Jianna Salinas, at 21 the youngest professional in the NHRA, experienced the highs and lows of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series all in one day.
The San Martin, Calif., Pro Stock Motorcycle rookie experienced her biggest thrill of her career so far in Sunday’s first round of the Route 66 Nationals at Joliet, Ill. – then learned about 90 minutes later how cruel the sport can be. She took a frightening spill in the second round but escaped unhurt.
The newest Scrappers Racing professional racer upset higher-qualified Hector Arana Sr., the 2009 series champion, in the first round for her career-first eliminations triumph. She was part of an unusual first round that saw females win five of the eight opening-round match-ups.
Then in the quarterfinals, against Hector Arana Jr., Salinas launched first but couldn’t keep her Suzuki from heading toward the center line and a certain disqualification. She was leaning over on the bike to keep it upright but, as Arana Jr. sped by, she was wrestling her motorcycle and ended up hitting a couple of the timing blocks at about the 1,000-foot mark on the Route 66 Raceway quarter-mile.
Salinas eventually lost control of the motorcycle at the finish line and fell to the pavement. The bike flipped but did not appear to strike her as it went sliding to a stop in the shutdown area. She rolled about three times. However, she was on one knee in about five seconds and on her feet in about 10. Aside from some bruises, she’s fine. She returned to the starting line to watch mentor Karen Stoffer defeat Arana Jr. and advance to the final round.
“I’m doing great, thank you,” Salinas, of San Martin, Calif., said about an hour later. “I couldn’t miss Karen’s run. Nothing’s going to stop me. You fall down and you get back up, and you learn from it. That’s all you can do.”
She credited the Safety Safari emergency team for its speedy response.
“They were amazing, honestly, everybody – the NHRA, Safety Safari. They came to me super-fast,” Salinas said.
In the Top Fuel semifinals, Antron Brown lost to Steve Torrence in spectacular fashion, too. At the 300-foot mark on the 1,000-foot course, the Matco Tools Dragster driver experienced a huge engine explosion. It was the second of the rather costly day for Don Schumacher Racing. Brown’s DSR colleague Leah Pritchett exited in dramatic style in the first round of Top Fuel runoffs, a victim of an engine explosion that destroyed her right rear tire.
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019