By Jerry Jordan, Editor
For Top Fuel drag racers, going 300 mph at the top end of a 1,000-foot track isn’t that big of a deal anymore in the NHRA but hitting 300.80 mph at the 660-foot mark is something that only one racer has ever done before … and it happened Saturday at the Carolina Nationals in Charlotte, N.C., with Mike Salinas.
The Scrappers Racing owner/driver goes down in the history books as the first driver ever to reach such an accomplishment and following his run, he may have been more stunned than the thousands of fans cheering him on.
“This is surreal. Racers, we all dream about this. It’s just amazing,” Salinas said. “We’re inching up on things. This was not something we just stumbled on. The run itself, from half-track on, it was moving pretty good. I’m new to this stuff still, I’m learning, I’m not a veteran. To be able to do this and be the first at it, it’s amazing.
“The track was amazing. (Crew chief) Rob (Flynn) and Arron (Cave) getting this thing ready for us – I never get involved with that, but I had this ‘all or nothing’ that we’ve been doing,” Salinas said. “We’ve been working on this for a while and our car has been close several times in testing. We knew we were going to do it; we just didn’t know when. Tonight was the perfect time to do it. The car seemed to like what we were doing, and Rob and Aaron are amazing every run. We are a real team and I’m just happy to be part of what they’ve put together.”
The run by Salinas is a big stat to add to his list of personal bests, which previously included a 334.4 mph run and a 3.652-second elapsed time. That has now changed to a 3.647 second ET and a run of 338.00 mph. The California native, who was introduced to racing by his father, has built an organization that includes his daughters, Jianna Salinas, who races Pro-Stock Motorcycles and Jasmine Salinas, who recently announced she was moving up to the Top Fuel division in 2024.
“We’ve been close and to put together a run like this, it is awesome. These are the types of things we’re out here for and what it’s all about. What an amazing run,” Salinas said.
The history-making run also earned Salinas a $30,000 bonus from Phillips Connect, a data analytics and insights company focusing on the trucking industry. The company’s executive vice-president, Jim Epler, aptly named “Mr. 300,” was once a drag racer, as well. He became the first-ever driver ever to cross the 300-mph threshold on October 3, 1993, at the NHRA event in Topeka, Kansas, and he did it in a Funny Car.
“There can only be one first and Mike is always going to be remembered for being the first to go 300-mph in the 1/8-mile,” said Phillips Connect EVP Jim Epler, who enjoyed a standout career and was the first Funny Car driver to exceed the 300-mph mark in the quarter-mile. “This is a big accomplishment and it was fun to see. I’m super proud of Mike and his team. Rob Flynn and I worked together 20 years ago and I was real fortunate to work with him. I couldn’t be prouder of them and he will be known for this for the rest of his life.”
Salinas’ run also became the fifth-fastest pass in NHRA Top Fuel history.