Green, Hartford & Ashley collected the victories in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, which took place during Saturday qualifying at the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals.
The Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge brings competitive racing to the qualifying schedule at 12 regular-season events during the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series campaign, pitting semifinalists from the previous race — in this case, the NHRA Arizona Nationals — against each other in a pair of rematches, with the two winners then matching up in the final qualifying session.
Green, whose Daniel Wilkerson-tuned Bond Coast Mustang and gone to the semifinals of the season’s first two races and sits a lofty fifth in points, took the biggest win of his young Funny Car career with a 3.97 to 4.49 final-round victory over Phoenix Mission Challenge winner Alexis DeJoria.
“It's a really big moment for us,” Green acknowledged. It's our first win in Funny Cars as a team. This season] is going a little better than I expected to start the season off, but we're not surprised. I mean, we’ve got a good car. We’ve got a good group of guys, and we're focused this year.
“It definitely proves we're for real and we do feel we can do some damage. We definitely don't have the car running as fast as we think we can get it running, but it's been really consistent.”
The first round of Funny Car was wild as none of the four cars made it to the finish line under power. Ron Capps lost traction earlier and DeJoria’s car quit a little further downtrack, coasting to the finish line with a 4.33 at just 209 mph to Capps’ 4.41 at 211 mph.
Right behind them, Arizona Nationals champ Robert Hight smoked the tires early, allow Green to race ahead before he also lost traction.. Green coasted to the win with a 4.52 at 190 mph to Hight’s 5.78 at 121 mph.
Hartford, who seemed to have the car to beat at the Arizona Nationals before his semifinal exit, showed that promise was real in Pomona, beating Kyle Koretsky in the Mission Pro Stock final, 6.546 to 6.558.
"We didn't test over the winter. We showed up in Gainesville, and the first three rounds of qualifying we were horrible. By Q$, we were halfway decent. Since E2 in Gainesville we've had a really good car, and I felt that we should have won Phoenix and we didn't. If the driver had done the job we would have won Phoenix. To come here and have a chance at some redemption, some revenge, thanks to Mission for putting this deal on because it is fun to race on Saturday.”
In the opening Pro Stock round, the tables were turned on both semifinal results from Phoenix with Koretsky driving around Bo Butner’s small holeshot (033 to .037) for a 6.542 to 6.554 victory, with a scant winning margin of just .008-second for Koretsky. Right behind them, Hartford ended Caruso’s winning streak with a 6.542 to 6.550 victory.
The Top Fuel final pitted defending Winternationals champ and last weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals winner Justin Ashley against Leah Pruett, who has opened her season with two impressive semifinal outings. As he did in Phoenix, Ashley saved his best run for last, running 3.707 that not only outraced Pruett’s 3.732 but also gave him the No. 1 qualifying spot.
"This is probably the best Saturday I think I've ever had at the racetrack,” said Ashley. “I was super happy, obviously, because this also counts for qualifying and we picked up some extra bonus po
ints, qualifying No. 1 and then winning this Mission Challenge.
Tonight, we can enjoy this one, but tomorrow it goes in the rearview mirror. We have a long road ahead. We're gonna have to have four perfect rounds of racing to give ourselves a chance to win.”
In the opening Top Fuel round, Pruett’s Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters/Tony Stewart Racing dragster got revenge on Shawn Langdon, powering to a 3.725 after Langdon had to pedal and then lift after his DHL entry lost traction early, Ashley, meanwhile, repeated his semifinal conquest of Steve Torrence, scoring on 3.751 to 3.749 a holeshot after a telepathic .013 reaction time.
Ashley and Green each pocketed $10,000 while Hartford netted $7,500. Each challenge winner also earned three bonus points that will be added to their point total to begin the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. The runner-ups (Pruett, DeJoria, and Koretsky) got two points and the quickest losing semifinalist — Torrence in Top Fuel, Capps in Funny Car, and Caruso in Pro Stock — earned one point.
The Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals continue with eliminations slated for 11 a.m. on Sunday. Television coverage of the event continues with a qualifying show Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 (FS1). Eliminations will begin on FS1 Sunday at 7 p.m. ET.
See the full recap from Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor:
Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals Saturday photo gallery:
Content: NHRA | Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Photo's: NHRA | Mission Foods | Angelle Sampey social