By Lee Elder
JOLIET, Ill. (June 2, 2018) – Steve Torrence will start eliminations for the Jegs Route 66 Nationals from the top of the Top Fuel ladder after spending the four qualifying rounds in the top spot. Eliminations for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event will be held Sunday.
Torrence’s elapsed time and speed established new track records Friday. The numbers stood through both sessions on Saturday.
Torrence, Matt Hagan, Greg Anderson and Andrew Hines were the top qualifiers in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series professional categories.
“It was a lot cooler yesterday, a lot later in the evening when we were able to run,” Torrence said. “It was pretty much optimal conditions.”
The track temperature when the pro sessions started at about 2:45 p.m. Saturday was only 108 degrees. The track kept cooling during the second session. The surface temperature was in the middle 90s when the session ended.
“It’s a huge confidence booster to go into race day knowing that (his crew) has a real good handle on the tune up.” Torrence said.
Hagan said, “I really feel we have closed the Gap on points leader Courtney (Force) now. I feel like our car is running strong, we can go down there and throw down a number.”
Hagan’s numbers set track records for both elapsed time (3.917 seconds) and speed (326.79 mph).
Anderson has not won a race this year, although he has been the top qualifier five times this season. His elapsed time was 6.546 seconds and his was clocked at 211.03 mph. Anderson, a four-time Pro Stock champion, is second in the standings going into Sunday’s eliminations. Anderson posted the best pass of all four Pro Stock sessions.
“We all know I’ve had a great qualifying car all year,” Anderson said. “We haven’t quite been able to get the job done on Sunday. But if I can’t get the job done tomorrow, something’s wrong, something is seriously wrong.”
Andrew Hines was the top qualifier in Pro Stock Motorcycle with an elapsed time of 6.849 seconds and 194.87 mph.
“We had a great motorcycle today,” Hines said. “It’s a repeatable motorcycle and we can attack the tree (the starting lights) tomorrow.”
Funny Car star John Force exited his wrecked race car gingerly but under his own power after a violent crash on his fourth qualifications pass. Force left the starting line normally but his car turned sharply right just past the 330-foot marker and slammed into the retaining wall. The car continued down the track scraping and banging against the wall several times before coming to a rest.
“I thought it broke an axle because it put me into the wall,” Force said. He added, “That car is not going to beat me.”
Force started the 2018 season with a series of mechanical failures that led to violent engine explosions. He will be allowed to use a backup car during eliminations Sunday.
Brittany Force and her sister Courtney Force have the same sponsor on their respective cars this weekend, Advance Auto Parts. Brittany Force, who drives a Funny Car, qualified second and said, “We’ve had a great weekend so far. The only this is that people confuse Courtney and I before and now we have the same sponsor.”
NOTES: The team championship of the Jegs Allstars for sportsman racers went to Division 4. The top scorers in a special point system qualify from each NHRA division in 10 sportsman categories. The top drivers in each category race for the Allstars title. Joey Severance (of Woodburn, Ore.) won in Top Alcohol Dragster … Shane Westerfield (Anaheim, Calif.) won on a hole shot in Top Alcohol Funny Car … Bill Smida (Canfield, Ohio) was the Super Street winner … Ryan Mangus (Rialto, Calif.) won in Stock Eliminator … Mike Robilotto (Albany, NY) collected his first Allstars win in Super Comp … Aaron Stanfield (Bossier City, LA) won his first title in Super Stock … Ken Mostowich (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) collected his second straight Allstars win in Super Gas after starting out as the blocker. His first round opponent was not able to race, making Mostowich eligible to earn points … Frank Aragona (Freehold N.J.) won his second Allstars title in Competition Eliminator … Lester Johnson (Cynthiana, Kent.) won his first Allstars title in Top Sportsman … Jeff Strickland (Red Bay, Ala) won in Top Dragster … “It feels awesome,” Stanfield said after winning in Super Stock. “It’s such a huge race. This is great race to win.” … Mangus, who won his first Allstars title, agreed, “This is huge. As a kid, just watching this race, it’s a race I always wanted to win.”