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Friday News and Notes, Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 NHRA Nationals

News, notes, quotes, photos, and video from the opening day of the Gerber Collision & Glass NHRA Route 66 Nationals presented by PEAK Performance at Route 66 Raceway. Updated throughout the day.
17 May 2024
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Race coverage
Clay Millican


Did you know that Route 66 Raceway opened to amid much fanfare in 1998 and the winners of the inaugural event included Kenny Bernstein (Top Fuel), Whit Bazemore (Funny Car), Mike Thomas (Pro Stock), and Matt Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle). Sportsman racing icon Dan Fletcher leads the way with seven Chicago wins while Frank Manzo has six.


European Top Fuel champ Ida Zetterstrom isn’t scheduled to make her NHRA debut until later this summer, but the JCM team remains busy preparing to expand to a two-car effort. To that end, the JCM team currently features three crew chiefs, Mike Neff, Jon Schaffer, and Phil Schuler, who are currently combining their efforts on Tony Schumacher’s Leatherwood Distilleries dragster. Once Zetterstrom makes her debut, Schaffer will be her crew chief. Zetterstrom’s debut and full schedule is expected to be announced within the next week.


In the week leading up to the Route 66 event, Matt Smith brought his Denso Buell team to Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park to test but Mother Nature had other ideas. For three days, Smith sat and waited but ultimately never got to make any runs before packing up and heading for Joliet.

“I hated that we sat there and didn’t get to test but I don’t think it will hurt us too badly,” Smith said. “We ran pretty well in Charlotte but I really just wanted to get some data, especially with the new [ECU units] we’re running. We did get to go fishing and go-carting so I can’t say the weekend was a total loss.”

Smith will maintain his busy schedule tuning his own Denso Buell as well as the bikes run by his wife, Angie, teammates John Hall and Jianna Evaristo. Smith also serves as a consultant to Ron Tornow.

Chris Holbrook led the way in the opening round of qualifying in the Holley EFI Factory X class with a 7.170 run in his Varsity Ford Mustang. Holbrook, who missed the season opening event in Las Vegas, held off Greg Stanfield, who is second with a 7.191 in his Rod Shop Camaro while Lenny Lottig sits third with a 7.207 and Aaron Stanfield rounds out the top half of the field with a 7.240. Stephen Bell, Jesse Alexandra, Rick Hord, and Alex Laughlin are also in action this weekend, as the new class runs for the third time this season.

Championship contender Ken Quartuccio took over the provisional top spot in the final pair of qualifying for the Congruity Pro Mod series with a 5.797. Quartuccio tied the elapsed time of Russian Dymtry Samorukov, but did so with a faster speed to earn the top spot.

A number of other drivers were also solidly in the low 5.8s including Mason Wright, Jerico Balduf, Mike Starvinos, and Eric Dillard. There are 24 cars competing for just 16 available spots in in the Pro Mod field.

PEAK Street Car Shootout
Alex Taylor, who most drag racing fans know as the co-host of the popular Hot Rod Garage television show, made the quickest run in the opening round of the PEAK Street Car Shootout at Route 66 Raceway. Taylor drove her turbocharged ’55 Chevy to a 7.188 to set the pace in an eight car exhibition that also includes well-known drag and drive starts Tom Bailey, Dave Schroeder, Earl Schnexnayder, Craig Groebner, Nick Taylor and Bryant Goldstone.

Bailey returned later in the day to set the pace with a 6.452-second run that, while impressive is far below the potential of his Camaro, which has previously run in the five-second zone.


Surprise, it’s Matt Smith who holds the top spot after the opening round of Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying but his advantage over reigning champ Gaige Herrera is slim. Smith rode his Denso Buell to a 6.731 to lead the way on Friday at Route 66 Raceway while Herrera posted a 6.734 on his RevZilla Vance & Hines Suzuki.

Smith and Herrera weren’t the only riders to venture into the 6.7s. Angie Smith (6.778), LE Tonglet (6.785) and Hector Arana Jr. (6.788) also made solid runs. Richard Gadson anchors the top half of the field with an eighth-quickest 6.875 on the second RevZilla Vance & Hines Suzuki.


In a scenario that is likely to be repeated several times this weekend at Route 66 Raceway, Erica Enders battled Greg Anderson for the top spot during Friday’s opening qualifying session. Enders, who boldly called out Anderson in the opening round of tomorrow’s GETTRX Pro Stock NHRA Allstar Callout race, drove to a 6.562 to grab the provisional pole over Anderson’s 6.570. Anderson comes into the Joliet event as the championship leader over reigning and five-time champ Enders.

Troy Coughlin Jr. put his JEGS.com/White Castle Camaro into the third spot following a 6.571 and Aaron Stanfield is a close No. 4 with a 6.574.


For a track that hasn’t hosted a nitro car since last year’s Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 NHRA Nationals, Route 66 Raceway was fairly generous during Q1 as a number of Funny Car racers came out swinging with three second runs. No one was quicker than Austin Prock, who drove the Cornwell Tools Camaro to a 3.945 to lead the way. Prock, who already has a win in his first season in Funny Car, is followed by Cruz Pedregon who ran a 3.957 while Chad Green also picked up a qualifying bonus point with a 3.963.  John Force, who recently celebrated his 75th birthday, sits No. 4 after one event with a 3.987.


The Joliet pre-entry list, which revealed a strong 22 car field of Top Fuel dragsters, offered a lot of promise and so far, the class has mostly delivered. Local favorite T.J. Zizzo started strong with a 3.763 from his Rust-O-Leum dragster and that number was never bettered. In fact, no one else ran in the 3.7s as the next best run was Justin Ashley’s 3.840. Dan Mercier is solidly in the field with a 3.852 while Tony Schumacher paid tribute to his late father, don won only with a special paint scheme, but also a respectable 3.855 run.


Matt Smith, not Gaige Herrera lowered the boom in Q2 with a stunning 6.708 on his Denso Buell to take the top spot after two of four qualifying runs. Herrera, who has been the top qualifier at all but one event dating back to his debut with the Vance & Hines team at the start of 2023, ran a 6.745 in the other lane.  Smith and Herrera are both participating in tomorrow’s Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. The only other 6.7-second run of the round came from Hector Arana Jr., who wheeled his GETTRX Buell to a 6.782.


Keeping pace with the rest of the events held so far this year, the Pro Stock field continued to get quicker and tighter during Friday’s second qualifying session. Erica Enders finished the day as the top qualifier following a 6.548 in her JHG/Melling Camaro. Enders barely edged teammate Troy Coughlin Jr., who is second with a 6.554 and Greg Anderson, who also clocked in with a 6.5545. Jeg Coughlin’s 6.559 is good for the No. 4 spot heading into Saturday’s two runs.


The top ten Funny Cars in Joliet have already run in the threes after just two qualifying sessions but no one has run quicker than Austin Prock, who leads the way with a 3.907 in his Cornwell Tools Camaro. Prock also has top speed of the event for Funny Cars at 332.43.

Bob Tasca III just missed the top spot with a 3.913 while Paul Lee continued his string of recent good runs with a 3.922 in his McLeod/FTI Dodge. Cruz Pedregon’s 3.957 was bumped to the No. 8 spot while the current bump is held by Jack Wyatt with a coasting 5.866.




Under the lights on Friday night, T.J. Zizzo reclaimed the top spot with a 3.735 to lead a stacked Top Fuel field at his home track, Route 66 Raceway. Zizzo, making his first appearance of the season, was the low qualifier after the first run buy had been bumped well down in the order by the time he made his second.

Clay Millican, the defending event winner, posted a 3.746 for the second spot while world champ Doug Kalitta sits comfortably in the No. 3 spot with a 3.750. All told, there are 11 Top Fuel cars in the 3.7s and the current bump is Tony Stewart at 3.877.