Saturday’s Pep Boys All-Star Top Fuel Callout will be exciting as the top drivers in Top Fuel made their selections early on Friday in Gainesville.
Brittany Force, Steve Torrence & Justin Ashley made their first-round callouts for the $80,000-to-win special event, held during qualifying at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. While 3 drivers made a choice, Josh Hart and Austin Prock remained standing at the end and will face off as rookies in the event.
“It's always a tough pick,” acknowledged Force. “If you look at the ladder, there's no driver you want to race against but we're basing off the elimination ladder, so we picked Clay.”
Millican, who predicted before the event that Force would call him out, was ready for the challenge and upped the ante by calling her out with a $1,000 side bet for charity, which she accepted. “We’re gonna stomp on that loud pedal and turn on the win light,” Millican predicted.
Steve Torrence, who won last year’s Top Fuel Callout, picked class veteran Doug Kalitta as his first-round opponent.
"There’s a bunch of bad-to-the-bone drivers back there,” said Torrence before announcing his decision. “We thought long and hard about it.”
“Stuff like this is really all about the fans and having some fun with it,” said Kalitta, “and if we can put Steve on the trailer after picking us that'll be even more fun.”
Justin Ashley had the last official pick and chose Mike Salinas.
“My strategy when choosing is to simply choose who's left so I might have a little like quarterback wristband to see if this happens and that happens but we're just gonna have to make the best decision that we can based on what's left,” said Ashley beforehand. “These are the best drivers in the world and there's not an easy choice out there but we definitely put some strong consideration to it so we’re excited to move forward with this event.”
Salinas responded to the callout by challenging Ashley to a $5,000 side bet, which he accepted.
With their fates already decided by the previous picks, Callout rookies Josh Hart and Austin Prock – as they had predicted backstage -- make up the final pair of the first round.
“I guess no one slew wanted to race us,” Hart deadpanned, then addressed holeshot artist Prock. “He's deadly on the Tree. We can't take anybody in this group lightly, so we're ready to roll out.”
Prock, the sport’s latest winner with his triumph at last year’s finale in Pomona, said he expects that momentum to continue into the Callout.
I think it will based off our test sessions that we had here in Gainesville,” said Prock. “We’ve got [crew chief] Chris Cunningham over in our corner now and he's one bad dude so him and Joe Barlaam they're going to be swinging for the fence. We earned our spot in this [event] and hopefully we will show Josh why we did.”
The first round of the Callout will take place Saturday in conjunction with the event’s third qualifying session.
See the recap by Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor:
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Content: RPM / nhra.com