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Drivers For NHRA Bring Thunder To The Desert
Capturing the win in Pro Stock was Aaron Stanfield, earning the fifth of his career over the weekend in Arizona, defeating Troy Coughlin Jr. in the final round. Photo By Mike Burghardt

Mike Salinas, Robert Hight and Aaron Stanfield were the Camping World NHRA winners at the Lucas Oil NHRA Arizona Nationals. It had been two years since an event had been run at Wild Horse Pass Motor Sports Park in Chandler, Arizona, The fans came out to the event, looking for some high powered, competitive racing and they were not disappointed. Clear skies and comfortable temperatures provided the perfect conditions for strong performances in all three professional categories contested during the final weekend in February.

In Top Fuel, Mike Salinas of San Jose, California was in the groove. He qualified second (3.678 at 330.31 mph) behind Doug Kalitta (3.657 at 329.58 mph), showing that he was going to be a strong contender, even though his 2021 crew chief (Alan Johnson) was now on Kalitta’s team and Rob Flynn (who came over from Doug Kalitta’s team) was now his crew chief. This season, Salinas has not missed a beat. He marched to the final round by taking out Jim Maroney (3.671 at 331.12 mph to 3.977 at 257.48 mph); Shawn Langdon (3.693 at 330.55 mph to 3.726 at 328.54 mph); and Steve Torrence (3.695 at 322.19 mph to 5.981 at 121.76 mph). Clay Millican and his crew chief (Mike Kloeber) found a few things in their tune up and it paid dividends. Millican improved each round by taking out Tripp Tatum with a 3.786 at 320.28 mph, Tony Schumacher with a 3.752 at 325.85 mph and Josh Hart with a 3.693 at 330.15 mph to get into the final round to take on Salinas. In the final both drivers left within 0.006 seconds of each other, with Salinas having the better car (3.751 at 318.24 mph to 3.769 at 322.73 mph) to capture his fourth career NHRA Top Fuel event win.

In Funny Car, Robert Hight and crew chief (Jimmy Prock) have started the season as though shot out of a cannon. They defeated the 2021 season champ, Ron Capps to take the Winter Nationals title and took no prisoners at this event. After losing the top qualifying spot to Matt Hagan (3.823 to 3.838). Hight posted consistently quick elapse times each round, getting quicker on each run, taking out Paul Lee, Bob Tasca III and John Force as he thundered into the final round. Matt Hagan was also flexing his muscles as he thundered past Terry Haddock, Alexis DeJoria and Tim Wilkerson advancing to the mammoth final round match-up with Hight. The final round would feature a team match-up between Team Force (John Force Racing) and Tony Stewart (Tony Stewart Racing). Hagan got away first (0.064 to 0.080) but lost traction as Hight sped away to a (low elapse time of eliminations) 3.837 at 330.39 mph win, the 73rd of his career.

In Pro Stock, it was not the expected Erica Enders and Greg Anderson show. They were both eliminated in the second round of competition with Enders statistically getting the worst of it, as she was beaten by a holeshot. That opened the door for the other drivers to step up. Aaron Stanfield (who beat Anderson) and Troy Coughlin Jr. were both more than ready. Each driver posted great reaction times and strong performances (consistently in the 6.5-second zone), as they both raced into the final round. In the final, both drives left virtually together (0.038 to 0.039) but Stanfield collected the win (6.526 at 210.50 mph to 6.539 at 210.24 mph), the fifth of his career.

With two events completed, Mike Salinas is the Top Fuel point leader, Robert High leads in Funny Car and Aaron Stanfield leads in Pro Stock as the NHRA heads to the Gator Nationals in Gainesville, Florida in two weeks.

San Jose-based driver Mike Salinas raced to the victory in Top Fuel during competition in Arizona, qualifying second and getting past Clay Millican for the event win in the final, the fourth NHRA win of his career. Photo By Mike Burghardt