Fresh off back-to-back final round appearances in Top Fuel, Mike Salinas continued his strong run on Friday, powering to the provisional No. 1 spot at the season finale, the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Robert Hight (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also the provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the final race of the Countdown to the Championship and the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
Salinas had another impressive performance in his 11,000-horsepower Scrappers Racing dragster, going 3.694-seconds at 328.78 mph. If it holds, it would be the second No. 1 qualifier this year for Salinas and the eighth in his career. It’s also another great run in what’s shaping up to be a big finish for Salinas, as he has a chance to win in Pomona for the first time and finish in the top three in points in Top Fuel.
“We’re having a good time and we want to finish this season strong,” said Salinas, who has been to the final round in three of the past four races. “That’s our plan and it helps when you have a team like this and you know the car is going to run well. They’re making this fun. I know what I need to do and if I show a good example, that’s all that matters. We’re going to have a good time with it and we push each other. This place is very special and this is where everyone wants to win. It would be a great way to finish the year off.”
Points leader Steve Torrence is currently second after his run of 3.698 at 317.05 as he seeks his fourth straight world championship. It was an impressive run to open Torrence’s weekend and it also gave him qualifying bonus points, extending his lead to 108 points over Brittany Force. His father, Billy, qualified in the third spot on Friday after going 3.713 at 330.47.
Hight went 3.894 at 330.55 in his 11,000-horsepower Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS as he looks to qualify No. 1 for the third time this year in Funny Car and 71st time overall. After struggling in the Countdown to the Championship, a strong finish would also give the three-time world champ momentum heading into the 2022 campaign.
Points leader Ron Capps is currently second in qualifying after he went 3.908 at 329.83 in the opening qualifying round. With defending world champ Matt Hagan struggling on his run, it moved Capps’ points lead to 61 points, which is just over a two-round advantage with the points-and-a-half scenario in play at Pomona. Capps is seeking his second career world title in the loaded class. John Force is currently third with a 3.939 at 328.14 and Cruz Pedregon, who now sits 85 points behind Capps, is fourth after his pass of 3.939 at 321.96.
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It was business as usual for Pro Stock points leader Greg Anderson, as the all-time wins leader in the class shot to the top in his HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro with a run of 6.566 at 210.21. It gave Anderson four qualifying points as well, extending his points lead over defending world champ Erica Enders to 35 points heading into final qualifying. If it holds, Anderson would also qualify No. 1 for the 12th time this year and 118th time in his career, but the veteran is more concerned with clinching his fifth world championship. He got off to a great start on Friday, with Enders currently fourth after going 6.589 at 209.04. She’s also after her fifth world title and is coming off a final round appearance in Las Vegas.
Kyle Koretsky is currently second with a 6.584 at 208.71 and star rookie Dallas Glenn is a spot behind thanks to his 6.584 at 208.59, giving KB Racing the top three spots in qualifying.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith is also after his fifth world championship and he started the weekend perfectly, going straight to No. 1 with a standout run of 6.779 at 201.19 on his Denso Auto Parts/Stockseth/Matt Smith Racing EBR. Smith would pick up his fifth No. 1 qualifier this season and 48th top spot in his career if it holds, but like Anderson, Smith’s focus is on a world title in the midst of a heated points battle. He picked up crucial qualifying points with his standout performance on Friday, pushing his lead to 22 points over Steve Johnson and 33 points over three-time world champ Angelle Sampey.
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Johnson also ran well and is currently sitting third with a 6.811 at 197.39 and Sampey is right behind with a 6.819 at 196.76. Karen Stoffer, who has advanced to two straight final rounds, is currently second after going 6.785 at 197.97.
Qualifying continues at 11:30 a.m. PT on Saturday at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.