Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – CONCORD, NC – When Mike Salinas started competing in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, he did it with the intent of being successful right off the bat.
With a final round in his 25th career race and his first career Top Fuel win in his 42nd race, Salinas accomplished that, but it has only motivated his Scrappers Racing team even more.
Salinas grabbed his first career NHRA win at the four-wide event in Las Vegas earlier this month, which means he will have a chance to sweep the biggest spectacle in drag racing when he competes at zMAX Dragway for the upcoming 10th annual NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, April 26-28. For Salinas, it’s another opportunity to grab a victory in his 10,000-horsepower dragster, which is more than enough to keep him competing at a high level.
“We were pretty motivated as it was, the difference is all the guys on the team,” Salinas said. “All the guys, they knew (a win) was possible. I didn’t because it had never happened before. The car was super smooth, everything was smooth and it was good (in Vegas). We were able to soak it in and enjoy the victory, and we want to go try to do the same thing. We go into every race taking it one round at a time. So, let’s go there, qualify and see how we do, one round at a time.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners. The race will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including a broadcast of the finals on Sunday, April 28 at 6:00 p.m. (ET). It is the sixth of 24 events during the 2019 NHRA season and marks a special race, as one of the most unique experiences in motorsports turns 10 years old. As Salinas proved in Las Vegas, the four-wide racing set-up is just fine with him.
There, he was the No. 1 qualifier and rolled to the victory. He suffered a tough first-round loss last weekend in Houston, but Salinas remains fourth in points, just 47 points behind leader Doug Kalitta. Others to watch in Charlotte including defending event winner and world champion Torrence, Houston winner and 2017 champ Brittany Force, three-time champ Antron Brown and Clay Millican, but Salinas has turned into a championship contender after teaming up with the likes of legendary tuner Alan Johnson, who is Salinas’ tuning advisor, and crew chief Brian Husen.
“I expected to win Pomona,” Salinas said. “I have a different mindset. Everything I do is in a strategic way. I’m a goal-achiever and I’ve got this gorilla off my back, and now we can go have fun and win more races. (Alan) is amazingly good, so I’m pretty lucky to be part of it. It’s been a good journey. This car is prepared right and it’s amazing to watch this team work.”
It’s motivated Salinas, who hopes his success and drive has sparked two of his daughters, Jianna and Jasmine, who both started their racing careers this year in Pro Stock Motorcycle and Top Alcohol Dragster, respectively. Both continue to make solid strides early in their career in 2019, while Mike Salinas is simply thrilled to have this success together as a family.
“We’ve built something,” Salinas said. “The important thing for me is I’ve got four daughters in or coming into the sport. Now we have a good bar for them to reach and meet. It’s going to be a great thing. It encourages every one of them. If you put in the work you’re going to do well and they put in the work. The girls are going to be great. NHRA has been amazing with us and it’s pretty awesome. It’s pretty surreal to be honest with you.”
Cruz Pedregon snapped a long winless streak a year ago in Funny Car when he won in Charlotte, and he’ll look for his first win of 2019 against the likes of defending world champ J.R. Todd, points leader Robert Hight, who has three wins this year, and Phoenix winner Ron Capps.
Veteran Jerry Savoie, the 2016 Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ, grabbed his first four-wide victory in 2018. He’ll look to repeat against a talented crop of riders that includes five-time champ Andrew Hines, Vegas four-wide winner Hector Arana Jr. and defending world champ Matt Smith.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes the third of 12 stops in 2019 with its appearance at zMAX Dragway. Jose Gonzalez grabbed his first career win in the popular class last year at the event, while Todd Tutterow and Stevie “Fast” Jackson have claimed the first two wins of 2019. Fan favorites Erica Enders and Alex Laughlin will be competing in this exciting category as well.
The ultra-competitive SAMTech.edu NHRA Factory Stock Showdown will hit the track for its second appearance of the season. This growing series features production car drag racing at its best. Fans of modern muscle cars will love these quick and unpredictable machines that represent the ultimate in technology and performance.
Back by popular demand, the exciting Mountain Motor Pro Stock class will make its four-wide racing debut in Charlotte this year. With dynamic paint schemes and throwback hood scoops, Mountain Motor Pro Stock cars bring maximum entertainment value when they hit the track, making the second of four appearances in 2019. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
The second round of qualifying on Friday night will be a special treat for as the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals go Prime Time! With pyrotechnics, a live DJ, driver intro music and header flames under the lights, this will be an unforgettable experience for race fans.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 26 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 27, at 2:00 and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, April 28.