NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Salinas, Hight, Glenn, and Herrera lock in as low qualifiers at Route 66 Raceway

Qualifying for the Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 NHRA Nationals is in the books, and Mike Salinas, Robert Hight, Dallas Glenn, and Gaige Herrera each locked in as the No. 1 qualifiers in their respective fields. After four years away, a Chicagoland trophy is finally up for grabs again – and they all desperately want it.
20 May 2023
Kelly Wade
Race coverage
Mike Salinas Top Fuel dragster

Qualifying for the Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 NHRA Nationals is in the books, and Mike Salinas, Robert Hight, Dallas Glenn, and Gaige Herrera each locked in as the No. 1 qualifiers in their respective fields. After four years away from the grand, stadium-style dragstrip, a Chicagoland trophy is finally up for grabs again – and they all desperately want it.

Salinas scooped up his first No. 1 of the season and 12th of his career with a best time of 3.686. He recorded the quick time in the first qualifying session driving his Gerber Collision & Glass-branded Top Fuel dragster. For Salinas, the weekend is working out to be a repeat of the last time the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series tour raced here, but his 2019 performance included a final-round finish from the No. 1 spot. Still stinging from a first-round loss in Charlotte, he wants more than a runner-up on Sunday this time around. 

"I just want to finish better than I did then," said Salinas, who will race Chicago-native T.J. Zizzo in round one. "We know we have a very, very consistent – and very fast – car. Basically, all we have to do is go do our job. It doesn't even matter who we run, I don't even want to know, and I don't care. I have four runs to make, and if the guy upstairs and the racing gods like me tomorrow, we're going to do just fine. 

"This track, it's got a mystique about it. The lanes have character, and you need to drive the car. Whoever wins tomorrow, they're going to earn it."

Austin Prock will start from the No. 2 position; he clocked his best qualifying pass in the first session (3.694), and Doug Kalitta – a three-time Chicago winner – made the quickest run of the final qualifying session, a 3.702 that locked him into the No. 3 position. Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge victor Justin Ashley made his quickest pass in the opening session, a 3.717, to claim the No. 4 position, and Antron Brown's 3.720 was third-best of the final qualifier, and he will start fifth. Like Kalitta, Brown has three previous Top Fuel wins in Chicago – but he's also claimed two aboard a Pro Stock Motorcycle

In keeping with a resurgent theme for Team Kalitta, Shawn Langdon wheeled his way to the No. 6 spot with a pleasing pair of 3.7-second passes. Spencer Massey, who claimed the Chicago Top Fuel title in 2009, is No. 7 on a 3.722. Steve Torrence, a two-time Chicago winner, is eighth on a 3.735. 

Hight, the 2018 Chicago winner, clocked a blistering 3.831 in the first qualifying round and came back in the final qualifier with a low-of-the-session 3.896 to seal the deal on his 78th No. 1. His Cornwell Tools Chevy only faltered in the second session, setting him up as the most likely to succeed on Sunday. Hight has two wins so far this season, including at the most recent event in Charlotte. 

"It's great timing to be No. 1 at our first race with Cornwell Tools, and you Alexis DeJoria for that," said Hight, acknowledging the threat of his first-round opponent. DeJoria, No. 2 in the Funny Car standings, was runner-up to Hight in Charlotte. DeJoria's struggles in Chicago qualifying amounted to a start from the No. 16 position, and the first time she's been in the bottom half since the first race of the year. 

"You know she wants revenge for Charlotte," he said. "Having to race her in the first round shows how tough this class is, and it's going to be a battle tomorrow. Her car has probably been the most consistent of the year so far, so we're going to have our hands full – but it's going to be fun. I love this place. I finally got a win here in 2018 and was runner-up in 2019, so we have a little streak going with getting to the final. That's exactly what we need to do tomorrow." 

Cruz Pedregon made his best pass of the weekend in the opening session to earn the No. 2 position (3.889), and the driver of the Snap-On Tools Dodge finished qualifying on a high note with the third-quickest run of the round to reinforce his stance ahead of Sunday. 

Kalitta Motorsports Funny Car campaigner J.R. Todd is on course for a get-well weekend and qualified in the No. 3 spot on a 3.906. Three-time Chicago titlist Matt Hagan is No. 4 on a 3.938, while Tim Wilkerson, the 1999 winner, is starting fifth (3.939).  Reigning Funny Car champion Ron Capps is going home with the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty trophy, and he'll be looking for a double as he starts from the No. 6 position on a 3.941. Chad Green has had a season with glimpses of glory, and he'll be looking to go all the way on Sunday from the No. 7 position (3.983). Funny Car veteran John Force will be aiming for a fourth win in Chicago to tie Tony Pedregon, the most winning driver in the class in the Windy City. Force is No. 8 after racing to a 3.988. 

Incoming points leader Dallas Glenn has only raced in Chicago on one previous occasion – as a Sportsman racer in the JEGS Allstars – and he lost in the first round to Bo Butner. Many years have passed since, and starting from the No. 1 spot, Glenn is eager to make good with Route 66 Raceway. His 6.510 in the RAD Torque Systems Chevrolet Camaro sent him right to the top in the second session of qualifying, and it also reset the Route 66 Raceway track record for elapsed time. It was, however, accompanied by a red light, which equated to a first-round loss to Erica Enders in the highly anticipated NHRA Pro Stock All-Star Callout. He will race Chris McGaha in round one. 

"I've had a really good car all season long," said Glenn. "It seems like the last few races, they've kind of snuck by me on the best session, so this feels really good. That run, it had extra pressure with the callout race, and I knew I was red before the red light even came on. I just knew I was letting go early as it was happening, but the run just felt awesome. Somehow, I managed to hit every shift and keep it dead straight. It was a very, very nice run, and that should be some good momentum going into tomorrow." 

No. 2 qualifier Deric Kramer (6.515) is one of just three active Pro Stock drivers to have previously won in Chicago, and he got it done the last time he was at the facility in 2019. Hot off a Charlotte win that closed a long winless drought, he'll be looking to continue the momentum – but so will No. 3 qualifier Bo Butner (6.519), who has yet to win in the two seasons he's been behind the wheel of his Johnson's Horsepowered Garage entry. Butner was the provisional low qualifier on Friday for the first time this season to show he has a capable horse to ride. His Elite Motorsports teammate, Troy Coughlin Jr., detonated an engine during the All-Star Callout, but he came back for the third and final qualifying round ready to try again. He'll start fourth on a matching 6.519. Callout winner Camrie Caruso is No. 5 on the sheet (6.524), Aaron Stanfield is sixth (6.525) followed by Elite teammate Cristian Cuadra (6.529) and KB Titan-powered Matt Hartford (6.531). 

Gaige Herrera continues to flex muscle in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class aboard his Vance & Hines Mission Foods Suzuki and reset both ends of the track record in qualifying to secure the No. 1 and sweep up Saturday with a Mission Food #2Fast2Tasty win. Herrera's 6.672 at 202.45 mph will be a lot for first-round opponent Ron Tornow to overcome, but Sunday is a new day. 

"I know right now it looks like we have everyone covered by a lot, but I feel like everyone is going to be right there soon," said Herrera, who has claimed every accolade up for grabs so far this season. "But Andrew [Hines] has this thing on rails, and it's the baddest bike out there. It's showing. They're flexing their horsepower, for sure.

"It would mean a lot to win here. It's my first time racing here, and I have a lot of friends and family here. If I'm able to get a win here tomorrow, it would definitely be a special one."

Chip Ellis, the 2005 Chicago winner, will start from the No. 2 position on a sturdy 6.756, and two-time Route 66 Raceway champ Hector Arana is No. 3 on a 6.759. Herrera's Vance & Hines teammate Eddie Krawiec will be looking for his first win of the season and first victory in Chicago from the No. 4 spot (6.770), with Joey Gladstone starting fifth on a 6.774. Defending event titlist and two-time Chicago winner Matt Smith, the reigning world champion, is No. 6 (6.781), with newcomer Chase Van Sant seventh (6.785). Angie Smith rounds out the quick eight with her best time of 6.800.