Kalitta Doubles Down, Takes Points Lead With Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals Win
Top Fuel’s Doug Kalitta stayed undefeated in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs, picking up his second straight win on Sunday at zMAX Dragway and moving into the points lead for the first time in three years at the history-making Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals.
Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won in the second of six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
In the final round against Mike Salinas, Kalitta powered to a run of 3.696-seconds at 333.49 mph in his 11,000-horsepower dragster en route to his second win this season and 51st in his career.
His day included victories against Steve Torrence, Kalitta Motorsports teammate Shawn Langdon and Leah Pruett, setting up the marquee matchup against Salinas, who went 3.718 at 328.46 in the finals. With four races remaining, Kalitta holds a 63-points lead against Torrence and 68 over Justin Ashley.
“We had to tune it up for the final and Mike was right there,” said Kalitta, who picked up back-to-back wins for the first time since 2016. “It was a good day for all my guys. I’m glad I’m along for the ride for whatever we end up with. It’s a great start (to the Countdown) for us and I just have a ton of support from everyone who has followed me over the years.
Salinas advanced to his second final round this year and 17th in his career by knocking off Mike Bucher and Austin Prock. It was still a rewarding weekend for Salinas, setting both ends of the track record and becoming the first driver in NHRA history to go 300 mph in the 1/8-mile.
In Funny Car, Bob Tasca III finished off a monumental weekend with a huge victory against points leader Robert Hight in the final round, going 3.933 at 329.26 in his 11,000-horsepower machine to earn a holeshot victory over Hight’s 3.932 at 326.95. It is the third victory of the 2023 campaign for Tasca and the 15th of his career as the veteran also moved to second in points.
After making a career-best run of 3.836 on Saturday to qualify third, Tasca took down Alexis DeJoria, Terry Haddock and Matt Hagan to reach the final round against Hight. Tasca was previously 0-3 against the three-time champ in final rounds, but Tasca’s .050 reaction time proved to be the difference to hold off Hight and pick up the thrilling win. Tasca also pulled to within 25 points of Hight after two races in the Countdown to the Championship.
"I think we're somewhat racing with a chip on our shoulder this year," Tasca said. "How many people in this room would have thought Bob Tasca would be (25 points) out of first? Bottom line is, we've really come together as a team, probably more so than any point in my career and the car really sees it. I'm so impressed with the car they've given me. I've always wanted to win at all the Bruton Smith tracks, and I know he's smiling down from above."
Hight, who set the track record on Saturday to qualify No. 1, picked up his second straight final round appearance in the playoffs and the 101st in his career thanks to round victories against Paul Lee and Alex Laughlin.
Things came together perfectly on Sunday for Pro Stock veteran Greg Anderson, as the five-time world champion picked up his first win of the season, defeating KB Titan Racing teammate Dallas Glenn in the final round with a run of 6.554 at 209.23 in his Chevrolet Camaro. It’s also the 102nd career victory for Anderson.
He got past Jerry Tucker, Cristian Cuadra and defending world champion Erica Enders to reach the final round, leading from start-to-finish in an impressive showing against Glenn, who went 6.590 at 206.73. It sent Anderson all the way to fourth in points, giving him hope of a sixth world championship with four races remaining this year.
In the 500th career race in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category, Gaige Herrera earned his first career victory in the Countdown to the Championship, going 6.726 at 201.34 on his bike to win against a red-hot Hector Arana Jr. Herrera moved back into the points lead with his dominant weekend en route to his seventh victory of the season, also getting back on track after an early exit in the playoff opener.
There were no upsets on Sunday at zMAX Dragway, as Herrera, who also qualified No. 1, rolled to round wins against Jerry Savoie, defending world champion Matt Smith and Chase Van Sant, setting a track E.T. record in the opening round with a 6.706. His lead against Smith stands at 52 points.
NEXT UP: The NASCAR Playoffs is making its next pit stop at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 7-8, as the drivers battle it out on the 2.28-mile road course for the Bank of America ROVAL ™ 400 and the Drive for a Cure 250. Fan Friday will kick off the exhilirating weekend with a JGR fan fest, a NASCAR Hauler Parade and will be headlined by country music star Tim Dugger. The fun continues with “Night Under the Covers” that will cover the action on the track followed by the best band in all of the land Alter Ego hits the stage to cover all of the best rock ‘n roll songs on the Billboard charts. Sunday’s entertainment lineup features a rockin’ pre-race concert with country music superstar Riley Green. Tickets to the Bank of America ROVAL™ 400 start at just $49 for adults. Kids 12 and under get in for just $10 with an adult. For tickets, visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com/tickets.
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