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

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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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Kyle Busch happy with first stint: ‘Put me in the car, there’s excitement!’

AP Photo/Terry Renna
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Rolex 24 at Daytona debut of the “KB Show” was cut short by a strategy maneuver but still delivered drama and a positive result.

Kyle Busch got the No. 14 RCF GT3 Lexus back on the lead lap and back in contention for a GTD victory at Daytona International Speedway.

“It was good,” Kyle Busch said with a broad smile after a 42-minute stint. “Just, uh, shit, put me in the car, and there’s excitement around! Drove all my way back to the lead lap and everything.

“Overall, we’ve had a good experience and hell I only got one stint in, so I’m ready for more. Sign me up, coach!”

The two-time Cup champion was expected to drive for at least 90 minutes, but the first full-course caution of the race (with 19 hours and 16 minutes remaining) caused AIM Vasser Sullivan to change up its drive plan. Busch was called to the pits in favor of Parker Chase.

“With all the strategy and the way the wave-bys work here, it’s quite different than what we’re accustomed to (in NASCAR),” said Busch, who likely will drive longer now later in the race. “That wasn’t bad. To get ourselves back on the lead lap and back to a position where we can start scrapping again hopefully is what we needed.

“So I got one stint in, but I’m trying to save myself and (teammate) Jack (Hawksworth) for a little later.”

Busch climbed into the car shortly after 6 p.m. as the last of the No. 14’s four drivers. He complained a few times on his radio about traffic, which he said was his biggest challenge.

“There were a couple of instances we ran down a smaller car, and (it was) just mirror driving in front of us,” he said. “That was pretty bad. We lost probably 2 seconds on that. Overall, I guess that’s road racing.

The yellow flag was exactly what Busch’s team needed after being forced to start from the rear of the field when it missed qualifying because of an engine change. Hawksworth, who started the race, said the car was “quick in the wrong places and slow in the right places” after struggling with handling and speed in the first stint.

“I don’t feel we’re out of it,” Hawksworth said. “It’s a very long race. Still early days. We need to work on having speed for the end of the race. The position right now doesn’t really make any difference. We’ll need to find some performance at the end of the race to fight for the win.”