The field of contenders for the 2017 Auto Club Road to the Future Award got a little bigger in Seattle, where Top Fuel runner Mike Salinas entered his fifth event of the season, making him eligible for the award that recognizes the top rookie in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Salinas and four of the other contenders -- fellow Top Fuel pilots Troy Coughlin Jr. and Shawn Reed, Funny Car's Jonnie Lindberg, and Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Joey Gladstone -- face an uphill battle in the contest because Pro Stock rookie sensation Tanner Gray has had a strong 2017 campaign that includes three wins and clinching a spot in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
In Seattle, Gray just added to his favorite status when he qualified No. 1 in the Pro Stock field, his second top start this year, and tallied two more round-wins to bring his season total to 30. Salinas was the only other rookie competitor to advance out of the first round, doing so when he defeated former Top Fuel world champ Shawn Langdon on a holeshot. Coughlin, Reed, and Lindberg all exited in round one. The Pro Stock Motorcycle class, which has completed eight of 16 events on the season, was not in competition at the NHRA Northwest Nationals.
Following are the season-to-date stats for all six Auto Club Road to the Future Award candidates.
|Best qualifying position||5||9||11||4||1||3|
|*Does not include NHRA Four-Wide Nationals|