There was plenty of bumping and jolting during Saturday’s two qualifying sessions at Bristol and in the end Friday’s leaders Robert Hight and Angelle Sampey held on to the top qualifying spots in Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle, respectively, while that Mike Salinas and Aaron Stanfield took the lead. first places in Top Fuel and Pro Stock.
Salinas qualified at No. 1 for the second time this season and the ninth time in his career with a 3.767 that knocked Friday leader Steve Torrence out of the top spot. Salinas, who already has three wins this season, will begin his quest for a fourth victory with a race against Cameron Ferre in the first round.
“What we’re doing seems to be working, so we’re not changing anything,” Salinas said. “We were trying to run a 3.75 [in Q3] and we ran 3.76. Car bounced around a bit but cleaned itself up. before Rob [Flynn, crew chief] I thought we would go to 3.72 but the track didn’t hold up. Tomorrow, I think you’ll see those numbers, but not today.”
So far this season, Salinas has let his performance do the talking, especially for those who thought he would struggle following the departure of tuner Alan Johnson. He never doubted his decision to bring in Flynn as his replacement.
“There are two different people in this world; those who speak and those who do. I am a doer and a talker,” Salinas said. “In testing, we did a 700-foot run and he ran 3.76 at 300 and we were blown away. Rob Flynn and [assistant crew chief] Arron Cave has chemistry. There is a calm and tranquility in our crew. Everybody can make suggestions and we have no egos at all and he’s really cool.”
Torrence held on to the No. 2 spot while Josh Hart, Antron Brown, Clay Millican, Austin Prock and Spencer Massey round out the top half of the field.
On Friday night, Hight openly declared that his 3.976 race had no chance of staying atop the Funny Car field, but he was happy to be wrong and held on to claim pole for the 73rd time in his career. With 15 cars in the field, that means a bye race in the first round on Sunday.
“I’m glad no one wanted to bet because they would have lost money on that deal,” Hight said. “For whatever reason, everyone has the choke stuck and no one did the kind of race we expected. Being No. 1 is really good, but I still don’t think we can control it. With 15 cars here, we have a farewell race and that’s huge. I have a very good feeling and if we can do four three-second races, we will be holding the trophy at the end of the day.”
Hight and crew chief Jimmy Prock plan to use data gleaned from teammate John Force, who put in two solid runs on Saturday, including a 3.997 to qualify third. Tim Wilkerson split the pair with a second best 3,996.
“John had two really good races in his Camaro and we’ll share that data and come up with the best plan,” Hight said. “That’s the advantage of a multi-car team.”
The rest of the Funny Car top ten includes points leader Matt Hagan, Cruz Pedregon, past Bristol winner Bob Tasca III and Paul Lee.
As is often the case in Pro Stock, the entire field is separated by a tenth of a second, meaning anyone who qualifies can win. As close as the competition is, Aaron Stanfield appears to have the upper hand after putting his Janac Bros/J3 Energy Camaro in the top spot for the third time in seven races this season. Stanfield posted a 6,638 in the opening session on Saturday that never improved. As a result, the reigning and two-time Factory Stock Champion will compete with Wally Stroupe in the first round.
Stanfield relinquished the points lead to Erica Enders several races ago, but reckons the race at Bristol represents an excellent opportunity to gain ground.
“The track has been very tricky this weekend,” said Stanfield. “The crew chiefs have been doing their job and my guys have given me the best they can give me. We haven’t had the best luck since the No. 1 spot in my career, but we have a chance to do something tomorrow.”
Stanfield is making his first Pro Stock appearance at Bristol, but previously won this event in Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers. Stanfield’s father, Greg, also won the Super Stock title here last year to help secure his fifth championship.
“My family and I love this race track. We have quite a history here,” said Stanfield, who is also competing in the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown. “I was lucky enough to win Top Dragster on Father’s Day and would love to do it again.
“Racing two cars helps me distract myself because I’m so busy. The two cars are totally different, but I am motivated and ready to win. Let’s see if we can do well in both classes tomorrow.”
Rookie Camrie Caruso put in two solid runs on Saturday, including a 6.644 for the No. 2 spot. Caruso qualified No. 1 at Houston and continues to show improvement in every event this season. Caruso’s reward will be a first round battle against Chris McGaha.
Erica Enders had the fastest run of the final session to move up to No. 3 where she will pair with Cristian Cuadra in a rematch of the Las Vegas Four Wide Finals.
Kyle Koretsky also secured a top-half qualifying spot in his Lucas Oil Camaro, while Friday leader Greg Anderson was moved up to No. 6. Matt Hartford, Dallas Glenn and Troy Coughlin Jr. round out the top half. by ProStock. countryside.
Sampey qualified No. 1 for the 55th time in his historic career when Friday’s 6.874 run held through Saturday’s two Pro Stock Motorcycle races. Sampey, the defending winner from Bristol, runs with confidence, which could be bad news for her first-round opponent Chris Bostick.
“Someone told me that Vance & Hines was the only team to win at this track. [including the Winston Showdown specialty events, both won by Matt Hines] and I expect that trend to continue tomorrow,” Sampey said. “I’m just working hard not to try to win the race at the moment. By that, I mean don’t try to win him in the first round. Andrew [Hines] and Eddie are excellent trainers. They have knowledge and experience that I didn’t get in the past. They help with what I’m thinking on the starting line. The goal is to take it easy and be relaxed.”
Sampey’s biggest challenge came from Joey Gladstone, who posted a career-best 6.889 aboard the Reed Motorsports Suzuki. Gladstone’s reward for his performance is a round one race against world champion LE Tonglet, who drives Kelly Clontz’s Suzuki.
His championship rivals Steve Johnson and Matt Smith are third and fifth respectively, with Marc Ingwersen between them at a career-best No. 4.
Not everyone in the Pro Stock Bike class found the sweet spot during the three qualifying rounds. Four-time world champion Eddie Kraiewc landed No. 10 while Gainesville winner and current record holder Karen Stoffer ranked No. 12. Stoffer competes with Matt Smith while Krawiec is paired with Jerry Savoie in a battle of world champions.