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Seven Takeaways From the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway

It was a memorable weekend to say the least, at zMax Dragway. Matt Hagan finally secured his 50th career win, Greg Anderson turned 104 into 105, Fernando Cuadra Sr. hung up his racing boots (and work boots too, for that matter), Bo Butner made history in Mountain Motor Pro Stock and Sean Bellemeur now ties his team owner, Tony Bartone, in NHRA National Top Alcohol Funny Car wins.

Oh, and let’s not forget about “Trickie Rickie” Smith’s domination in Competition Eliminator. Even though he’s “retired,” Smith showed up and showed out at the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals.

Still Figuring Out Four Wide Drag Racing

Whew! Before we get into the thick of it, let’s discuss four wide racing. I hadn’t seen it in person until last year (2023). I knew I wanted to see it at some point, but I didn’t go out of my way. Love it or hate it, I think it fits the Las Vegas atmosphere of putting on a “show.” If all five of your senses aren’t engaged during normal two-wide racing, then they’re completely engulfed during four-wide competition.

Needless to say, it’s organized chaos that makes the race day go by quicker (and sometimes I’m a fan of that). Maybe at some point, I’ll feel stronger one way or the other about it, but the purist in me says leave it, not take it. 

Fernando Cuadra Sr.’s “The Last Dance”

One of the perks of my role, is getting to develop relationships with people within the sport. At the end of the day, it takes a human being to power the machine that takes them from point A to point B at a very rapid speed. It also takes man/woman power to get these race cars to make that trip. I think we sometimes forget that and become so desensitized to it. 

I digress, but it’s been a pleasure getting to know the Cuadra family and Fernando Sr.’s bootstrap story. He retired from drag racing and his company on Friday, April 26. The icing on the cake: Fernando Sr. and his twins, Cristian and David, all celebrated their birthdays that day as well.

Though the weekend did not end the way Fernando Sr. had hoped (he did not qualify), the patriarch was happy with the way everything played out during “The Last Dance.” He and his sons, Fernando Jr., Cristian and David, once again made history as the Cuadra-quad during the second round of Pro Stock qualifying. 

I could tell every time I spoke with him that he has such faith in his boys, who are taking over not only the racing operations but also the conglomerate of leather goods companies, including Corral Boots, Cuadra and Colombia Impex.

“Trickie Rickie” Smith Has the Last Laugh

The next story that piqued my interest is “Trickie Rickie” Smith’s! First of all, why am I still so shocked when I see him at the race track racing? Maybe it’s because I talked to him about retiring and believed him (foolishly), and then he still shows up to race. And then he wins in a class that he hasn’t competed in since the ‘70s, proving he’s still got it, and maybe he got an injection from the fountain of youth after driving Scott Palmer’s Top Fuel dragster.

On the heels of getting inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, Smith experienced one of the most gratifying victories of his career at the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway. Originally participating to give exposure to his sponsor, Parkway Ford, and test his car in the absence of his usual Pro Mod class, Smith ended up dominating the Competition Eliminator category.

In his big-inch nitrous-assisted Mustang, “Trickie Rickie” qualified No. 1 at a shocking .90 under the A/PM index with a 5.764 and, in doing so, set the quickest E.T. in Comp Eliminator history. Furthermore, he cut impressive lights, not having raced on a full Tree since 1974 when he was running NHRA Comp (for a brief time) and IHRA Super Mod.

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Smith excelled in the races, even overcoming significant handicaps at the start due to the competition format. 

“I knew I could beat [David Billingsley] pretty bad, but I was way late,” said Smith, who had to give Billingsley a two-second head-start. “When you let someone go that far, you have to just watch your Tree. He was already at the eighth mile, and I said, ‘There ain’t no way in hell I am going to catch him.’  I caught him; I don’t know how.”

During his Parade of Champions interview, Smith reflected on his achievement and expressed greater excitement for this win compared to his Pro Mod victories, emphasizing the intense and satisfying nature of the competition.

“I’m more excited and more happy than when I win in Pro Modified; that’s bad-ass racing there,” he said.

Bo Knows Mountain Motor Pro Stock

Bo Butner was made to drive a Mountain Motor Pro Stock (MMPS) race car. What’s shocking is that he said it was only his 15th-ever run in an MMPS car, but he swung for the fences. Not only did he claim the first win of the season in the Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage Mountain Motor Pro Stock series, but Bo also claimed the No. 1 qualifier honors in his JHG Chevrolet Camaro and earned Best Appearing Car honors beside teammate and wife Randi Lyn.

It’s no secret that Bo struggled his way through Pro Stock the last couple of years, but he seems to have found home base in the class. 

The victory was Bo’s 31st of his career, and it tied him with Jeg Coughlin Jr. as the only two drivers to have won in seven different NHRA categories.

Sweet Victory for the Killer B’s

It’s not easy to win a Wally and some will go their entire racing careers never getting that honor. But Sean Bellemeur has been one of the lucky (and good) ones to win 38, now tying his team owner, Tony Bartone’s NHRA National Top Alcohol Funny Car win record.

Bartone began his NHRA drag racing career in 1987, but the legend began in the early 90s. Bartone began running Top Alcohol Funny Car and made a hire that he didn’t know at the time would pay in gold years later. 

In 1992, Bartone met Steve Boggs at Sanair Raceway in Quebec and hired him as his crew chief/tuner. The duo has been working together, winning and setting records ever since. 

Now deemed at the Killer B’s, they rolled into zMAX Dragway as the defending NHRA 4-Wide Nationals winners from Vegas two weeks ago. In the “Pirate Ship,” Bellemeur and tuner Boggs were only bested once in the seven runs they made in Charlotte.

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Manifold of a Different Color

Perhaps one of the most interesting themes throughout the weekend was what color a manifold should be, and if it’s the wrong color, has it been modified?

This all began when Bob Tasca III’s pass during the second round of Funny Car qualifying on Friday night had been thrown out because the NHRA Tech Department found it illegal. Tasca addressed the ongoing issue Saturday morning, stating the investigation into his manifolds started at the first race of the season, the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida. He went onto say that he hadn’t been given an answer to whether his manifolds were cleared for use or not because the NHRA gave them back to him without clarification. 

Tasca explained that Wilson individually flows their manifolds to optimize fuel delivery, a common practice, and stressed that the color change did not provide a performance advantage. He continued by stating that Wilson uses a technique that when they flow the manifold, it changes the color of the magnesium.

Tasca checked with Alan Johnson (president of Alan Johnson Performance Engines and crew chief of Doug Kalitta’s Top Fuel dragster) on the measurements of the manifold to see if anything had been changed. Per Tasca, Johnson said the manifold had not been modified, even if the color had changed. 

Fast forward, and Tasca threatened to pack up and leave Charlotte because he didn’t have any legal manifolds that he could use. But low and behold, when it came time for Q3, he was in the lanes with a borrowed part from Torrence/Capco. What’s more, Tasca goes on to win the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. 

The NHRA did issue an official statement on Saturday reading: “NHRA has announced the disqualification of Bob Tasca III’s run during the second round of Funny Car qualifications at the Charlotte NHRA 4-Wide Nationals, on Friday, April 26th in Concord, NC.

“The intake manifold is not allowed to be altered in any form from its original accepted state. Tasca’s intake manifold was found to have been media blasted and this violation is considered a technical infraction. Additional penalty may apply after further evaluation.”

The NHRA’s statement is much more than we got when Tasca got penalized for his headers in Las Vegas. I will say that this is better communication from the NHRA, but maybe it was reactionary since Tasca had addressed the issue on the NHRA Insider Live podcast, and the NHRA needed to put its side of the story out there. 

Another layer to this story is that no explanation was provided on the competitor website, when this article was published. 

All in all, I think this level of communication should be maintained, if not stepped up on what’s happening “behind the scenes” from the organization that so many choose to race under. It’s a bit of a hit or miss where info is distributed – whether it’s a press release, social media or on

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Greg Anderson Goes for 105

Greg Anderson, driver of the Chevrolet Camaro, wheeled his way to the 105th win of his career at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. The victory came on the heels of his 125th No. 1 qualifier award and boosted him to the very top of the standings. It all happened in Charlotte, the hometown of sponsor Rick Hendrick and

There was a brief question about how KB Titan was going to do this year. An off-the-record source has indicated that KB Titan has also had its hand slapped for using illegal manifolds, but more on that later. However, it doesn’t look like the team has missed a beat, as this win marks Anderson’s second of the year and KB’s third, with Dallas Glenn also claiming a double-U. 

Side note – Anderson’s third qualifying session was thrown out due to the NHRA ruling a disconnected wire a safety violation. There wasn’t a statement put on social media about this DNQ, nor has there been anything on This goes back to my point that there’s a lack of steady communication and explanations all around. 

Other Notes:

Gaige Herrera continued his winning ways – scoring both the #2Fast2Tasty Challenge win and the Wally on Sunday. The reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle champ picked up right where he and the Vance & Hines team left off in Gainesville, getting these back-to-back wins.

John Force claims Rick Hendrick saved his daughter Brittany Force’s season by agreeing to sponsor four races, one of which was the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals in Charlotte. Brittany debuted the red, white and blue dragster wrapped in the livery that we’re so used to seeing on Greg Anderson’s Pro Stock Chevrolet.  

Aaron Stanfield might’ve stepped out of the Factory Stock Showdown class and into the new Holley EFI Factory X field, but he didn’t miss a beat. Stanfield raced to victory in Factory X in his Janac Brothers Camaro and then finished second in the Pro Stock final quad in his JHG Camaro. Plus, Greg Stanfield, Aaron’s dad, who had the first Factory X car to officially hit the track last year in Norwalk, walked away the big winner at the previous event in Las Vegas.

I said before the event when I was filling out my Drag Race Bracket Bonanza bracket that this might just be the year we see Matt Hagan and his team struggle. Hagan hasn’t hoisted a Wally since the Texas FallNationals last year (even though he won the championship), but boy, was I wrong. The four-time Funny Car champ secured the coveted trophy and marked 50 wins in his career. 

This story was originally published on May 1, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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