The 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship resumes at zMAX Dragway with the running of the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals, stop two of the six-race playoffs. All four of the incoming top seeds lost their No. 1 spots as the result of the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals last weekend in Reading, leading to a total shakeup of the standings.
Four-time world champ Steve Torrence was the runner-up in Top Fuel in Reading, but with points leader Justin Ashley’s second-round exit, Torrence assumed the points lead. Torrence and the Capco Contractors team have had a lot of success at zMAX with six total wins, and twice, in 2018 and 2019, they won both the spring and fall events here.
Reding Top Fuel winner Doug Kalitta’s victory, the milestone 50th of his career, moved him all the way to third place as he again chases what would be the first championship on his long and distinguished career. Kalitta won the Reading race with a backup car after their primary car was damaged in qualifying and will continue to run that backup car this weekend. Justin Ashley, who led the points for most of the regular season, will be looking to bounce back from his Reading stumble and looking for his first win at zMAX Dragway.
Robert Hight, who has collected seven wins at zMAX in his career, including the spring race here earlier this year, took over the Funny Car points lead with his win in the Cornwell Tools Chevy in Reading as he continues his quest for a fourth championship, but reigning world champ Ron Capps, like Ashley, will be looking for a quick comeback from his semifinal loss to Hight that cost him his points lead.
Chad Green, easily 2023’s most improved driver, will try to use the momentum from his Reading runner-up – his second of the season – in his quest for a first career Funny Car title. Bob Tasca III, another Reading semifinalist, and three-time world champ Matt Hagan also are within striking distance of Hight’s lead with a good Sunday at zMax.
Red-hot Matt Hartford, Pro Stock winner of both the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals and the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals, will hope to continue his strong run as he, like Kalitta, remains on the hunt for what would be his first season championship.
Reigning world champ Erica Enders moved up to second place with a semifinal in Reading, while incoming points leader Dallas Glenn, who had led the pack since April, slipped to fourth behind Enders and Troy Coughlin Jr., another Reading semifinalist. The top six drivers in Pro Stock are all within a 100-point span.
After Gaige Herrera dominated the regular season, the Pro Stock Motorcycle climate has changed with the weather as defending champ Matt Smith has surged to the forefront with back-to-back wins in Indy and Reading aboard his Denso Suzuki.
After failing to reach the final round just once in the season’s first eight events, Herrera has now fallen short of the money round in each of the last two events, but his Vance & Hines team has a strong record of success at zMax with 12 wins spread among three of its previous riders, including Herrera’s current crew chief, Andrew Hines, who scored an impressive eight wins at this track during his riding career.
The event is also the 5000th for the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.
2022 EVENT WINNERS
Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Aaron Stanfield, Pro Stock.
MOST EVENT VICTORIES
Antron Brown, 4, TF; Robert Hight, 4, FC; Jason Line, 3 PS; Andrew Hines, 5, PSM.
Top Fuel - 3.651 seconds by Brittany Force, April '23; 336.91 mph by B. Force, Sept. '22.
Funny Car - 3.850 seconds by John Force, April '22; 335.57 mph by Capps, April '23.
Pro Stock - 6.455 seconds by Jason Line, Mar. '15; 215.48 mph by Greg Anderson, Mar. '15.
Pro Stock Motorcycle - 6.710 seconds by Gaige Herrera, April ‘23; 203.49 mph by Eddie Krawiec, May ‘21.
FRIDAY, Sept. 22
Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series qualifying at 8 a.m.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying at 6 p.m.
SATURDAY, Sept. 23
Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series eliminations at 8 a.m.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying at 1 and 4 p.m.
SUNDAY, Sept. 24
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, Sept. 23: FOX Sports 1 (FS1), will televise one and half hours of qualifying coverage at 9:30 a.m. ET
Sunday, Sept. 25: FOX Sports 1 (FS1), will televise one and half hours of qualifying coverage at 11 a.m. ET
Sunday, Sept. 25: FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise three hours of finals coverage at 2 p.m. ET