Justin Ashley starts the countdown with a quick run

By | September 16, 2023

nhra justin ashley the best fuel

Friday NHRA Reading Qualifying: Ashley fastestNHRA/National Dragster

Points leader Justin Ashley began the NHRA countdown to the championship playoffs in impressive fashion at Maple Grove Raceway, taking the provisional top spot in Top Fuel on Friday at the 38th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals.

Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also provisional qualifiers #1. 1 in the 16th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, and the first of six races in the countdown to the championship playoffs.

Ashley put together a 3.687-second run at 335.57 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Toyota Phillips Connect dragster at his home track, jumping to the No. 1 position after struggling during the opening session. If it holds, it would be Ashley’s third No. 1 this season and the fifth of his career. Chasing his first world championship, it has already been a banner season for Ashley as the points leader took six wins en route to the playoffs. But he is only focused on the task at hand during the countdown to the championship.

“It was a fantastic ride for the Phillips Connect Toyota team,” Ashley said. “We didn’t have a great lap in the first session. This is basically a home race for me since I’m from New York and we have a lot of friends and family here. You want to do well to start the countdown and this was a great start. That run was really cool and was a great way to end the first day of the Pep Boys Nationals.

“It was nice to have the fans congratulate us for being No. 1 in the Countdown, but we’re putting that behind us starting with this race. We have six races to try to win this championship. It will be exciting and I can’t wait to drive this Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster on race day here at Maple Grove Raceway.”

Reigning world champion Brittany Force closed the night with a strong 3.689 at 336.57 which puts her second and Doug Kalitta is third thanks to his 3.696 at 331.45.

bob pocket funny car

Bob Tasca III is the first Funny Car leader in Maple Grove.NHRA/National Dragster

In Funny Car, Bob Tasca III stole the show to close out qualifying, putting together an impressive 3.874 at 334.90 in his 11,000 horsepower Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang. That puts Tasca on track for his fifth No. 1 qualifier. 1 of the season and the 14th of his career, giving the veteran a pair of strong qualifiers to open the countdown to the championship. Having started the playoffs in fourth place, Tasca is in the thick of championship contention for the second straight year and was eager to make a big move Friday under the lights at Maple Grove Raceway.

“Every point counts right now, every run until the end,” Tasca said. “I think we got five bonus points, and that’s big. But being here in Maple Grove – the Koretskys are like family to us, this is the track I made my professional debut with in my boozy Funny Car. I won here with my nitro car. We have great memories here, and to see what they did to this facility, to see these fans on Friday night and have a low ET, it’s a lot of fun.

“I love being here and winning here is key. We’re a couple of rounds away from first place and a good weekend really changes the game as we progress in this championship. To do this, you have to compete with the best. You saw that Mustang collide with Robert Hight (and) I think you’ll see a lot of that between now and the end of the year.

Running right next to Tasca, Robert Hight went 3.879 at 329.34, which is good enough for second place at the moment. Chad Green went 3.887 at 330.07 for third place and points leader Ron Capps is close behind after a 3.888 at 335.65.

nhra erica enders

Erica Enders continued her red-hot second half of the season with her best effort in qualifying on Friday.NHRA/National Dragster

Maple Grove Raceway continued to bring out the best in reigning Pro Stock event winner Erica Enders, as the reigning world champion turned in the fastest run in both sessions and ultimately the fastest run of the season in Pro Stock with an outstanding pass of 6.494 at 211.13 in his Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance Chevrolet Camaro. Enders has repeatedly put up big numbers at Maple Grove Raceway throughout his stellar career and that continued on Friday, making the first Pro Stock run in the 6.40s of 2023. While chasing his sixth career world champion, Enders made a strong impression Friday, putting her on track for her third-place No. 1 of the year and 32nd of her career.

“That was good. Being able to get our first win here last year changes the whole feeling of walking through the gates,” Enders said. “We got off the trailer and went to first place in that first session, and we nitpicked and felt we could go high.48 low.49. We came back in the second session and did just that. I’m really proud of my team. We had a lot of pep talks last week and we put our minds in the right place, because these last six are the ones that matter.

“We just have to put our heads down and get to work. This is a position we know very well. This is my twentieth year in Pro Stock and we are fighting for our sixth championship. My dad told me, make it count, make every single run count and leave nothing on the table, from reaction times, to shift points, to keeping him in the groove. It sounds simple, but it’s much more challenging than that. That’s our mentality, stay positive, keep your head down and get to work because we can do it.”

Troy Coughlin is currently second after going 6.605 at 210.21 and Aaron Stanfield took third place after day one with a 6.507 at 211.46

nhra gaige herrera

Gaige Herrera continued her dominant season in Pro Stock Motorcycle.NHRA/National Dragsgter

Gaige Herrera made a major statement in her first career Countdown to the Championship appearance, shattering the ET Pro Stock Motorcycle track record in both motos on Friday, including an incredible 6.678 at 202.45 on her Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki to close. the day. If that holds, Herrera, the points leader, would get his ninth No. 1 qualifying in 10 races in the class this season, with a time just shy of the 6.672 he ran in Chicago earlier this year. It’s the third-fastest ride of the season for Herrera, who was thrilled with how his bike ran to open the playoffs on Friday.

“I was a little shocked because he ran 6.67, but Andrew (Hines, crew chief) is not,” Herrera said. “He said that there are all the conditions to do so. To go out and be able to get the provisional No. 1 qualifier at the start of the countdown and get as many points as possible – all those little points add up – I’m happy with today.

“For now it’s just qualifying, but we’re off to a good start. This definitely takes some pressure off. I think everyone kind of flips a switch when the countdown starts, and I expected all the other teams to step up. For us to have that little step forward in front of everyone, I’m definitely happy about this and the whole team.”

Hector Arana Jr. is currently second with a pass of 6.747 at 201.85 and rookie Chase Van Sant ran 6.754 at 200.02, placing third.

Qualifying continues at 12:30 pm ET on Saturday at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.

Qualifying on Friday

Thirty-eighth annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals

at Maple Grove Race Track

Friday’s results following the first two of four qualifying rounds for the 38th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, the 16th of 21 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series events. Qualifying will continue on Saturday for the final eliminations on Sunday.

Better fuel – 1. Justin Ashley, 3.687 seconds, 335.57 mph; 2. Force Brittany, 3,689, 336.57; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.696, 331.45; 4. Steve Torrence, 3.698, 332.43; 5. Antron Brown, 3.716, 329.50; 6. Shawn Langdon, 3.728, 331.12; 7. Austin Prock, 3.728, 329.83; 8. Tony Schumacher, 3.737, 328.54; 9. Leah Pruett, 3,743, 327.90; 10.Doug Foley, 3.755, 322.11; 11. Millican clay, 3.761, 325.45; 12. Mike Salinas, 4.201, 199.29; 13. Josh Hart, 4,219, 198.90; 14. Dan Mercier, 7.474, 92.33.

Funny car– 1. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.874, 334.90; 2. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3,879, 329.34; 3. Chad Green, Mustang, 3.887, 330.07; 4. Ron Capps, Toyota GR Supra, 3,888, 335.65; 5. John Force, Camaro, 3,898, 334.32; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.901, 322.04; 7. Alexis DeJoria, GR Supra, 3.915, 331.04; 8. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.915, 327.03; 9. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.916, 328.78; 10. JR Todd, G.R. Supra, 3.923, 327.90; 11. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.936, 327.98; 12. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.004, 309.20; 13. Alex Laughlin, Charger, 4.058, 295.59; 14. Jim Campbell, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4,087, 299.66; 15. Dave Richards, Mustang, 4.140, 278.17; 16. Cory Lee, Mustang, 8.910, 79.15. Not qualified: 17. Mike Smith, 13.747, 53.46.

Pro Stock– 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6,494, 211.13; 2. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.505, 210.21; 3. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.507, 211.46; 4. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.513, 210.37; 5. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6,515, 209.49; 6. Cristian Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 6.521, 210.47; 7. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6,526, 209.98; 8. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.527, 210.21; 9. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.530, 209.98; 10. Jerry Tucker, Camaro, 6,537, 210.28; 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6,548, 209.69; 12. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.551, 210.57; 13. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.564, 210.11; 14. Eric Latino, Camaro, 6.572, 210.34; 15. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.592, 211.06; 16. Fernando Cuadra, Mustang, 6.605, 209.82. Non-qualifiers: 17. Kenny Delco, 6.620, 210.50; 18. Alan Prusiensky, 6.620, 199.76; 19. Brandon Miller, 6.719, 207.50; 20. Fernando Cuadra Jr., 6,942, 200.98; 21. Mason McGaha, 7.057, 199.43; 22. Larry Morgan, 10.063, 90.81.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.678, 202.45; 2. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.747, 201.85; 3. Chase Van Sant, Suzuki, 6.754, 200.02; 4. Chip Ellis, EBR, 6.756, 200.59; 5. Angie Smith, EBR, 6.773, 201.70; 6. Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.788, 200.05; 7. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.801, 197.02; 8. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.844, 199.08; 9. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.860, 198.12; 10. John Hall, EBR, 6.862, 197.62; 11. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.865, 194.02; 12. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.873, 196.42; 13. Chris Bostick, EBR, 6.892, 189.84; 14. Ron Tornow, Victory, 6.896, 195.11; 15. Cory Reed, Suzuki, 7.226, 188.41.

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