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Torrence Swinging Through The West

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, July 26 2021

Steve Torrence collected his second Western swing Top Fuel victory on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

Steve Torrence is one win away from lowering the broom on his Top Fuel rivals during NHRA’s annual three-race “Western Swing.”

Torrence’s victory over Leah Pruett in the final of Sunday’s 33rd annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals has the three-time/reigning world champion poised to become just the sixth driver in Top Fuel history to sweep The Swing, and first since 2009. Torrence began the summertime tour by defeating upset-minded Joey Haas to win last weekend’s 41st annual Dodge/SRT Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo.

When qualifying begins Friday for the COVID-19-delayed 61st annual Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif., Torrence will lead Antron Brown by a massive 349 points with four races remaining before professional points are adjusted for the playoffs.

Sunday’s victory over a 12-car field _ four short of a full ladder _ was Torrence’s sixth in nine races this season and basically assured the 38-year-old Texan will win NHRA’s “regular season” Top Fuel point title for a record fifth straight campaign.

Robert Hight (Funny Car), Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won in their respective categories at the ninth race of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

Racing in Sunday’s final without benefit of lane-choice, Torrence thought he had thrown away the opportunity of joining previous Top Fuel “Sweepers” Joe Amato, Larry Dixon, Cory McClenathan, Brown and Tony Schumacher with a poor start against Pruett. Torrence’s 0.115-second reaction time was well off his final-round average of 0.062 and was his second-poorest start in 69 final-round appearances in Top Fuel.  However, it was enough to get him to the finish line 0.002-seconds ahead of Pruett, who had taken out No. 1 qualifier Brittany Force in Round 2 and whose car was quickest in the previous round.

“I went up there and was a little antsy on the (Christmas) tree and just got away with it,” said Torrence, driver of his family-owned dragster. “I did everything possible to screw that final round up. We struggled in qualifying (No. 2) and then I tried to give it away in the final, but these Capco Boys gave me just enough to pull it out at the finish line. I just made a mistake _ I almost red-lighted _ but the bottom line is we’re going to Pomona with a chance to complete the Sweep.”

It was the 46th Top Fuel win for Torrence, who has dominated the tour the last five seasons by winning 41 of the last 87 races. Torrence also improved his one-on-one record for the current campaign to 28-3.

After struggling for most of the 2021 season, Pruett enjoyed a breakout weekend by advancing to her 17th career final round and first this year for Don Schumacher Racing.

Californian Hight won at Sonoma for the third consecutive time via a 1,000-foot run in 3.971-seconds at 322.50 mph against Mile-High winner and three-time/reigning world champ Matt Hagan. Hight posted his second win of the season and 53rd in his career. DSR’s Hagan was quicker off the starting line, but Hight _ who beat Steven Densham, J.R. Todd and No. 1 qualifier Ron Capps to reach the final _ chased him down to prevail by a mere 15 inches.

“I just had a lot of confidence in my team,” said Hight, driver of a Camaro SS fielded by John Force Racing. “I just needed to have some confidence in myself. It’s pretty tough out here in Funny Car and you have to be on your game. I think we learned some things this weekend and you’ve got to rise to the occasion. When I first started racing, I would come to Sonoma and I couldn’t do anything. The last three, we’ve dominated and it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been an unbelievable weekend.”

Stanfield emerged victorious from a duel of young standouts in the Pro Stock final, slipping past rookie Dallas Glenn with a quarter-mile pass of 6.557-seconds at 209.56 mph. Stanfield earned his second victory in the past three races and third in his career. To reach the final, Stanfield raced past Chris McGaha, Matt Hartford and No. 1 qualifier/point leader Greg Anderson. In the championship round, Glenn posted an 0.016-second reaction time to Stanfield’s 0.020, but the Elite Motorsports driver had enough power to track him down.

“Every run is really important and the guys did a great job with the hot rod today,” said Stanfield, driver of the Janac Brothers Chevrolet Camaro. “I felt like I was driving halfway decent and they were giving me a great race car, and everything always has to come together to win in this class. Today, it came together and I have to thank everyone at Elite. All the guys that work so hard and the people who support me, they let me come out here and do what I love.”

Stoffer capped a resurgent weekend in Pro Stock Motorcycle, winning for the first time since 2019 by defeating six-time world champion Andrew Hines in the final with a quarter-mile run of 6.798-seconds at 197.36 mph aboard her Ray Skillman/Big St. Charles Suzuki. It also marked Stoffer’s 10th career win. Stoffer, who qualified No. 2, beat Scott Bottorff, Joey Gladstone and White Alligator Racing (WAR) teammate Jerry Savoie to advance to the final.

“Winning in Sonoma is definitely on my Bucket List,” Stoffer said. “I kind of call it my home race because I raced Division 7 so long and I was a Division 7 champion. Coming here to Sonoma, it’s been phenomenal. This is definitely a moment I will always remember. This WAR team, they gave me a good bike and I said earlier we could go toe-to-toe with everyone. It was a really good race with Andrew, but our bike is phenomenal and it’s an honor to ride it.”

Hines, who went 6.800 at 200.98 against Stoffer, advanced to his 99th career final and first in 2021 aboard his Buell by trailering Ryan Oehler, point-leader/reigning world champ Matt Smith and Cory Reed.

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Final results from the 33rd annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, ninth of 20 rounds in the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series: 

Top Fuel _ Steve Torrence, 3.757-seconds, 327.98 mph def. Leah Pruett, 3.768-seconds, 323.04 mph. 

Funny Car _ Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.971, 322.50 def. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.991, 324.44. 

Pro Stock _ Aaron Stanfield, Chevy Camaro, 6.557, 209.56 def. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.580, 207.69. 

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.798, 197.36 def. Andrew Hines, Buell, 6.800, 200.98. 

Competition Eliminator _ Ralph Van Paepeghem, Bantam, 7.345, 158.33 def. Tony Mandella, Chevy Camaro, Broke/No Show. 

Super Stock _ Mike Loge, Plymouth Barracuda, 11.154, 114.60 def. Dennis Paz, Chevy El Camino, 11.432, 114.48. 

Stock Eliminator _ Shelby Williams, Chevy Camaro, 10.580, 123.45 def. Justin Lamb, Camaro, 9.827, 133.41. 

Super Comp _ Marko Perivolaris, Dragster, 8.896, 188.20 def. Phil Nagel, Dragster, 8.863, 161.54. 

Super Gas _ Kevin Griffiths, T Ford, 9.899, 144.94 def. Ryan Giacone, Thunderbird, 9.890, 153.44. 

Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers _ Dan Borg, Chevy Monte Carlo, 6.813, 196.47 def. Ed Olpin, Chevy Camaro, 6.878, 200.29. 

Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers _ John Richardson, Dragster, 6.119, 209.62 def. Paul Nero, Dragster, 7.016, 189.76. 

Final round-by-round results from the 33rd annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals:

TOP FUEL

ROUND ONE _ Doug Kalitta, 3.731, 323.19 def. Mike Salinas, 4.100, 217.49; Shawn Langdon, 3.789, 321.35 def. Clay Millican, 3.761, 281.13; Brittany Force, 3.703, 330.72 def. Ron August, 4.229, 212.73; Antron Brown, 4.081, 243.81 def. Buddy Hull, 4.840, 165.84; Steve Torrence, 3.713, 331.77 def. Cameron Ferre, 4.126, 237.00; Leah Pruett, 3.739, 327.51 def. Justin Ashley, 3.758, 323.04; 

QUARTERFINALS _ Brown, 3.815, 313.88 def. Langdon, 4.308, 192.44; Torrence, 3.730, 327.35 def. Kalitta, 3.811, 316.97; Pruett, 3.958, 288.64 def. Force, 4.359, 181.18; 

SEMIFINALS _ Pruett, 3.726, 325.53 was unopposed; Torrence, 3.739, 328.70 def. Brown, 3.813, 321.19; 

FINAL _ Torrence, 3.757, 327.98 def. Pruett, 3.768, 323.04. 

FUNNY CAR 

ROUND ONE _ J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 4.032, 321.27 def. John Force, Chevy Camaro, Foul/Centerline; Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.971, 327.19 def. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 6.085, 116.47; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.942, 322.73 def. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.119, 303.37; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.924, 324.75 def. Tony Jurado, Ford Mustang, 4.362, 217.74; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.938, 320.28 def. Steven Densham, Mustang, 5.079, 148.23; Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.961, 323.27 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 5.216, 147.15; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.189, 237.34 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.605, 82.46; Paul Lee, Charger, 4.146, 272.12 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.584, 182.45; 

QUARTERFINALS _ DeJoria, 4.080, 260.76 def. Wilkerson, 5.315, 138.47; Hight, 3.938, 326.95 def. Todd, 4.060, 296.70; Capps, 3.965, 321.35 def. Lee, 4.043, 309.20; Hagan, 3.960, 322.42 def. Alexander, 4.103, 256.80; 

SEMIFINALS _ Hagan, 3.967, 324.36 def. DeJoria, 4.001, 309.70; Hight, 3.943, 323.35 def. Capps, 3.979, 322.73; 

FINAL _ Hight, 3.971, 322.50 def. Hagan, 3.991, 324.44. 

PRO STOCK 

ROUND ONE _ Mason McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.542, 210.77 def. Aaron Strong, Camaro, 6.562, 209.75; Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.551, 208.65 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, Broke/No Show; Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.547, 209.59 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, Foul/Red Light; Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.542, 208.68 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.557, 210.18; Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.534, 210.41 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, Foul/Red Light; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.549, 209.43 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.585, 209.56; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.538, 210.37 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.605, 208.39; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.528, 210.60 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.566, 208.42; 

QUARTERFINALS _ Stanfield, 6.549, 209.04 def. Hartford, 6.580, 210.60; Anderson, 6.545, 209.95 def. M. McGaha, 6.554, 210.41; Glenn, 6.563, 208.75 def. Koretsky, 6.551, 209.75; Coughlin Jr., 6.558, 209.17 def. Enders, 6.534, 210.80; 

SEMIFINALS _ Glenn, 6.589, 208.04 def. Coughlin Jr., 6.583, 208.94; Stanfield, 6.551, 209.59 def. Anderson, 6.635, 187.81; 

FINAL _ Stanfield, 6.557, 209.56 def. Glenn, 6.580, 207.69. 

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE 

ROUND ONE _ Cory Reed, Suzuki, 6.842, 197.05 def. Eddie Krawiec, Buell, 8.705, 105.78; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.807, 196.85 def. Jianna Salinas, Suzuki, 6.899, 191.57; Angie Smith, 6.844, 200.74 was unopposed; Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.810, 195.68 def. Scotty Pollacheck, EBR, 6.896, 199.73; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.810, 197.94 def. Scott Bottorff, Buell, 7.145, 185.10; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.828, 195.90 def. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 7.385, 138.09; Matt Smith, EBR, 6.814, 200.26 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.988, 193.54; Andrew Hines, Buell, 6.766, 201.10 def. Ryan Oehler, 6.978, 194.07; 

QUARTERFINALS _ Reed, 6.830, 197.88 def. A. Smith, 7.634, 129.10; Stoffer, 6.787, 196.50 def. Gladstone, 6.835, 188.38; Savoie, 6.827, 197.22 def. Johnson, 7.390, 143.52; Hines, 6.755, 201.73 def. M. Smith, 6.789, 202.27; 

SEMIFINALS _ Stoffer, 6.823, 196.16 def. Savoie, 15.569, 66.19; Hines, 6.769, 202.09 def. Reed, 6.836, 192.49; 

FINAL _ Stoffer, 6.798, 197.36 def. Hines, 6.800, 200.98. 

Point standings (top-10) following the 33rd annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals: 

Top Fuel _1. Steve Torrence, 978; 2. Antron Brown, 629; 3. Brittany Force, 564; 4. Shawn Langdon, 460; 5. Leah Pruett, 457; 6. Billy Torrence, 448; 7. Mike Salinas, 432; 8. Doug Kalitta, 420; 9. Justin Ashley, 370; 10. Clay Millican, 351.

Funny Car _1. Bob Tasca III, 676; 2. Matt Hagan, 655; 3. Robert Hight, 636; 4. John Force, 624; 5. Ron Capps, 613; 6. J.R. Todd, 584; 7. Alexis DeJoria, 577; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 521; 9. Cruz Pedregon, 481; 10. Terry Haddock, 306.

Pro Stock _1. Greg Anderson, 729; 2. Aaron Stanfield, 594; 3. Erica Enders, 566; 4. Matt Hartford, 508; 5. Dallas Glenn, 492; 6. Mason McGaha, 485; 7. Deric Kramer, 454; 8. Kyle Koretsky, 447; 9. Troy Coughlin Jr., 431; 10. Chris McGaha, 305.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Matt Smith, 686; 2. Steve Johnson, 516; 3. Scotty Pollacheck, 414; 4. Ryan Oehler, 409; 5. Karen Stoffer, 397; 6. Angie Smith, 377; 7. Angelle Sampey, 349; 8. Andrew Hines, 347; 9. Cory Reed, 343; 10. Joey Gladstone, 335.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, July 26 2021
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