By Lee Elder
CONCORD, NC (Oct. 14, 2018) – Steve Torrence all but locked up the NHRA Top Fuel championship by winning the NHRA Carolina Nationals at ZMAX Dragway Sunday.
Torrence has won every race in the NHRA’s Countdown, the first time a driver has won four straight Countdown races in Top Fuel. He holds a 169-point leads with two races remaining in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Jason Line snapped his winless streak in Pro Stock and Matt Smith won in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
“This is unreal,” Torrence said. “We’ve been 16 straight rounds in the Countdown. I don’t even know if that’s ever been done before.”
It hasn’t. Better still, Clay Millican lost in the second round, Millican is the closest to Torrence in the Countdown standings. Torrence leads 2,592-2,423.
“We’re going to do everything we can to get this thing done,” Torrence said. “Clay went out early today. That’s just another blessing. We’ve got to keep on ‘em. There are two races left and we’re going to try to win both of them.”
Torrence won with a 3.703-second, 329.67 mph pass against Brittany Force in the final round.
Capps victory in Funny Car completed a wild day in that category. Points leader Robert Hight lost in the second round and third-place runner Tommy Johnson Jr. went out in the second. The standings closed up as a result. Hight still leads but JR Todd, who started the day second in points and lost to Capps in the final round, now trails by just 2,445-2,434.
Capps, asked how important his win was, said, “Huge. We have our backs against the wall. At this point in the season, you’ve just got to put everything on the line.”
Capps beat JR Todd in the final. Capps’ numbers were 3.890-seconds and 331.20 mph. Todd’s car lost performance about mid-track.
Three-time Pro Stock champ Jason Line had not won a race in 2018 and he was no expected to beat Tanner Gray, the points leader, in the final. But Line’s reaction time beat the teenager, .020-.044 of a second and then Line’s car performed better. Line’s numbers were 6.531 seconds, 211.89 mph to Gray’s 6.534 and 211.43.
“I’m not an emotional guy,” Line said. “But this is really cool. … I’m as excited as I get.”
Matt Smith won the final round of Pro Stock Motorcycle when Chip Ellis went red at the starting line. The victory gave Smith a 41-point lead in the Countdown.+
Top Fuel: #2 Clay Millican opened the day, first pair down the track, shook and blew up but beats non-Countdowner Kyle Wurtzel. #4 Leah Pritchett stayed on pace, beat non-Countdowner Richie Crampton. The day’s first match between Countdowners saw #7 Doug Kalitta beat #10 Scott Palmer. #8 Mike Salinas beat non-Countdowner Pat Dakin. Top qualifier Brittany Force, #9 in the Countdown, beat non-Countdowner Audry Worm. Schumacher, #3 in the Countdown, edged #5 Brown. The top four teams in the Countdown will race one another in the second round. Non-Countdowner Dom Lagana beat #6 Terry McMillen. Doug Kalitta moved ahead of McMillen into sixth place. Three Countdowners are out in the first round.
Funny Car: #4 Tim Wilkerson beat non-Countdowner Jim Campbell and then #3 Tommy Johnson Jr spun his tires, losing to non-Countdowner Dave Richards. Wilkerson moved into third place. #6 Ron Capps beat non-Countdowner Dale Creasy Jr. Non-Countdowner Cruz Pedregon beat #5 Courtney Force, allowing Capps to pass Courtney Force for fifth place in the Countdown. In a race between Countdowners #7 Matt Hagan beat #10 Shawn Langdon. Points leader Robert Hight beat #7 Jack Beckman and probably ended Beckman’s chances of winning the championship. John Force defeated non-Countdowner Bob Tasca, allowing Force to move into eighth place in the standings, replacing Jack Beckman. Four Countdowners were on the sideline for the rest of the day.
Pro Stock: #3 Vincent Nobile sidelined #5 Greg Anderson. Non-Countdowner Alex Laughlin beat #9 Deric Kramer. #7 Line beat #8 Bo Butner. Three consecutive Countdowners had been dropped but #2 Jeg Coughlin Jr. ended that streak by beating non-Countdowner Fernando Cuadra. #4 Drew Skillman beat non-Countdowner Shane Tucker, who had not been expected to run. Skillman had a free pass into the semifinals. Points leader Tanner Gray beat Alan Prusiensky. Erica Enders moved ahead of Greg Anderson into fifth place in the Countdown by beating Wally Stroupe.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
#8 Angie Smith beat non-Countdowner Ryan Oehler. #3 Matt Smith beat non-Countdowner Karen Stoffer. #6 Andrew Hines beat non-Countdowner Hector Arana. #2 Eddie Krawiec beat non-Countdowner Jim Underdahl. #9 Angelle Sampey beat points leader LE Tonglet. The door was open for Krawiec.
Top Fuel: Salinas ended Kalitta’s day. #3 Schumacher beat #2 Millican, a big win for Schumacher. Points leader Torrence beat Pritchett. Force beat Lagana.
Funny Car: John Force reached the semi-final with a win over Richards. #3 Tim Wilkerson earned a holeshot victory over #7 Hagan. John Force could catch Hagan in the standings with a win in the next round. Todd knocked out the last non-Countdowner, Pedregon, to keep pace with Hight. Capps beat Hight in the next pairing, Todd could catch Hight later today.
Pro Stock: Skillman got a bye run. Gray beat Laughlin. #7 Line beat #3 Coughlin and Coughlin’s position was open to capture by Nobile. #6 Enders beat #3 Nobile, saving Coughlin’s spot in third.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: Matt Smith beats non-Countdowner Pollacheck. Non-Countdowner Ellis beats #8 Angie Smith. #5 Savoie beats #6 Hines. #9 Sampey defeats #2 Krawiec.
Top Fuel: #3 Schumacher had a chance to race points leader and stop the win streak but Torrence won. Both the second and third place drivers were then out of the running. Brittany Force beat Salinas to unofficially move her to sixth in the standings.
Funny Car: Todd beat John Force and Capps ended Wilkerson’s day. With a victory, Capps could go to third in the Countdown.
Pro Stock: Gray beat Enders and Line beat Skillman.
Pro Stock Motorcycle:
Matt Smith beat Sampey and went back into the points lead. Non-Countdowner Ellis put Savoie on the trailer.
Top Fuel: The Torrence train stayed on the rails and he won.
Funny Car: Capps left second, but won his 60th Funny Car victory.
Pro Stock: Line got out of the gates first and beat Gray for Line’s 50th Pro Stock win.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: Matt Smith won when Chip Ellis left early. Smith left with a 41-point lead.
UNOFFICIAL COUNTDOWN STANDINGS
Top Fuel: 1. Torrence 2,592; 2. Millican 2,423; 3. Schumacher 2,382; 4. Pritchett 2,297; 5. Brown 2,253; 6. B. Force 2,243; 7. Salinas 2,228; 8. Kalitta 2,225; 9. McMillen 2,221; 10. Palmer 2,149.
Funny Car: 1. Hight 2,445; 2. Todd 2,434; 3. Capps 2,336; 4. Wilkerson 2,334; 5. Johnson Jr. 2,296; 6. C. Force 2.264; 7. J. Force 2,241; 8. Hagan 2,229; 9. Beckman 2,204; Langdon 2,152.
Pro Stock: 1. Gray 2,509; 2. Coughlin 2,379; 3. Nobile 2,373; 4. Skillman 2,356; 5. Enders 2,338; 6. Anderson 2,299; 7. Line 2,291; 8. Butner 2,186; 9. Kramer 2,168; 10. McGaha 2,096.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Matt Smith 2,426; 2. Tonglet 2,385; 3. Krawiec 2,370; 4. Savoie 2,326; 5. Hines 2,291; 6. Arana Jr. 2,288; 7. Angie Smith 2,221; 8. Sampey 2,216; 9. Johnson 2.209; 10. Pallacheck 2,177.