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Mike Salinas leads Top Fuel pack; Wilk, Butner, Arana also hold top spots in Las Vegas

Mike Salinas hunts his second No. 1 qualifier at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) lead their fields.
05 Apr 2019
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage
Mike Salinas

Mike Salinas leads Top Fuel with a blast of 3.705, further solidifying his spot as a contender in the field. The Alan Johnson-tuned Scrappers Racing Dragster made a strong move early and sped to a top speed of 328.46 mph.

Tim Wilkerson hopes to snatch his first No. 1 qualifier since the 2017 Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals in Bristol. His time of 3.895 at 323.50 mph leads a stacked field at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. Bo Butner and Hector Arana Jr. topped Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle on Friday. 

TOP FUEL LOW QUALIFIER MIKE SALINAS: “Alan [Johnson] and Brian [Husen, crew chiefs] and all of the guys have been preparing for the race, watching the weather and had a pretty good handle on it after falling on our face in Phoenix and Gainesville. We don’t want that to happen again. They field-stripped the car four times and found our problem.

“Me and my family are out here for one reason, and that’s to be No. 1. Second is not best for us. Our whole lives we’ve been No. 1 and we just try to better our personal best.  I actually thought that 3.70 should have been a .68 or a .69 because I know what Alan and those guys are capable of.”

FUNNY CAR LOW QUALIFIER TIM WILKERSON: “I’ve been real critical of the track prep this year and I just want to say how good of a job they’ve done here. Good job to all those guys; with 110-degree racetrack and to go that fast, that’s a good job.

“On our first pass [a 4.065 in Q1] I just decided to tune it to just go down there and it was just a duck; it was so slow it was unbelievable. We went back to the pits and saw what we did wrong and tuned it up. I thought it would go .90-flat, so I’m pretty proud of that. I don’t think that will stay [as No. 1 qualifier]; I’m pretty sure someone else will go quicker tomorrow, maybe even me.”

PRO STOCK NO. 1 QUALIFIER BO BUTNER: We've pretty much always had the success it's just a matter of it being our turn to find it. I'm really happy with our team and our car and I just think it's time to go racing. 


How does it change your approach when you're racing two cars in one weekend?

It's funny you can always tell yourself that if you mess up in Super Stock that you still have your Pro Stock car to redeem yourself. I would run five classes if NHRA to be honest with you, I just love to keep busy and hate having all that downtime. 

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE NO. 1 QUALIFIER HECTOR ARANA JR.: I like racing four wide because it's a challenge and it makes you really focus on the tree. I find that helps me get into a good rhythm and because of that, I think I had a .023 reaction time in my last run, and if I can do that every run I'm going to be in really good shape. 

We have really great notes from last year and we put that same setup in the bike and tweaked the clutch setup a little bit because of the added weight and had a 1.04 60 foot which got us to the No. 1 spot. 

We just have a better setup for this dryer, cooler air. I know we should be flying in places like Gainesville, but we just have a better combination for places like this. 

TOP FUEL

Q1 recap: Brittany Force snagged the provisional Top Fuel pole with her Advanced Auto Parts dragster, racing to a 3.773 to edge out Mike Salinas’ 3.736 for the top spot.

Five drivers found the 3.7-second zone on their opening passes, with Leah Pritchett’s 3.775 just ahead of defending event champ Steve Torrence’s 3.779.

Points leader Doug Kalitta had one of the few cars not to make it down the all-concrete strip, but he’ll have three more chances to improve.

Q2 recap:  Mike Salinas’ new association with Brian Husen and Alan Johnson is already showing dividends as the Scrappers Racing pilot raced to the No. 1 spot halfway through qualifying.

Salinas, whose first and only other No. 1 berth came at last year’s Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, improved on his first-session 3.77 with a 3.705 to take over the qualifying lead. Defending event champ Steve Torrence sits in the No. 2 spot with a 3.721 while first-session leader Brittany Force fell to third after failing to make a full pass.

Leah Pritchett, who sits second in Top Fuel points behind Doug Kalitta, also continued to look good, backing up her first-session 3.775 with a 3.743.

FUNNY CAR

Q1 recap:  Nine Funny Cars ran in the threes to kick off qualifying with reigning world champ and defending event titlist J.R. Todd and the DHL Toyota leading the way with a 3.919.

Las Vegas fans saw side-by-side-by-side three-second runs in three of the four quads, including second-quickest Bob Tasca III (3.928) next to Todd. Cruz Pedregon, who has been battling the flu the last two days, debuted his new Snap-On Dodge, dubbed “The Raider,” in fine fashion with a 3.950 to grab the first session’s final bonus point.

Q2 recap: Tim Wilkerson is halfway to what would be his 20th career No. 1 qualifying berth after powering his Levi Ray & Shoup Shelby to a 3.895 in the second qualifying session.

Ron Capps was just a few ticks behind Wilkerson with a 3.897 with h is second straight three-second pass. First-session leader J,R. Todd slipped to third after smoking the tires while Matt Hagan also found the threes with a 3.924 for the No. 4 spot and the 11th driver to make a three-second pass.

PRO STOCK

Q1 recap: Phoenix winner Jeg Coughlin Jr. snagged three points by going low in the first Pro Stock qualifying session with a 6.665. Teammate Rodger Brogdon ran the same elapsed time, but Coughlin was faster (206.48 mph) to top the sheet. 

The top four qualifiers all hail from Elite Motorsports: Coughlin, Brogdon, Alex Laughlin (6.67) and Erica Enders (6.676). Enders didn't beat K.B. Racing teammate Deric Kramer and Bo Butner by much -- just .001 second. That's how tight the top six in Pro Stock is. 

The field gaps from there, as a handful of racers failed to make it down the track under power. That includes multi-time world champion Greg Anderson. The veteran racer continues to struggle to get down the track, while Chris McGaha also threw an 11-second pass on the board. 

Alan Prusiesnky is on the bottom of the field with a 25-second pass, but with five cars still yet to make it down the track, there's plenty of room to move up the sheet. 

Q2 recap: Bo Butner stormed to the top of the qualifying sheet, ending the Elite Motorsports parade with a 6.648 elapsed time. That bettered the next-quickest pass by nearly two-hundredths of a second. 

Nobody from the Elite camp had an answer in the second session, as Rodger Brogdon left before the tree activated, Jeg Coughlin Jr. slowed, and Alex Laughlin did the same. Matt Hartford moved up to the No. 5 position with a 6.675 but collided with Alan Prusiensky's car at the top end of the race track while trying to make the turn off. 

That wasn't all the drama from the second qualifying session. Chris McGaha performed his burnout when flames burst from beneath his Camaro. He quickly stopped the car and got out of the vehicle while the Safety Safari extinguished the fire. He wasn't sure what caused the fire at the time of the burnout. 

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

Q1 recap: Matt Smith backed up his words with a 6.929-second blast, but a Suzuki followed  him by .02 second in the first round of qualifying of Pro Stock Motorcycle. A war of words broke out online following NHRA's decision to add 15 pounds to the EBR, Buell and Harley-Davidson bodied motorcycles and Smith was right in the center of it. 

On the other side? Just about every Suzuki rider. Count current No. 2 rider Karen Stoffer among them. She hit a 6.949, just in front of Harley-Davidson rider Eddie Krawiec (6.954) and EBR rider Hector Arana Jr. The other party in the big debate was Steve Johnson, and the longtime racer is qualified fifth with a 6.984. 

That will make the rest of the session very exciting -- and not just because we're racing four bikes at the same time. Rookie Jianna Salinas is currently in the field with a 7.434, but that's in part because Joey Gladstone, Hector Arana Sr. and Ryan Oehler all failed to get down the track successfully. Expect them to improve in the second session. 

Q2 recap: Hector Arana Jr. will go to bed as the No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock Motorcycle. The rider of the Lucas Oil EBR ran the only 6.80 of the day (a 6.884 to be exact), and that's enough to get him a step ahead of the competition. 

The competition? That starts with defending champion Matt Smith, who bettered his time from the first qualifying session with a 6.911. That means he only moved back to the No. 2 spot, just ahead of the Harley-Davidson riders. Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines moved to third and fourth (6.919 and 6.947), while Karen Stoffer rounds out the top five. 

Ryan Oehler made a big move with a new motor in his EBR-bodied machine. He threw the rods out of his engine in the first qualifying session, but bounced back in Q2 by running a 6.98. That took him from the outside of the field to the No. 6 spot. The bump belongs to rookie Jianna Salinas, who ran a 7.097.