Exciting Top Fuel Rematches Set As #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge Kicks Off Final Arizona Nationals
Story By: NHRA – PHOENIX, AZ – The final NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series race at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park will also include matchups in the first-ever Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, with an intriguing foursome in Top Fuel set to rematch as part of this weekend’s last NHRA Arizona Nationals.
The Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge brings competitive racing to the qualifying schedule on Saturday at 12 regular-season events during the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series campaign, pitting semifinalists from the previous race against each other in a pair of rematches, with the two winners then matching up in the final qualifying session.
That starts in Phoenix, with Gainesville Top Fuel winner Mike Salinas taking on Leah Pruett and Steve Torrence facing off with Doug Kalitta. With a bonus purse and bonus playoff points on the line, Salinas is hopeful for a big weekend in his 11,000-horsepower Scrappers Racing dragster at a track where he won in 2022.
“We’re going to have fun,” Salinas said. “We won in Phoenix last year, and our car runs good there. If the driver comes to work, I think we’re going to have a great year because we haven’t stopped thinking about this stuff. All my guys eat, sleep, and drink this stuff.”
Salinas (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) all won last year in Phoenix. This year’s race will again be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), with Pruett and Kalitta getting a chance at redemption. Pruett posted a solid semifinal finish in her 11,000-horsepower Dodge Direct Connection dragster to open the year and getting a chance to knock off Salinas and get some bonus in the process is a huge incentive this weekend.
“We don’t throw the phrase around the pit with our Dodge Sublime green dragster ‘let’s go get that money’ for nothing,” Pruett said. “These extra points will be nice and possibly pay off when it comes down to positions for the countdown. I want to see my guys be able to get rewarded for their dedication and hard work and this is just a little help in that direction. Also, racing on Saturday is way cool. I love the whole concept.”
Kalitta has enjoyed success in Phoenix over the years, qualifying No. 1 at the track last year. On the verge of his 50th career win in his 11,000-horsepower Mac Tools dragster, the veteran is thrilled to get to face off with Torrence this Saturday at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.
“This new program brings a new level of excitement to our sport,” Kalitta said. “We appreciate what Mission Foods is doing and look forward to being among the first to compete in the #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. Our Mac Tools team is definitely hoping to beat Stevie and his boys on Saturday.”
Torrence, though, hopes to have an answer on Saturday as well. The four-time world champ got the best of Kalitta in Gainesville and remains focused on big weekends, which in Phoenix could include a win on Saturday and Sunday. That would be an ideal start for the points leader in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster.
“We finally got our consistency back,” Torrence said. “When you make big changes like we did last year, there always are issues you don’t anticipate. It takes time, but these guys never lost focus. They kept after it, and we’re obviously headed in the right direction now. After how our car ran, I can’t wait to get to Phoenix.”
Also racing for the win on Sunday in Top Fuel is reigning world champ Brittany Force, Antron Brown, Austin Prock, Clay Millican, Josh Hart and Justin Ashley.
In Funny Car, Gainesville winner Matt Hagan knocked off Alexis DeJoria in the semifinals, setting up a marquee matchup. The other semifinal included J.R. Todd, who put together a strong showing in Gainesville and was the runner-up, and Chad Green. Others to watch in Phoenix include defending race winner Hight, Ron Capps, who has won back-to-back world titles, John Force
Pro Stock’s Dallas Glenn will have a chance to avenge his semifinal defeat against Troy Coughlin Jr., who drove to the win in Gainesville. The other matchup will feature veteran Greg Anderson and rising star Mason McGaha, who used a stellar reaction time to defeat Anderson in Gainesville. Erica Enders, the five-time world champ, leads the list of other star drivers in the class, a group that also includes Stanfield, Kyle Koretsky and Camrie Caruso.
The NHRA Arizona Nationals also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, featuring some of the top racers in the country. A big tire/small tire shootout will take place during the weekend, while fans can also look forward to exciting performances from the Little Red Fire Truck driven by Mike Mantell following nitro qualifying on Friday and the Hemi Under Glass wheelstander on Saturday. The Team “Muy Caliente” and “Wicked Sinsation” Jet Cars will also make exhibition runs, along with a fuel altered exhibition on Saturday. An autograph session will take place on Saturday at the Toyota Display with Toyota-sponsored drivers, as will a special autograph session featuring participants in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge.
Fans will also be invited all weekend long to the Nitro Alley Stage, which will help create a festive atmosphere leading into the nitro pits. The Nitro Alley Stage will be the main entertainment hub in the pits when the Camping World Drag Racing Series competitors are not on the track, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets, music and much more.
Race fans at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the event winners of the last appearance in Phoenix.
As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Phoenix. This opportunity gives fans a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 4:30 p.m. MT on Friday, March 24, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, March 25 at 12 and 3 p.m. The finals of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge take place at the end of final qualifying in each category on Saturday. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. MT on Sunday, March 25. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 9:30 p.m. ET. on Friday and 12 p.m. on Sunday, leading into eliminations at 7 p.m. ET.