MADISON, Ill – The Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series is rising in popularity in terms of motorsports. The World Wide Technology Raceway is a race track that’s quickly rising in popularity as well. Combine both with fireworks? You get one hell of a show on Friday from the St. Louis area drag strip.
The Nitro cars had not one, but two qualifying rounds on Friday in Gateway. The first was during the heat of the day late in the afternoon while the second being under the cool night sky.
With cooler temperatures and passes run under the lights, you get higher speeds. That’s exactly what the energetic crowd was hoping for.
10 of the 18 Funny Car’s eclipsed the 3 second ET barrier being led by Robert Hight’s 3.873 (334.90 mph). Hight, has held onto the Funny Car points lead for literally every race minus one, stormed out of the gates hot. He went 3.974 ET (324.28 mph) in Q1 but upped the ante in the final group of Q2 in terms of setting the quickest time of the day.
The John Force Racing driver has been the No. 1 qualifier eight times this season but its been five events (Sonoma) since his last. Also, that’s the last time that the No. 1 qualifier had even won a Funny Car event this year. In fact, it’s only happened three times overall in Funny Car competition this season, all were won by Hight himself.
That bodes well for Sunday’s final eliminations.
Bob Tasca III was second overall in Funny Car with a pass of 3.904 ET (324.98 mph). Tasca, was the second qualifier two weeks ago in Reading but that led to an upset in the first round to John Smith. Tasca, has qualified in the top five in five of his last seven tries, so being P2 after Day 1 is a good sign of things to come for the rest of the weekend.
John Force was third best (3.911 ET, 329.18 mph) while Jack Beckman (3.916 ET, 329.94 mph) and Matt Hagan (3.921, 323.61 mph) rounded out the top five.
The top three times were three of the final four drivers to make a pass in Q2. That’s when conditions were most ripe to see high speeds which is why the top times can be attributed to that.
Also, 14 of the 18 drivers were over 300 mph on the day. Terry Haddock holds onto the 16th and final spot right now at 4.232 ET.
In Top Fuel competition, the Torrence’s initially looked like the ones to beat. Billy Torrence set the top time in Q1 with an ET of 3.096. That was .7 quicker than the next best (Mike Salinas) in the first round. That held up to make him P2 overall on the day as that pass was tough to top in Q2.
In that final session of the day, Doug Kalitta turned up the wick with a pass of 3.002 (323.58 mph). Kalitta, only has one top qualifying time of the season as that came back in Bristol. Reading (3rd) was his only top five starting spot since Sonoma in fact. Now, with two more passes on Saturday, both being during the day, this pass likely will stand.
Steve Torrence was P3 with a pass of 3.717 (325.85 mph) to give this a Kalitta-Torrence-Torrence top three.
Austin Prock was fourth (3.726 ET, 328.94 mph) while Salinas improved his time of 3.762 set in Q1 to 3.728 ET in Q2 to round out the top five.
The biggest shocker of the day is Brittany Force. She has three straight No. 1 qualifiers including setting a national ET record in the last race in Reading. On Friday, she went only 4.055 in her first pass and slower in her second one. She’s 15th out of 18 drivers and in danger of not even making the show.