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NHRA Underdogs Have Their Day In Concord

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, April 30 2018

The finalists in Funny Car prepare to stage Sunday afternoon at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

CONCORD, N.C. – An independent racer searching for inspiration need look no further than Steve Torrence and Cruz Pedregon, who swept the nitro classes Sunday in the NGK Spark Plugs 4-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

Both men operate as independents and in the second four-wide event this year they overpowered the multi-team giants in Top Fuel and Funny Car. Pedregon’s Funny Car victory snapped a 92-national event winless streak for the Brownsburg, Ind., resident; one that went back to 2014 at Englishtown. Torrence’s Top Fuel victory was his third straight in four-wide competition. The Top Fuel point leader was the defending champion at zMAX and three weeks ago won the inaugural four-wide at Las Vegas.

“I actually didn’t believe my ears when the team manager got on the radio and told me we had won,” said Pedregon, who defeated two John Force Racing cars and one from Don Schumacher Racing with an elapsed time of 4.059 seconds, 310.84 mph.

“This ranks right up there (with the first one of my career in 1992).  It’s hard to hire people that are really good when you’re a single-car team. It just goes to show (that) you stick with good people and they’ll make you look good. I look at Steve Torrence and his dad and the way they run their operation and I take notes.”

Ironically, Pedregon defeated DSR driver Tommy Johnson Jr. with one of his own

Cruz Pedregon ended a long winless streak and won the Funny Car Wally on Sunday afternoon.

chassis.

“I called Don (Schumacher in the winter) and told him I needed a chassis,” Pedregon said after claiming his first four-wide victory. “Don will sell anything; he’s a businessman. So he gives me Tommy’s car. We had to modify it and we didn’t debut it until Houston.”

Pedregon’s 36th career Funny Car event victory, which he described as surreal, allowed him to pass Don Prudhomme for fifth on the all-time Funny Car win list.

Torrence, meanwhile, has become the dominator in four-wide Top Fuel events, a performance the Kilgore, Texas, resident can’t explain.

“If I knew what the recipe was (for these four-wide victories), I might write it down so I wouldn’t forget, but I couldn’t tell you,” said Torrence, who grabbed his third victory this season with a 3.813-second E.T., 326.56 mph.

“Sometimes my focus and concentration isn’t the best. I have a tendency to over-think and over-analyze, go up there and not do my job. When you’re thinking about other things than that yellow light coming on and hitting the gas, then you’re typically late. You can’t be a thinking part of this vehicle. You have to get in it and be mechanical. You have to just repeat time-and-time again. Any thought process that goes on slows that down.”

Torrence admitted when he went to the line in the final round he looked at the wrong side of the Tree and “double-bulbed” everyone. He immediately apologized for the faux pas after the run.

Like the nitro class winners, Pro Stock’s Erica Enders and Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Jerry Savoie were emotional over the victories. For Savoie, it was a bevy of firsts; his first four-wide victory, his first at zMAX and his first of 2018.

“People ask me all the time why I cry when I win,” said Savoie, who won with a 6.784 E.T., 195.73 mph. “People don’t have a clue what it takes to do this; to get to the finals. It’s a tough gig. So at my age, at 59, to win one, you never know when it’s going to be your last one because my time is coming due. It’s going to end. I’m not going to be out here at 70 years old beating up the track.”  

Enders hopes her first four-wide victory signals a change in her Elite Motorsports team’s fortunes. She introduced a new car a week ago in Houston and has now gone to two final rounds with it.

“The changes we have made were challenging because of the personnel involved with our team and I think it speaks volumes of the character of my crew chiefs that they were able to put people in front of parts and pieces,” said Enders, who had a 0.014 reaction time in posting her victory with a 6.535 E.T., 212.73 mph.

“I absolutely believe that was the turning point that we needed. My money is on my guys.”

For Enders, this year’s four-wide victory was redemption for 2012 when she was incorrectly identified as the winner.

“They had a win-light malfunction and Greg Anderson was in my quad,” Enders recalled. “My win light came on. We got to the end of the track, pulled off the track and all of the TV cameras and photographers were down there. I pulled over to them; they’re banging on my car and taking pictures. This was my first win in Pro Stock; first-ever for a female. I put my head down to take my HANS off and when I look back up it’s a ghost town. They’re all gone. They had gotten the word that the win light didn’t go to our team; it went to Greg Anderson’s team.”

Six years later, Enders made it to four-wide victory lane.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, April 30 2018
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