When the day is done at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals, the 2023 Countdown to the Championship will be one-third complete and we’ll all have a better idea of who will be a contender and who might be fading from the title picture.
Conditions will be markedly different today than on both qualifying days as a sunny, 80-degree forecast replaces the gloomy, cloudy previous two days, giving crew chiefs something to really think about.
Top Fuel has some interesting scenarios that may help shape the look of those battles as points leader Steve Torrence will face off in round one with Reading winner Doug Kalitta, who sits third in points but definitely has the better tune-up right now. No. 2 Justin Ashley, who led the points for most of the season, will take on a tuned-up Leah Pruett, who’s fifth in points. No easy draws here, except for Salinas, who if he can get around part-timer Mike Bucher would get a bye into the semifinals.
Funny Car points leader Robert Hight gets a first-round bye due to the 15-car field, which is huge as he tries to fend off Ron Capps, Bob Tasca III, and Matt Hagan in points positions 2-4.
Capps has Dave Richards and should advance unless he bobbles, in which case the plucky Richards team will be right there to pounce. Tasca does not have an easy draw as he has fierce Alexis DeJoria in the other lane while Hagan, who was Friday’s qualifying leader, will face off with John Smith. Hight and Capps are on the same side of the ladder.
A real early clash of the titans could happen in Pro Stock when reigning world champ Erica Enders, the No. 1 qualifier and second in points,, could face off with points leader Matt Hartford should both win their first-round races, against Mason McGaha and Fernando Cuadra Jr., respectively.
Meanwhile, in round one, third-place Troy Coughlin Jr. will take on fourth-place Dallas Glenn which could create a real gulf between the top three and the rest of the pack.
Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Gaige Herrera, who again was the low qualifier, has a tough draw in round one in former world champ Jerry Savoie, who was brought into the lineup as a blocker for Chase Van Sant.
Herrera, who led the points in the regular season, slipped to second last weekend in Reading, where reigning world champ Matt Smith won and usurped his lead. Smith has struggled a bit here in qualifying, finishing just ninth, which means that should Smith beat first-round foe Marc Ingwersen, he will face Herrera in round two.
That could be good news for No. 3 Hector Arana Jr., who’s on the opposite side of the ladder and draws veteran Steve Johnson in the initial frame.
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 - 3.647 seconds by Mike Salinas, Sept. '23; 338.00 mph by Salinas, Sept. '23.
Funny Car - 3.824 seconds by Robert Hight, Sept.'23; 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.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
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