The 50th NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway marks a weekend Mike Salinas has always dreamed about.
Salinas will race his Scrappers Racing Top Fuel dragster at the historic race coming off a solid start to his 2019 season, but his excitement stretches far beyond that. For the first time, two of his daughters, Jianna and Jasmine, will join him in competition. Jianna makes her debut in Pro Stock Motorcycle, while Jasmine will make her national event debut in Top Alcohol Dragster, adding up to a meaningful weekend that just happened to fall on one of the biggest races of the year.
“The most important thing for me as a parent is that I’m happy for my daughters,” said Salinas, who is currently sixth in Top Fuel points. “They’ve worked so hard to get here and I’m happy that they get this opportunity. I’m excited to see them race and race together as a family.”
It will most certainly be a family affair this weekend for the Salinas trio on the track, which means Mike will be plenty busy watching both of them run.
But he’s also locked in on the task at hand and that’s trying to pick up his first career Top Fuel win. That remains the goal after posting career-bests across the board at the season-opener in Pomona en route to a semifinal finish.
It will be what Salinas calls “controlled chaos” trying to take it all in while staying focused on his team’s own success, but there’s nothing but joy from him as he prepares for the memorable weekend.
“I have my own thing and I have to focus on that, but when I have a moment I’ll check on them,” Salinas said. “We all have staggered times, so that will be nice, but I just hope they have fun with this. That’s all that matters to me.”
Returning to the track means a chance for redemption after one of the strangest weekends in Salinas’ racing career at Phoenix.
But his standout team, led by crew chief Brian Husen and tuning advisor Alan Johnson, quickly found those gremlins and appear to have the issue resolved heading into Gatornationals.
Of course, the 50th anniversary of one of NHRA’s biggest races will bring an extra spotlight and an electric atmosphere, but that won’t change Salinas’ approach.
“We’re doing the same routine over and over, no matter what,” Salinas said. “I think we’re in a very good place. We found our issue in Phoenix and it was something really simple. We know we have a good car. Consistency is going to be key. But as long as we have that all the way through and we all do our jobs, we’ll be a competitive car.”
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:45 and 6:15 p.m. on Friday and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday at 1:00 and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday.