B. Force, Tasca, Hartford and Herrera All Qualify No. 1 At Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals
(CONCORD, N.C. April 29, 2023 - NHRA) – Brittany Force made the quickest run in zMAX Dragway history on Saturday, as the defending Top Fuel world champion rocketed to the No. 1 spot at the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Matt Hartford (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also qualified No. 1 at the fifth of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
Force went 3.651-seconds at 336.32 mph in her 11,000-horsepower Flav-R-Pac dragster, breaking her own track record at Charlotte in the process. It gives the reigning champ her third No. 1 spot this year and the 45th in her career as she looks to pick up her first victory of the 2023 season. After struggling in the opening qualifying session, Force and her team responded with three strong runs, giving her plenty of momentum going into Sunday, where she’ll opening eliminations in a quad also featuring Doug Foley, Las Vegas four-wide winner Antron Brown and Clay Millican.
"That was an incredible run, it was more than our team expected,” Force said. “Three of the four runs were solid, and hopefully, that will carry over and we'll go some rounds tomorrow. We've had success here in the past, and I've always loved this track – but four-wide is tricky. That's what makes it rewarding.
"We were doing some testing and finished that up yesterday, and that was part of our game plan coming in. We kind of expected that it might not go down there that first run, but it got down there on the second run and today was a whole new set-up. Like Grubnic said, it flew. (Crew chief) David Grubnic always wants more. He expects the best and he pushes hard, and he wants to win them all. I think that motivates all of us, and we all want to win together."
Justin Ashley qualified second with a 3.662 at 332.84 and Leah Pruett jumped to third with a 3.678 at 334.65 during the final qualifying session. In all, six drivers dipped into the 3.60s during qualifying.
In Funny Car, Tasca showcased a strong performance on Saturday, vaulting to No. 1 in his 11,000-horsepower BG Products Ford Mustang with a run of 3.852 at 324.59. It’s the second No. 1 spot for Tasca already this season and the 11th in his career. After a tough loss in the opening quad in Las Vegas, Tasca is looking for redemption and his first victory of the 2023 campaign. His car has performed at a high level for most of the season, as Tasca also just missed out on a career-best pass and the track E.T. record. Still, he feels confident about his chances on Sunday, which starts with a quad that includes Dave Richards, Tim Wilkerson and defending world champ Ron Capps.
“I said leaving Gainesville, the first five races of the season (will be) really critical to show performance,” Tasca said. “We've had two No. 1 qualifiers in the first five races, and we haven't won a race yet, but we've been working on getting this car to run really hard and compete. Come championship time, if you're not running mid- to low-3.80s, you're not running for a championship. That's just the hard reality out here.
"We've been working hard to get this car ready to win races," Tasca said. "What made us really happy on that run was that we never showed our hand. The car shut off at 920 feet, and it was crazy. I was wide-open throttle, the car felt like it was a rocket ship, but the reason it was only 324 mph was that it shut off right at the end.
"That was the run we've been looking for since we put this together. We're five races in with a completely new team and complete new package, and we're racing against guys with thousands of runs and a plethora of data. We don't have that yet as a team, and yet we've still competed at a very high level. That gives a lot of confidence. To have this under our belt, I'm way ahead of where I was the last three years. I'm very pleased at this point, but I really want to get a win. My goal was to get a win in the first five races.”
Cruz Pedregon jumped to No. 2 in the final session by going 3.859 at 330.23, just missing out on his third straight No. 1 qualifier, and Robert Hight is third with a 3.865 at 330.23.
After car struggles before the second session on Friday, Hartford made a big move on Saturday, driving to the top spot in his Total Seal/CIP1/GETTRX Chevrolet Camaro with a run of 6.538 at 208.52. Not only was it a huge jump for Hartford, it also gave the veteran his second straight No. 1 qualifier and another huge opportunity to grab his first victory of the season. His opening round quad will feature David Cuadra, who is making his first Pro Stock start, Deric Kramer and Troy Coughlin Jr., with Hartford sweeping the No. 1 spot at both four-wide races this season.
“Let me tell you, getting out of here late last night – none of us were in a good mood,” Hartford said. “We went to bed really disappointed, knowing that we had a car that could go to the pole. But luck was on our side last night, because if we had that failure past the finish-line we wouldn't be here for this.
"But we regrouped. Coming out here, we were the first car out, which means we had to pull back some, but we made a good run. We came in this morning with the idea that we could go into the top five, and that if we made the right run, we could go No. 1. That's what we did. It's a rocket ship right now. This is the best car and the best team I've ever had, and we just have to capitalize on it."
Points leader Dallas Glenn, who has back-to-back wins this season, qualified second with a 6.553 at 209.07 and Kyle Koretsky is third with a 6.557 at 208.52.
Herrera’s dominant start to the 2023 season in Pro Stock Motorcycle took yet another impressive step, making two more great runs on Saturday, including a 6.735 at 201.52 on his Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki to secure his second straight No. 1 qualifier to open the year. His opening round quad includes Marcus Hylton, Ryan Oehler and Kelly Clontz, as Herrera looks to make it two straight wins to start 2023. The young standout has praised the performance of his team and a bike that has delivered incredible results thus far this season.
"Just being part of this, I can't ask for anything better,” Herrera said. “You're always trying to improve, always trying to out-do yourself each round, and for us to make that big improvement – Andrew (Hines), our crew chief, has both bikes on rails, and it's showing. It makes me feel good, but it puts more pressure on my shoulders. It's exciting to know I have a top tier bike, and it's a lot of pressure on me. There is more pressure on me than there is on the bike. The whole team, they have a lot of confidence in their machine. At the end of the day, it's all on me.”
Herrera’s Vance & Hines teammate, Eddie Krawiec, qualified second with a 6.765 at 197.77 and Steve Johnson, who has won the Charlotte four-wide race in back-to-back years, is third with his 6.804 at 196.27.
Eliminations for the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals begin at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday at zMAX Dragway.
First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the 13th annual Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway, the fifth of 21 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.
1. Brittany Force, 3.651 seconds, 336.32 mph vs. 16. Doug Foley, 3.803, 323.89 vs. 8. Antron Brown, 3.711, 330.47 vs. 9. Clay Millican, 3.712, 331.69;
2. Justin Ashley, 3.662, 332.84 vs. 15. Jacob McNeal, 3.793, 320.81 vs. 7. Austin Prock, 3.701, 332.34 vs. 10. Mike Salinas, 3.717, 333.74;
3. Leah Pruett, 3.678, 334.65 vs. 14. Pat Dakin, 3.791, 323.66 vs. 6. Doug Kalitta, 3.699, 331.69 vs. 11. Shawn Langdon, 3.727, 332.18;
4. Steve Torrence, 3.679, 335.32 vs. 13. Dan Mercier, 3.752, 318.09 vs. 5. Josh Hart, 3.689, 329.75 vs. 12. Tony Schumacher, 3.741, 326.79.
Did Not Qualify:
17. Lex Joon, 3.918, 265.12;
18. Keith Murt, 4.057, 309.84.
1. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.852, 324.59 vs. 16. Dave Richards, Mustang, 7.537, 87.71 vs. 8. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.899, 330.55 vs. 9. Ron Capps, Toyota Supra, 3.899, 330.07;
2. Cruz Pedregon, Dodge Charger, 3.859, 330.23 vs. 15. John Smith, Charger, 6.695, 104.71 vs. 7. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.898, 772.00 vs. 10. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.914, 324.05;
3. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.865, 330.31 vs. 14. Alex Laughlin, Charger, 4.143, 290.19 vs. 6. J.R. Todd, Supra, 3.888, 334.40 vs. 11. Mike McIntire, Toyota Camry, 3.981, 318.54;
4. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.866, 328.46 vs. 13. Dale Creasy Jr., Charger, 4.113, 290.88 vs. 5. Alexis DeJoria, Supra, 3.876, 334.65 vs. 12. Chad Green, Mustang, 4.011, 313.95.
1. Matt Hartford, Chevy Camaro, 6.538, 209.49 vs. 16. David Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 6.596, 208.10 vs. 8. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.566, 209.95 vs. 9. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.571, 209.72;
2. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.553, 209.20 vs. 15. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, 6.592, 208.94 vs. 7. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.561, 209.79 vs. 10. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.574, 209.04;
3. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.557, 208.52 vs. 14. Jerry Tucker, Camaro, 6.589, 208.97 vs. 6. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.560, 208.91 vs. 11. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.576, 209.14;
4. Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, 6.558, 209.72 vs. 13. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.584, 209.01 vs. 5. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.559, 209.23 vs. 12. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.582, 209.62.
Did Not Qualify:
17. Shane Tucker, 6.598, 208.68;
18. Fernando Cuadra, 6.611, 207.50;
19. Larry Morgan, 6.624, 207.53;
20. Val Smeland, 6.628, 207.21;
21. Kenny Delco, 6.646, 208.01;
22. Alan Prusiensky, 6.674, 206.10;
23. Brandon Miller, 6.721, 205.88.
Pro Stock Motorcycle:
1. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.735, 201.52 vs. 16. Marcus Hylton, 7.109, 187.63 vs. 8. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.858, 197.05 vs. 9. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.870, 195.68;
2. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.765, 200.77 vs. 15. Ron Tornow, Victory, 7.026, 191.13 vs. 7. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.825, 200.80 vs. 10. Angie Smith, EBR, 6.874, 198.00;
3. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.804, 196.27 vs. 14. John Hall, Buell, 6.949, 195.22 vs. 6. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.821, 197.94 vs. 11. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.877, 196.79;
4. Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.806, 199.26 vs. 13. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.923, 191.38 vs. 5. Chase Van Sant, Suzuki, 6.806, 199.29 vs. 12. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.901, 195.03.
Did Not Qualify:
17. Chris Bostick, 7.458, 180.77.
Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.