Tasca, Brown, Coughlin Jr, and Gladstone earn Topeka Wallys

Topeka, Kansas 

By Briar Starr, NHRA Staff Writer 

Despite the racing weekend being a toasty one, the NHRA Camping World Series visited Topeka, Kansas for the 33rd annual Heartland Menards Nationals. With two races left before the Countdown playoffs start, there are many drivers looking to continue their hot streaks while others are still seeking their first win of the year. Additionally, the event was a historic one at least for the Pro Stock Motorcycles, as the motorcycles visited the facility for the first time in 25 years. 

  1. Funny Car – Following a rough first half of the season, Bob Tasca III has seemingly picked up momentum toward the later half of the schedule following a runner-up loss at Norwalk and Denver. Even with the loss at those races, Tasca III was determined to pick up momentum and turn his season around. But, the victory wasn’t easy for Tasca III, as he had to face John Force in the finals. Heading into Sunday’s action, Tasca III was the fastest in qualifying by setting the low E.T. of 3.930 and 323.81 mph and gave himself the No. 1 qualifier for the second time this season and ninth time of his career.By being the No. 1 qualifier, it marked the first time in his career, that Tasca III scored back-to-back races. The Rhode Islander was victorious in his first round by setting an ET of 3.973 and 322.19 mph to advance to the second round in a bye run. John Force qualified in the third position with a 3.932 and 312.71 mph to line him up with former teammate Cruz Pedregon. The matchup was the 116th time in their respective careers. The Force and Pedregon battle ended up being a strange one. Both vehicles went in too deep and Pedregon left right before the light turned green.Force meanwhile didn’t move and was automatically given a win, and advanced onto the second round to face a familiar foe, Ron Capps. A unique twist that occurred in the first round happened during a race between J.R. Todd and Alexis DeJoria. Todd originally won the event, however, following technical inspection Todd was disqualified and DeJoria was given a win instead. Tasca III entered the second round with a bye run and made a clean pass down the track to move him on to face Matt Hagan.

    Meanwhile, Force grabbed a victory over Capps with a 4.033 to 4.047, which would see him face his teammate Robert Hight in the semis. For the semis, Tasca had a slight advantage over Hagan with a reaction time of .061 to .062. Tasca notched the victory and earned his 25th career final round matchup with Force. Force eliminated teammate Hight in the semis by 15 feet. Coming into the finals, Tasca had three wins over Force, as Force had never won against him in a final-round matchup. Right before the finals, Force made the lane swap to go into the other lane. When the Christmas tree went green, Tasca was ahead of Force the entire time and went on to win for the 11th time of his career.

    “The guys worked so hard, and we’ve been working a long time for this,” said Tasca, who is fifth in points. “It was challenging conditions for our team, but these guys are awesome, and we got it done. Getting ready for the Countdown is what it’s all about right now. To get four finals in the last five races, and win two races in the last three races, I think we’ve got things in gear. These were really tough conditions and to see this Mustang go up and down the track like it did, it was great.”

    Force came up short with an ET of 4.131 and 311.27 mph for the 109th runner-up of his career. 

    “It was a good day for this PEAK Chevy. My guys, they worked hard, gave me a good race car, had a little luck in the first round, but had some good racing throughout the day. We look good heading into the Countdown in a couple weeks. I think we are just a few points out of the top three. Loved racing here in Topeka, appreciate all the fans that came out and braved the heat. They make it all worth it.”

  2. Top Fuel – For the first time as a Team Owner in his career, Antron Brown and Antron Brown Motorsports picked up their first elusive Wally of his career. Leading up to his final round matchup with Steve Torrence, Brown qualified in the 11th spot and had a tough competitor in the first round with current Top Fuel championship points leader Brittany Force. Knowing it was a tough race, Brown never doubted himself and won with a 3.816 and 310.70 mph after Force shut the dragster off early. Brown advanced to the second round with a match against Josh Hart. It’s the first time ever in their respective careers they’ve faced each other. Brown was victorious in their first match with a 3.812 to Hart’s 3.940 to advance him into the semi-finals with his technical teammate Justin Ashley. The race itself was an exciting race, as both Ashley and Brown started to go up in smoke. Ashley regained traction, while Brown tried staying in the gas and eventually blew up the engine. Fortunately for Brown, he narrowly escaped with a win and advanced to the finals for the 127th time of his career to face rival competitor Steve Torrence. Heading into the finals, Brown had a 7-6 final round record over Torrence, but Torrence was also seeking his first victory of the season. Brown was never behind the entire time and went on to score his first ever victory as a team owner and the 53rd win of his Top Fuel career. “This has been a lifelong dream, and I never imagined we were going to struggle like we did, but we all got through it together. It was high emotions, and I only wish my grandmom could’ve been here to see it. We lost her in December, and I know Brian (Corradi) has a heavy heart, too. He lost his mom a year prior, and it’s one of those deals where it doesn’t feel real because it’s a dream when you think about it from where we came from. I worked on motorcycles, Brian worked on cars, and never in a million years did we think we’d ever be able to go out on our own as a team. We talked about it for years; my wife, my family, and you never think it’s a possibility but here we are. We’ve been working our tails off, and we have such incredible support from Matco, Lucas Oil, Hangsterfer’s, Toyota, SiriusXM, Western Tech, and Summit coming aboard; all of the people who make this possible, when it all comes together and you look at where you started to where we are now, the struggle is real, but this makes it all worthwhile.”

    Torrence scored victories over Kyle Wurtzel, Tony Schumacher, and Mike Salinas before earning his third runner-up of the season and 28th of his career. 

    “It has been frustrating,” acknowledged the only driver ever to sweep the races in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship (2018). “When you’re used to winning 10, 11 races a year, to be shut out for this long, you know, is agonizing but we knew we needed to take a big step to stay competitive. It’s just taken a little longer than we
    wanted to get a handle on things and to get the driver and the race car both doing what they’re supposed to at the same time. Today was a big step forward and I can’t feel too bad since my brother (Antron) won his first race as a team owner.”

  3. Pro Stock – Entering Topeka, Kansas, Greg Anderson was once again seeking his 100th career Pro Stock victory but had to face a tough competitor and the most recent winner Troy Coughlin Jr in the finals. Going into race day, Anderson qualified No. 1 for the 120th time of his career with a speed of 6.623 and 206.61 mph. That run would see him in a bye in the first round, while the Seattle winner, Coughlin Jr qualified second on the board and faced Chris McGaha in a first-round matchup. With Anderson easily winning his round, he would be slated to face Bo Butner in the quarterfinals, while Coughlin Jr faced Fernando Cuadra Jr after he eliminated McGaha. For the second round, Anderson bested Butner with a pass of 6.691 and 204.63 mph after Butner fouled .010 too soon. However, Coughlin Jr had to give up lane choice to Erica Enders in the semis. Anderson eliminated Koretsky with a time of 6.693 and 204.98 mph and would advance to his 169th final round appearance. As for Coughlin Jr, despite Enders having a 4-3 advantage, he won in a tight race by 20 inches over Enders. It would be the 11th time Anderson and Coughlin Jr faced each other as No. 1 and No. 2 qualifiers. The race was another close one with Coughlin Jr cutting a .038 light and Anderson a .046 light. Despite the similar reaction times, Coughlin Jr stayed ahead of Anderson and would go on to win for the second consecutive time of his career. “Everyone at Elite Motorsports is working their tails off making this car work. Just an exciting day and we can’t wait to keep it going at Indy,” said Coughlin, who had registered three runner-up finishes in 52 career Pro Stock races before breaking through for his inaugural victory two weeks ago at Seattle.

    Anderson scored the 70th runner of his career and will have to wait another day to seek his 100th.

    “For three races in a row, we’ve had a chance to win – and we didn’t have a chance to do that in the first eight races this year,” said Anderson. “We’re definitely beginning to see what we’ve been looking for, and hopefully, we can hang on to that and continue to build as the Countdown to the Championship comes into view.”

  4. Pro Stock Motorcycle – Pro Stock Motorcycle returned to Topeka, Kansas for the first time in a while. Only two active drivers last raced here and still compete today. Those are three-time champion Angelle Sampey and long-time rider Steve Johnson. Everyone else was new to the track and had to find their way around when the teams arrived on Friday morning. Even with everyone being new to the speed, one particular person was looking to keep his winning momentum up and that’s Joey Gladstone who won back at Sonoma for the first time in his career. All seemed right in the world after qualifying with Gladstone notching the first No. 1 qualifier of his career and earning nine bonus points with a time of 6.831 and 197.10 mph. Gladstone faced a first-round match with No. 14 qualifier David Barron. Gladstone won over Barron, which moved him into a bye in the second round. His next opponent ended up being Angie Smtih in the semis after Smith defeated LE Tonglet in the quarterfinals.Smith was originally slated to face Chris Bostick in the first round, however, Bostick did not compete due to the lack of engine and motors. Smith eliminated Tonglet with a pass of 6.945 and 197.10 mph to square up with Gladstone in the semis. Gladstone won over Smith and moved on to the finals and saw him have a Sonoma rematch with Eddie Krawiec. Once again, Gladstone achieved a second consecutive victory and set low ET in all the rounds to win in Topeka. 

    “This is what dreams are made of,” Gladstone said. “I’m just so thankful and so proud of this team. They’re so awesome and this is unbelievable right now. Our guys gave me a perfect bike this weekend and we kind of lucked up into a tuneup. We put something that we thought would be close and we nailed it. We just had to make small adjustments to it, and I just had to keep doing my thing. It’s taken quite some time to do this, and these are extremely difficult to ride correctly. My tuner is doing a terrific job and to be doing it in this style, it’s so cool.” 

Official NHRA Camping World Results following the Heartland Nationals in Topeka, Kansas. 

Top Fuel 

  1. Antron Brown 
  2. Steve Torrence 
  3. Mike Salinas 
  4. Justin Ashley 
  5. Josh Hart 
  6. Tony Schumacher 
  7. Shawn Langdon 
  8. Leah Pruett 
  9. Doug Kalitta
  10. Clay Millican 
  11. Austin Prock 
  12. Brittany Force 
  13. Kyle Wurtzel 
  14. Doug Foley 
  15. Buddy Hull
  16. Terry Totten 

Funny Car 

  1. Bob Tasca III 
  2. John Force 
  3. Robert Hight 
  4. Matt Hagan 
  5. Ron Capps 
  6. Alexis DeJoria 
  7. Paul Lee 
  8. Jim Campbell 
  9. Chad Green 
  10. Jack Wyatt
  11. Blake Alexander
  12. Cruz Pedregon 
  13. Tim Wilkerson 
  14. J.R. Todd 

Pro Stock 

  1. Troy Coughlin Jr
  2. Greg Anderson 
  3. Erica Enders 
  4. Kyle Koretsky 
  5. Bo Butner 
  6. Dallas Glenn 
  7. Aaron Stanfield 
  8. Fernando Cuadra Jr
  9. Cristian Cuadra
  10. Deric Kramer 
  11. Camrie Caruso 
  12. Matt Hartford 
  13. Chris McGaha 
  14. Mason McGaha 
  15. Fernando Cuadra 

Pro Stock Motorcycle 

  1. Joey Gladstone 
  2. Eddie Krawiec 
  3. Jerry Savoie 
  4. Angie Smith 
  5. Matt Smith 
  6. LE Tonglet 
  7. Angelle Sampey 
  8. Karen Stoffer
  9. Marc Ingwersen 
  10. Steve Johnson 
  11. Ryan Oehler 
  12. David Barron 
  13. Chris Bostick 
  14. Jianna Evaristo

More coverage of the NHRA can be found here.


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