NHRA Midwest Nationals Friday Qualifying: Kalitta’s Dream Countdown Continues

Jackson Wheeler
13 Min Read

Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta continued his impressive run in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship at World Wide Technology Raceway, powering to the provisional No. 1 spot to close out Friday’s racing at the 12th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals.

Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also the provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the 18th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, and the third of six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

As part of the final pair of the evening under the lights at World Wide Technology Raceway, Kalitta turned in a run of 3.709-seconds at 331.85 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Mac Tools/Toyota dragster. If that holds, the veteran would pick up his second No. 1 spot this year and 53rd in his career. Seeking his first career world championship, Kalitta has won the first two playoff races this year and continued to gain momentum on Friday.

“Everybody is running really close, and we somehow snuck by them,” Kalitta said. “Hat’s off to (crew chiefs) Alan Johnson and Brian Husen and all my guys; they’re really working their tails off on this car, and it’s definitely showing. Consistency is everything in this sport, and that was a nice A to B run for us. It was close, but we pulled it off.

“We’re all hungry. I always love coming to St. Louis. Just a lot of great memories here and a great racing town. This is really a good start for us here for the first qualifying run. The competition is tough and everybody is running well. I just feel really fortunate to pull off the low qualifier so far.”

Mike Salinas took the second spot with a run of 3.710 at 329.75 and Antron Brown was right behind in third with a 3.714 at 331.69.

nhra midwest nationals tasca

Bob Tasca III comes into the weekend second in Funny Car points.

NHRA/National Dragsgter

Funny Car

In Funny Car, Tasca delivered an epic blast to close out qualifying, going a spectacular 3.852 at 324.90 in his 11,000-horsepower Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang. Coming off last weekend’s win in Charlotte and advancing to second in points, Tasca grabbed the qualifying points on Friday at World Wide Technology Raceway as only one of two drivers to dip into the 3.80s. With warm temperatures expected on Saturday, Tasca appears on track to earn his sixth No. 1 qualifier in his tremendous 2023 campaign and the 15th in his career. It would also be his second No. 1 in the playoffs if it holds, a week after making a career-best pass in Charlotte.

“We’ve been working on this all season long, starting in testing,” Tasca said. “We had to have the setup to go out here and run with the big teams when the conditions were good. We had flashes of that early in the season, worked on it when the conditions were good, and just seeing this car run really hard. Aaron Brooks, Todd Okuhara, they have a lot of confidence in the setup. They were trying to run .85 and the car ran .85.

“This wasn’t a fluke, they told me keep it on the inside until about a half-track and then pull it back slowly. Normally you muscle a Funny Car, but in this example, you’re really just finessing it. You can’t be a one-trick pony. You have to be able to throw down when it’s hot and be able to pull it back and still throw down when it’s cool.”

Blake Alexander took the second spot with a run of 3.888 at 326.79 and John Force is third after going 3.914 at 325.06. Points leader Robert Hight is 13th.

nhra midwest nationals

Erica Enders continues to peak at the right time in Pro Stock.

NHRA/National Dragster

Pro Stock

World Wide Technology Raceway has belonged to Pro Stock’s Erica Enders over the years and that continued on Friday, as the defending world champion went to the No. 1 spot with a run of 6.549 at 209.69 in her Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance Chevrolet Camaro. If that holds, Enders would earn her third straight No. 1 qualifier, fifth this season and the 34th in her stellar career. She’s been nearly flawless in St. Louis, winning the past four years at the track, giving her six overall. That’s the most in NHRA history at the facility and a seventh win this weekend – and 47th in her career – would also give her the most wins by a female in NHRA history.

“It definitely felt awesome,” Enders said. “I say this a lot but I feed off of Mark Ingersoll, my crew chief. I really enjoy his confidence because it in turn gives me confidence. This place has always been amazing to me. To have the last four years in a row is pretty awesome. It’s Mark’s home track, and he wants to swing hard here. We’re really excited.

“My sister and I have coined the phrase, everything changes in St. Louis. We’ll just go ahead and hope that’s going to be the outcome. When we went into the Countdown, we haven’t won one yet, but I said three races in a row, in three weeks I’m going to know where I stand and maybe my stomach can relax a little bit. It’s so fun coming here. I’m excited to have things change in St. Louis.”

Troy Coughlin Jr. took the second spot thanks to his pass of 6.558 at 208.97 and Greg Anderson, who won last weekend in Charlotte, is third after a 6.560 at 208.81. Points leader Matt Hartford’s 6.565 has him fourth.

nhra midwest nationals gaige herrera

Regular-season champion Gaige Herrera continues to be the rider to beat in Pro Stock Motorcycles.

NHRA/National Dragster

Pro Stock Motorcycle

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Gaige Herrera enjoyed another terrific Friday night, this time putting together an impressive run of 6.716 at 201.79 on his Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. It puts the points leader on track for an incredible 11th No. 1 qualifier this season in 12 races for the category, another sign of his dominating season. He picked up his first career win in the Countdown to the Championship last weekend and, after moving back into the points lead, Herrera looks to keep rolling this weekend in St. Louis.

“I’ve been having fun all year, and all the little changes, they’re out to get us as a team or me,” Herrera said. “Just to have that feeling, basically, Matt (Smith) is doing everything he can to try to knock us off the top. I think that makes us drive harder, push harder, and me as a rider, try to be more consistent.

“I had a .029 light there today and last weekend I had an average of .032. It makes me try harder and push harder, and the same for Andrew (Hines, crew chief). He wants to give me the most consistent but fast motorcycle, so I think overall it just drives us to keep on pushing. I’m just excited to be a part of it. I’m very lucky to ride for them and be part of it.”

Defending world champion and defending event winner Matt Smith, who trails Herrera by 52 points heading into the weekend, is currently second with a 6.766 at 201.76 and Eddie Krawiec is third with a 6.787 at 201.40.

Friday Qualifying

NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway

Friday’s results after the first one of three rounds of qualifying for the 12th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway, 18th of 21 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel — 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.709 seconds, 331.85 mph; 2. Mike Salinas, 3.710, 329.75; 3. Antron Brown, 3.714, 331.69; 4. Justin Ashley, 3.730, 331.69; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.734, 329.83; 6. Leah Pruett, 3.742, 331.04; 7. Clay Millican, 3.745, 328.62; 8. Shawn Langdon, 3.748, 328.86; 9. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.816, 314.46; 10. Cody Krohn, 3.819, 319.07; 11. T.J. Zizzo, 3.832, 321.88; 12. Lex Joon, 3.920, 314.09; 13. Steve Torrence, 5.464, 119.76; 14. Austin Prock, 5.936, 110.86; 15. Josh Hart, 6.142, 110.64; 16. Brittany Force, 6.651, 88.33. Not Qualified: 17. Buddy Hull, 7.396, 78.78; 18. Terry Totten, 20.894, 158.39.

Funny Car — 1. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.852, 324.90; 2. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.888, 326.79; 3. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.914, 325.06; 4. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.928, 328.78; 5. Bobby Bode, Mustang, 3.937, 293.47; 6. Chad Green, Mustang, 3.959, 328.86; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.982, 321.04; 8. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.079, 299.00; 9. Dave Richards, Mustang, 4.193, 275.84; 10. Alex Laughlin, Charger, 4.220, 295.40; 11. Jack Wyatt, Charger, 4.296, 240.77; 12. Dale Creasy Jr., Charger, 4.904, 159.61; 13. Robert Hight, Camaro, 5.445, 131.48; 14. Ron Capps, Toyota GR Supra, 5.770, 122.43; 15. J.R. Todd, GR Supra, 6.023, 111.12; 16. Alexis DeJoria, GR Supra, 6.387, 114.01. Not Qualified: 17. Cruz Pedregon, 7.564, 91.85.

Pro Stock — 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.549, 209.69; 2. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.558, 208.97; 3. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.560, 208.81; 4. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.565, 207.85; 5. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.569, 208.65; 6. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.570, 208.01; 7. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.573, 209.10; 8. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Ford Mustang, 6.575, 207.69; 9. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.582, 208.39; 10. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.582, 207.15; 11. Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, 6.583, 208.81; 12. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.605, 208.62; 13. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.615, 207.27; 14. Jerry Tucker, Camaro, 6.622, 207.15; 15. Fernando Cuadra, Mustang, 6.627, 207.85; 16. Eric Latino, Camaro, 6.627, 206.61. Not Qualified: 17. Robert River, 7.123, 196.07; 18. Deric Kramer, 7.971, 122.87.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.716, 201.79; 2. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.766, 201.76; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.787, 201.40; 4. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.796, 199.14; 5. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.841, 197.31; 6. Chase Van Sant, Suzuki, 6.847, 194.21; 7. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.910, 195.96; 8. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.929, 194.60; 9. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.953, 193.82; 10. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.961, 193.40; 11. Chris Bostick, EBR, 7.026, 187.63; 12. Joey Gladstone, Buell, 7.061, 160.69; 13. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.190, 149.38.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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