Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Gaige Herrera made the quickest run in class history on Saturday at the Texas Motorplex, setting the national record and also breaking the category mark for the most No. 1 qualifiers in a single season in front of a near-capacity crowd at the 38th annual Texas NHRA FallNationals.
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Bob Tasca III (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) also qualified No. 1 at the 19th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, and the fourth of six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Herrera rocketed to a run of 6.627-seconds at 204.16 mph on his Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki, shattering the previous national record. It was also the second-fastest run in Pro Stock Motorcycle history. Herrera, who has eight wins this year, earned his 12th No. 1 spot, setting the class record for the most No. 1 qualifiers in a single season. He’ll open eliminations against Blaine Hale, looking to close out yet another magical weekend this season.
“We didn’t think it would be possible, but it was a picture-perfect run,” Herrera said. “It was so smooth it felt slow. We’re definitely happy about that and I was actually almost more excited about that than winning a race. It’s just a big accomplishment. I’ve got a fast motorcycle, and I feel if something doesn’t break and I don’t mess up, it’s going to be hard to beat us.
“There has been a lot to take in this season and I really don’t think it’s all set in. I can’t really put into words. A year ago today I would not have thought I’d be in the position I’m in, especially accomplishing so much that we have so far this season.”
Kelly Clontz made the best run of her career, going 6.705 at 201.99 to make a massive jump to second. Eddie Krawiec took third on the strength of his 6.714 at 203.92.
Steve Torrence hung on to the No. 1 position in a loaded Top Fuel field, as his track-record run of 3.636 at 336.62 in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors/Toyota dragster was good enough to hold off an epic number of qualifying runs on Saturday. It’s the third No. 1 qualifier for the Texan and four-time world champion, and he’ll open eliminations against Buddy Hull on Sunday. He entered the weekend third in points behind Leah Pruett and leader Doug Kalitta and gathered plenty of momentum with three straight runs in the 3.60s over the final three qualifying sessions. He’ll try to finish off a special weekend with a third win at his home track in front of what’s expected to be another huge crowd.
“It’s definitely morale boosting to go out and go low ET. But more importantly, today we went out and ran (3.66) on the first lap, (3.67) on the second lap,” Torrence said. “When you have a car that’s consistent, it’s always a confidence booster but especially when it’s consistently quick and you’re picking up points and something that very potentially could be the deciding factor in winning or losing a championship.
“At this point I’m probably more confident in my car than any other time in the season. We’re making really good strides at the right time, and I’m very confident going into tomorrow. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a hometown crowd.”
Torrence kept all the stars at bay, but nearly everyone put up a challenge, as 12 cars dipped into the 3.60s in the second-quickest qualifying field in Top Fuel history. Points leader Kalitta held on to second thanks to his 3.642 at 334.70 on Friday and Mike Salinas jumped to third Saturday evening with a 3.655 at 333.73.
In Funny Car, Bob Tasca III closed out qualifying with a massive blast of 338.57 mph, giving him plenty of confidence heading into eliminations, but it was his track-record pass of 3.822 at 335.55 on Friday in his 11,000-horsepower Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang that handed the points leader his seventh No. 1 spot this season. Tasca will open eliminations against Jack Wyatt and he’s got plenty of momentum, making the quickest run in three of the four sessions, which helped add to his points lead. With ideal conditions expected for eliminations, Tasca is ready for an unbelievable championship Sunday in Dallas.
“We have one of the best cars on the planet right now, so you’ve got a lot of confidence,” Tasca said. “Anyone out there can take out one of these cars easily. But we’ve got a really good car, the guys have a great handle on it. That 338 mph speed was pretty remarkable actually. I got No. 1 and the (personal-best) speed record. That was pretty cool. That was the fastest I’ve ever been in a car, and I tell you one thing, when those parachutes come out four runs in a row at well over 330 mph, I’m a little sore to be honest with you.
“I could really hear the motor rev up in the lights and that’s when you think it’s on a big run. The fans got their money’s worth, and they’ll get their money’s worth tomorrow because you’re going to see a lot of those same conditions. Our side of the ladder is pretty stacked. That’s what we want. If you want to win the championship, you want to beat some of the top cars early and try to get ourselves into a position to win this race.”
John Force made a career-best pass to close out qualifying, taking the second spot with a 3.823 at 328.56. Robert Hight, who was second in points entering the weekend, took third with a 3.832 at 327.75, with Ron Capps and Matt Hagan right behind with runs of 3.844 and 3.848, respectively.
On a historic day in Pro Stock, five-time world champion Greg Anderson jumped to the top on Saturday, claiming the No. 1 qualifier with a standout run of 6.480 at 211.76 in his HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro. It gives Anderson his second No. 1 spot this season and the 123rd in his career, doing so in Dallas against the quickest qualifying field in Pro Stock history. A total of nine cars ran in the 6.40s, with Chris McGaha taking the No. 16 spot with a 6.536. That will be Anderson’s first-round matchup on Sunday, as the veteran looks to win his third straight race in the Countdown to the Championship. Anderson enjoyed every bit of Saturday’s performance, making a pair of runs in the 6.40s and taking the top spot in an unbelievably quick field.
“Momentum is obviously worth a lot. You can’t quantify it, but it’s worth a lot,” Anderson said. “To get the No. 1 spot this weekend, this has probably been the toughest four rounds of qualifying that I can remember in my career. There has never been as many cars capable of driving the pole and being No. 1 through No. 10 in any order. Every thousandth meant everything, and that means to us, not only does that car have to be perfect every time down the racetrack, but you have to shift it perfectly.
“It’s that tough out there right now. The bar has been raised in this class and I’m proud to be one of the guys in the mix fighting for a championship and having a chance to fight for the pole like we did this weekend. It’s a lot of fun when you have conditions like this. This is what we live for. It was a great weekend so far in qualifying and tomorrow will be even better yet, I think you’ll see even faster times and it’s crazy. There are just so many capable of doing it.”
Troy Coughlin Jr. took the second spot with a 6.482 at 212.05 and points leader Erica Enders is right behind in third after a 6.483 at 211.82. Jerry Tucker, Dallas Glenn, Deric Kramer, Matt Hartford, Kyle Koretsky and Aaron Stanfield all ran in the 6.40s as well.
Eliminations for the Texas NHRA FallNationals begin at 12 p.m. CT on Sunday at the Texas Motorplex.