It's raceday at the NHRA Midwest Nationals in St. Louis we’re expecting another capacity crowd at World Wide Technology Raceway as the Countdown to the Championship kicked into high gear. Mike Salinas, Matt Hagan, and Greg Anderson are the leaders in Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock. Here's what you need to know.
Nobody can clinch a Camping World NHRA Series championship on Sunday at the NHRA Midwest Nationals but one misstep could spell the end of the road for several contending drivers. That’s what happens when the NHRA playoff enters the third of seven races at World Wide Technology Raceway this weekend.
Brittany Force, the leader in Top Fuel, came into St. Louis riding a streak of eight-straight low qualifiers. That streak ended this weekend when Mike Salinas dropped a bomb on the field Friday night with a 3.652, one of the quickest Top Fuel runs of all time. Force didn’t go down without a fight as she made the quickest run of Saturday’s two sessions with a 3.663 that was good for the No. 2 seed.
Salinas will kick off eliminations with a race against Kyle Wurtzel, who can’t be taken lightly after running a 3.809 to anchor the quick field. Force will also have a tough draw when she brings her Monster Energy dragster to the starting line to take on TJ Zizzo, who qualified his Rust-Oleum entry with a 3.798.
Reigning world champ Steve Torrence landed in the No. 3 spot after wheeling his Capco Contractors dragster to a 3.697. He’s also got a tough draw in fellow world champ Shawn Langdon. Perhaps the most anticipated battle of the opening round will feature a pair of young guns as Charlotte winner Josh Hart takes on Rookie of the Year Justin Ashley in a race that pairs two of the class’ best starting line drivers.
Matt Hagan stole the top spot in Funny Car qualifying from teammate Ron Capps late Saturday in a thrilling side-by-side 3.868 to 3.876 battle and as a reward, the three-time world champion gets a bye run in the first round. Capps, the incoming points leader, can also take on a few additional points but he’ll have to get past rookie Chris King to do so.
The way the Funny Car ladder shapes up, at least two of the championship hopefuls will inevitably take a round one loss as John Force races his teammate Robert Hight in round one and Tim Wilkerson faces a tough challenge in the DHL Toyota of J.R. Todd.
Another driver who made a strong impression this week is second-generation racer Bobby Bode who qualified the family’s Arbee entry with a career-best 3.891. The 19-year old college student also ran a competitive 3.92 on Saturday so he must be considered a threat to win rounds on race day. Bode’s day will begin with a race against No. 14 qualifier Terry Haddock.
In Pro Stock, all eyes are on Greg Anderson as he chases history in the form of a record breaking 98th victory. With a win, Anderson will break the existing tie with Hall of Famer Warren Johnson for the class lead. Anderson is also attempting to win a fifth championship and so far, he’s been right on the mark with the quickest run of all three qualifying rounds including a 6.519 to seal the pole position.
The Pro Stock class also features incredibly close competition with the entire field separated by just a tenth of a second. Anderson will begin his day with a battle against Fernando Cuadra Sr.
Anderson’s biggest rival is four-time champion Erica Enders, who has also happened to win the last two St. Louis races. Enders qualified No. 5 with a 6.545 and will race returning champ Bo Butner in round one. Butner is making his first appearance of the season in a Pro Stock car and he’s driving a Camaro for the Elite team in advance of his return to full time competiton next season.
Last week’s Charlotte winner, Kyle Koretsky, qualified No. 2 in his Lucas Oil/Nitro Fish Camaro and he’s slated to race Marty Robertson in round one. Koretsky came into the St. Louis event as the third-ranked driver in Pro Stock and can make a charge at the championship, but he’s going to need to continue to win rounds in order to catch Anderson or Enders.
Aaron Stanfield qualified No. 4 in Pro Stock so he’s clearly a contender for a win in that class. The multi-faceted driver can also wrap up the championship in the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown, where he’s the runaway points leader.
You can catch the action all weekend on FOX Sports 1 and NHRA.tv.
You can follow NHRA on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to get a closer look at the action.
Final eliminations are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. CT on Sunday, Sept. 26.
TELEVISION SCHEDULE: (All times Eastern)
Qualifying: Sunday, Sept. 26 (1-2 p.m.) FS1
Finals: Sunday, Sept. 26 (2-5 p.m.) FS1