Justin Ashley, Ron Capps, Deric Kramer, and Angie Smith each collected Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge victories during Saturday qualifying at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park.
The high-intensity Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge ramps up excitement during qualifying at select regular-season races in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. The challenge pits the semifinalists from the previous race against one another in a pair of rematches, with the two winners then matching up in the final qualifying session.
In a rematch of the Bristol semifinals, back-to-back Funny Car world champion Capps raced past Robert Hight in the final round of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, winning the specialty race for the second time this season.
Capps powered to a run of 3.887-second in his NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra, defeating Hight's 3.933 to claim the victory. The points leader continues to enjoy a strong June; he won in Bristol two weeks ago and now raced to victory in the specialty event on Saturday in Norwalk. Capps defeated Chad Green in the earlier round.
"You're racing for what's very important — those bonus points," said Capps. "Winning a championship by two points last year tells you how important these points are. It's not cliché. Your life is upside or awesome depending on one or two points in the landscape of Funny Car in NHRA, so we'll take this.
"Mission Foods has changed the way we approach the weekend. You're bummed if you don't make it to the semifinals of a race because you know you're not in the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. If you go to the semis on Sunday and don't win the race, you're bummed, but you know you get to be in the challenge at the very next race. It's a really big deal, and it's fun. It really brought Saturdays to life."
Ashley notched another standout moment during his incredible 2023 season in Top Fuel by collecting his fourth win in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge in Norwalk. He went 4.063 in his Phillips Connect/Toyota dragster to defeat Doug Kalitta's 5.288 in the final round and remain undefeated in the specialty race. Ashley has collected 12 bonus points in a memorable year that also includes four races wins. He recorded a 3.743 pass to beat Austin Prock in the opening round and now has a chance to sweep the weekend for the third time this year.
"This is very exciting, and I think for myself and all the other drivers, it really does a great job of setting us up for Sunday and for raceday so we can get in the right mindset," said Ashley. "It's so important to be able to collect those championship points now, early on in the year. It's a blast to race. I'm really happy to collect those points and get another win.
"These are the moments you dream about. I remember being at many, many tracks as a kid. I have so much gratitude just to be here but then to be able to turn on as many win lights as we can, it really is a dream come true for myself and a lot of the guys on the team. Mike Green, Tommy DeLago, they do a really good job of bringing the championship experience, and it resonates through the team."
Continuing his recent run of success, Pro Stock's Kramer won the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge for the first time in his GetBiofuel.com Camaro, defeating Greg Anderson in the final round with a 6.622 to 6.623. Kramer is on a stretch of four straight final round appearances and continued to impress on Saturday in Norwalk, defeating Cristian Cuadra in the opening round on a holeshot before getting past Anderson in the final round of the specialty race. Currently second in points, Kramer also picked up three bonus points in the Countdown to the Championship with the win.
"This is super exciting," said Kramer. "We come out here every weekend with the expectation to win, and when you go for a long stretch and don't get the success that you're looking for, it's easy to get bogged down. But after doing really well in Vegas and staying and testing, you just keep that momentum rolling. We're extremely happy. I have to give a big shout-out to Mission Foods for putting this on. I've had a lot of fun.
"Every round win is hard to get in this class. You are crossing that finish line and hoping and praying that that light comes on in your lane, and it's extremely satisfying when it happens."
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Angie Smith enjoyed the biggest moment of her season thus far, defeating Hector Arana Jr. in the final round of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge with a pass of 6.967 on her DENSO Buell to her opponent's 7.006. After the victory, Smith talked about the importance of momentum, knowing she gained plenty with her successful day on Saturday in Norwalk. She got past Herrera, who went red, in the opening round before holding off Arana Jr. in the final round of the specialty race.
"It was really exciting to get the win," said Smith. "I just want to say thank you to Mission Foods for doing this. It puts a little extra emphasis on Saturday, and it's like two races in one. When you can put your name on that trophy, it means a lot.
"It does give us more confidence. Anytime you can turn on win lights, it makes you more confident. I think the people that win these things — it gives you confidence, it gives you momentum."