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Fast Action At Circle K NHRA 4-Wide Nationals
Not slowing down at all, 72-year-old Funny Car driver John Force and his Peak Blue DEF Chevrolet Camaro team prevailed in the 4-wide competition at North Carolina to pick up his 155th career event win, all in the Funny Car category. Photo By Mike Burghardt

The NRHA Camping World Drag Racing Series returned to Z-Max raceway in Concord, North Carolina, for the sixth event of the season, the Circle K NHRA 4-Wide Nationals. The weather was generally pretty good, allowing for some very good performances, yet some very surprising upsets due to some tricky conditions at times during the event.

In Top Fuel, there were several surprises. Justin Ashley (1), Leah Pruitt (2), Steve Torrence (3) and Doug Kalitta (4) represented the top four qualifiers. The big surprise was the four-time champion, Torrence, going out in the opening round. Then there was Brittany Force, fresh off two consecutive event wins, who normally qualifies at the top. She had a tough weekend and she was eliminated in the second round. Her early departure did not cost her the points lead, as all those close to her were out of competition, also. But, Mike Salinas, who won at the Phoenix event, had a great weekend with his PEP Boys/Scrappers dragster as he qualified fifth and advanced to the final round quad. That final round quad featured two tour regulars, Mike Salinas and Josh Hart. The remaining two drivers were part-timers Spencer Massey and Cameron Ferre. These two drivers could not be taken lightly, having laid down some strong runs during eliminations and Massey not only ran strong, but also left first in every round, with reaction times under 0.030 throughout the weekend. When the thunder and smoke cleared, Salinas was the winner with a strong 3.708 at 330.47 mph. Ferre, in his first career final round, was the runner-up with a 3.986 at 272.56 mph as Massey (0.025 reaction time) and Hart both lost traction before halftrack. With the win, Salinas moved up to second in the points race, 17 points behind Brittany Force. Justin Ashley and Steve Torrence now sit third and fourth.

In Funny Car, legendary driver John Force showed that you don’t lose your talents with age. Force, 72, qualified number one with a 3.850 at 334.24 mph. He ran with or quicker than everyone throughout eliminations and left with or ahead of nearly every other driver each round. In the final he would be squared up against Robert Hight (three-time champion), Ron Capps (two-time champion) and Mike McIntire Jr. (part-timer in his first ever final round). Force left first with a 0.051 reaction time and held off Hight (who started to haze the tires near the finish line), 3.914 at 326.86 mph to 4.38 at 267.85 mph. Capps and McIntire both lost traction early in the run. The win is the 155th of Force’s amazing career, more than any other driver in NHRA history. It also moves him up to fourth in the point standings behind Matt Hagan, Robert Hight and Ron Capps after six events.

Steve Johnson took over the points lead from Karen Stoffer in Pro Stock Motorcycle (by six points), by winning his second consecutive event in dominating style, collecting the 13th event win of his career. In the final, he used a strong 6.740 at 200.65 mph to take out Karen Stoffer, Joey Gladstone and Eddie Krawiec in the final round quad. Though he did appear to dominate most of the event, it did not go without a few calamities. In qualifying, his bike leaked oil causing a loss of traction due to loose bolts on the engine. During eliminations, they had similar problems and had a bad battery. But, when it is your day, it is your day, and they were able to find and correct all the little problems they had popping up before the problems could affect his on track performances.

tf salinas
Taking a victory in the Top Fuel category in North Carolina at the NHRA 4-wide event was Mike Salinas of Pleasanton, able to put it all together with his PEP Boys/Scrappers Racing dragster. The win moved Salinas to fourth in the championship points race. Photo By Jeff Burghardt