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Saturday News & Notes from the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals

News, notes, quotes, photos, and video from the second day of the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway. Updated throughout the day.
27 Apr 2024
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage



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Greg Stanfield held on to the top spot in Holley EFI Factory X with yesterday’s 7.044 in his Rod Shop Camaro, but the rest of the field caught up a bit in Q2 on Saturday. Stanfield was once again the quickest with a 7.155 while Chris Holbrook was close behind at 7.159 in his Varsity Ford Mustang. Holbrook also ran the fastest speed of the session with a 192.93 mph blast.

Lenny Lottig made progress with his Gumpy’s Top tribute Camaro with a 7.195 while Rick Hord and  Stephen Bell also made competitive runs at 7.198 and 7.212-seconds, respectively.



The Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage Mountain Motor Pro Stock class continued to impress the zMax Dragway fans with a barrage of 6.2-second elapsed times during Saturday’s second qualifying session. No one was able to touch Bo Butner’s 6.200 from Saturday although Butner was again the quickest at 6.245.

Brad Waddle made perhaps the biggest improvement with a 6.237 while Randi Lyn Butner, Johnny Pluchino, and  Alan Drinkwater also picked up from Friday with runs of 6.250, 6.261, and 6.262, respectively.



The bump spot moved ever so slightly in Pro Stock as several drivers who did not make representative runs on Friday managed to find the sweet spot on Saturday. One of them was 17-year-old Sienna Wildgust, who posted a 6.542 to put her KB Titan-powered Camaro into the quick 16. Troy Coughlin Jr. also made a significant improvement with a 6.538 in his JEGS.com Camaro.

Provisional low qualifier Greg Anderson made the quickest run of the round with a 6.518 and the HendrickCars.com driver also advanced to the final quad in the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. Anderson will race in the final quad along with Las Vegas winner Jeg Coughlin Jr., Dallas Glenn, and Jerry Don Tucker. Coughlin also managed to go from outside the field to solidly qualified with a 6.530 in his SCAG Power Equipment Camaro.

UPDATE: Following a post-run inspection, Anderson's Q3 run has been disallowed by the NHRA Tech Dept. due to a safety system violation. As a result, third-place finisher Erica Enders will race in the final quad of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge.



Larry Morgan has been racing in the Pro Stock class on and off since the mid 1980s and while much has changed, a few things remain the same including the fundamentals of engine building. In an era dominated by multi-car teams, Morgan and his Beaver Motorsports squad have been able to stem the tide. On Friday in Charlotte, Morgan raised a few eyebrows with a 6.544-second run that is currently qualified for the 16-car field. Rather than buy or lease and engine, Morgan built his own, and it’s obviously a quality piece.

“I’ve been working on this engine since the end of 2023 and when we first put it on the dyno, I was told it was down quite a bit on horsepower,” said Morgan. “Then, I got with Jason [Line] and we tweaked a few things and when he was done, Jason said, ‘You’d better get this thing on the race track, and do it soon.’ I knew we had competitive power.”

Morgan wasn’t able to make Friday’s first run due to a broken air-line fitting, but at this point, there’s a good chance he’ll be around to race on Sunday, which says a lot since there are 22 cars vying for just 16 spots in the field.

“This class doesn’t scare me,” said Morgan. “Sure, it’s expensive and you’ve got these big teams with unlimited resources but at the end of the day, a Pro Stock car is still a Pro Stock car.”



Gaige Herrera set the pace in the third round of Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying with a 6.703 on his RevZilla Suzuki but Matt Smith remains the low qualifier based on Friday’s 6.68-second performance. Herrera and Smith advanced to the final quad in the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge along with Richard Gadson and John Hall. All four of the riders in the final quad were solidly in the 6.7s during the third session.

The second-best run of the session went to LE Tonglet with a 6.755 while Gadson (6.757) Matt Smith (6.764), Angie Smith (6.784), and Hall (6.795) were able to cement their spots in the field.


Tony Stewart and crew chief Neal Strausbaugh are fine-tuning their combination round the new driver, which involves everything from the burnout to staging, and also the car’s weight distribution.

“It's the embarrassing part of the conversation, but I'm 55 pounds heavier than my wife [former driver Leah Pruett], and that's been one of the biggest challenges for the team,” said Stewart. “That really doesn't sound like a lot when you're talking about cars that have just under 12,000 horsepower, but it's how you apply it and how you get it going. I guess the only way to accurately describe it is if you put a tennis ball on the line and put a bowling ball on the line and try to get them pushed and started. Every pound matters. 

“Neal jokingly tells me every time he knows I'm going to dinner, 'Remember you don't get a car-owner portion anymore.’ But the weight difference is probably the biggest cause; it's really just kind of finding what the car wants for me driving the car versus Leah.”



Six-time Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge winner Justin Ashley (3.739) and Antron Brown (3.763) finished 1-2 in the first quad of the Challenge, beating Clay Millican and Tony Stewart to the stripe.

Defending 4-Wide Nationals champ Josh Hart won the second Challenge quad on a holeshot, 3.766 to 3.756, over second-place Steve Torrence as both advanced to the final over Doug Kalitta and Brittany Force.

Shawn Langdon, who was not part of the Mission Challenge, had the best run of the frame with a 3.729 while Ashey was second-quick and Torrence third.



Drag racing’s hottest rivalry — Austin Prock vs. Bob Tasca III — got another matchup in the books with Prock beating Tasca. 3.883 to 3.894, but both advanced to the final of the Mission Challenge ahead of Chad Green and Alexis DeJoria.

The runs were a major relief for Prock, who failed to make it down the track on either pass Friday, and Tasca, who had his Q2 run disqualified due to a technical infraction. Prock’s run was also the best of the session with Tasca second quickest. Tasca borrowed a manifold and tune-up fro the Torrence Top Fuel team to be able to make the call.

Paul Lee, runner-up at the Las Vegas Mission Challenge, will get another shot at the trophy after winning his quad with a 3.901 to finish ahead of Phoenix Challenge winner J.R. Todd’s 3.932. Both advance to the final while world champ Ron Capps and Matt Hagan finished third and fourth, respectively.


Angelle Sampey continues to make steady progress in the Top Alcohol Dragster class with an eye towards a probable Top Fuel debut next season, but at times her mind is elsewhere, specifically with her father, David, who is battling cancer.

“We weren’t originally scheduled to race in the [Lucas Oil Series regional event] in Belle Rose [La.] and I asked my team if we could race there,” said Sampey. “People just assumed that it was because it was my home race and I had lots of fans, but honestly, I really wanted my dad to see me race. He and my mom have been my two biggest fans since day one.

“I don’t like to talk about this so much but it’s important for people to realize that even though we’re racers, we’re also humans and we have real world problems, and we just have to figure out how to find a balance. I do appreciate all the people who have kept him in their thoughts and prayers. It means a lot to me.”

As for Sampey’s Top Fuel aspirations, she’s going to be fitted for a car at Antron Brown’s AB Motorsports shop next week in Indianapolis, with an eye towards making test passes later this season. Sampey and the Michalek Brothers team are also schedule to race in the Regional event at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, which is held in conjunction with the hugely popular Cleetus & Cars event next weekend.


It's not often that a racer can improve upon their career best by nearly a tenth of a second but that’s exactly what happened to John Hall yesterday when he rode his BRAKES Buell to a 6.728 that improved upon his previous best of 6.785 set two months ago in Gainesville. Hall admitted that he was happy with the run, but not shocked based on his previous runs.

“We tested these bikes after Gainesville and it was obvious that Matt [Smith, team owner and crew chief] made some progress,” said Hall. That was a good run, but you know, there is always a little more in there. It’s funny because I’m riding Matt’s old blue [Buell] and that’s the same bike I rode years ago. IT was a good bike but it was never strong in the first sixty-feet. When Matt told me it was the bike I’d be riding this year, I wasn’t thrilled but obviously he’s fixed it. Its one of the best bikes in the field now.”

Hall shut off early on his second pass on Friday night not because of performance, but because of a small technical issue.

“In high gear, the shift light comes on and it stays on,” said Hall. “In the daytime, it’s not a big deal but at night, it was blinding. I couldn’t see the finish line, and I didn’t know where I was on the track so I clicked it early. It’s a shame because I had the third-best sixty foot time so it was on a good run.”

Hall has two prior wins in the Mission Foods NHRA Drag Racing series, both of them in 2013 and both of them aboard MSR bikes. Hall won the inaugural NHRA event in Epping, N.H. and also defeated Smith in the final of the 2013 U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.



Erica Enders grabbed the first trophy of the weekend in the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge on Saturday when she won the final quad against Dallas Glenn, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Jerry Don Tucker. Enders, who was reinstated into the field after Greg Anderson’s run was disqualified in round one, left first and drove to a 6.516 to hold off Dallas Glenn’s 6.518 while Coughlin finished third with a 6.509, the quickest run of the round.

The 16 car field is one of the closest in the history of the sport stretching from Anderson’s 6.500 to a 6.542 by rookie Sienna Wildgust. The list of notable non-qualifiers includes Matt Hartford, Chris McGaha, Larry Morgan, and Fernando Cuadra Sr., who is putting the wraps on his long career this weekend.



After winning four Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge events last season, Gaige Herrera picked up where he left off with a convincing win on Saturday at zMax Dragway. The reigning world champ rode his RevZilla Vance & Hines Suzuki to a 6.671 for the win while six-time world champion Matt Smith finished second at 6.711. Herrera also bumped Smith from the top spot in qualifying. Herrera has now been the top qualifier at the last 11 NHRA events dating back to the 2023 Denver event.

After Herrera and Smith, LE Tonglet held on to the third spot with a 6.703 while Angie Smith finished fourth with a 6.718. The bump spot is held by former world champion Hector Arana Sr. with an off-pace 7.537.



Justin Ashley, who won six of the Mission Challenge titles last year, got his first of 2024 by out-running the final-round quad, his 3.701 finishing ahead of Steve Torrence’s 3.740 for the bonus cash and points. Josh Hart finished third and Antron Brown, who lost traction, finished fourth.

Outside of the Mission Challenge, Clay Millican made a great run in Q4, a 3.715 to jump to the No. 4 qualifying spot behind the Friday runs of Doug Kalitta and Brown and Ashley’s Q4 pass.

Tony Stewart qualified an impressive sixth, the first top-half starting position of his five-race Top Fuel career. His previous best was ninth in Gainesville

Cody Krohn ended up on the bump of a pretty quick field with a 3.852 in the Paton Racing entry. Mike Bucher was the lone non-qualifier.



Bob Tasca III completed the rebound from a tough day that started with a DQ of his Friday night pass due to a manifold violation to win the Mission Challenge, blasting to a 3.834 at 338.34 mph, the 10th fastest run in Funny Car history, to finish ahead of Las Vegas Challenge winner Austin Prock’s 3.852, Paul Lee, and J.R. Todd.

John Force stayed atop the field with his Friday 3.820 in a field where 12 drivers qualified in the three-second zone.