Justin Ashley in Chicago. (Kent Steele Photo)

Todd, Ashley & Herrera Snag Chicago #2Fast2Tasty Challenge Wins

CHICAGO — For the second time this season, Funny Car’s J.R. Todd picked up a win in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, defeating reigning world champion Matt Hagan in the final round on Saturday at Route 66 Raceway as part of this weekend’s 24th annual Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by PEAK Performance.

Justin Ashley (Top Fuel) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge at the sixth of 20 races during the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season.

Todd went 4.040-seconds at 316.52 mph in his 11,000-horsepower DHL Toyota GR Supra, holding off Hagan to get his third career victory in the specialty race. Warmer conditions posed a challenge on Saturday, but Todd performed well, knocking off John Force in the semifinals before getting past Hagan. The solid back-to-back runs also give Todd confidence heading into tomorrow, where he’ll have the chance to become the first two-time Funny Car winner in 2024.

“This is extremely rewarding and a lot of that is because these are race conditions,” Todd said. “Tomorrow, it might be even warmer. In Q3, a lot of cars weren’t getting down the track and we did against John [Force]. Tomorrow, I’m not sure how important lane choice will be, but I feel like no matter what, we’re good in the heat. The teams that put up numbers sometimes struggle in the heat when they have to pull back. 

“I love days like this when conditions are tough. I’m not saying I’m the best at it, but I love the thought of trying to tame 11,000 horsepower.”

Top Fuel

In Top Fuel, Justin Ashley put together his best run of the weekend, going 3.831 at 320.05 in his 11,000-horsepower Scag Power Equipment/Toyota dragster to knock off Clay Millican. It’s his second victory in the specialty race for the points leader and the eighth overall win in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, as it’s become an area where Ashley has thrived. The run in the final was his best of the weekend as well, providing some solid momentum going into eliminations.

“This feels great but it’s tough to pinpoint one thing that we did to make this happen today,” Ashley said. “I just know it helps to get us in raceday mode. In these races, I’m not necessarily trying to race the other person, just trying to make the best run I can make. As a team, we keep chipping away at it. We struggled a bit at the start of the year but we’re better and this was a fun one today. 

“When we ran that 3.83 in the final I felt better because that’s similar conditions than what we’re going to face tomorrow. I assume there will be a lot of shaking and spinning and we need to be ready for it.”

Pro Stock Bike

Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle Gaige Herrera stayed perfect in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge in 2024, winning for the third straight time with a run of 6.733 at 201.16 on his RevZilla/Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. The victory came against teammate Richard Gadson, making it a win-win for the team, but Herrera has been nearly impossible to beat since last year. He’ll look for yet another double-up weekend on Sunday, pleased with how the bike ran in the heat on Saturday at Route 66 Raceway.

“I knew that it was going to be a tough race with Richard because he’s my teammate. He’s new but he’s competitive and he’s learning quickly,” Herrera said. “He left on me, but we had enough to get around him. The good thing about these [Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge] races is that you get in a routine on Saturday and that helps make you a better racer on Sunday. Right now, the parity in this class is close, and that’s what this class needs.”