The first of 12 Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenges is set to take place in Phoenix, and the Pro Stock portion should be a barn burner. Round one will pit Troy Coughlin Jr. against Dallas Glenn and Mason McGaha against Greg Anderson as the semifinalists from the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals meet again during NHRA Arizona Nationals qualifying with cash and bonus points on the line.
In each of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenges, semifinalists from the previous race will meet during qualifying for a rematch, and the winners of their respective rounds will advance to the final. The Pro Stock victor in the race-within-a-race will be awarded $7,500 and three bonus points that will be added to their point total at the beginning of the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Gatornationals runner-up McGaha has the attention of the class as he came just one win light away from scoring his first Pro Stock trophy. Third-generation racer McGaha, son of fellow Pro Stock competitor Chris McGaha and grandson to veteran Sportsman racer Lester McGaha, looks to the 2023 season to be his best yet after making his start mid-2020.
"We would love to have won in Gainesville — just getting to a two-wide final is getting over a hump and a little bit of a win for us," said McGaha, who had previously only driven his Harlow Sammons Chevrolet to four-wide finals in pursuit of the Wally.
"This race coming up, we get another chance. We've been talking about the #2Fast2Tasty Challenge all week in the shop, and we've been pretty locked in on it since they announced it over the winter. It's a pretty cool idea, and it's even cooler to be part of the first one. When I was told that you get three bonus points if you win, I thought, 'If you can win four of these, you could leapfrog somebody before the Countdown even starts.' It would be hard to do, but it could be done. Three points doesn't sound like a lot — but it could build up in a hurry if you get on a role."
McGaha also noted that the bonus race may change a team's approach to qualifying.
"It will depend on how conditions vary from Friday to Saturday, but we'll actually be racing for something other than position," he said. "You might have to swing for the fence or do something you typically wouldn't do. It adds some interesting layers."
For McGaha's opponent, the most winning driver in NHRA Pro Stock history, competition clearly lights his fire. Anderson is particularly fired up for a chance at redemption after the Gatornationals and has previously thrived in specialty races; with seven triumphant goes in the Pro Stock bonus race – most recently known as the K&N Horsepower Challenge – he reigned supreme. Anderson hopes to transfer that same energy to this weekend's Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge driving his HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro.
"I love these special races, and unfortunately, I can tell you first-hand that those bonus points can really make a difference at the end," said Anderson, who missed the 2016 championship by just three points – the same amount available to the #2Fast2Tasty Challenge winner. "We didn't have the best race in Gainesville, but we went home, spent a lot of time working on our program, and now we've been given a second chance in Phoenix. Not just for the event title, but for the very first #2Fast2Tasty win. We want them both."
On the other side of the #2Fast2Tasty Challenge ladder, Gainesville winner Coughlin has already shown that he has much muscle to work with this season. He will have his work cut out for him, though, as he squares off with Glenn. Coughlin and his JEGS.com Chevrolet Camaro essentially ran the table at the season opener as the No. 1 qualifier, titlist, and owner of low elapsed time and top speed of the event, but Glenn and his RAD Torque Systems Chevy had low e.t. in each of the three rounds in which he competed on Sunday.
"It's always tough to face Dallas Glenn," said three-time Pro Stock winner Coughlin. "He is such a good competitor; it's going to be a fierce rematch. But I love competitions like the #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. It's going to make qualifying on Saturday really exciting for everyone."
Glenn, the 2021 NHRA Rookie of the Year, enters the Phoenix race aiming for his fifth Pro Stock event win, but he'd certainly like to claim the #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge title, along with the bonus bucks — and points — that come with it.
"I have a very good car right now. Losing to T.J. in my second holeshot loss ever was motivation, to say the least," said Glenn, who left the starting line with a .039-second reaction time to Coughlin's .015, which ultimately cost him the match. "I'm very eager to get redemption, and I'm absolutely thinking about the bonus points that come with a win. Championships have been decided on less, and we have a chance for quite a few championship points with the #2Fast2Tasty Challenge this season."