Mike Salinas, John Force, and Steve Johnson grab wins in Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock Motorcycle, respectively at the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway.
Salinas, winner earlier this year in Phoenix, notched his second win of the season and his first for new sponsor Pep Boys. Salinas, who won the 2019 Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas, got the win ahead of upstart Cameron Ferre with his second straight 3.708-second pass to Ferre’s 3.924. Josh Hart and Spencer Massey both smoked the tires and finished third and fourth, respectively. With the win, Salinas jumped to second in points.
Salinas’ weekend started off on a sour note after the clutch pedal broke while backing up from his burnout on the first qualifying pass, costing him a run. He finished second behind Doug Kalitta in their first-round quad and ahead of Ferre, Kalitta, and Justin Ashley in the semifinals.
"We have a very, very consistent car," he said. "The first qualifying run, when we broke the clutch pedal, we were one run behind everybody else, but we have data similar to this track. The consistency of the car, the crew, everybody on the team. It's amazing. Rob Flynn is an amazing crew chief. All the runs we did, were in the 70s.
"We worked so hard to get here. Most people don't understand; this stuff is hard. We're racing the best guys in the world. But if you believe you belong here, do the right things to stay here, you're going to be here, and you're going to win."
Ferre, driving for the Canada-based Paton racing team, was the ultimate underdog but used second-place finishes behind Ashley and Salinas to reach his first career Top Fuel final round. Hart had finished second behind Clay Millican in round one and first ahead of Massey in the semifinals, Massey had advanced to the semifinals on a double-holeshot win over Brittany Force and points leader Brittany Force in round one.
Force, the defending event champ, made it two Charlotte Four-Wide Funny Car wins in a row for the 16-time champ, who went wire to wire from the No. 1 qualifying spot with his Danny Hood- and Tim Fabrisi-tuned Peak/BlueDef Camaro for career win No. 155 and his first of the season, but it took a frantic pre-final-round engine swap to make it all happen, then Force had the best reaction time of all the finalists,
"We were sitting in the pits, and I told Danny I said, 'Somebody fire me up, I don't have any energy. I'm gonna go out there and get Tree'd; they're going to kill me.' And he goes, 'Switch motors.' What are you talking about? And all of a sudden, they start ripping it apart, and it's like, no, it's time to go up. You're gonna do this in 10 minutes? And whatever time they took, they made it and it was amazing. But my energy went straight to the top. Sometimes it's hard to find that moment that you need, when you really need that fire in your belly, but I found it."
The Funny Car final featured three world champions and past Four-Wide Nationals winners in Force, Robert Hight, Ron Capps and journeyman Mike McIntire Jr., with less than 20 event starts under his safety belts. Force got the win with 3.914 ahead of Hight’s 4.038 and Capps’ 4.253. McIntire smoked the tires and finished fourth.
Force won his first-round quad ahead of Bob Tasca III and finished second behind Hight in the semifinals. Hight also won his first-round quad in front of Cruz Pedregon. Capps’ new NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra finished second beyond Toyota teammate J.R. Todd in round one then edged McIntire to win their semifinal quad.
McIntire, who got his first round “win” at last year’s Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals with a second-place finish in his first-round quad, was the sweetheart of the crowd as he added two more round wins this weekend, finishing second behind Matt Hagan in round one and second behind Capps in the semifinals.
Johnson has not always had the most consistent motorcycle in the class, but he was strong when he needed to be, specifically in the second round where he uncorked a 6.712, the quickest run of Sunday’s final eliminations to hold off a quad that included Stoffer, Jimmy Underdahl, and Angie Smith.
Johnson was also strong in the opening quad, where he stopped Angie Smith, Hector Arana Jr., and Ron Tornow. For Johnson, the win was the 13th of his long career in 29 final round appearances. With the win, Johnson moved into the lead in the Camping World Pro Stock Motorcycle standings.
Johnson has always been known more for his colorful persona than his on-track performances and even though he’s got arguably the quickest bike in the class, much of that hasn’t changed. Following the win, Jonson delivered a rambling diatribe that often veered off course.
“What happened to glitter girl?” said Johnson, an obvious swipe at low qualifier Angelle Sampey. “Did she break? Her bike was a rocket ship.
“I wish NHRA would show how hard it is to be perfect in this class. It’s so hard drove drive a bike that goes 6.7 seconds. It’s so hard. You have to have strength. When the front end is in the air you have to steer with your feet.
“And then there’s Angie [Smith] bless her heart. She’s out here on a Buell and that’s tough. At least until Matt [Smith] brings out his Buell and we’ll all get crushed again. Matt and I don’t get along. It’s okay. That might be the only real rivalry we have in our sport right now. I don’t hate anyone. I just say what I feel.”
Stoffer also made it to her 29th final thanks to consistent runs of 6.793 and 6.810 on her Big St. Charles/Skillman Auto Group Suzuki.