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Torrence Routs Another Top Fuel Field

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 24 2021

Steve Torrence ruled in Brainerd over the weekend. (File photo courtesy of the NHRA)

Steve Torrence officially has run down-and-out of every National Hot Rod Association racetrack.

NHRA’s three-time/reigning Top Fuel world champion, Torrence added Brainerd International Raceway to his hit list with a victory in the 39th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Torrence’s narrow win Sunday over six-time IHRA world champ Clay Millican lifted the Texan to his seventh victory in 12 races this season and gave him at least one win at every venue on NHRA’s Camping World Drag Racing Series schedule. 

Torrence, driver of his family-owned Capco Contractors dragster, joined 16-time Funny Car world champion John Force and 2016 Funny Car champ Ron Capps as the only active drivers to have won at every NHRA facility. Prior to Sunday, Torrence had not advanced to a final round in Brainerd. Ironically, Billy Torrence _ Steve’s dad and teammate _ won this national event in 2018 to secure the first Top Fuel win of his career in NHRA Pro and Sportsman racing.

Steve’s 0.053-second reaction time triggered a 1,000-foot pass in 3.712-seconds at 323.74 mph that got him to the finish line 0.016-seconds ahead of Millican, who ran 3.739 at 320.05 in his dragster after defeating Brittany Force in the semifinals. Force qualified No. 1 in an 11-car field.

Winner of more than 40 percent of the races he’s run since April 2017 (39-of-89), Torrence came close to leaving Brainerd during the second round when he gave up a sizeable starting line advantage to Justin Ashley.

“I did everything possible to screw it up all the way until the final, when I finally got my head out of my butt,” said Torrence, alluding to his uncharacteristically slow 0.132-second RT against Ashley. “Those things happen and when they do you just have to put them behind you and get back in the game.

“That was a heck of a race against Clay, and those guys are coming on strong right now. This team, they continue to save me when I need it. I help them when they need it and we’re at the front and staying there. It’s just a blessing to be here and to have this opportunity is truly special. To say I’ve won every race on the circuit _ I just remember dreaming of winning one race.”

Torrence continued to distance himself from the field during NHRA’s “regular-season,” which will conclude with the 67th annual U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis Sept. 1-5.

Additionally, Torrence moved closer to another milestone as just the fifth driver in Top Fuel history to win 50 tour events. Torrence has posted 47 Top Fuel victories since founding Torrence Racing in 2012.  All but five of those victories have come in the last six seasons and all but one has been orchestrated by veteran tuner/crew chief Richard Hogan.

Prior to his Top Fuel success, Torrence won the 2005 Lucas Oil Series Top Alcohol Dragster world championship and remains the only driver to have won NHRA world titles in both the Top Fuel and Top Alcohol divisions.

Torrence leads second-place Force by a massive 383 points _ roughly the equivalent of 19 rounds of racing _ entering the U.S. Nationals. However, once the points are recalibrated for the seven-race Countdown to the Championship, Torrence will start the postseason with only a 20-point advantage. The NHRA Nationals, Round No. 1 of the Countdown, is scheduled for Sept. 9-12 at Reading, Pa.

“It is what it is,” said Torrence, a 38-year-old resident of Kilgore, Texas.  “(The adjustment) gives more teams a shot at the championship, I guess, and that’s what they’re going for. We can’t change that. All we can do is go out and do our job. If you win the races, the points will take care of themselves.”

Matt Hagan’s playoff push will continue at the Dodge/SRT U.S. Nationals from atop the Funny Car point standings.

After officially clinching a Countdown to the Championship berth during qualifying, Hagan won the  Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Sunday at Brainerd International Raceway for the first time in 12 attempts. Hagan scored his second win of the season and 38th of his career with a 1,000-foot pass in 3.923-seconds at 327.98 mph to defeat Cruz Pedregon’s 3.935-second effort at 324.83 mph.

“The Cruzer” _ a two-time world champ _ reached the finals for the 78th time in his career and the second time this season after wins against veteran Gary Densham, Don Schumacher Racing’s Ron Capps and J.R. Todd of Kalitta Motorsports. 

“I’ve been racing for so long, and it’s great to knock this one off the list and add a Brainerd trophy to the shelf,” said Hagan, driver of DSR’s Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye. “We want to win every race, and at every racetrack, so I’m especially glad we got it done.”

Hagan began the weekend in a fifth-place points tie with three-time world champ Robert Hight of John Force Racing. Hagan will open the prestigious U.S. Nats on Sept. 1 with a tenuous 15-point lead (865-850) over runnerups Bob Tasca III and J.R. Todd. NHRA’s 13th and final “regular-season” event will feature a unique points-and-a-half format.
 
“We’re trying to get where we should be,” said Hagan, the three-time/reigning world champion. “After coming off of such a strong championship run last year, you come out and expect to set the world on fire, and we just haven’t been able to do that. But (crew chief) Dickie Venables, you give the guy enough shots at the racetrack, he’s a bad man.

“I just want to do my job up there. I really pride myself in leaving the starting line really well and it’s going to take these tough packages to win. You’re going to have leave good, and you’re going to have to race good, and that’s what we’re doing with this Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.”

Hagan is the fourth different driver to lead the point standings over the past four races. He knocked off Dale Creasy Jr., Paul Lee and No. 1 qualifier Tasca to reach Sunday’s final in a field of 15. Only 25 points separate the top five drivers heading into the U.S. Nats.

“The points lead has changed hands so many times this year,” Hagan said. “There’s less than one round that separates the top five-ranked cars (at points-and-a-half) so it’s a true dogfight right now. We struggled a little bit in the beginning of the season, and it feels like things are really starting to click and come together for our team.

“The Countdown is the Countdown. I’ve won from all different starting positions; you’ve just got to be in it to win it. This team, we’re all starting to peak at the right time, so I’m excited about that.”

Point-leader Jose Gonzalez drove to his third straight win by knocking off Brandon Snider in the final of the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series at Brainerd.

The race was the sixth of 11 events during the 2021 NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service season. Gonzalez strengthened his point lead and championship bid with his fourth win of 2021.

Gonzalez put on a show during NHRA Pro Mod’s first trip to Brainerd, finishing his weekend with a run of 5.790-seconds at 246.03 mph in his ProCharger-powered Q80 Chevrolet Camaro to slip past Snider’s Chevy Corvette at 5.812 and 247.29. Gonzalez was a stellar 0.003-seconds on the starting line as he earned his sixth career class victory. 

“When you have guys like Brandon Snider, Stevie Jackson and Justin Bond, and everybody who races in this class, you have to be on your game,” said Gonzalez, who qualified No. 1 in a seven-car field. “They’re not going to cut you any (breaks), so as much as I can do, I try to do it for the team. (Tuner) Steve Petty has had this car on rails since Day 1 and it’s just been amazing.”

Gonzalez reached the final with victories against Doug Winters and Jackson, posting an 0.009-second reaction time against Winters. Snider defeated Chad Green and Bond to reach the final for the second time this year and the fourth time in his career. He moved to second in points, 93 behind Gonzalez with five races remaining.

Pro Mod returns to action Sept. 1-5 as part of the Dodge/SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

Final results from the 39th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway. The race was the 12th of 20 on the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series schedule:

Top Fuel _ Steve Torrence, 3.712-seconds, 323.74 mph def. Clay Millican, 3.729-seconds, 320.05 mph. 

Funny Car _ Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.923, 327.98 def. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.935, 324.83. 

Top Alcohol Dragster _ Rich McPhillips Jr., 5.194, 276.86 def. Joey Severance/Broke. 

Top Alcohol Funny Car _ Kyle Smith, Ford Mustang, 5.496, 259.56 def. Bob McCosh, Chevy Camaro, 5.616, 262.23.

Super Stock _ Anthony Bertozzi, Pontiac Grand Am, 9.019, 146.46 def. Mike Mans, Pontiac Firebird, 8.769, 153.54.

Stock Eliminator _ Brett Speer, Chevy Nova, 10.510, 111.21 def. Russ Kramer, Plymouth Belvedere, 10.815, 121.57.

Super Comp _ Gary Stinnett, Dragster, 8.909, 179.49 def. Craig Schultz, Dragster, 8.904, 167.22.

Super Gas _ Luke Bogacki, Chevy Corvette, 10.541, 115.62 def. Dale Evens, Corvette, Foul/Red Light.

Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers _ Curt Harshfield, Chevy Bel-Air, 6.968, 184.77 def. Steve Jaeger, Chevy Monte Carlo, 6.796, 197.80.

Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers _ Kendra Larson, Dragster, 7.088, 188.96 def. Holden Laris, Dragster, Foul/Red Light. 

Pro Modified _ Jose Gonzalez, Chevy Camaro, 5.790, 246.03 def. Brandon Snider, Chevy Corvette, 5.812, 247.29.

Mountain Motor Pro Stock _ JR Carr, Chevy Camaro, 6.379, 209.88 def. John DeFlorian Jr, Camaro, Foul/Red Light.

Final round-by-round results from the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway:

TOP FUEL

ROUND ONE _ Antron Brown, 3.749, 326.08 def. Shawn Langdon, 12.384, 71.89; Clay Millican, 3.729, 327.27 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.809, 321.88; Brittany Force, 3.680, 334.40 was unopposed; Steve Torrence, 3.697, 330.31 def. Terry Totten, Foul/Red Light; Mike Salinas, 3.701, 324.59 def. T.J. Zizzo, 3.777, 327.35; Justin Ashley, 3.765, 326.32 def. Leah Pruett, 4.472, 179.64; 

QUARTERFINALS _ Force, 3.672, 333.33 def. Brown, 3.771, 315.78; Millican, 3.741, 325.69 def. Salinas, 3.775, 284.45; Torrence, 3.737, 326.48 def. Ashley, 3.910, 277.32; 

SEMIFINALS _ Millican, 3.876, 265.95 def. Force, 7.971, 77.65; Torrence, 3.697, 329.34 was unopposed; 

FINAL _ Torrence, 3.712, 323.74 def. Millican, 3.729, 320.05. 

FUNNY CAR 

ROUND ONE _ Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.911, 331.69 was unopposed; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.934, 314.75 def. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, 6.537, 104.31; Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.907, 326.56 def. Gary Densham, Mustang, 4.253, 270.75; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.911, 328.30 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Charger, 4.031, 311.85; Paul Lee, Charger, 4.320, 210.37 def. Bob Bode, Mustang, Foul/Centerline; J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.933, 325.88 def. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.988, 274.05; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.953, 323.35 def. John Force, Camaro, 6.205, 112.01; Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.939, 320.43 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.940, 328.46; 

QUARTERFINALS _ Tasca III, 3.899, 329.67 def. Alexander, 3.950, 318.92; Pedregon, 3.908, 325.45 def. Capps, 3.935, 325.45; Hagan, 3.928, 323.27 def. Lee, 3.911, 329.18; Todd, 3.931, 326.87 def. Wilkerson, 3.929, 320.97; 

SEMIFINALS _ Hagan, 3.932, 328.30 def. Tasca III, 3.940, 329.00; Pedregon, 3.933, 322.73 def. Todd, 3.955, 321.73; 

FINAL _ Hagan, 3.923, 327.98 def. Pedregon, 3.935, 324.83.

Point standings (top-10) following the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. (Pro Stock did not compete at the event).

Top Fuel _1. Steve Torrence, 1,212; 2. Brittany Force, 829; 3. Antron Brown, 791; 4. (tie) Leah Pruett, 631; Mike Salinas, 631; 6. Shawn Langdon, 620; 7. Clay Millican, 579; 8. Justin Ashley, 578; 9. Billy Torrence, 510; 10. Doug Kalitta, 503.

Funny Car _ 1. Matt Hagan, 865; 2. (tie) Bob Tasca III, 850; J.R. Todd, 850; 4. John Force, 849; 5. Ron Capps, 840; 6. Robert Hight, 782; 7. Alexis DeJoria, 725; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 712; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 631; 10. Blake Alexander, 470.

Pro Stock _1. Greg Anderson, 895; 2. Aaron Stanfield, 741; 3. Erica Enders, 725; 4. Dallas Glenn, 639; 5. Matt Hartford, 622; 6. Kyle Koretsky, 618; 7. Troy Coughlin Jr., 574; 8. Mason McGaha, 550; 9. Deric Kramer, 518; 10. Chris McGaha, 409.

Point standings (top-10) following Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, the sixth of 11 events in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series:

Pro Modified _1. Jose Gonzalez, 536; 2. Brandon Snider, 443; 3. Justin Bond, 439; 4. Steve Jackson, 406; 5. Khalid alBalooshi, 239; 6. Doug Winters, 231; 7. JR Gray, 230; 8. Jeffery Barker, 192; 9. Mike Castellana, 177; 10. Alex Laughlin, 147.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 24 2021
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