RACING

Salinas, Hight, Stanfield and Sampey take top qualifying spots in Bristol

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There was a lot of bumping and shuffling in Saturday’s two qualifying sessions at Bristol and in the end Friday’s leaders Robert Hight and Angelle Sampey retained the top qualifying spots in Top Fuel and Pro Stock respectively. Motorcycle while Mike Salinas and Aaron Stanfield took the top spots in Top Fuel and Pro Stock.

Salinas qualified in first place for the second time this season and the ninth time in his career with a 3.767 that knocked Friday leader Steve Torrence out of first place. Salinas, who already has three wins this season, will begin his quest for the No. 4 win with a race against Cameron Ferre in the first round.

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“What we’re doing seems to be working so we’re not changing anything,” Salinas said. “We were trying to get a 3.75 to work [in Q3] and we ran 3.76. The car bounced a bit but it cleaned up. Earlier, Rob [Flynn, crew chief] I thought we were going 3.72 but the track wouldn’t hold it. Tomorrow, I think you’ll see those numbers, but not today.

So far this season, Salinas has let his performance do the talking, especially to those who thought he would struggle following the departure of tuner Alan Johnson. He never doubted his decision to bring in Flynn as a replacement.

“There are two different people in this world; those who speak and those who do. I’m a doer and a talker,” Salinas said. “In testing we did a 700 foot run and she ran 3.76 at 300 and we were impressed. Rob Flynn and [assistant crew chief] Arron Cave has chemistry. There is calm and comfort in our crew. They all have the ability to make suggestions and we have no egos at all and that’s really cool.

Torrence retained second place while Josh Hart, Antron Brown, Clay Millican, Austin Prock and Spencer Massey round out the top half of the field.

On Friday night, Hight said openly that his 3.976 run had no chance of staying atop the Funny Car field, but he was happy to be wrong and held on to claim pole for the 73rd time in his career. With 15 cars in the field, that means an exemption race in Sunday’s opening round.

“I’m glad nobody wanted to bet because I would have lost money on this deal,” Hight said. “For some reason everyone got their choke stuck and no one did the kind of racing we expected. Being No. 1 is really good, but I still don’t think we’re in control. With 15 cars here we have a bye run and that’s huge. I have a very good feeling and if we can do four runs of three seconds, we will hold the trophy at the end of the day.

Hight and crew chief Jimmy Prock plan to use data obtained from teammate John Force, who had two solid runs on Saturday, including a 3.997 to qualify third. Tim Wilkerson tied the pair with a second-best 3.996.

“John had two really good runs with his Camaro and we’ll share that data and come up with the best plan,” Hight said. “That’s the advantage of a multi-car team.”

The rest of Funny Car’s top ten include points leader Matt Hagan, Cruz Pedregon, former Bristol winner Bob Tasca III and Paul Lee.

As is often the case in Pro Stock, the entire field is separated by a tenth of a second, meaning almost anyone who qualifies can win. As tight as the competition is, Aaron Stanfield would appear to have the upper hand after taking his Janac Bros/J3 Energy Camaro to first place for the third time in seven races this season. Stanfield posted a 6.638 in Saturday’s opening session that has never been bettered. As a result, the defending and two-time Factory Stock champion will face Wally Stroupe in the first round.

Stanfield ceded the points lead to Erica Enders several races ago but recognizes the Bristol race represents a great opportunity to gain ground.

“The track was very tricky this weekend,” Stanfield said. “The team leaders did their job and my guys gave me the best they could give me. We haven’t had the best chance of the No.1 spot in my career, but we have a chance to do something tomorrow.

Stanfield is making his first Pro Stock appearance in Bristol, but he has already won that event in Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers. Stanfield’s father, Greg, also won the Super Stock title here last year, to help clinch his fifth championship.

“My family and I love this race track. We have quite a history here,” said Stanfield, who also attends the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown. “I was lucky enough to win Top Dragster on Father’s Day and would love to do it again.

“Driving two cars helps me not to think about anything else because I’m extremely busy. The two cars are totally different, but I’m motivated and ready to win. Let’s see if we can do well in both classes tomorrow.

Rookie Camrie Caruso had two good runs on Saturday, including a 6.644 for second place. Caruso qualified No. 1 in Houston and continues to improve with every event this season. Caruso’s reward will be a first-round battle against Chris McGaha.

Erica Enders had the fastest run of the final session to advance to third place where she will be paired with Cristian Cuadra in a rematch of the Las Vegas Four Wide Finals.

Kyle Koretsky also earned a qualifying spot in the first half in his Lucas Oil Camaro while Friday leader Greg Anderson was powered up to No. 6. Matt Hartford, Dallas Glenn and Troy Coughlin Jr. round out the upper half of the Pro Stock champ.

Sampey qualified No. 1 for the 55th time in her storied career when Friday’s 6.874 race went through Saturday’s two Pro Stock Motorcycle races. Sampey, the defending winner from Bristol, rides with confidence, which could be bad news for her first-round opponent, Chris Bostick.

“Someone told me that Vance & Hines was the only team to win on this track [including the Winston Showdown specialty events, both won by Matt Hines] and hopefully this trend will continue tomorrow,” Sampey said. “I’m working hard not to try to win the race at the moment. By that, I mean not trying to win in the first round. Andrew [Hines] and Eddie are both great coaches. They have knowledge and experience that I did not have in the past. They help me with what I think on the starting line. The goal is to relax and be relaxed.

Sampey’s biggest challenge came from Joey Gladstone, who put in one of the best qualifying performances of his career with a 6.889 aboard the Reed Motorsports Suzuki. Gladstone’s reward for his performance is a first round against world champion LE Tonglet, who rides the Suzuki of Kelly Clontz.

Championship rivals Steve Johnson and Matt Smith are third and fifth respectively, with Marc Ingwersen sandwiched between them in career-best fourth.

Not everyone in the Pro Stock Bike class found the sweet spot in the three qualifying rounds. Four-time world champion Eddie Kraiewc landed 10th while Gainesville winner and current record holder Karen Stoffer qualified 12th. Stoffer races Matt Smith while Krawiec is paired with Jerry Savoie in a battle of world champions.

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