Defending Funny Car world champion Ron Capps rolled to his third win in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge bonus race on Saturday, defeating J.R. Todd in the final round at Pacific Raceways as part of the 34th annual Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals.
In the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, Steve Torrence (Top Fuel) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won the bonus event in Seattle. Mike Salinas (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car) and Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) each qualified No. 1 at the 11th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
Capps went 3.951s at 322.65mph in his NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra to slip past Todd’s run of 3.967s at 323.81mph, giving the back-to-back world champ his third specialty event win in the past four races. He will attempt to pick up his first double-up weekend of the year on Sunday in Seattle, where Capps has two career event wins.
“This deal has really changed the way you wake up Saturday morning,” Capps said. “There’s a lot going on inside your head up there. You’re trying to win this and you’re still trying to improve your qualifying spot, too, but this deal is really cool. We’re very excited to get another win in this and it also gives us a lot of good data for tomorrow.
“I want to just say it over and over: Thank you to Mission Foods for putting this on. They really created something cool. We all saw the points is the thing that stood out for most; it’s great money, we appreciate that, too. But as you know, we won the world championship last year by less than a handful of points.”
Funny Car legend John Force put on an impressive show to close out qualifying, jumping to the No. 1 spot for the first time this season with a run of 3.915s at 327.35mph in his PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS. It’s also the 166th career No. 1 qualifier for the 16-time world champ as he looks to win at Pacific Raceways for an incredible 10th time. Bob Tasca III took second with a 3.949s at 322.81mph and Capps qualified third.
“When you’re out here, and you got four teams and so many people represent, it’s hard to make everybody happy,” Force said. “We have a race to win tomorrow, our cars are good, some are a little bit off, some are hot. I didn’t think we’d be that fast. But like Danny (Hood, crew chief) said: ‘Hang on.’ So when he does that, I know he’s pushing it. So I’m excited and I love Seattle.
“It’s funny, the days beat you up and you feel like everything’s going wrong, and then all of a sudden you run like that, you get young again.”
Four-time Top Fuel world champ Torrence made the most of his Saturday, picking up his first victory in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge by knocking off Shawn Langdon in the final round with a run of 3.788s at 325.61mph in his Capco Contractors/Toyota dragster. It’s the first win of any kind this season for Torrence, who was second in points entering the weekend. That shows the team’s consistency this season, but Torrence has been eager to get back in the winner’s circle. He did that on Saturday, knocking off Doug Kalitta and then Langdon to win the bonus race and enjoy plenty of momentum heading into Sunday’s eliminations.
“We had a really good race car in Denver and we should have won (in the semifinals against Kalitta),” Torrence said. “It definitely gives me a boost of confidence in my race car. I went to the Western Swing with a completely different mindset. To win that gives us a lot of confidence going into race day tomorrow. It’s the first win we’ve had in a while and I think that’s finally coming around the way that we want to. The win light came on in our side and we won the race. I trusted my guys and my race. We didn’t win four world championships by not trusting in them.”
Salinas enjoyed an impressive Saturday in the class, too, picking up his second No. 1 qualifier this season and 13th in his career with a run of 3.743s at 329.02mph in his Valley Services/Scrappers Racing dragster. He followed it up with another strong run of 3.77s to close out the day, putting him in prime position to pick up his first win at Pacific Raceways and second victory this season. Doug Kalitta qualified second with a 3.753s at 327.66mph, and points leader Justin Ashley jumped to third in the final session after going 3.760s at 325.45mph.
“We tested a lot. We just didn’t share it with anybody,” Salinas said. “We just fell on our face and tried all kinds of different things. All the stuff we did learn, we’re just applying it now, and the car seems to be responding exactly the way we want it to. Our 60-foots were amazing for the heat. I think we’re in a good place.
“We tried to run a little bit better in Q3, but I think it mowed through the clutch a little bit. We were trying to actually run the same run a little bit hotter, because that’s what it’s going to be tomorrow.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, the day belonged to Herrera, as the current points leader won the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge and qualified No. 1 in the category’s first appearance at Pacific Raceways. He knocked off Angie Smith in the finals of the bonus race on Saturday, going 6.794s at 197.42mph on his Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki. It’s the third victory in the challenge for Herrera, who knocked off Chase Van Sant earlier in the day. He was eager to put on a strong performance in his debut in Seattle and Herrera certainly did that, giving him a chance to double up for the second time this season.
“I feel like we’re kind of back in the groove we had before Bristol, so to be able to come out here and get a third Mission win, it’s awesome,” Herrera said. “And to be No. 1 qualifier, it’s just an awesome start to the weekend. All the credit goes to the whole team. They really know their stuff. They’ve been doing this for many years and that gives me all the confidence in the world as a rider. The big thing for me on Sunday is to be consistent on the bike, but I feel very confident we can have a good day.”
Herrera’s 6.767s at 198.09mph from Friday gave the points leader his sixth No. 1 qualifier of 2023. His teammate, Eddie Krawiec, is second with a 6.776s at 198.82mph and Smith took third, going 6.787s at 200.29mph. It was the first 200-mph pass at Seattle for the Pro Stock Motorcycle category.
Eliminations for the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals begin at 10:30 a.m. PT on Sunday at Pacific Raceways.