By Lee Elder
ENNIS, Texas (Oct. 7, 2018) – Robert Hight survived an explosive finish to his last race, had a little surgery along the way and won his second straight AAA Texas Fall Nationals in the NHRA’s Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Hight’s Funny Car exploded and crashed as he won the final round of the most recent NHRA event near St. Louis. The points leader had shoulder surgery earlier last week but showed no ill effects once he arrived at the Texas Motorplex.
Steve Torrence won in Top Fuel, Tanner Gray took the victory in Pro Stock and LE Tonglet was the Pro Stock Motorcycle winner.
The victory was the 45th of his career and his second straight at the Motorplex.
Torrence remained undefeated in this year’s Countdown and in his eight final round appearances this season. A Texas resident, Torrence won for the first time in the state.
“We dropped the ball last year, we went into the wall,” Torrence said. “We won at Texas and that’s that. …We’re going to party tonight!”
His crash here last season left his championship bid in an unrecoverable position. His position in this year’s Countdown is lofty; he leads by 103 points.
Gray, who announced recently that he will leave drag racing for NASCAR stockcar racing, raced in his ninth final round this season, winning his seventh. He beat Jeg Coughlin in the final.
“This was huge,” Tonglet said. “To be in the final against our teammate was awesome.”
It was a day of upsets but none bigger than Kelly Clontz winning her first eliminations victory. She knocked off Hector Arana in the first round.
TOP FUEL — Countdowners Doug Kalitta, Mike Salinas and Scott Palmer were eliminated.
FUNNY CAR – Courtney Force and Ron Capps, fourth and fifth in the standings, were knocked out. So were seventh place Matt Hagan and tenth-place Shawn Langdon. Tommy Johnson Jr. moved to fifth place.
PRO STOCK – The top five drivers in the Countdown (Gray, Nobile, Coughlin, Skillman, Anderson, Enders) all advanced. The next four (Line, Butner, Kramer, McGaha) did not.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE – Two huge upsets in this round: Kelly Clontz earned her first career round win, taking out Hector Arana Jr., who was fourth in points, and points leader Matt Smith lost to Karen Stoffer. Fifth-place Andrew Hines and ninth-place Scotty Pollacheck were also knocked out. The other Countdowners survived. Angelle Sampey moved up to ninth in the Countdown.
TOP FUEL – Steve Torrence won and assured himself that he will keep the Countdown lead for another week. All non-Countdowners are eliminated, as were Brittney Force, Antron Brown and Leah Pritchett.
FUNNY CAR – Countdowner Tommy Johnson Jr. beat non-Countdowner Cruz Pedregon and moved himself to fourth place. Countdowner Jack Beckman was knocked out as were Tim Wilkerson and John Force.
PRO STOCK – Huge win for points leader Tannery Gray, he knocked out Greg Anderson. Vincent Nobile beat Erica Enders. Jeg Coughlin, who started third in points, beat fourth-place Drew Skillman.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE – Countdowners Angie Smith and Angelle Sampey were knocked out. LE Tonglet, who started the day in second place, will race Eddie Krawiec, who started third, in the semi-finals.
TOP FUEL – The track temperature was 128 at the start of the round. Points leader Steve Torrence beat third-place Tony Schumacher and Terry McMillen beat top qualifier and second-place Countdowner Clay Millican. McMillen advanced to sixth place.
FUNNY CAR – Points leader Robert Hight beat non-Countdowner Bob Tasca III and JR Todd beat Tommy Johnson Jr. Hight and Todd began the event in the top two point positions and they will meet in the final round.
PRO STOCK – Coughlin beat Nobile and points leader Gray beat Hartford. Gray can’t lose the top spot in the standings but Coughlin could pass Nobile for second place with a victory in the final.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE – Sixth-place Countdowner Savoie beat eighth-place Steve Johnson and moved up two spots to fourth place in the Countdown. LE Tonglet beat Eddie Krawiec but the standings have moved. Tonglet now leads the Countdown. Savoie has improved to fifth place and could go to fourth with a win in the finals.
TOP FUEL – Steve Torrence, the points leader, raced in his eighth final round of the season and won, beating Terry McMillen. Torrence’s elapsed time was 3.786 seconds and 325.92 mph to McMillen’s 3.826 and 321.04.
FUNNY CAR – Robert Hight, who started the weekend with the points lead, raced in his sixth final round of the season, beating JR Todd. Hight’s pass was 3.955 seconds and 325.69 mph. Todd’s car went 3.984 and 319.52.
PRO STOCK – Gray also led the points as the day began and raced in his ninth final round of 2018. Third meeting in the final round between the two and Gray wins with a pass of 6.622 seconds, 207.62 mph to Coughlin’s 6.636 and 207.82. The seventh win of the season for Gray, his 12th win in 45 career races.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE – LE Tonglet beat Jerry Savoie with a pass of 6.892 seconds and 194.80 mph. Savoie was clocked at 6.907 and 193.88.
UNOFFICIAL COUNTDOWN STANDINGS
TOP FUEL: S. Torrence 2,468; Millican 2,365; Schumacher 2,303; Pritchett 2,244; Brown 2,221; McMillen 2,209; Kalitta 2,169; Salinas 2,150; B. Force 2,140; Palmer 2,117.
FUNNY CAR: Hight 2,387; Todd 2,337; Wilkerson 2,254; Johnson Jr. 2,251; C. Force 2,232; Capps 2,215; Hagan 2,175; Beckman 2,172’ J. Force 2,168; Langdon 2,120.
PRO STOCK: Gray 2,409; Coughlin 2,339; Nobile 2,320; Skillman 2,275; Anderson 2,266; Enders 2,251; Line 2,175; Butner 2,154; Kramer 2,136; McGaha 2,096.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Tonglet 2,356; Krawiec 2,309; M. Smith 2,308; Arana Jr. 2,253; Savoie 2,247; Hines 2,233; Johnson 2,183; A. Smith 2,168; Sampey 2,143; Pollacheck 2,125.