The all-concrete racing surface at Route 66 Raceway was host to track-record breaking runs during qualifying for the Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 NHRA Nationals, and now, Sunday has arrived. Racers across all four professional categories will be charging for a trophy for the first time in four years on a racing surface that welcomes all that they have to give.
The most winning active Pro driver at Route 66 Raceway is Top Fuel's Tony Schumacher, an Austin resident who once called Chicago home and owns five trophies here. Schumacher, driving the SCAG Power Equipment rail, had an interesting go of it in qualifying; he grabbed hold of the bump spot in the first session, was bumped out in Q2, and wiggled his way back in on a non-stellar pass in the final session. The eight-time world champion will have his work cut out for him as he starts from the No. 15 position and squares off with young Austin Prock, the No. 2 qualifier and the most recent winner on the tour.
Among other match-ups to note will include No. 1 qualifier Mike Salinas, who said in his Saturday interview in the Route 66 Raceway pressroom that although he has a steady and fast racecar with his Gerber Collision & Glass dragster, his fate would depend – at least in part – on whether the racing gods were on his side. His opponent, Chicago-area native T.J. Zizzo, plans for favor to fall on his side at his home track, however, and his straight-down-the-groove 3.795 at 325.92 mph in qualifying makes that a very real possibility.
Justin Ashley, the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Top Fuel winner, will race Texan Jacob McNeal, who is making his Top Fuel debut in Scott Palmer's dragster and qualified neatly in the No. 13 position.
After a tough few races, the Kalitta Motorsports team tested aggressively in Indianapolis ahead of this event, and in qualifying for the Route 66 Nationals, it showed. Doug Kalitta, in his Mac Tools dragster, is No. 3 on the sheet with one of the strongest cars on the grounds, teammate Shawn Langdon is right there in the No. 6 spot, and Funny Car cohort J.R. Todd and his DHL Toyota made big positive moves after four consecutive dismal outings. He'll start from the No. 3 position with a racecar that has come alive and is hungry as heck. Todd doesn't have a Chicago trophy on the mantel, and he'll have to get past a surprisingly low-qualified Bob Tasca III — who should most certainly not be taken for granted — in the first round if he wants a chance.
No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight busted both track records in qualifying in the debut of his Cornwell Tools Chevrolet Funny Car, and that could spell bad news for Illinois-campaigner Dale Creasy Jr., with whom he will go toe-to-toe in the first round. Incoming points leader Matt Hagan, a three-time winner at Route 66 Raceway, will race class newcomer Alex Laughlin and the Jim Dunn-tuned DiPinto/Havoline entry.
Fresh off the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge win, reigning world champion Ron Capps will be looking for the double in his NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra. Capps has two previous Chicago wins, most recently in 2017, and will begin his day with a first-round battle with Terry Haddock — the same driver he was meant to race in the final of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty race. Unfortunately for Haddock, a mechanical malfunction shut him off before he could even do a burnout — he will, undoubtedly, be looking for redemption.
Pro Stock points leader Dallas Glenn made a track-record setting pass in a qualifying round that also counted as an elimination round in the NHRA Pro Stock All-Star Callout, but a red-light start dashed his hopes of claiming the trophy in the specialty race. Nevertheless, he'll start from the No. 1 position with fire in his belly as he lines up next to Chris McGaha in the first round. McGaha, starving for a turnaround to a tough season, could be a tough customer for the driver of the RAD Torque Systems Chevrolet.
Glenn's teammate, Camrie Caruso, claimed the Pro Stock All-Star Callout trophy for the KB Titan Racing group on Saturday in Chicago, and she has the potential to claim a second trophy at a facility where she has never before raced. Caruso, No. 5 on the sheet, launches into eliminations with a first-round meeting with Elite Motorsports-powered Jerry Tucker, the No. 12 qualifier.
Reigning world champion Erica Enders, who is also racing Mountain Motor Pro Stock at the event, claimed her first Pro Stock win in 2012 at Route 66 Raceway. She'll aim for a repeat with a first-round rendezvous with Elite Motorsports teammate Aaron Stanfield, who is No. 6 in the standings after qualifying.
Gaige Herrera has claimed everything he possibly could in his debut season with the Vance & Hines team. His roots in Pro Street and grudge racing seem to have provided solid footing, and he meshed immediately with the team. Aboard the Mission Foods Suzuki, he's claimed each trophy that was up for grabs this year in Pro Stock Motorcycle, including the Chicago Mission #2Fast2Tasty title. The No. 1 qualifier at Route 66 Raceway will attempt to continue the streak, starting with a round-one match with Ron Tornow and his RAT Racing EBR.
Reigning world champion Matt Smith hasn't had the quickest motorcycle this weekend, but he brings experience in Chicago to the table. The defending event champion and a two-time winner at Route 66 Raceway will race Kelly Clontz in round one. Hector Arana Jr., aboard the GETTRX Buell, is also a two-time winner here. He'll race John Hall in round one.
2019 EVENT WINNERS
Steve Torrence, Top Fuel; Tommy Johnson Jr., Funny Car; Deric Kramer, Pro Stock Matt Smith, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST EVENT VICTORIES
Tony Schumacher, 5, TF; Tony Pedregon, 4, FC; Jeg Coughlin, 6, PS; Andrew Hines, 3, PSM; LE Tonglet, 3, PSM
Top Fuel - 3.677 seconds by Steve Torrence, June '18; 333.58 mph by Torrence, June '18
Funny Car - 3.831 seconds by Robert Hight, May '23; 335.07 mph by Hight, May '23
Pro Stock - 6.510 seconds by Dallas Glenn, May '23; 212.39 mph by Greg Anderson, June '19
Pro Stock Motorcycle - 6.672 seconds by Gaige Herrera, May '23; 202.45 mph by Herrera, May '23
Top Fuel - 3.623 sec. by Brittany Force, Sept. '19, Reading, Pa.; 338.94 mph by Brittany Force, Nov. ‘22, Pomona, Calif.
Funny Car - 3.793 sec. by Robert Hight, Aug. '17, Brainerd; 339.87 mph by Robert Hight, July ’17, Sonoma, Calif.
Pro Stock - 6.450 sec. by Erica Enders, March ‘22, Gainesville, Fla.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown, N.J.
Pro Stock Motorcycle - 6.665 sec. by Karen Stoffer, March ‘22, Gainesville, Fla.; 205.04 mph by Matt Smith, July ‘21, Sonoma, Calif.
SUNDAY, May 21
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series eliminations begin at 11:00 p.m.
SUNDAY, May 21, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 3:00 p.m., one hour of the Pro Stock All-Star Callout at 4:00 p.m., and three hours of finals coverage at 10:00 p.m. (ET)
Or watch all day on NHRA.tv