ST. LOUIS (Sept. 26, 2023) – The opening stretch of the NHRA Countdown to the Championship features three straight weeks of racing, capped off by this weekend’s 12th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway.
It’s an intense span of races and can go a long way in shaping championship journeys across all four classes in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. Funny Car’s Bob Tasca III has made a strong impression over the first two races and looks to close out the first half of the Countdown to the Championship in style this weekend in St. Louis.
He won on Sunday in Charlotte, getting past points leader Robert Hight in a thrilling final round to move to second in points. He trails Hight – the defending Funny Car winner in St. Louis – by just 25 points, firmly putting his name in the championship mix. But Tasca, who qualified No. 1 at the first race of the playoffs, is eager to keep rolling in his 11,000-horsepower Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway.
“I can’t wait to get to St. Louis,” Tasca said. “This is a grueling stretch for the teams and the drivers, the points and your psyche. If you slip up during this three-in-a-row, you’re looking through binoculars to try to get to first place. You’ve got to come out of St. Louis within striking distance of the points lead. You’ve got to stay close to Robert, and you throw in Matt Hagan and Ron Capps, you have to be on your A-game to beat them. We’re going to have to win another one to (keep) our hat in the game and we know that, and that’s what we’re focused on doing (in St. Louis).”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won last year in St. Louis and this year’s playoff event will again be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), with action from eliminations set to air at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1. It is the 18th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA season and the third of six playoff events, and Tasca and his team, led by crew chiefs Todd Okuhara and Aaron Brooks, have shown steady and impressive improvement all year.
They’ve had one of the quickest cars from the outset of the year, qualifying No. 1 five times and running well in all conditions. Going against a loaded Funny Car field that also includes back-to-back world champion Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, John Force, Tim Wilkerson, Chad Green, Alexis DeJoria and J.R. Todd, Tasca and his team have also become more consistent, which is pivotal this time of year.
He’s already posted six round wins during the Countdown to the Championship but knows he will need plenty more to try and track down Hight, as well as hold off Capps and Hagan, who are both 69 points behind Hight. Tasca, though, is ready for the challenge.
“The pressure, the level of competition, it only does one of two things – it makes or breaks you,” Tasca said. “This team all year long has performed flawlessly, but it’s our consistency is what is making us a championship contender. That’s something we’ve been working hard on. We know we can run low E.T. whether it’s hot or cool and now you’re seeing us string together three, four, five runs in a row when it’s like that. It just shows their mindset is we’re not going to get picked off if there’s anything we can do about it. We’re going to go up there and try to press because that’s what it’s going to take a win a championship.”
Torrence heads to St. Louis second in Top Fuel points, trailing Doug Kalitta by 63 points. Kalitta has taken the lead by winning the first two playoff races against the likes of Justin Ashley, defending world champ Brittany Force, Leah Pruett and Antron Brown.
Nobody has dominated World Wide Technology Raceway more than Pro Stock’s Erica Enders. The reigning world champion won for the sixth time in St. Louis last year and she’s also won the race four straight years. She’s just four points back of Matt Hartford, with Dallas Glenn trailing by only 15 points.
Speaking of dominant performances in St. Louis, defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ Matt Smith has five wins at the facility, including the last two. He’s chasing Gaige Herrera, who leads Smith by 52 points and Hector Arana Jr. by 54 following his seventh win of the season on Sunday.
The NHRA Midwest Nationals also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, as well as the FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by Type A Motorsports, Flexjet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown and the new Factory X presented by Holley category. It is also the penultimate race in the Pro Mod’s “Road to the Championship” as they get close to crowning a championship. The ET Racing Showcase, Jr. Arch Shootout, Budweiser Challenge, high school challenge and Jr. Dragster Shootout will all take place during the weekend as well.
Fans are invited to the Nitro Alley Stage all weekend, which will help create a festive atmosphere leading into Nitro Alley. 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 and much more. As always, fans get a pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. Fans can see their favorite teams in action and servicing their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. They can also visit NHRA’s Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, merchandise, food, and fun.
Race fans at World Wide Technology Raceway 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 St. Louis event winners.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 6:00 p.m. CT on Friday, Sept. 29, and the final two rounds on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11:00 a.m. CT on Sunday, Oct. 1. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 29 and 2 p.m. ET on Sunday Oct. 1, with eliminations starting at 3 p.m. ET on FS1 on Sunday.
Tickets may be purchased at the WWTR ticket office, by phone at (618) 215-8888, or online at www.wwtraceway.com. All children 12 and under will be admitted free in the general admission area with a paid adult. For more information on NHRA, visit www.NHRA.com.
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Camping World Holdings, Inc., headquartered in Lincolnshire, IL, (together with its subsidiaries) is the World’s largest retailer of RVs and related products and services. Our vision is to build a long-term legacy business that makes RVing fun and easy. Our Camping World and Good Sam brands have been serving RV consumers since 1966. We strive to build long-term value for our customers, employees, and shareholders by combining a unique and comprehensive assortment of RV products and services with a national network of RV dealerships, service centers and customer support centers along with the industry’s most extensive online presence and a highly trained and knowledgeable team of employees serving our customers, the RV lifestyle, and the communities in which we operate. We also believe that our Good Sam organization and family of programs and services uniquely enable us to connect with our customers as stewards of the RV enthusiast community and the RV lifestyle. With RV sales and service locations in 43 states, Camping World has grown to become the prime destination for everything RV. For more information, visit www.campingworld.com.
Headquartered in San Dimas, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 21 national events featuring the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by Type A Motorsports, Flexjet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown™ and Top Fuel Harley Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and NHRA Street Legal™. NHRA also offers the NHRA Jr. Street® program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League® for youth ages 5 to 17. With 120 Member Tracks, NHRA allows racers to compete at a variety of locations nationally and internationally. NHRA’s Youth and Education Services® (YES) Program reaches over 30,000 students annually to ignite their interest in automotive and racing related careers. NHRA’s streaming service, NHRA.tv®, allows fans to view all NHRA national events as well as exclusive features of the sport. In addition, NHRA owns and operates three racing facilities: Gainesville Raceway in Florida; Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park; and In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip in Southern California. For more information, log on to www.NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.