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Torrence Jumps To P1 In Baytown

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 30 2016
Hometown driver Steve Torrence captured the provisional pole at the SpringNationals on Friday in Texas.

Hometown driver Steve Torrence captured the provisional pole at the SpringNationals on Friday in Texas.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

On the one-year anniversary of his strategic partnership with the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, native Texan Steve Torrence is determined to take the affiliation to the next level during this weekend’s 29th annual NHRA SpringNationals.

Torrence, winner of the season-opening Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., raced to the Top Fuel qualifying lead Friday at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, near Houston, in the sixth event of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Torrence piloted his Capco Contractors/Rio Ammunition dragster to a track-record 1,000-foot performance of 3.724-seconds at 329.42 mph during the second qualifying session. The Kilgore, Texas, native is two sessions away from securing his fourth No. 1 qualifier of the season and third in-a-row.

Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) also were qualifying leaders in their professional categories.

“Houston is one of the racetracks I get to call home,” said Torrence, 33, who qualified on-pole and reached the semifinals at RPR two years ago. “It’s really gratifying to be able to run well in front of the hometown crowd and all the friends and family I’ve grown up racing with. Just have a lot of support here.

“We’re a Texas team with Texas sponsors and Texas partners.  We’re racing in our home state _ Chris Kyle’s home state _ the home state of Rio Ammunition and Capco.  All we need to make it the perfect Texas weekend is to get our hot rod in the winners’ circle and celebrate with all the people who support us throughout the year.”

The goal of winning one of two NHRA national events contested in Texas remains a priority for Torrence, whose fan base extends to Billy Meyer’s Texas Motorplex in Ennis, in the Dallas-Fort Worth market. The Plex is home to the 31st annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals in mid-October, the fourth round of the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

Torrence began Friday’s time trials fifth in the driver standings and 138 points behind leader Brittany Force and her Monster Energy dragster. Winner of six NHRA tour events since founding Torrence Racing in 2012, Torrence has assembled a team legitimately capable of winning the $500,000 championship.

“I wouldn’t trade my guys for anybody out there,” Torrence said.  “We had a great core group with Richard Hogan and Bobby Lagana but we went to a new level when we hooked up with A.J. (tuning consultant and crew chief to the stars Alan Johnson) and we took another big step when we went to a Morgan Lucas Racing chassis.”

Since Johnson began working with Hogan last season, Torrence has not qualified outside the Top 8 and has started No. 1 at two straight races and at three of five contested this year. “I haven’t won in Texas since the Alcohol days,” said Torrence, the 2005 NHRA world champion in Top Alcohol Dragster. “So, yeah, it would be a big deal especially with everybody here from the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, Capco, Rio…all my friends and family.”

Shared values were at the core of Torrence’s decision to align with the foundation managed by Taya Kyle, widow of the American soldier whose story was documented in the movie American Sniper.

“Chris was all about God, family and country,” Torrence said. “He was passionate about those things and so am I. The fact that we’re both Texans and that we shared a love of the outdoors and of properly-used firearms made the partnership with the foundation a no-brainer.”

Torrence is committed to helping the foundation achieve its principal goal of expanding awareness of the plight of military families adjusting to a post-deployment lifestyle.

A Navy SEAL who served five tours of duty in Iraq, Kyle became the most decorated sniper in American military history. Ironically, he was shot and killed at a shooting range in 2012 by a fellow veteran he was counseling at the request of the man’s family.  Kyle wrote the book American Sniper, the inspiration for the blockbuster movie.

The foundation funds a series of “Revitalization Retreats” for married military and first responder couples reconnecting after deployment.  The retreats allow spouses to get to know one another again while adapting to changes that occurred during their estrangement.

“It’s a wonderful cause,” Torrence said.  “The military is a brotherhood and so is drag racing.  I just wish Chris could be here to see his dream of helping the families of military members and first responders coming true.”

Torrence qualified 11th in this event last year before falling to Clay Millican in the quarterfinals. Torrence’s overall record at RPR is 5-6.

Doug Kalitta, whom Torrence defeated in the Winternationals finals, currently is in the No. 2 spot, racing his Mac Tools dragster to a pass of 3.743-seconds at 324.36 mph.  Millican and his Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster sit in third with a matching elapsed time of 3.743-seconds but slower speed of 323.12 mph.

Two-time/reigning world champion Antron Brown and his Matco Tools dragster are in fifth and Force, a two-time winner this season, is seventh.

In Funny Car, Wilkerson set a career-best and track record 1,000-foot time of 3.899-seconds at 327.59 mph in his Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang. Wilkerson, the 2004 SpringNationals winner, has two wins this season and is poised to earn his first pole of the year. 

“I’m pretty happy with that performance,” Wilkerson said. “I knew it was a pretty fast run because (the car) went out there in the middle of the track and really took off. Usually when it does that it’s marching pretty hard.”

Alexis DeJoria is second with a 3.910-second pass at 324.90 mph in her Tequila Patron Toyota Camry and is trailed by Courtney Force and her Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS at 3.915-seconds at 320.66 mph. Reigning world champion Del Worsham set the track record for speed with a 328.06 mph run in his DHL Toyota Camry and currently is in the fourth spot, while point-leader Robert Hight is fifth. 

In Pro Stock, Anderson powered his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro to a quarter-mile pass in 6.589-seconds at 210.41 mph. Eyeing his third pole of the year, Anderson also has bagged two wins this season.

“I couldn’t be more proud of my guys and what they do with our race cars. It’s just a dream to drive right now,” said Anderson, a four-time Pro Stock world champion. “That run tonight was beyond what I thought we could run. That was pretty darn close to a perfect run. We usually get out of the car saying, ‘We did this wrong and we did that wrong,’ but I can’t pick anything apart on that run. It was a very, very nice run. Probably the nicest run I’ve had all year long.”

Anderson’s Ken Black Racing teammates _ Jason Line and Bo Butner _ currently sit in the second and third spots at 6.602-seconds at 209.92 mph and 6.623-seconds at 208.91 mph, respectively. Line and his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro have not qualified outside of second or missed a finals appearance this season.

Butner and his Bill Butner Auto Camaro will be racing for his first Pro Stock victory after finishing runnerup to Line two consecutive times.  Meanwhile, two-time/reigning world champion Erica Enders is in the sixth position. A native of Houston, Enders will be racing for her third consecutive victory at Royal Purple Raceway.

The final two qualifying sessions are scheduled to be run Saturday afternoon.  Fox Sports 1 will televise one hour of qualifying highlights Saturday at midnight (EDT). The network also will televise three hours of finals coverage Sunday at 5 p.m. (EDT).

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Friday’s qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of time trials for the 29th annual SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway, sixth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.  Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel _ 1. Steve Torrence, 3.724-seconds, 329.42 mph; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.743, 324.36; 3. Clay Millican, 3.743, 323.12; 4. Richie Crampton, 3.752, 314.31; 5. Antron Brown, 3.753, 321.58; 6. Shawn Langdon, 3.760, 325.06; 7. Brittany Force, 3.761, 298.54; 8. Tony Schumacher, 3.766, 322.19; 9. Terry McMillen, 3.819, 314.02; 10. Kebin Kinsley, 3.870, 310.05; 11. Troy Buff, 3.884, 311.70; 12. J.R. Todd, 3.889, 300.53.

Not Qualified _ 13. Terry Haddock, 4.124, 276.46; 14. Scott Palmer, 4.137, 222.18; 15. Leah Pritchett, 5.199, 139.20; 16. Rob Passey, 7.090, 95.52.

Funny Car _ 1. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.899, 327.59; 2. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.910, 324.90; 3. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.915, 320.66; 4. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.923, 328.06; 5. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.953, 324.98; 6. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.953, 321.27; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.969, 315.56; 8. Chad Head, Camry, 3.972, 315.86; 9. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.982, 327.43; 10. John Force, Camaro, 4.005, 322.11; 11. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.103, 289.07; 12. Todd Simpson, Camaro, 4.224, 293.86.

 Not Qualified _ 13. Bob Bode, 4.971, 157.47; 14. Jack Beckman, 7.005, 87.69; 15. John Hale, 7.015, 93.13.

Pro Stock _ 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.589, 210.41; 2. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.602, 209.92; 3. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.623, 208.91; 4. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.632, 208.75; 5. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.635, 208.97; 6. Erica Enders, Dart, 6.635, 208.91; 7. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.639, 208.42; 8. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.644, 208.49; 9. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.646, 208.39; 10. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.653, 209.01; 11. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.655, 208.10; 12. Aaron Strong, Camaro, 6.683, 207.21.

Not Qualified _ 13. V. Gaines, 6.701, 208.07.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 30 2016
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