Big upsets at NHRA Bristol: Salinas over Torrence, Tasca over John Force

Photos and videos courtesy NHRA
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What a Father’s Day it was Sunday at Bristol Dragway and for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

In upsets that will likely reverberate through the sport for some time to come, the two heavy favorites in both Top Fuel and Funny Car both went down to defeat against the underdogs in the 11th race of the 24-race schedule.

In Top Fuel, Steve Torrence (3.892 seconds at 287.60 mph) saw his five-race winning streak abruptly ended when Mike Salinas (3.836 seconds at 325.69 mph) and his upstart Scrappers Racing team captured the victory. It was Salinas’ second career Top Fuel win, the other coming earlier this season in the four-wide event at Las Vegas.

It’s kind of surreal what is happening,” said Salinas, who jumped to third in Top Fuel points. “The guys are amazing, they’re doing a great job and we’re having a lot of fun.

“You can’t take anybody lightly out here. I have all the confidence in this team and it’s just amazing to be in the seat with these guys. Alan Johnson and the crew, they just know how to do it and it’s just amazing, it really is.”

Moments before Salinas’ upset win, Bob Tasca III (4.008 seconds at 316.23 mph) earned his first win since 2012, defeating legendary Funny Car racer John Force (4.155 seconds at 287.05 mph) in the final round.

“I knew it would be a slugfest against Force, but I love racing John,” said Tasca, who improves to ninth in the Funny Car point standings. “It was probably one of the biggest wins in my career. We had to build this car from scratch, but the chemistry on this team is good and I’ve never had a race car like this.

“It’s fast and the guys put me in a position to win. I love racing here. There’s so much history with my family racing in Thunder Valley and I really wanted to win this one. It was just a great day.”

Not having won since July 22 last season at Denver, and after a number of frustrating finishes that came up short since then, Force looked as if the stars had finally aligned for him coming into the final round to reach that elusive No. 150 milestone.

He entered Sunday’s eliminations as the No. 1 qualifier. He had an uncontested solo run in the opening round, then defeated Don Schumacher Racing teammates Tommy Johnson Jr. (quarterfinals) and “Fast Jack” Beckman (semifinals) en route to his classic matchup with Tasca.

It marked the second time this season that Force has reached the final round. He also fell short of winning April 28 at the Four-Wide Nationals in Concord, North Carolina, and did so again at Bristol.

Ironically, Tasca is a previous driver for John Force Racing. He reached his second final round since returning to full-time competition, with his last previous final round being at last season’s Thunder Valley Nationals, where he lost to Ron Capps – who Tasca beat Sunday to reach the final round appearance vs. Force. Likewise for Salinas, he also reached the Top Fuel finals in last year’s race at Bristol, only to lose — but not this time.

In another irony, Tasca recently hired Force’s former crew chief, Jon Schaffer, as his own crew chief. Schaffer had started this season as rookie Austin Prock’s co-crew chief at JFR before moving to Tasca’s team.

Action continues this coming weekend (June 20-23) in the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.

We’ll have videos from the Top Fuel and Funny Car final rounds shortly. Please check back.

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FINAL STATISTICS:

FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Mike Salinas; 2. Steve Torrence; 3. Doug Kalitta; 4. Dom Lagana; 5. Clay Millican; 6. Lex Joon; 7. Terry McMillen; 8. Antron Brown; 9. Scott Palmer; 10. Audrey Worm; 11. Brittany Force; 12. Cameron Ferre; 13. Austin Prock; 14. Richie Crampton; 15. Pat Dakin; 16. Leah Pritchett.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Bob Tasca III; 2. John Force; 3. Ron Capps; 4. Jack Beckman; 5. Shawn Langdon; 6. Robert Hight; 7. J.R. Todd; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 9. Tim Wilkerson; 10. Cruz Pedregon; 11. Terry Haddock; 12. Matt Hagan; 13. Blake Alexander; 14. Jim Campbell; 15. Jeff Diehl.

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FINAL RESULTS

TOP FUEL: Mike Salinas, 3.836 seconds, 325.69 mph def. Steve Torrence, 3.892 seconds, 287.60 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 4.008, 316.23 def. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.155, 287.05.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Terry McMillen, 4.045, 291.51 def. Richie Crampton, 4.781, 155.99; Clay Millican, 4.331, 251.16 def. Austin Prock, 4.759, 242.76; Mike Salinas, 3.800, 322.11 def. Scott Palmer, 3.902, 319.60; Doug Kalitta, 3.844, 323.27 def. Cameron Ferre, 4.124, 253.99; Lex Joon, 4.536, 205.41 def. Leah Pritchett, 4.972, 162.39; Steve Torrence, 3.798, 324.59 def. Pat Dakin, 4.865, 158.65; Antron Brown, 3.863, 318.24 def. Audrey Worm, 4.082, 279.21; Dom Lagana, 3.820, 321.65 def. Brittany Force, 4.092, 271.79; QUARTERFINALS — Kalitta, 5.010, 248.02 def. McMillen, 5.103, 147.07; Lagana, 4.072, 292.58 def. Joon, 4.786, 166.44; Salinas, 3.908, 316.97 def. Brown, 6.602, 110.14; Torrence, 3.842, 320.89 def. Millican, 4.720, 167.66; SEMIFINALS — Salinas, 3.817, 320.20 def. Kalitta, 3.887, 320.66; Torrence, 3.839, 323.97 def. Lagana, 4.037, 277.32; FINAL — Salinas, 3.836, 325.69 def. Torrence, 3.892, 287.60.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.983, 318.47 def. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, 5.307, 140.07; John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.998, 321.65 was unopposed; Shawn Langdon, Toyota Camry, 4.099, 307.93 def. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 6.528, 100.47; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.031, 318.47 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.063, 310.48; J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.048, 311.27 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.217, 291.76; Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.020, 322.19 def. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.077, 298.21; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.005, 314.53 def. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 4.383, 212.16; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.964, 311.92 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.376, 223.50; QUARTERFINALS — Tasca III, 4.122, 309.49 def. Hight, 4.337, 303.03; Force, 4.044, 318.32 def. Johnson Jr., 8.529, 88.42; Capps, 4.039, 312.28 def. Langdon, 4.080, 309.27; Beckman, 4.076, 315.64 def. Todd, 4.397, 284.81; SEMIFINALS — Force, 4.125, 316.38 def. Beckman, 7.532, 97.47; Tasca III, 4.048, 317.87 def. Capps, 4.216, 258.86; FINAL — Tasca III, 4.008, 316.23 def. Force, 4.155, 287.05.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 1,048; 2. Doug Kalitta, 709; 3. Mike Salinas, 691; 4. Antron Brown, 676; 5. Brittany Force, 663; 6. Clay Millican, 611; 7. Leah Pritchett, 571; 8. Richie Crampton, 499; 9. Austin Prock, 486; 10. Terry McMillen, 470.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, 990; 2. John Force, 786; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., 783; 4. Ron Capps, 741; 5.Jack Beckman, 720; 6. J.R. Todd, 711; 7. Matt Hagan, 624; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 587; 9. Bob Tasca III, 574; 10. Shawn Langdon, 528.

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Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”