Mike Salinas, Ron Capps, and Greg Anderson grab early leads after an exciting day of professional qualifying at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Salinas wowed the crowed in St. Louis with a 3.652 in his Scrappers dragster to take the provisional pole in Top Fuel. Salinas holds a sizable lead over the field as reigning world champion Steve Torrence is second with a 3.702.
“We’ve been working on this all year that’s the first sign of it,” said Salinas. “We finally have stuff coming our way. The numbers were really good to 330’ and I think we’re hitting at the right time.
“The speed was down a little because I actually lifted before the finish line. It should have run a little better than it did but it was spinning the tires a bit. We hold ourselves to a higher standard. When [team consultant] Alan Johnson does what he does, I expect more.”
Salinas has been the top qualifier six times in his career, but none this season. His best qualifying performance came in Epping, where he started from the No. 2 spot and reached the final round.
Torrence put himself in a solid position to re-take the points lead while his father, Billy, is also qualified well after a 3.717 in his Capco Contractors dragster.
Brittany Force, who is riding a string of eight-straight low qualifier awards, struck the tires in her Monster Energy dragster, putting her streak in jeopardy.
One of the most surprising runs of the session came from Tripp Tatum, who recorded a career-best 3.745.
Incoming points leader Ron Capps added three markers to his score on Friday with a 3.888, 332.59 to open Funny Car qualifying at the NHRA Midwest Nationals. Capps ran alongside teammate and points rival Matt Hagan in the final pair of Funny Cars and the two world champions put on a show with side-by-side 3.8s at over 332-mph. Hagan, wearing the colors of New Holland Dodge on his Charger SRT, was just a thousandth of a second slower at 3.889.
“Matt and I had the two best seats in house,” said Capps. “Funny car is so fun for the fans right now. For the drivers and crews, it’s like old school Pro Stock where the championship will come down to the wire.
“My goal was to get in shallow [staging], and that ended up being the difference. Guido [Dean Antonelli, crew chief] and [John] Medlen have been fighting clutch disc problems but they’re figured it out.
“I could give you all kinds of great examples of losing a championship by a few points. Several years I was No. 2 by less than ten points. When you lose by less than a round in Pomona everything comes crashing down. You start thinking about what you could have done differently.”
Capps and Hagan can often be found at the top of the qualifying charts but the provisional No. 3 qualifier is a bit of a surprise. Second-generation racer Bobby Bode kicked off the Funny Car session with a 3.891 in the Family’s Arbee entry, the quickest run of his brief career.
The top eight Funny Cars are solidly in the three second zone including last week’s winner, Tim Wilkerson, who closed in with a 3.905 and Bob Tasca III, who was close behind at 3.907.
At a time in the season when every point is critical, Greg Anderson banked three qualifying bonus points after wheeling his HendrickCars.com Camaro to the provisional pole in Pro Stock during Friday’s lone qualifying run in St. Louis.
The gasoline-burning Factory Hot Rods took full advantage of the sunny but cool fall weather in St. Louis to produce a quick and very tight field that is currently led by Anderson’s 6.536.
“Every point is important and I’m sure this thing is going to go down to Pomona,” said Anderson. “Three points; we got what we could get today but the weather is going to be even better tomorrow and the cars are going to pick up so the pole isn’t safe.
Anderson came into the St. Louis event with a respectable, but not insurmountable 65 point lead in the standings in his quest for a fifth Camping World NHRA Pro Stock championship. After career win No. 97, he’s also tied with Warren Johnson for the all-time lead in Pro Stock. Anderson has the opportunity to break the record at the same track where Warren Johnson won his final event in 2010.
“I should be worried about the championship but how can you not think about the record,” Anderson said. “Fortunately, it all works together. If you win the race, you get the most points so that gets you closer to the championship.
The incoming points leader has plenty of company at the top of the chart including his own teammate, Kyle Koretsky, who followed up last week’s groundbreaking win in Charlotte with a very competitive 6.538 in his Lucas Oil Products/Nitro Fish Camaro.
Reigning world champ Erica Enders also picked up a bonus point with her Melling/Elite Camaro after a 6.545, that holds up for the third spot. Enders has won the last two St. Louis events in 2019-20.
Pro Stock fields are historically close and this one is no different, even after just one run. The spread between No. 1 and No. 16 is just a tenth of a second, and it figures to get progressively smaller following tomorrow’s two remaining qualifying sessions.