Familiar Names Dot Countdown Charts

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 4 2022

NHRA class winners, left to right, Steve Torrence, Robert Hight, Erica Enders and Matt Smith let fly with victory sprays near St. Louis.

NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship has reached its halfway mark with the usual Professional suspects poised for repeat title runs.

That group is led by Steve Torrence and his bid for a fifth consecutive Top Fuel world championship. All but written out of the title scenario after suffering consecutive second-round losses to start the six-race Countdown, Torrence strong-armed his way into contention Sunday via a resounding wire-to-wire victory in the 11th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Torrence qualified No. 1, defeated track record-holder Clay Millican in the second round and used an 0.027-second reaction time to trailer Josh Hart in the final in Madison, Ill. Torrence put down a 1,000-foot lap in 3.741-seconds at 328.70 mph in the final to defeat Hart’s pass of 3.749 at 329.67.

Recall that Torrence ended NHRA’s 16-race “regular season” fourth in points after the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals over Labor Day weekend. Torrence was a massive 187 points/nine-plus rounds of racing behind leader and 2016 world champ Brittany Force. A vocal critic of the Countdown format during his four-year title run, Torrence has worked the recalibrated point standings to his favor in a bid to become the fourth driver in professional drag racing history to win five consecutive NHRA championships.

“I know there were a lot of doubters out there,” said Torrence, who opted to make big changes to the engine/clutch combination on the Toyota dragster that has dominated the tour. “We’re a family and we always believed in ourselves.  This was a great weekend but, to be honest, it took all we had to get around Josh in the final.  

“There’s still work to do but we’ve got ourselves back in the hunt and we’ll have some momentum going home to Dallas.” After a weekend off, the Countdown will resume with the 37th annual Texas NHRA FallNationals at International Drag Racing Hall of Famer Billy Meyer’s Texas Motorplex in Ennis Oct. 14-16.

The weekend’s racing will cap the second annual Stampede of Speed, a 10-day festival of music, drag racing and fan experiences in advance of the Camping World Drag Racing Series’ only national event in the Dallas-Fort Worth market. Area activity will begin with the High Noon Cattle Drive scheduled for Oct. 7 in downtown Waxahachie.

Multiple world champions Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also emerged with wins at WWTR during the season’s 19th event.

“Every round was a big round for us,” Torrence said after his fourth win in six years at the facility outside St. Louis. “Going up there against Clay (in Round 2), I thought I lost.  I felt like he was ahead of me. I watched him the whole way.  I knew I was late (at the start) and I was thinking, ‘I lost on a hole-shot and now I’m going to have explain it (to a national TV audience)’.  Clay had to tell me I won and then I got kinda happy about it.

“That 0.027 (reaction time), I was proud of that one. None of us is Justin Ashley (the point- leader and the tour-leader in reaction time average), so for my old butt to do that, especially in the final, felt pretty good.”

In winning for the 53rd time in his pro career, the 39-year-old Texan extended to six the number of consecutive Countdowns in which he has won at least one race.  That is the longest active streak in the series.

By reaching the final round of the Midwest Nats for the sixth straight year, Torrence moved ahead of privateer Mike Salinas and Antron Brown, a three-time world champ.  The victory carried Torrence past Force and into second place, 14 points/one round behind Ashley with three playoff events remaining.

“This team has a lot of character and a lot of pride,” Torrence said, “and it kinda rubbed us the wrong way when people started writing us off after the first two races.  All we know is to just keep grinding and that’s what we’ve done.”

Hart enjoyed an impressive weekend as well, defeating Scott Palmer, Salinas and Shawn Langdon to advance to his second final round this season and fourth in his career. He also moved to sixth in points.

In a thrilling Funny Car final with major championship implications, point-leader Robert Hight took down two-time/reigning world champ Ron Capps on a hole-shot. Hight’s 1,000-foot pass in  3.911-seconds at 331.61 mph in the Chevrolet Camaro SS was enough to get around Capps’ quicker 3.908 at 330.47.

The No. 1 qualifier, Hight opened a 46-point lead over Capps via his eighth victory of the season. Hight advanced to the final on the strength of wins against Tim Wilkerson and three-time world champ Matt Hagan before posting a reaction time of 0.041-seconds to edge Capps at the finish and record his 61st career victory. Hight celebrated his third victory at WWTR and second of the Countdown.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Hight, of John Force Racing. “This was a 40-point swing in the finals, so it was a good job by my guys. They keep digging every round and getting it done. You definitely can’t be racing defensively. You’ve got to be on offense out here, even if you’re the points leader and I knew I had to pull out a good reaction time in the final round.

“To say we’ve got eight wins, that makes me very proud, but here’s the hard truth _ if I don’t have more than eight, I probably won’t win the championship. So we’ve got to stay focused and work hard and this team is up for it. We don’t need to leave anything on the table.”

Capps reached his second straight final _ and an 80th career matchup against Hight _ by defeating Daniel Wilkerson, two-time world champion Cruz Pedregon and 16-time world champ John Force. Capps has seven final-round appearances this season and 138 in his career.

“Man, what a day,” said Capps, owner/driver of the Toyota GR Supra tuned by co-crew chiefs Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli and John Medlen. “The competition just ratchets higher and higher with every race in these playoffs. Three races under our belt in the Countdown, and its bittersweet right now because you get put into those positions in the final round like that, and those are the moments you’ve got to rise to.

“We had a great run in the final. I was trying to hang onto the car and keep it in the middle and I think that’s probably what cost us. Hight’s team did a great job and that’s what it’s going to continue to be at these last three races as we battle it out. They’re going to be tough; that’s the reason they’re leading the points.”

Capps remains the winningest Funny Car driver at WWTR with four victories. “Our NAPA AutoCare team, what a bounce-back after Friday night,” Capps said. “Everyone was throwing their shots at us, and there’s a reason there’s a No. 1 on this car and we’re the defending champions. Guido and Medlen, just a great job and it’s very encouraging to go to the next race in Dallas with such a great Toyota Supra and see if we can’t repeat what we did there last year and steal the trophy there as well.”

Pro Stock star Erica Enders exited WWTR with the record for most wins among all NHRA Professional drivers. Enders claimed her sixth win and fourth in a row after defeating Dallas Glenn in the final at the wheel of her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro SS. Glenn went red at the Christmas Tree, while Enders put together a quarter-mile pass of 6.535-seconds at 210.28 mph to extend her lead to a comfortable 120 points over Aaron Stanfield.

Like Robert Hight in Funny Car, Enders won for the eighth time in 2022 as well as the 41st time in her career. Also like Hight, Enders now has wins in two of the first three playoff races. The native Texan reached the final with victories against Chris McGaha, Elite teammate Troy Coughlin Jr. and No. 1 qualifier Kyle Koretsky. By dispatching Glenn, Enders also moved one major step closer to a fifth world championship.

“This track has definitely been great to us,” Enders said. “We’ve been coming here since we were 15 and we love St. Louis. We’ve had a ton of success here and we made up some ground (over the weekend). I’m hopeful to keep the ‘Drive for Five’ alive. This has been a tremendous year for our team, and they’ve worked so hard. I’m so proud to have them.

“I super-excited we’ve opened up a lead like that. I don’t want to let it slip through my fingers. I want to showcase what my guys give me every weekend, and we were able to do that.”

Glenn defeated Mike DePalma, zMAX Dragway winner Aaron Stanfield and Matt Hartford to reach the final for the third time this season and the eighth time in his young career.

Matt Smith capped a nearly-perfect weekend in Pro Stock Motorcycle, rolling to the win _ and moving back into the point lead _ aboard his Buell with a quarter-mile run of 6.756-seconds at 202.00 mph against Jerry Savoie in the final.

The weekend saw Smith set both ends of the track record, make a career-best run, qualify No. 1 and record his fourth win of the season and 36th of his career. The five-time/reigning world champion now has a 21-point advantage over Joey Gladstone as the Pro Stock Bike lead changed hands for the sixth straight race.

Smith reached the final with wins against Kelly Clontz and Gladstone. Smith then led wire-to-wire against 2016 world champion Savoie to win for the fifth time at WWTR, most in the two-wheel class.

“It was a big weekend for this whole team,” Smith said. “Leaving here No. 1 and (wife Angie Smith) No. 3 in points was huge for the team. This whole class is tough and we’re looking forward to going to Dallas. I had my opportunity second round in Reading (Pa.) against Joey and messed up, so it was good to make up for that here. What a weekend. I love the track and the fans here, and I just love the atmosphere.”

Savoie reached a final for the second time this season and the 32nd time in his career, knocking off Ryan Oehler, three-time world champion Angelle Sampey and four-time world champ Eddie Krawiec.


Final finishing order (1-16) at the 11th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill. The race was the 19th of 22 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series and third of the six-race Countdown to the Championship:

Top Fuel _ 1. Steve Torrence; 2. Josh Hart; 3. Shawn Langdon; 4. Doug Kalitta; 5. Mike Salinas; 6. Clay Millican; 7. Brittany Force; 8. Tony Schumacher; 9. Leah Pruett; 10. Kyle Wurtzel; 11. Buddy Hull; 12. Justin Ashley; 13. Austin Prock; 14. Doug Foley; 15. Antron Brown; 16. Scott Palmer.

Funny Car _ 1. Robert Hight; 2. Ron Capps; 3. Matt Hagan; 4. John Force; 5. Cruz Pedregon; 6. J.R. Todd; 7. Bob Tasca III; 8. Tim Wilkerson; 9. Alexis DeJoria; 10. Daniel Wilkerson; 11. Blake Alexander; 12. Jim Campbell; 13. Dale Creasy Jr.; 14. Bobby Bode; 15. Terry Haddock.

Pro Stock _ 1. Erica Enders; 2. Dallas Glenn; 3. Kyle Koretsky; 4. Matt Hartford; 5. Greg Anderson; 6. Troy Coughlin Jr.; 7. Deric Kramer; 8. Aaron Stanfield; 9. Mike DePalma; 10. Camrie Caruso; 11. Fernando Cuadra Jr.; 12. Chris McGaha; 13. Mason McGaha; 14. Bo Butner; 15. Fernando Cuadra.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Matt Smith; 2. Jerry Savoie; 3. Eddie Krawiec; 4. Joey Gladstone; 5. Angelle Sampey; 6. Angie Smith; 7. Kelly Clontz; 8. Ron Tornow; 9. Marc Ingwersen; 10. Ryan Oehler; 11. Karen Stoffer; 12. Jianna Evaristo; 13. Gaige Herrera; 14. Malcolm Phillips Jr.; 15. Steve Johnson.

Final Pro and Sportsman class results from the NHRA Midwest Nationals:

Top Fuel _ Steve Torrence, 3.741-seconds, 328.70 mph def. Josh Hart, 3.749-seconds, 329.67 mph.

Funny Car _ Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.911, 331.61 def. Ron Capps, Toyota Supra, 3.908, 330.47.

Pro Stock _ Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.535, 210.28 def. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, Foul/Red Light.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ Matt Smith, EBR, 6.756, 202.00 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.819, 197.77.

Competition Eliminator _ Adam Hickey, Dragster, No Time Recorded def. Jason Grima, Ford Mustang, Broke/No Show.

Super Stock _ Marion Stephenson, Chevy Cobalt, 9.645, 120.35 def. Tyler Wudarczyk, Chevy Camaro, 10.952, 111.56.

Stock Eliminator _ Jimmy Hildalgo Jr., Pontiac GTO, 10.880, 114.33 def. Chris Knudsen, Chevy Camaro, Foul/Red Light.

Super Comp _ Junior Houston, Dragster, 8.907, 183.99 def. Jeremy Mason, Dragster, 8.924, 174.66.

Super Gas _ Rob Kropfeld, Chevy Camaro, 9.913, 165.44 def. Patrick DeBottis, Dodge Dakota, 9.892, 169.55.

Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers _ Darian Boesch, Dragster, 6.234, 215.34 def. Ed Dudley, Dragster, 6.242, 222.36.

Pro Modified _ Daniel Pharris, Chevy Camaro, 5.883, 192.08 def. JR Gray, Camaro, Foul/Red Light.

Final round-by-round results from the NHRA Midwest Nationals:


ROUND ONE _ Josh Hart, 3.696, 334.65 def. Scott Palmer, 8.681, 86.72; Tony Schumacher, 3.701, 332.02 def. Leah Pruett, 3.716, 327.03; Shawn Langdon, 3.760, 328.70 def. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.747, 327.19; Doug Kalitta, 3.901, 282.42 def. Doug Foley, 6.318, 105.49; Brittany Force, 3.665, 338.43 def. Austin Prock, 5.276, 135.24; Steve Torrence, 3.715, 330.15 def. Buddy Hull, 3.910, 316.01; Mike Salinas, 3.946, 278.23 def. Justin Ashley, 4.476, 202.06; Clay Millican, 5.829, 200.32 def. Antron Brown, 6.514, 89.45;

QUARTERFINALS _ Torrence, 3.763, 327.35 def. Millican, 3.806, 283.07; Hart, 3.768, 329.10 def. Salinas, 3.766, 328.62; Kalitta, 3.768, 324.83 def. Force, 3.833, 322.81; Langdon, 3.760, 322.58 def. Schumacher, 9.253, 65.40;

SEMIFINALS _ Torrence, 3.725, 328.14 def. Kalitta, 4.108, 219.97; Hart, 3.712, 333.82 def. Langdon, 3.744, 326.16;

FINAL _ Torrence, 3.741, 328.70 def. Hart, 3.749, 329.67.


ROUND ONE _ Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.896, 330.80 def. Bobby Bode, Mustang, 9.066, 83.31; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.076, 238.60 was unopposed; John Force, Camaro, 3.925, 326.24 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 13.006, 74.36; Ron Capps, Toyota Supra, 3.938, 328.86 def. Daniel Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.055, 284.56; Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.121, 275.62 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 5.336, 137.15; Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.324, 249.49 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Charger, 5.805, 122.38; J.R. Todd, Supra, 3.928, 318.24 def. Alexis DeJoria, Supra, 3.928, 328.62; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.310, 218.94 def. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 4.402, 291.57;

QUARTERFINALS _ Capps, 3.927, 328.30 def. Pedregon, 3.938, 322.81; Hagan, 3.943, 325.14 def. Tasca III, 3.968, 327.51; Force, 3.968, 324.28 def. Todd, 3.967, 321.58; Hight, 3.903, 330.72 def. T. Wilkerson, 3.972, 326.24;

SEMIFINALS _ Capps, 3.884, 332.02 def. Force, 3.950, 328.46; Hight, 3.913, 327.59 def. Hagan, 3.945, 330.31;

FINAL _ Hight, 3.911, 331.61 def. Capps, 3.908, 330.47.


ROUND ONE _ Deric Kramer, Chevy Camaro, 6.544, 210.21 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 8.985, 100.77; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.537, 211.79 def. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, Foul/Red Light; Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.534, 210.70 def. Mike DePalma, Ford Mustang, 6.545, 210.93; Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.528, 210.67 def. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.618, 209.65; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.512, 210.87 def. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, 6.562, 210.41; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.520, 211.43 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.573, 212.23; Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.505, 211.00 was unopposed; Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.539, 211.39 def. Fernando Cuadra, Mustang, 13.528, 63.58;

QUARTERFINALS _ Glenn, 6.564, 210.87 def. Stanfield, 6.561, 209.82; Enders, 6.522, 211.03 def. Coughlin Jr., 6.543, 210.77; Hartford, 6.529, 211.59 def. Anderson, 6.529, 210.67; Koretsky, 6.547, 210.80 def. Kramer, 6.551, 210.28;

SEMIFINALS _ Glenn, 6.568, 209.33 def. Hartford, 14.716, 63.30; Enders, 6.533, 210.14 def. Koretsky, 6.541, 210.80;

FINAL _ Enders, 6.535, 210.28 def. Glenn, Foul/Red Light.


ROUND ONE _ Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 7.030, 193.68 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, Broke; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.772, 198.32 def. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.849, 198.06; Angie Smith, EBR, 6.812, 199.43 def. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 7.132, 184.50; Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.754, 200.26 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.876, 196.10; Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.734, 201.52 def. Malcolm Phillips Jr., Suzuki, 12.313, 68.66; Ron Tornow, Victory, 6.880, 193.99 def. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.841, 195.08; Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.821, 199.61 def. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 7.082, 160.94; Matt Smith, EBR, 6.776, 202.03 was unopposed;

QUARTERFINALS _ Krawiec, 6.748, 200.29 def. Tornow, Foul/Red Light; M. Smith, 6.783, 200.56 def. Clontz, 7.532, 130.94; Gladstone, 6.777, 198.85 def. A. Smith, 6.831, 198.52; Savoie, 6.786, 198.82 def. Sampey, 6.763, 198.52;

SEMIFINALS _ M. Smith, 6.752, 201.76 def. Gladstone, 6.782, 198.15; Savoie, 6.818, 197.10 def. Krawiec, 6.777, 198.82;

FINAL _ M. Smith, 6.756, 202.00 def. Savoie, 6.819, 197.77.

Countdown to the Championship point standings (top-10) following the NHRA Midwest Nationals:

Top Fuel _1. Justin Ashley, 2,305; 2. Steve Torrence, 2,291; 3. Brittany Force, 2,275; 4. Mike Salinas, 2,270; 5. Antron Brown, 2,262; 6. Josh Hart, 2,241; 7. Doug Kalitta, 2,217; 8. Clay Millican, 2,179; 9. Shawn Langdon, 2,162; 10. Austin Prock, 2,161; 11. Leah Pruett, 2126; 12. Tony Schumacher, 2118.

Funny Car _1. Robert Hight, 2,404; 2. Ron Capps, 2,358; 3. Matt Hagan, 2,301; 4. John Force, 2,290; 5. Bob Tasca III, 2,234; 6. Alexis DeJoria, 2,187; 7. J.R. Todd, 2,185; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 2,175; 9. Cruz Pedregon, 2,159; 10. Jim Campbell, 2,085.

Pro Stock _1. Erica Enders, 2,427; 2. Aaron Stanfield, 2,307; 3. Kyle Koretsky, 2,274; 4. Troy Coughlin Jr., 2,270; 5. Greg Anderson, 2,267; 6. Dallas Glenn, 2,257; 7. Matt Hartford, 2,233; 8. Mason McGaha, 2,125; 9. (tie) Bo Butner, 2,117; Camrie Caruso, 2,117; 11. (tie) Fernando Cuadra Jr., 2095; Deric Kramer, 2095; 13. Cristian Cuadra, 2086; 14. Chris McGaha, 2054; 15. Fernando Cuadra, 2043.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Matt Smith, 2,290; 2. Joey Gladstone, 2,269; 3. Angie Smith, 2,200; 4. Eddie Krawiec, 2,184; 5. Steve Johnson, 2,183; 6. Jerry Savoie, 2,182; 7. Angelle Sampey, 2,174; 8. Marc Ingwersen, 2,138; 9. Karen Stoffer, 2,109; 10. Ryan Oehler, 2,088.


Sept. 15-18 _ Pep Boys NHRA Nationals, Maple Grove Raceway, Reading, Pa: Austin Prock (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Joey Gladstone (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Sept. 23-25 _ Charlotte NHRA Nationals, zMAX Dragway, Concord, N.C.: Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock).

Sept. 30-Oct. 2 _ NHRA Midwest Nationals, World Wide Technology Raceway, Madison, Ill.: Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Oct. 13-16 _ Texas NHRA FallNationals, Texas Motorplex, Ennis.

Oct. 27-30 _ NHRA Nevada Nationals, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Nov. 10-13 _ Auto Club NHRA Finals, Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif.

Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1995) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y.) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service, Ford Racing and Used Car Dealer magazine).


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 4 2022
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