Top Fuel standout Mike Salinas closed Friday at Heartland Motorsports Park with the best race of the night, placing provisional No. 1 at the 33rd Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor.
Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Joey Gladstone (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also the No. 1 provisional qualifiers at Race 14 of 22 in the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
Racing alongside points leader Brittany Force in the final race of the evening, it was Salinas who put in the best performance of the first qualifying lap, delivering a solid 3.754-second pass at 323.19 mph in his dragster Pep Boys. If it holds, it would give Salinas, who has four wins this season, his third No. 1 qualifier in 2022 and 11th of his career. He led the points for a two-race streak earlier this summer before Force regained the lead, and the veteran is trying to close the gap again this weekend in Topeka.
“The way we do it, we take it one lap at a time and we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves,” Salinas said. “There are a lot of races ahead of us and a lot of great teams. You can just see the cars getting closer and closer. Tomorrow is going to be great. Our cars love the heat and we are preparing for Sunday. It’s going to be a dogfight and it’s anyone’s race there. All Top Fuel cars are so close here.
Justin Ashley, who has won two victories this season, is second with 3.765 seconds at 320.43 mph and Josh Hart is third after clocking 3.766 seconds at 310.41 mph. Strength is currently sixth.
In a thrilling round of Funny Car on Friday, Tasca edged out the John Force Racing tandem of Robert Hight and John Force with an impressive 3.930 to 323.81 mph run in his BG Products Ford Mustang to take the provisional top spot. After advancing to back-to-back final rounds on the Western Swing, winning in Sonoma, Tasca qualified No. 1 in Seattle and will now seek his second straight finish and ninth of his career. Tasca has bolstered his championship resume in recent weeks and started his weekend in Topeka strong as he seeks his first career win at Heartland Motorsports Park.
“It’s nice to start from first place,” said Tasca. “It’s big because it’s going to be hot. Look at how competitive the class is. It shows you how difficult it is here.
Hight, the current points leader and six-time winner in 2022, is hot on the heels of Tasca with a 3.931s at 323.81mph and Force, the defending event winner, is third after his 3.932s run at 312.71 mph.
Anderson put himself in position to qualify No. 1 for the second race in a row, topping the Pro Stock field at the House of Speed in Topeka on Friday with a run of 6.623 seconds at 205.44 mph in his Chevrolet Camaro HendrickCars.com. It would also be the reigning world champion’s 120th career finish, but the veteran is pursuing a bigger goal at the moment and it’s his 100th win. He’s been running noticeably better lately, qualifying at No. 1 in Seattle and advancing to the final round in Sonoma, and the five-time world champion will be hoping to finish the job this weekend and claim his first win of the year.
“I need [a win] wrong. It’s been a long year so far and we haven’t performed like we should have,” Anderson said. “But the last three races we’ve won every race and we’re just in time for the playoffs. We come in and we are definitely a threat to win again. This 100th victory is still close and I am convinced that we will get it. We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing and we’re knocking on the door.
Troy Coughlin Jr., who earned his first career Pro Stock victory at the last race in Seattle, is second with his 6.632 at 208.04 mph, while teammate and points leader Erica Enders is close behind with a 6.632 identical to a slightly slower 207.62 mph.
A race after claiming his first career Pro Stock Motorcycle win, Gladstone is now on course to clinch his first career No. 1 qualifier in the class thanks to a stellar run of 6.831s at 195.08 mph on his Suzuki Hayabusa J&A Service. This race gave Gladstone a significant advantage over the rest of the field, including points leader Angelle Sampey, who clocked 6.882 seconds at 195.14 mph in the pairing with Gladstone. Beyond that, no other runner reached the 6.80, as Gladstone put on an impressive display on Friday. It’s his first appearance at Heartland Motorsports Park in Pro Stock Motorcycle – and the first in the class since 1997 – and Gladstone showed no letting up after his win at Sonoma.
“The racing was really good, and it’s a new track for most people in the class,” Gladstone said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was good to put a [good] number down. We did a team call and it worked, and it feels good. [The win] proved to me that I could do it, but now it makes you nervous to be up in the points. This whole setup is so cool and it’s awesome. It’s a unique place and I really like it so far.”
Sampey, who won the race at Topeka in 1997, is currently in second place, while his Vance & Hines teammate Eddie Krawiec is one spot behind after his 6.929 run at 195.99 mph.
Qualifying continues at 2:00 p.m. CT Saturday at the Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park.