NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Salinas, Force, Herrera lead final qualifying at Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals

Mike Salinas, John Force, and Gaige Herrera will  lead their respective fields into Sunday battle at Pacific Raceways to determine the winners of the 2023 Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals
22 Jul 2023
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Race coverage
John Force

Mike Salinas, John Force, and Gaige Herrera will  lead their respective fields into Sunday battle at Pacific Raceways to determine the winners of the 2023 Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals

Salinas, the low qualifier in Chicago, grabbed his second No. 1 of the season and the 13th of his career, powering the Valley Services dragster to a 3.743 in Q2 to overtake Friday leader Doug Kalitta’s 3.753. Salinas, who also clocked a solid 3.77 in Q3, will have a bye run in round one due to the short field.

"Well, basically, [early this season] what we did is we did exactly what Steve Torrence did last year: We tested a lot," said Salinas. "We just didn't share it with anybody. We just fell on our face and tried all kinds of different things. All the stuff we did learn, we're just applying it now, and the car seems to be responding exactly the way we want it to. Our 60-foots were amazing for the heat. I think we're in a good place.

"We tried to run a little bit better in Q3, but I think it mowed through the clutch a little bit, We were trying to actually run the same run a little bit hotter, because that's what it's going to be tomorrow."

Kalitta’s Mac Tools dragster slid to second while points leader Justin Ashley raced into the No. 3 spot with the Phillips Connect dragster with a last-shot 3.760.

Mission Challenge winner Steve Torrence (3.764), Austin Prock (3.774), Denver champ Clay Millican (3.775), Antron Brown (3.781), and Mission Challenge runner-up Shawn Langdon (3.786) round out the top eight.

Force, the winningest driver in event history with nine titles, showcased some more Seattle magic, taking the No. 1 spot in Funny Car in a furious final session after clocking a 3.915 in his Peak Camaro. It’s his first No. 1 of the season but the 166th of his career. Force will get a first-round bye for the 13-car field.

"When you're out here, and you got four teams and so many people represent, it's hard to make everybody happy," he said. "And we have a race to win tomorrow; our cars are good, some are a little bit off. I didn't think we'd be that fast, but like Danny [Hood, crew chief] said, 'Hang on.' So when he does that, I know he's pushing it. So I'm excited. And I love Seattle.

"It's funny, the days beat you up and you feel like, everything's going wrong, and then all of a sudden you run like that, you get young again."

Friday leader Bob Tasca III improved on his opening lap of 3.964 with a 3.949 but it still wasn’t enough to overtake Force. Earlier in the day, en route to winning the opening round of the Mission Challenge, Ron Capps had taken over the lead with a 3.961 but slipped to third. Capps did have consolation in winning the Mission Challenge over J.R. Todd to end the session.

Robert Hight (3.963), Todd (3.967), Tim Wilkerson (3.983), Chad Green (3.987), and Alexis DeJoria (3.997) round out the top eight as well as the list of three-second qualifiers.

Herrera nailed down his sixth No. 1 spot in seven races this season, with his Friday 6.767 aboard the Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki holding up for the top spot. His Q3 run of 6.79 not only won the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge title but gave him extra confidence for Sunday,

"The way Andrew [Hines, crew chief] looks at the tracks, we know it will be cooler tomorrow morning," said Herrera. "So he feels like we can go faster. And so we're gonna go out there, just try to go A to B, you know. That's the main thing on race day is you want to be consistent and you don't want to waste any runs by trying stuff."

Herrera will face Lance Bonham in round one with a second-round bye in the offing to the winner. 

Herrera’s teammate, Eddie Krawiec, remained second with his Friday 6.776 after two off-pace passes Saturday failed to improve his position,

Angie Smith’s strong 6.787 in Q2 was the best run of the day in the class and was accompanied by the first 200-mph Pro Stock Motorcycle pass in Pacific Raceways history at 200.29 mph to give her the No. 3 spot.

Hector Arana Jr. (6.808), Steve Johnson (6.808), Matt Smith (6.814), Chase Van Sant (6.824), and Jianna Evaristo (6.848) round out the quick eight.