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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Eli Tomac wins Houston Supercross: Hunter Lawrence takes early 250 East lead

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With his 47th career victory and third of the 2023 season in Houston, Eli Tomac closed to within one win of tying Ricky Carmichael for third on the all-time Monster Energy Supercross list.

Tomac rebounded from last week’s crash by earning the holeshot in both his heat and the Main. At the start of the big show, he couldn’t shake Aaron Plessinger in the first four minutes and actually was in the process of losing the lead as a red flag waved for a crash involving Tomac’s teammate Dylan Ferrandis when he overjumped an obstacle and landed on Ken Roczen’s back fender as they raced for eighth.

“That was a tough race,” Tomac told NBC Sports’ Will Christien, referencing his loss to Chase Sexton in the heat. “And honestly, I was just beat down after that heat race and was searching quite a bit and was basically losing speed everywhere. I just rode better, straight up in the Main. I felt better.”

In their heat, Sexton passed Tomac at the two-minute mark and then simply rode away from the field. At the end, he had an almost eight-second gap on Tomac.

“It wasn’t great by any means,” Sexton told Jason Thomas. “I feel like the strengths I had all day, I really lagged in the Main event between the whoop and the sand section. I think I could have walked through it faster. It was still a good ride; it wasn’t great. I expected after the heat race he would be fired up.”

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Anaheim 2

Jason Anderson scored his second consecutive pole, but he was not happy to finish third behind the two points’ leaders.

“We should be thankful every time we get to be up here,” Anderson said. “They’re making it tough on me, but all I can do is give my best.”

Tomac had to withstand a red flag and the distant second place finish in his heat to win the Houston Supercross race. In the post-race conference, he indicated that he did not make any changes to the bike and simply rode better.

Aaron Plessinger and Cooper Webb rounded out the top five.

Ferrandis was fitted with a neck brace, but still able to walk to the medical cart. He was still being evaluated by the medical staff as the night came to a close.


In 250s Hunter Lawrence entered the 250 East opener as the consensus favorite to win the championship this year with Christian Craig making the move into 450s and his brother Jett Lawrence in the West division. He answered quickly with a huge lead in Heat 1, but it almost went awry in the Main.

Lawrence got a good start, but he was passed early in the race by two-time MXGP champion (2020, 2022) Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut this week. Vialle passed Lawrence on the first lap. When Lawrence tried to pass him back, Vialle scrubbed speed off a jump and pushed Lawrence wide, over the Tuff Blox.

Championships are made out of Lawrence’s response. He kept his composure and did not overcorrect before methodically working his way to the front.

“We had a little off track excursion. I wasn’t sure how hard across Tom was coming so I thought I’ll just go left, but then saw that was the side of the track. Thankfully I didn’t hit the Tuff Blox and got back on track safely. … Good start; put myself in position.”

Click here for full 250 East Main Results

Making a move from the 450 class to 250s, Max Anstie had immediate success. He finished second in his heat behind Jordon Smith and lined up with a great gate pick. He had to overtake Vialle in the opening laps and lost ground on Lawrence, that cost enough time to keep him from pressing Lawrence. This is Anstie’s first podium in the United States

“Honestly, I’ve dreamed of this for a long time to come up on these steps and man it’s a great feeling. I’ve really enjoyed the day and being on this 250, I feel like an 18-year-old kid. Everyday I’m learning.”

Smith backed up his heat win with a podium finish.

“It feels good to be back up here again,” Smith said. “It’s been a long time; a lot of injuries.”

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his debut in the 250 class was not unfounded. He finished fourth in his heat to advance to directly into the Main. During the early laps, he was circling the track in a podium position until a minor mistake sent him off the box. In the closing laps, he narrowly made an aggressive pass on Jeremy Martin and narrowly missed the podium with a fourth-place finish.

Martin held on to round out the top five.

Vialle was running in a podium position when went down with a 1:30 left on the clock. He ended his night seventh.

Chance Hymas was also making his 250 debut and scored a top-10 in eighth.

2023 Race Recaps

Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

Houston coverage

Houston by the numbers
Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list