NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Kalitta, Tasca, and Herrera lead Northwest Nationals Friday qualifying fields

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the low qualifiers after the opening day of the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways, the middle stop of the three-race Western Swing.
21 Jul 2023
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Race coverage
Bob Tasca III

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the low qualifiers after the opening day of the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways, the middle stop of the three-race Western Swing. Teams will get two final runs on Saturday to set the field for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Kalitta, who just missed winning his milestone 50th career victory last weekend in Denver, continued the Mac Tools team’s strong summer with a 3.759 that has him partway to what would be his second no. 1 of the season and the 53rd of his long career.

"It left strong," said Kalitta. "The boys are working at our consistency and on just qualifying good. It's nice qualifying, towards the front for sure and we're obviously hoping that time holds up for tomorrow. But it's too early and just one run so far, and we're really optimistic for the weekend here.

"It helps on Sunday for the first round; your odds are a little better. They're all tough and this weekend is gonna be super tough. I mean, it's a smaller field, but all the guys that are good are here, so you're just gonna have to get the job done round by round and just have fun at it and keep your head down."

Clay Millican, the man who beat Kalitta in the Denver final, is behind him this time after clocking a 3.779 in the Parts Plus/Rick Ware Racing dragster. It’s Millican’s best qualifying effort of the season so far.

Shawn Langdon, at the wheel of the newly-rebranded Kalitta Air Careers dragster, sits third with a 3.786, followed by points leader Justin Ashley (3.801), Austin Prock (3.808), Mike Salinas (3.822), Antron Brown (3.834), and Josh Hart (3.915) in the top half of the field.

Tasca, who already has three low qualifiers this season, ran exactly what crew chief Aaron Brooks predicted, clocking a 3.964 in the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford to grab the provisional pole in Funny Car. Tasca was also the low qualifier here last year but smoked the tires in round one after a flawless qualifying effort.

"We did so good here during qualifying last year, and we got snake bit in the first round, but what I was really happy about this run is that I always ask the crew chiefs, what is it going to run? And Aaron [Brooks] goes 'Around 3.96,' and you see John Force run 98, you know .96 is going to be a great run out there," he said.  "So good way to start,

"Tomorrow, I think you'll see more of the same in Q2, and then Q3 will be the throwdown run, so I certainly don't expect this to hold for No. 1 tomorrow night, but I fully expect us to pick up in the last session. So we'll see what we can do."

John Force, the winningest driver in event history with nine victories, placed the Peak Camaro in the No. 2 position with 3.982, followed by Tim Wilkerson, who won this race three straight years (2009-11), who put the Scag entry into the field with a 3.983

Chad Green, wearing the colors of Rottler Manufacturing on the Bond Coat Mustang this weekend, is fourth at 3.987 with J.R. Todd (3.996), Denver runner-up Alexis DeJoria (3.997), Denver winner and points leader Matt Hagan (4.015), and Robert Hight (4.028) rounding out the top eight.

Herrera, whose five-race domination of the No. 1 spot on the Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying list ended in Denver, where he qualified No. 3, is back in the top spot after an opening lap of 6.767 aboard the Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki in the class’ first-ever appearance at Pacific Raceways.

"We knew it was pretty much impossible for us to qualify No. 1 in Denver because the Suzukis have a little disadvantage there, so for us to come out with the wind, we were definitely in awe," said Herrera, who scored his fourth win of the season there. 'We would have liked to keep the streak going, but I'm glad to be back, as the provisional No. 1 and hopefully, we're gonna hold on to them tomorrow.

"The run did not feel good at all. When I left a line it went left, and then I had to correct it. It felt like in third gear it kind of went left again, so I corrected again, on those bikes if you correct me a little bit it scrubs a lot, so I didn't think I was that good of a run, and gives me confidence that we can go even quicker tomorrow."

Herrera’s teammate, Eddie Krawiec, who expertly predicted his 6.776 long before the bike first fired, is the No. 2 qualifier as he seeks his milestone 50th career win. Bristol winner Steve Johnson sits No. 3 astride his Suzuki after charting a 6.809.

Norwalk champ Hector Arana Jr (6.812), reigning world champ Matt Smith (6.822), rookie Chase Van Sant (6.824), Denver runner-up Angie Smith (6.842), and Jianna Evaristo (6.890) round out the quick eight.

Of interest to fans is the first appearance this season of Karen Stoffer, who is the ninth qualifier at 6.956 aboard the bike campaigned last season by Herrera, and Chris Bostick, who is riding a second Arana Racing Buell and is currently qualified No. 11 with a 7.101.