JOLIET, Ill. — The Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge is back, bringing an added measure of excitement as the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series makes its first Chicago appearance in four years.
The Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway are set for May 19-21.
The Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, which debuted this season, didn’t take place at the pair of four-wide races in April, but it returns in Chicago, delivering new participants, a defending winner and an entirely new category with it — along with competitive racing to qualifying on Saturday.
It also offers a bonus purse and bonus points for the Countdown to the Championship, as the challenge features the rematch of semifinalists from Pomona in the nitro class and from Gainesville in Pro Stock Motorcycle, with the winners meeting up in the finals.
Justin Ashley has a chance to be the first repeat winner in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge after he swept everything in Pomona. He qualified No. 1, won the race and picked up the victory in the special challenge on Saturday, knocking off Antron Brown in the semifinals in the process.
That will be the matchup in Chicago, while the other rematch is a teammate vs. teammate battle when Austin Prock takes on defending world champ Brittany Force.
“It was amazing to win the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge and go to No. 1 at the Winternationals. It’s great for the fans, but it’s also great for the teams,” Ashley said. “That Saturday was a great day for this Phillips Connect Toyota team. The Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge is a great opportunity to pick up valuable championship points early in the season, but our approach will remain the same.
“We will be focused on ourselves regardless of the opponent in the other lane.”
Ashley is one of 12 competitors taking part in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge across three classes.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, it’s a unique opportunity for four standouts in the two-wheeled category.
Points leader Gaige Herrera will look to continue his dominant start. He’s won both races in the class this year, including in Gainesville when he took out rising star Jianna Evaristo in the semifinals. She’ll have a chance for revenge in Chicago, while the other matchup features standout Angie Smith taking on rookie Chase Van Sant.
In Funny Car, Matt Hagan takes on Terry Haddock, who pulled off a string of upsets in Pomona to advance to the semifinals.
He’ll look for another big one in Chicago, as Hagan has enjoyed a hot start to his campaign. The points leader has won three races thus far, including in Pomona where he took out Haddock in the semifinals. He also knocked off defending world champ Ron Capps in the finals, which means Capps may have the opportunity for some revenge at Route 66 Raceway.
But first, Capps will have to take down Bob Tasca III, whose car has shown impressive capability early in the season.
Winners in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge earn bonus points and there’s also bonus points on the line.
Each challenge winner will earn three bonus points that will be added to their total to begin the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. The runner-up will get two points and the quickest losing semifinalist earns a point, adding another massive incentive for race teams to chase a Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge victory in Chicago.
TOP FUEL Matchup
Justin Ashley vs. Antron Brown (Ashley won in Pomona)
Austin Prock vs. Brittany Force (Prock won in Pomona)
FUNNY CAR Matchup
Matt Hagan vs. Terry Haddock (Hagan won in Pomona)
Ron Capps vs. Bob Tasca III (Capps won in Pomona)
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE Matchup
Gaige Herrera vs. Jianna Evaristo (Herrera won in Gainesville)
Angie Smith vs. Chase Van Sant (A. Smith won in Gainesville)