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Young Torrence Tops Pop At Heartland Park

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 19 2018

Steve Torrence jump to P1 during Friday’s first day of qualifying at Heartland Park Topeka. Sitting P2 is his father, Billy Torrence.


Top Fuel point-leader Steve Torrence is determined to maintain an impressive every-other-race victory cycle this weekend during the 30th annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals at Heartland Motorsports Park. And that’s bad news for Billy Torrence.

Steve out-qualified his father as the Torrences torched the provisional field Friday after the opening two rounds of time trials in summertime-like conditions in Topeka, Kan. Steve Torrence earned the provisional pole after a 1,000-foot pass in 3.770-seconds at 325.92 mph during the final qualifying pass of the day. Meanwhile, the elder Torrence sits second after his pass of 3.796-seconds at 320.97 mph.

“To go up there and put the Capco cars on top at the end of the day was really as good of a finish to a Friday as I could have imagined,” Steve Torrence said. “Any day you can put your whole team in the top of the qualifying board makes you really proud, and it’s just a great way to cap off the day. I’m just trying not to embarrass the company.”

Courtney Force (Funny Car) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) also emerged as provisional qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the eighth of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of a race that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including a live finals broadcast Sunday at 2 p.m. (EDT). FS1 will begin its broadcast with an edition of “NHRA Today” at 1 p.m.

Steve Torrence is the only Top Fuel driver with multiple national event wins this year. But the 35-year-old Texan hasn’t hoisted a trophy at Heartland Park since the 2005 season, when he won both a national event and a Lucas Oil Sportsman race en route to the NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster world championship.

Despite that 13-year drought, Torrence returns with a wealth of confidence emanating not only from his performance thus far this season but also because of his runnerup finish to Brown, the three-time world champion from Don Schumacher Racing, in this race one year ago.

“We’re racing with confidence,” Torrence said.  “(Crew chief) Richard Hogan is making great adjustments, the crew is bad-ass and knowing I’ve got a car that can win every race, the driver’s doing his part, too.  It’s fun right now, but you can go from a hero to a zero pretty quickly in this sport.”

Over the last 34 races, Torrence has advanced to the final round in almost every other start _ 16 times _ and has won every third time out _ 12 times, most recently last month at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.  Not surprisingly, he has led the driver point standings after 16 of the last 21 tour events including six of seven this year.

What is surprising is the fact that Torrence has qualified No. 1 just three times in the last 40 races. And on those occasions in which he did set the pace, he failed to reach the final round.

“That’s just a credit to the Capco guys being able to adapt on the fly,” Torrence said.  “We may not be the fastest (quickest) at every race, but we usually figure things out by race day _ and that’s how you win championships.”

Force sits atop the Funny Car category with a 1,000-foot run of 3.911-seconds at 321.73 mph in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS recorded during her second pass. The current Funny Car point-leader is chasing her fifth pole of 2018 and third consecutive.

“We had a decent run in the first qualifying round but I knew we had more with this crew tuning my car and we were able to get that top spot back,” said Force, of John Force Racing. “It’s definitely a big deal to be running consistently, but there are still plenty of runs tomorrow where we will have to hold onto that No. 1 position.”

Jonnie Lindberg, driving for car-owner Jim Head, is qualified second after a pass in 3.962-seconds at 316.23 mph in his Head Racing Ford Mustang. Two-time world champion Cruz Pedregon is slotted into third in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry.

In Pro Stock, Enders holds the top spot after covering the quarter-mile in 6.625-seconds at 207.59 mph in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro SS during the second round. The two-time world champion is chasing her first pole of the season and first since 2015.

“The more time I have with this car the more comfortable I get, and I’m really thrilled to have a car that is competitive that you’re able to drive to the winner’s circle on Sunday,” Enders said. “I can hear the confidence back in my crew chief’s voice, which gives me a ton of confidence every time I hit the track.”

Vincent Nobile sits second after his run of 6.629-seconds at 208.01 mph in his Mountain View Tire Chevy Camaro, while defending event winner Gray rounds out the top three in his Gray Motorsports Camaro.

Qualifying to set the 16-car fields is scheduled to continue at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Friday’s provisional qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of time trials for the 30th annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kan., eighth 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, 3.770-seconds, 325.92 mph; 2. Billy Torrence, 3.796, 320.97; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.798, 321.81; 4. Terry McMillen, 3.809, 320.89; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.836, 324.51; 6. Antron Brown, 3.840, 319.45; 7. Leah Pritchett, 3.840, 286.07; 8. Brittany Force, 3.852, 277.03; 9. Scott Palmer, 3.855, 321.50; 10. Richie Crampton, 3.875, 318.32; 11. Bill Litton, 3.915, 305.08; 12. Mike Salinas, 3.929, 260.56; 13. Kebin Kinsley, 4.019, 271.52; 14. Terry Haddock, 4.098, 256.94; 15. Terry Totten, 4.227, 246.35; 16. Clay Millican, 4.470, 176.03.

Not Qualified _ 17. Audrey Worm, 4.983, 147.09. 

Funny Car _ 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.911, 321.73; 2. Jonnie Lindberg, Ford Mustang, 3.962, 316.23; 3. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 3.983, 314.68; 4. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.996, 320.89; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.008, 313.00; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.028, 315.78; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.048, 311.56; 8. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.052, 314.31; 9. John Force, Camaro, 4.053, 314.97; 10. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.058, 313.80; 11. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.086, 304.53; 12. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Stratus, 4.088, 309.70; 13. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.095, 305.70; 14. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.163, 259.96; 15. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.247, 248.16; 16. Todd Simpson, Charger, 4.617, 196.47.

Not Qualified _ 17. Jim Campbell, 4.659, 191.32; 18. Shane Westerfield, 5.357, 140.58. 

Pro Stock _ 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.625, 207.59; 2. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.629, 208.01; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.640, 207.30; 4. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.641, 206.42; 5. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.642, 207.30; 6. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.645, 207.88; 7. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.649, 207.37; 8. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.653, 207.85; 9. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.656, 206.39; 10. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.663, 206.26; 11. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.671, 206.54; 12. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.671, 206.54; 13. Richard Freeman, Camaro, 6.714, 205.98; 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.717, 205.16; 15. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 7.033, 172.17; 16. Will Hatcher, Dart, 9.684, 97.85.

Chad Green powered into the qualifying lead Friday during the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service portion of the Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals. This weekend’s program, presented by Summit Racing Equipment, is the fourth of 12 events this season.

Green posted a 5.762-second quarter-mile pass at 250.13 mph in the second of two qualifying sessions in his Bond-Coat, Inc. 2017 Chevrolet Corvette to take the provisional pole. “We’ve been struggling a bit with this car, but it’s starting to come around now,” said Green, a Pro Mod rookie who is eighth in points. “It felt like a good run, but we were really pleasantly surprised when we saw our time.”

Steven Whiteley currently is second with a 5.805-second pass at 252.28 mph with Khalid alBalooshi third with numbers of 5.821 at 248.25. Qualifying is scheduled to continue at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Friday’s provisional Pro Mod qualifying results after the first of four rounds of time trials for the 30th annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals:

Pro Modified _ 1. Chad Green, Chevy Corvette, 5.762-seconds, 250.13 mph; 2. Steven Whiteley, Chevy Camaro, 5.805, 252.28; 3. Khalid alBalooshi, Camaro, 5.821, 248.25; 4. Jose Gonzalez, Camaro, 5.822, 250.83; 5. Mike Castellana, Camaro, 5.833, 247.34; 6. Harry Hruska, Camaro, 5.856, 247.57; 7. Steve Jackson, Camaro, 5.860, 246.17; 8. Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.863, 247.07; 9. Richie Stevens, Camaro, 5.869, 247.75; 10. Bob Rahaim, Camaro, 5.870, 247.07; 11. Michael Biehle, Ford Mustang, 5.871, 251.77; 12. Shane Molinari, Pontiac Firebird, 5.887, 252.57; 13. Sidnei Frigo, Corvette, 5.887, 250.18; 14. Keith Haney, Camaro, 5.900, 245.90; 15. Jeremy Ray, Corvette, 5.903, 243.50; 16. Mike Janis, Camaro, 5.908, 241.71.

Not Qualified _17. Steve Matusek, 5.914, 245.76; 18. Dan Stevenson, 5.919, 251.67; 19. Brandon Snider, 5.952, 242.76; 20. Jim Whiteley, 5.952, 240.98; 21. Todd Tutterow, 5.969, 243.11; 22. Doug Winters, 5.979, 240.51; 23. Clint Satterfield, 5.982, 237.63; 24. Danny Rowe, 9.325, 96.11.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 19 2018
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