This season, a victory in the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge has become a source of pride for NHRA drivers and in Brainerd, Antron Brown, Robert Hight and Erica Enders got a chance to join the growing roster of champions with wins in Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock, respectively.
Brown cruised to victory in the Top Fuel final with a 3.840 after Brittany Force smoked the tires in her Monster Energy dragster. Brown may have been even more impressive in the semifinals as he left first against the normally quick-leaving Justin Ashley (.067 to .089) and powered to a 3.804 to 3.842 victory.
“I’ve wanted to win one of these [Mission] races for a long time,” Brown said. “First, you’ve got to [reach the semifinals] just to get in and that’s not easy. You don’t know from race to race who’s going to make it in the show. All of these cars are tough but to go to the final against Brittany and to beat Justin is huge. They are the two heavy hitters in the class. Justin doesn’t get left on too many times but I managed to get the best of him. You’ve got to be on your game when you race him.
“We were trying to run a mid-70 in the final but we missed it,” Brown said. “We just want to keep going and do what we need to do. It just feels good to finally get this Mission [medallion]. Now, we want to come back out and win tomorrow.
Force went to the final following a round-one win over Clay Millican, who was leading until his Parts Plus dragster erupted in a ball of fire just before the finish line.
Much like Brown, Hight has coveted a Mission Challenge victory since the program was announced earlier this season and he finally got his wish after defeating Matt Hagan’s Dodge in the final, 3.988 to 4.034.
“We’ve been chasing this all year trying to get a win,” Hight said. “This is actually our first win with Cornwell Tools so that’s a big deal. I think we got away with one because you don’t run 3.98 and expect to beat Matt Hagan. We got away with one there.”
Hight’s journey to the final round began with a narrow holeshot win against Topeka winner Bob Tasca III. Both drivers ran 3.982 but Hight’s .048 light was slightly better than Tasca’s .062.
“You want to beat anyone on a holeshot, so that’s probably one of my favorites,” said Hight. “Maybe now we can double-up tomorrow. I notice that seems to be a trend with these Mission races. I’d like for it to continue.
Hagan worked his way to the final after Sonoma winner J.R. Todd smoked the tires.
Enders, who comes into Brainerd on a hot streak following an impressive win a week ago in Topeka, earned her first Mission victory following a holeshot win over Deric Kramer in the final round. Enders left first with a .026 light and drove to a 6.700 to turn on the win light over Kramer’s 6.696. Enders double-bulbed Kramer by lighting both the pre-stage and stage lights almost simultaneously but maintained it was an inadvertent error.
“I’m not super-stoked about the way I won because I unintentionally double-bulbed Deric,” said Enders. “That kind of overshadowed the thrill of winning. I apologized to Deric after the final because that’s not how I race. I pride myself on being an honest racer. To have my name on that [Mission] trophy is special. Coming into this year we thought we were going to do some good and we didn’t until now.”
In the opening round, Enders clocked a 6.658 for the win after current points leader Dallas Glenn red-lighted by nine-thousandths of a second. Kramer got to the final following a 6.659 to 6.642 win against low qualifier Greg Anderson.
“We obviously struggled earlier this season, but we are We are coming into our own lately,” said Enders. “Give [crew chief] Mark Ingersoll enough shots at the track and he’ll figure it out.
Enders joins Matt Hartford, Aaron Stanfield, Dallas Glenn, Troy Coughlin Jr., and Kramer as a Mission Challenge winner this season.