Pruett, 3.894, 298.47;
SEMIFINALS -- Ashley, 3.892, 319.29 def. Torrence, 3.915, 311.13; Schumacher, 3.945, 310.20 def. Salinas, 4.140, no speed;
FINAL -- Ashley, 3.846, 324.12 def. Schumacher, 3.835, 323.66.
ROUND ONE -- Alex Laughlin, Dodge Charger, 4.182, 302.08 def. Blake Alexander, Ford Mustang, Broke - No Show; J.R. Todd, Toyota Supra, 4.025, 325.53 def. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 5.480, 129.84; John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.063, 324.36 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.004, 318.99; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.938, 321.35 def. Alexis DeJoria, Supra, 3.999, 322.88; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.972, 329.26 def. Ron Capps, Supra, 3.962, 318.92; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.051, 308.50 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 9.974, 73.00; Chad Green, Mustang, 3.969, 322.50 def. Jim Campbell, Chevy Monte Carlo, Broke - No Show;
QUARTERFINALS -- Tasca III, 4.418, 267.69 def. Hight, Foul - Centerline; Green, 4.081, 309.84 was unopposed; Todd, 4.117, 314.90 def. Hagan, 4.608, 193.16; Force, 4.090, 318.54 def. Laughlin, 5.204, 153.06;
SEMIFINALS -- Tasca III, 4.062, 315.64 def. Green, 4.259, 282.90; Force, 4.105, 319.07 def. Todd, 4.098, 319.90;
FINAL -- Tasca III, 4.032, 322.96 def. Force, 4.085, 320.51.