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Prock, Torrence, Enders and Herrera Get Provisional No. 1 Spots at Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornatonals

Austin Prock set the Gainesville Raceway track record in his Funny Car debut in the NHRA on Friday for John Force Racing, powering to the provisional No. 1 position at the 55th Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also the provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the first of 21 races during the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series.

Prock, the 2019 NHRA Rookie of the Year, moved from Top Fuel to Funny Car before the season and enjoyed an impressive start to the 2024 NHRA campaign, going 3.820-seconds at 334.65 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Cornwell Tools/AAA Chevrolet Camaro SS. If that holds, it would be his fourth No. 1 qualifier and first in his new class.

“When you’re running this quick, it’s right on the ragged edge and you have to be perfect,” Prock said. “It’s been a lot to take in, but the way this car is running and the way my dad (crew chief Jimmy Prock) is feeling, it’s definitely been a fun experience. We’re all on the same page and my whole family has the same passion for this sport. To be successful is one thing, but to do it with your family is really special. I’ve really been looking forward to this season and this was a heck of a way to start.”

Bob Tasca III was right behind, going 3.829 at 337.75, with the speed mark setting a track record. Ron Capps took the third position with a 3.871 at 333.00.

Torrence made the quickest run in both Top Fuel qualifying sessions on Friday, as the four-time world champ went 3.690-seconds at 333.08 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster. If that holds, Torrence would earn his 38th career No. 1 position and sets him up nicely for Saturday’s Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout. Torrence is the No. 1 seed in the specialty race and will get the first selection for his opening-round opponent. The eight-car shootout features a big payout and bragging rights and also includes Doug Kalitta, Mike Salinas, Brittany Force, Justin Ashley, Antron Brown, Shawn Langdon and defending Callout winner Josh Hart.

“It gives me more confidence going into tomorrow,” Torrence said. “The car is performing like we want and we’ve got a good car right now. Those two runs are a product of the last 1-2 years coming to fruition. It gives my team confidence as well and it says a lot to be No. 1 (in the Callout). In this field, you’ve got some of the toughest competition out there. This place was packed today and I look forward to putting on a show in front of these fans tomorrow.”

Langdon posted an impressive run to close out his day, jumping to second with a 3.697 at 332.43. Salinas’ 3.717 at 321.19 puts him third after two sessions. Racing legend Tony Stewart, who is making his Top Fuel debut this weekend, went 3.739 at 327.82 and is currently xxx.

Looking to conquer Gainesville Raceway for the first time in her stellar career, defending and six-time Pro Stock world champ enjoyed a strong start on Friday, going 6.550 at 207.88 in her Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance/SCAG Power Equipment car. That closed out the day and sent the reigning champ to the No. 1 spot. If it holds, it would be Enders’ 35th career top position, but motorsports’ winningest female is more interested in winning in Gainesville for the first time.

“We’ve obviously not had a lot of great luck here,” Enders said. “We qualified No. 2, we got beat out by our teammate Troy Coughlin for the No. 1 spot last year. I went to hit the start button for first round and she did not crank so the gator bite continued, but we’re determined to change that this weekend. This is one of the last tracks on the circuit we have left to accomplish so it’s high on our to-do list. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, but it definitely means we’re going to give it every bit of effort we have.

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Enders’ Elite Motorsports teammate Cristian Cuadra is second after a run of 6.552 at 209.10 and Dallas Glenn’s 6.556 at 208.59 currently puts him third.

Herrera picked up right where he left off in Pro Stock Motorcycle, both from his championship-winning 2023 season and last year in Gainesville, going to the No. 1 spot with a run of 6.752 at 198.64 on his RevZilla/Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. Herrera dominated the 2023 campaign, winning 11 races and grabbing 14 No. 1 qualifiers – both single-season records in the category – and showed no signs of slowing down Friday in Gainesville. The defending event winner made the quickest runs of both sessions as he looks to repeat at the site of his first NHRA win.

“We started where we left off and all the credit goes to my team,” Herrera said. “They’ve worked really hard in the off-season. I’m very happy with how I ran today. Everybody in this class has been working and it shows. This season is going to be very exciting and I’m really looking forward to it. Andrew (Hines, crew chief) works day and night in the shop and that’s where we shine. He keeps pushing and pushing, and this team never stops working.”

Matt Smith went 6.785 at 199.55 to go into the second spot, while Steve Johnson is currently third after going 6.804 at 195.70.

Qualifying continues at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.

This story was originally published on March 9, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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