Kalitta, Tasca III, Anderson, Herrera Post betway NHRA Carolina Nationals Wins

Kalitta, Tasca III, Anderson, Herrera celebrate their wins - NHRA photo
Kalitta, Tasca III, Anderson, Herrera celebrate their wins at zMAX Dragway – NHRA photo

It took almost three years for Doug Kalitta to join the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series’ exclusive 50-win club. Kalitta Motorsports’ Top Fuel standout did just that last Monday at Maple Grove Raceway, ending a drought that hung over his head like some thunder cloud.

Less than a week later, Kalitta earned his 51st victory in the team’s open cockpit dragster while his canopy machine is repaired from a tire issue that occurred during qualifying at last week’s initial Countdown to the Championship playoffs contest in Reading, PA.

This time, in the 15th annual betway NHRA Carolina Nationals, he vanquished Mike Salinas at Charlotte, North Carolina’s zMAX Dragway. Salinas, the No. 1 qualifier, set the first ever 300mph run at the eighth-mile in drag racing history on Saturday night, driving his self-entered machine tuned by Canadian ace Rob Flynn. Sunday’s final round between these two racers was a classic one on a mild Sunday afternoon, as Salinas had the advantage at the hit but Kalitta chased him down for a run of 3.696 seconds at 333.49 mph to Salinas’ 3.718/328.46 on the 1,000-foot track. The margin of victory was about six feet, or .0118 seconds.

Kalitta was the No. 1 qualifier on Friday night but dropped to third after Salinas set his amazing lap of 3.647 seconds at a flat 338 mph Saturday night, with that 300.80-mph run to the eighth-mile pole that earned Salinas a special $30,000 bonus from Phillips Connect, one that company announced a year ago! There will only be ten members of the “300-at-the-1/8” Club and Salinas is the first to claim the milestone.

Mike Salinas set the 300mph in the 18-mile record Saturday night – NHRA photo

Kalitta posted wins against four-time champ Steve Torrence, teammate Shawn Langdon and Tony Stewart Racing’s Leah Pruett to set up this marquee matchup. The Round 1 victory against Torrence put Kalitta in the leader’s perch and gave him a Countdown advantage of 63 points against Torrence and 68 over Justin Ashley, after both drivers failed to advance after the first round of competition. With her semifinal result Pruett is fourth, followed by Antron Brown, Brittany Force, Salinas, Austin Prock, Langdon and Tony Schumacher. There’s a 195-point gap between first and tenth in Top Fuel, with four more races to run.

“It’s incredible, really,” Kalitta rejoiced after earning his second win in less than seven days, using a spare car after the tire issue. “Just can’t say enough about [co-crew chiefs] Alan Johnson and Brian Husen and this whole team. It’s hard to believe. The sun was out today, but a lot of what my car’s been doing was with low temperatures (in Reading) so it was nice – that thing was going down the track with 3.74s today, and then we obviously had to tune it up for the finals. Mike was right there, so it was a really close race; it was good to beat him because he knocked us out of the No. 1 qualifier, so it was a good day for all my guys!”

Kalitta lights it up to win his 51st national event race – NHRA photo

Bob Tasca III, too, had a wonderful Sunday run that elevated him in the Funny Car standings. After turning his career-best run of 3.836 seconds to qualify No. 3 behind Robert Hight’s John Force Racing Camaro SS and Matt Hagan’s Tony Stewart Racing Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, Tasca and his Ford Mustang defeated the Toyota GR Supra of Alexis DeJoria, had an easy run past a fouling Terry Haddock, put Hagan back o the trailer with a very tight semifinal race and, finally took out No. 1 qualifier Hight with his superior reaction time of .050 to Hight’s .091, gaining a hole shot victory at 3.933/329.26 to his opponent’s 3.932/326.95 pass on the 1,000-foot drag strip.

Capturing his third win of the 2023 Camping World season, “It was a big win for our program,” the Rhode Island native said. “Every person on our team, crew chiefs included, thrashed to swap the engines,” before the final round. “For me, that is the most gut-wrenching part of racing. There is nothing I can do. I’m at home, when I’m in that car and the stage bulb is on, because I know I have a shot at it. So this win is dedicated to the team. We’ve really come together as a team, probably more so than at any point in my career, and the car really sees it. I’m so impressed with the car they’ve given me!”

Bob Tasca III took his 15th national win and third of the 2023 season – NHRA photo

After posting his 15th career Funny Car victory, Tasca moved to second in the points chase, with four races remaining. He was helped a bunch by reigning titleholder Ron Capps’ departure in the first round when journeyman Dave Richards ran a respectable 4.176-second lap to Capps’ tire-smoking 4.729 pass, denying last year’s betway NHRA Carolina Nationals winner a repeat victory, as well as a slide from first to third in the standings. Sunday’s results leave Hight with a 25-point lead over Tasca, with Capps and former teammate Hagan tied for third, 69 points back. Chad Green and his Mustang hold onto fifth, followed by DeJoria, Tim Wilkerson (Mustang), J.R. Todd’s Toyota GR Supra from Kalitta Motorsports, John Force’s Camaro and Alex Laughlin, who won his first round matchup on Sunday against Force, firmly in the tenth position but 207 points behind Hight.

The last time – before this past Sunday – that Greg Anderson stood in the Winner’s Circle was last year; to say it’s been a silent season for the five-time champ and boss man at KB Titan Racing is putting it mildly. Taking his 102nd career national event win in Charlotte, the home of his sponsor, HendrickCars.com, made the win in his Chevy Camaro that much more special. To get to the final round and defeat teammate Dallas Glenn with a run of 6.554 at 209.23 (Glenn posted 6.590/206.73) in the quarter-mile, Anderson outran three Elite Motorsports racers: rookie Jerry Tucker, Cristian Cuadra’s Mustang and reigning five-time world champion Erica Enders.

“That was incredible,” Anderson said. “It was my day and I haven’t really had that many ‘my days’ this year. It’s definitely sweet to do it here at Charlotte, my home track, with all my family, my friends, all the support, the Hendrick group. It’s just perfect, absolutely perfect,” he gushed. “I had a couple of storybook wins last year and this one is right up there. It’s been a long year for me, but my team has been doing a great job all year long and I”m very proud of that!”

Greg Anderson exults after earning his 102nd Pro Stock win – NHRA photo

This victory vaulted Anderson from eighth in the standings all the way to fourth place. Teammate Matt Hartford, out in the second round courtesy of Enders, continues to lead the standings with Enders four points behind him, while Glenn holds onto third place, 11 behind Enders and 15 behind Hartford. Anderson’s win has him only 61 points back with Elite’s Troy Coughlin Jr. in fifth, followed by his teammate Aaron Stanfield, KB Titan’s Deric Kramer, Kyle Koretsky and Camrie Caruso, with Elite’s Cristian Cuadrra in 10th place, 146 points behind the leader.

“We outran everybody and did a better job racing than everybody did,” Anderson explained. “We’re peaking at the right time, without a doubt. It’s going to be an exciting Countdown. I’m sure today scrambled the points up quite a bit, and it put a lot of people right back in the hunt, myself being one of them!”

This past weekend’s betway NHRA Carolina Nationals marked the 500th race for Pro Stock Motorcycle and the results showed why Gaige Herrera , riding his Vance & Hines Suzuki Hayabusa3, is running towards a possible first championship after entering the class a bit more than a year ago during the Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals. Taking the No. 1 qualifier and marching through the field like the soldier he is, Herrera’s final round had a familiar ring to it, when his competitor, Hector Arana Jr. once again fouled at the start line on his Buell, handing Herrera his seventh victory of the season and allowing him to retake the points lead from six-time champ Matt Smith’s Suzuki, defeated in the quarterfinals.

There were plenty of fouls in the two-wheeled class during Sunday’s eliminations, including Chris Bostick’s first-round red light on his Suzuki against Angie Smith’s Buell. Matt Smith Racing’s Chip Ellis, riding a Buell, defeated a fouling White Alligator Racing’s (WAR) John Hall and his Suzuki in the first round, while Ron Tornow’s Buell broke on the start line against Herrera’s Suzuki Hayabusa3 V&H teammate Eddie Krawiec. Returning to competition after a season-long layoff, former champ Jerry Savoie of WAR, too, fouled in the first round against Herrera, while Ellis went out in the quarters against rookie Chase Van Sant in the third WAR Suzuki. Van Sant would foul in the semifinals against Herrera, leading up to the final where Arana Jr. too fouled out!

Is he a zen-master? Gaige Herrera looks poised for action – Anne Proffit photo

All of this meant another spectacular weekend for Gaige Herrera, who retook the points lead and has a 52-point advantage on Smith. “It was a good Sunday’ I’m glad my bike was consistent again today,” Herrera said. “It came off the trailer running strong and I’m glad we came home with the win. I’m happy with that. This is definitely one of my favorite tracks,” he revealed. Herrera credited crew chief Andrew Hines and his team for the victory. “They don’t quit,” he said. “I”m with one of the best teams with Vance & Hines. It was pretty cool, racing Matt second round. The ladder couldn’t have worked out any better for me today: I regained the points lead and definitely have a lot of momentum going into St. Louis.”

Despite posting the final foul of the day, Arana Jr. is third in the points tally, followed by Krawiec, Angie Smith’s Buell, Van Sant, Jianna Evaristo and Steve Johnson’s Suzuki motorcycles, Marc Ingwsersen’s Buell and the Suzuki of Kelly Clontz, which is 220 points behind the leader.

In other classes, Tony Stewart’s Top Alcohol Dragster was disqualifie from competition due to a parts infraction, allowing Julie Nataas to take the win over Earl Nichols Jr. In the new Factory X class, Greg Stanfield’s Camaro earned the driver his second win in two races over the Dodge Challenger of former Pro Stock standout Allen Johnson.

The third consecutive weekend of Countdown to the Championship racing takes place at World Wide Technology Raceway outside St. Louis MO this coming weekend, September 29 through October 1, with the NHRA Midwest Nationals.

About Anne Proffit 1264 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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