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Mike Salinas Scores Win at Season-Opening NHRA Gatornationals

The Scrappers Racing Top Fuel team started the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season out on the right note as Mike Salinas raced to his eighth career Top Fuel win at the 54th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. 

Salinas powered his Scrappers Racing dragster to the winners circle after qualifying eighth with a pass of 3.751-seconds at 333.41 mph but his 11,000 horsepower beast really came to life on race day as the Scrappers team turned up the heat when it really counted. 

“I get a little emotional because we’ve worked so hard to get here,” said M. Salinas moments after exiting his dragster to receive his trophy. “We’ve got a great team and it’s just amazing. It’s surreal. I go home and I watch this stuff on TV and it’s hard to believe it’s me doing it. Pleasanton Ready Mix, Adams Pools, Platinum Cargo Logistics, Valley Services, Pacific Coast – thank you, guys.”

M. Salinas faced the No. 9 qualifier, Justin Ashley, in the first round of eliminations this morning. Ashley had the better light but M. Salinas outpaced his young competitor with a blistering run of 3.669 at 334.82 to advance to the next round.

In the quarterfinals, the Scrappers Racing machine lined up against current Top Fuel world champion Brittany Force. With nearly identical reaction times, it was a solid drag race all the way to the stripe where M. Salinas managed to turn on the win light for a second time.

Leah Pruett faced M. Salinas in the semifinals but went up in smoke early to give him the win to advance to the 16th final round of his Top Fuel career where he faced Steve Torrence. Despite Torrence’s starting line advantage, the Scrappers Racing dragster took the lead quickly earning the talented team the first Wally of the season. 

Pro Stock Motorcycle up-and-comer Jianna Evaristo experienced a stellar performance all weekend long. In qualifying, she achieved a new personal best elapsed time with a powerful run of 6.789 at 198.61, qualifying her in the top half of the field at No. 5. She faced Marc Ingwersen in the first round of competition on her Scrappers Racing Suzuki. The talented young driver got the starting line advantage on Ingwersen and held on to it to advance her to the quarterfinals where she would line up against her teammate and the current Pro Stock world champion, Matt Smith. 

Evaristo got the starting line advantage over Smith and despite his best efforts, she held on to the lead for another round win before being defeated by rookie rider Gaige Herrera. 

“I’m very excited about our progress,” said Evaristo. “Our performance here is just the beginning.”

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In the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, Top Alcohol pilot Jasmine Salinas had a string of bad luck as she experienced issues during the first two rounds of qualifying. A rain delay canceled the final round of qualifying sidelining J. Salinas and preventing her from defending her title after winning this event last year.

This story was originally published on March 13, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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