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Thin Air Agrees With Torrence

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 24 2016
Steve Torrence won the Top Fuel pole at Bandimere Speedway on Saturday.

Steve Torrence won the Top Fuel pole at Bandimere Speedway on Saturday.


Steve Torrence extended his mastery of Bandimere Speedway’s rarified air Saturday and will start from the No. 1 qualifying position in defense of the Top Fuel title at the 37th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals.

The 33-year-old Texan turned in an overpowering performance in qualifying, and for the second time this season was quickest in all four sessions.  His best 1,000-foot run of 3.766-seconds at 325.14 mph re-set the track record in Morrison, Colo.  In his last three appearances at the Mile-High Nationals, the former Top Alcohol Dragster world champion has been quickest in seven-of-12 qualifying rounds and third or better in 11-of-12.

“Richard Hogan is the ‘King of The Mountain,’^” Torrence said of his crew chief.  “He’s a Mack truck (and) I’m the bulldog on the front.”

Torrence earned a personal best seventh pole of the season at the event near Denver.  It also was his second pole in three years at Bandimere. Coming into the season, he had qualified No. 1 just five times in four years. Pocketing all 12 qualifying bonus points, Torrence ran his total for the year to 83. That’s 29 more than the driver with the second-highest total (Doug Kalitta), a remarkable statistic considering Torrence missed the national event at Norwalk, Ohio, following a medical procedure.  

“The way the car has performed has been flawless all weekend,” said Torrence, who will face veteran campaigner Chris “The Greek” Karamesines in Round 1 on Sunday. “It does give you a lot of confidence and we’re trying to catch Doug and Antron Brown (in the point standings). This is a great way to start race day. You can’t sweep ‘The Swing’ unless you win the first one.”  The race is the first of three consecutive summertime weekends known as the NHRA Western Swing.

Courtney Force (Funny Car), Alex Laughlin (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also will lead their classes into Sunday’s eliminations as top qualifiers at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.

A two-time tour winner this year, Torrence will try to win the same race in back-to-back years for the first time in his pro career. Torrence has posted the quickest time in 22-of-51 qualifying rounds in which he has participated this season.  He and Kalitta are the only Top Fuel drivers to have earned at least one qualifying bonus point in every race they have run.

Sunday’s semifinal and final rounds will be televised live on the FOX national TV network during a three-hour block starting at 3 p.m. (EDT).

Brown, the series point-leader and two-time Bandimere winner, qualified second in his Matco Tools dragster and will face Rob Passey in the first round. Richie Crampton will start third in the Lucas Oil dragster and meet Bill Litton in the opener.

By qualifying for this weekend’s race, Brown and Kalitta became the first Top Fuel drivers to secure berths in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-race playoff.

 In Funny Car, Force raced to her first pole of the season and 10th of her career based on her Friday track record 1,000-foot time of 3.917-seconds at 318.39 mph in her Traxxas Chevy Camaro SS. Courtney was quickest in both Saturday sessions and will carry that momentum into her first round meeting with Jim Campbell as she pursues her second victory of the season.

“It took a lot of hard work this weekend through a lot of late nights, and I’m so proud of my guys,” Force said. “It’s been a lot of fun. I’m in the new Traxxas Camaro body so it’s exciting. It’s a great way to start the Western Swing by picking up eight bonus points. It’s great to see all the fans packing the stands and I’m excited we were able to make all four runs and some great passes.”

Courtney’s father _ six-time Bandimere winner John Force _ posted the first three-second run in track history on Friday and qualified at 3.935-seconds at 320.43 mph in his Realtree Peak Camaro. Force, a 16-time world champion, will race Jeff Diehl in the first round.

Reigning world champ Del Worsham qualified third at 3.963-seconds and 322.34 mph in his DHL Toyota Camry and will meet Todd Simpson in Round 1. Point-leader Ron Capps will start 11th after posting a 4.062-second pass at 309.84 mph in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T. Capps will square-off against teammate and two-time world champion Matt Hagan.

In Pro Stock, second-year pro Laughlin was beaming after scoring his first career pole position with a quarter-mile performance of 6.926-seconds at 199.02 mph in his Gas Monkey Garage Chevy Camaro.

“Words can’t even describe how I feel right now,” Laughlin said. “Our team deserves it, and I want to thank everyone on this team. I’m going to be tired tomorrow because I‘m not going to sleep tonight.”

A Texas native, Laughlin earned his first pole in his 21st career start. He is the 62nd different Pro Stock driver to claim a No. 1 position in NHRA history.

“Honestly, I felt like we could get the No. 1 spot,” Laughlin said. “We have the best race car this weekend. We came up and tested last week and that made all the difference in the world. I have to thank my sponsor (Gas Monkey Garage), my dad (team-owner Kenny Laughlin) and everyone at Gray Motorsports. We’ve had our highs and lows so far this year and this is the highest of the highs so far.”

Two-time/reigning world champion Erica Enders qualified second at 6.933-seconds and 199.02 mph in her Elite Motorsports Dodge Dart and will race fellow-Texan Chris McGaha in the opening round. Shane Gray qualified third in his Valvoline Nova Services Camaro at 6.937-seconds and 197.51 mph and will face local favorite and Colorado native Deric Kramer in Round 1.

Hines earned his first pole of the season and 37th of his career in Pro Stock Motorcycle by clocking a quarter-mile pass of 7.161-seconds at 185.36 mph aboard his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. Hines earned his third pole at Bandimere and will go for his fourth career victory when he lines up opposite Scotty Pollacheck in Round 1.

“I’ve had great success here,” said Hines, the five-time/reigning world champion. “My guys have given me a flawless motorcycle this weekend. Eddie (Krawiec, teammate) has been stealing all the No. 1s here lately and it’s nice to get a No. 1 on my side of the pit. The motorcycle is running pretty well. We’re looking good for tomorrow and tried some things today, so I think we have a good tune-up for the race.”

Krawiec , a three-time world champion, will start second aboard his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson after a pass of 7.177-seconds and 186.72 mph. He will meet Karen Stoffer in Round 1. Angelle Sampey, another three-time world champ, qualified third aboard her Precision Service Equipment Buell and will race 2009 world champ Hector Arana on his Lucas Oil Buell in the opener.


First-round elimination pairings for the 37th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, the 14th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.  Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Top Fuel _ 1. Steve Torrence, 3.776-seconds, 325.14 mph  vs. 16. Chris Karamesines, 5.576, 122.28; 2. Antron Brown, 3.805, 305.36  vs. 15. Rob Passey, 4.959, 168.81; 3. Richie Crampton, 3.813, 310.27  vs. 14. Bill Litton, 4.606, 196.36; 4. Brittany Force, 3.813, 316.30  vs. 13. Terry McMillen, 4.284, 208.04; 5. Clay Millican, 3.815, 319.14  vs. 12. Terry Haddock, 4.278, 288.33; 6. J.R. Todd, 3.816, 316.38  vs. 11. Scott Palmer, 4.026, 290.82; 7. Shawn Langdon, 3.826, 314.02  vs. 10. Leah Pritchett, 3.866, 313.37; 8. Doug Kalitta, 3.835, 313.73  vs. 9. Tony Schumacher, 3.836, 313.07.

Funny Car _ 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.917, 318.39  vs. 16. Jim Campbell, Toyota Camry, 7.173, 85.88; 2. John Force, Camaro, 3.935, 320.43  vs. 15. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 6.562, 103.95; 3. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.963, 322.34  vs. 14. Todd Simpson, Camaro, 4.935, 164.13; 4. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.975, 318.69  vs. 13. John Hale, Dodge Charger, 4.889, 153.47; 5. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.975, 315.86  vs. 12. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.169, 281.83; 6. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.985, 313.58  vs. 11. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.062, 309.84; 7. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.010, 316.67  vs. 10. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.042, 316.45; 8. Chad Head, Camry, 4.024, 312.93  vs. 9. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.029, 308.92.

Pro Stock _ 1. Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.926, 199.02  vs. Bye; 2. Erica Enders, Dodge Dart, 6.933, 198.03  vs. 15. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 7.477, 192.55; 3. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.937, 198.12 vs. 14. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 7.076, 196.04; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.939, 198.64  vs. 13. Deric Kramer, Dart, 7.059, 195.65; 5. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.940, 197.62  vs. 12. Richie Stevens, Dart, 7.032, 195.56; 6. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.951, 197.42  vs. 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.990, 196.96; 7. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.957, 197.80  vs. 10. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.988, 197.25; 8. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Dart, 6.979, 196.73  vs. 9. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.981, 197.45.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.161, 186.41  vs. 16. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.303, 183.19; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.177, 186.72  vs. 15. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.288, 183.87; 3. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 7.178, 187.31  vs. 14. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.285, 185.56; 4. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 7.204, 184.90  vs. 13. Tyler Fisher, Suzuki, 7.278, 182.90; 5. Matt Smith, Victory, 7.209, 186.25  vs. 12. Angie Smith, Victory, 7.276, 180.79; 6. Michael Ray, Buell, 7.219, 185.82  vs. 11. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 7.244, 186.02; 7. Chip Ellis, Buell, 7.226, 186.23 vs. 10. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 7.237, 184.67; 8. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.235, 185.92  vs. 9. Cory Reed, Buell, 7.235, 184.67.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Melissa Surber, 7.304, 183.64; 18. Michael Phillips, 7.314, 183.62; 19. Jim Underdahl, 7.379, 181.50; 20. Steve Johnson, 7.383, 182.97; 21. Mike Berry, 7.405, 180.60; 22. Lance Bonham, 7.482, 176.81; 23. Kristen Ashby, 7.721, 174.55.


| , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 24 2016
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