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Torrences Put On Show at The Plex

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 20 2020

Steve Torrence padded his Top Fuel lead over the weekend.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

ENNIS, Texas _ With a little 320-plus mph help from his father, native Texan Steve Torrence has enhanced his chances for a third consecutive NHRA Top Fuel world championship.

His victory against dad/teammate Billy Torrence in the final of Sunday’s 35th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex allowed Steve to extend his point lead over title rival Doug Kalitta from two points at the start of the weekend to 51 with two events remaining on the 2020 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series schedule.

“It’s an unbelievable weekend for the Capco Team, to be able to go out and represent Capco well, represent Texas well and to put both cars in the final round,” Torrence said post-race inside his hauler.  I mean, you can’t have a better weekend than that.

“But we’re no closer right now (to a third title) than we were at the first of the season, other than we’ve got two races left to go. You look at the glory and the victory at the end of the day, you don’t look at it before you get there. So we’ll just keep working hard.”

A third consecutive title would allow Torrence, 37, to join Joe Amato (1990-92) and Tony Schumacher (2004-09) in that exclusive club. Amato won five world championships while Schumacher, an eight-time champ, recently has returned to the tour after a one-year layoff.

Steve Torrence’s fourth victory of 2020, 40th overall and second at The Plex in three years touched off a party in the Torrence pit compound _ where the rock music was eardrum-shattering, the liquor was being poured into Styrofoam cups and nobody was in a hurry to get back to Kilgore.

Also scoring professional class wins in the ninth of 11 events on a COVID-19-revised schedule were “Fast” Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Matt Hartford (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Steve Torrence, the No. 1 qualifier in his Capco Contractors dragster, trailered his dad with a 1,000-foot pass in 3.716-seconds at 328.78 mph down the all-concrete surface. Billy Torrence ran 3.810 at 323.43.

Winner of this event last October when Steve was beaten in Round 1, the elder Torrence advanced to the final vs. his son by upsetting Kalitta during the semifinals. Billy Torrence completed a pass in 3.746-seconds at 326.95 mph while the rear tires on Kalitta’s Mac Tools Toyota dragster lost traction halfway through the run. Kalitta slowed to 4.182 at 261.27.

Steve cited his semifinal win over Shawn Langdon and his 62-year-old dad’s victory over Kalitta as pivotal, as Kalitta and Langdon are teammates at Kalitta Motorsports. “The semis had huge implications,” Steve said. “If we lost against Shawn and Bill lost against Doug, it was basically teammates against teammates. A huge race for both of us, and really a tough race.

“Then going into the final you’re racing your dad…I mean, that sucker is bad to the bone. It’s like going up against a bear. That car over there is a direct clone of ours, so we basically equipped somebody with ammo to get us. He’s done a great job driving, so I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen when we went up there. But it’s final round, nobody was worried about lane-choice. We’re worried about getting there first. That’s just what you do.”

Between them, the Torrences now have won 40 of the last 80 NHRA events. 

Steve Torrence said his 3.662-second, pole-winning pass on Saturday was another key moment. With only 14 Top Fuelers entered _ two short of a full ladder _ Steve earned a second-round bye after knocking off Cameron Ferre in Round 1.

The tour resumes next weekend with the MOPAR Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown. The season-finale is set for Oct. 30-Nov. 1 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where points-and-a-half will be offered for each round.

“We lost some ground today, but we have two races left to make that up,” said Michigan native Kalitta, 56, who is chasing his first Top Fuel title. “The last race will be 30 points a round. We’ll be in Houston next weekend and I’m not sure how similar the conditions will be. This team was strong this weekend. We made some great runs and we got aggressive in the semifinals. We’ll put this race behind us and get ready for Houston.”

In Funny Car, Beckman inched closer to the point lead by besting Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan in a thrilling final round via a 1,000-foot run of 3.908-seconds at 328.46 mph in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. Beckman’s third win this year and 33rd of his career extended DSR’s streak of consecutive Funny Car victories to 12. Beckman pulled to within four points of Hagan, who went 3.943 at 324.20 in the championship round.

Beckman reached the final by defeating Cruz Pedregon, Tim Wilkerson and Bob Tasca III, making four consistent passes in the low-3.90s to win at The Plex for the first time.

“We have a phenomenal car,” Beckman said. “I had a good feeling all day today and I think our car is as good as any car out there every time we go out there. I’ve won Indy, I’ve won Pomona and a lot of the major races, but Dallas _ since I came here in 1986 to spectate at the very first national event here _ was one I would have loved to win. I had 14 shots at it before I finally closed the deal.”

Hagan, who qualified No. 1, has retained a four-point lead thanks to victories against Todd Simpson, J.R. Todd and teammate Ron Capps. It gave Hagan back-to-back final-round appearances and his 64th overall final.

Hartford was remarkable off the starting line when it mattered in Pro Stock, earning back-to-back holeshot wins, including in the final against Greg Anderson. Hartford covered the quarter-mile in 6.625-seconds at 206.39 mph in the championship round in his Total Seal/CIP1/Nitro Fish Chevrolet Camaro to beat Anderson’s 6.588 at 207.94. Hartford’s reaction time was a stellar 0.018-seconds and led to his first win in 2020 and third overall. Hartford beat Chris McGaha, Bo Butner and three-time/reigning world champ Erica Enders to reach the final, slipping past Enders on a holeshot after engaging her in a prolonged staging duel “burn-down.”

“The final was big because I’m now at three wins, but really the semifinal run was what set it apart for us,” Hartford said. “Erica is just so dominant on the tree and I just decided I was going to take my time, take a couple deep breaths and not be in a hurry. There was a lot on the line and to come back in the final round and win, it’s incredible to have another Wally. To hold the first-ever Camping World Wally in Pro Stock, that never gets forgotten. For me, it’s just incredible. It wasn’t an easy road today, but we’ve had a good car all year long. And to have the fans out here supporting us, it was great.”

Anderson, driver of the Summit Racing Camaro, beat Kyle Koretsky, Alex Laughlin and longtime rival Jeg Coughlin Jr. to reach his first final round this year and 158th of his career. Enders remained atop the point standings after advancing to the semifinals, with Jason Line _ Anderson’s KB Racing teammate _ dropping 31 points back.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, The Plex continued to serve up home-away-from-home cooking for Jerry Savoie, who earned his second straight win at the track by covering the quarter-mile in 6.910-seconds at 191.16 mph aboard his White Alligator Racing Suzuki. It was Savoie’s sixth straight final round at the facility owned by International Drag Racing Hall of Famer Billy Meyer.

Savoie posted his third career win here by racing past Joey Gladstone in the championship round. Savoie, who won for the first time since this event last year and 13th time overall, beat Marc Ingwersen, Cory Reed and Eddie Krawiec to reach the final.

“There’s just something about Texas,” the Louisiana native said. “To come here and be in the finals six times and win three, it’s just awesome and a great deal. We’ve really been struggling and (crew chief) Tim (Kulungian) has been working really hard at the shop. We didn’t have the fastest bike today, but luck was on our side and we just out-raced them.”

Gladstone advanced to his first career PSB final with wins against Hector Arana Jr., Michael Phillips and Angelle Sampey. No. 1 qualifier Matt Smith maintained a comfortable point lead despite losing in the first round when his EBR would not start for its burnout. Scotty Pollacheck remained second in the championship standings, 50 points behind his teammate.


Final results from the 35th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex in Ennis. The race was the ninth of 11 in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel — Steve Torrence, 3.716-seconds, 328.78 mph def. Billy Torrence, 3.810 seconds, 323.43 mph.

Funny Car _ Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.908, 328.46 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.943, 324.20.

Pro Stock _ Matt Hartford, Chevy Camaro, 6.625, 206.39 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.588, 207.94.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.910, 191.16 def. Joey Gladstone, EBR, 7.005, 192.69.

Top Fuel Harley _ Randal Andras, Harley, 6.437, 227.88 def. Jay Turner, Harley, 6.606, 220.87.

Factory Stock Showdown _ Aaron Stanfield, Chevy Camaro, 8.143, 142.49 def. David Kramer, Camaro, 8.197, 168.43.

Top Alcohol Dragster _ Megan Meyer, 5.126, 279.09 def. Aaron Cooper, 5.647, 209.17.

Top Alcohol Funny Car _ Doug Gordon, Chevy Camaro, 5.483, 267.96 def. Sean Bellemeur, Camaro, 5.511, 265.85.

Competition Eliminator _ Brad Plourd, Ford, 6.271, 216.55 def. Don Thomas, Dragster, 6.807, 194.52.

Super Stock _ Hayden Trumble, Chevy Camaro, 10.153, 128.73 def. Anthony Bertozzi, Pontiac Grand Am, 9.161, 141.00.

Stock Eliminator _ Lowell Gerber, Chevy Chevelle, 10.523, 118.11 def. Dale Hulquist, Chevy Camaro, 11.133, 115.95.

Super Comp _ Christopher Dodd, Dragster, 8.928, 170.86 def. Jason Kenny, Dragster, 8.922, 156.50.

Super Gas _ Evan Kowalski, Chevy Corvette, 9.903, 151.89 def. Clark Mundt, Corvette, 9.915, 163.47.

Super Street _ John Leibham, Chevy Camaro, 10.934, 150.92 def. Chris Haralson, Camaro, 10.880, 130.34.

Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers _ Scott Barker, Dragster, 6.410, 203.89 def. Danny Nelson, Dragster, 6.151, 236.55.

Point standings (top-10) following the 35th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex in Ennis:

Top Fuel _1. Steve Torrence, 764; 2. Doug Kalitta, 713; 3. Leah Pruett, 616; 4. Billy Torrence, 598; 5. Shawn Langdon, 491; 6. Antron Brown, 458; 7. Justin Ashley, 453; 8. Terry McMillen, 436; 9. Clay Millican, 381; 10. Tony Schumacher, 294.

Funny Car _ 1. Matt Hagan, 762; 2. Jack Beckman, 758; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., 685; 4. Ron Capps, 588; 5. (tie) Bob Tasca III, 538; Tim Wilkerson, 538; 7. J.R. Todd, 526; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 414; 9. Paul Lee, 351; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 335.

Pro Stock _ 1. Erica Enders, 696; 2. Jason Line, 665; 3. Jeg Coughlin Jr., 603; 4. Matt Hartford, 515; 5. Greg Anderson, 488; 6. Alex Laughlin, 468; 7. Chris McGaha, 382; 8. Deric Kramer, 371; 9. Aaron Stanfield, 368; 10. Bo Butner, 365.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Matt Smith, 503; 2. Scotty Pollacheck, 453; 3. Andrew Hines, 442; 4. Angelle Sampey, 411; 5. Eddie Krawiec, 387; 6. Angie Smith, 307; 7. Ryan Oehler, 301; 8. Steve Johnson, 271; 9. Jerry Savoie, 267; 10. Hector Arana Jr., 252.


Oct. 23-25 _ Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil, Houston Raceway Park, Baytown, Texas

Oct. 30-Nov. 1 _ Dodge NHRA Finals presented by Pennzoil, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 20 2020
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