By Lee Elder
BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug., 18, 2018) – Billy Torrance nabbed the top qualifying position in Top Fuel and may have set the stage for a Sunday of upsets at the Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.
Torrence unexpectedly grabbed the top spot on the Top Fuel eliminations ladder in just his sixth race of the season. His son, points leader Steve Torrence, will start second.
“I just knew that (Steve Torrence) would come around me, but he didn’t make it that time,” Billy Torrence said. “It’s a big deal for the Capco team to be number one and number two in qualifying.”
The other top qualifiers included Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Robert Hight (Funny Car).
Billy Torrence’s pole-winning pass was timed at 3.784 seconds and 326.32 mph. He is not in the struggle to earn a berth in the Countdown.
Hight’s elapsed time was 3.959 seconds. His speed was 324.67 mph. His fastest passes of the weekend were both on Saturday afternoon.
“Jimmy Prock (Hight’s crew chief) thought we were going to be able to improve in the third qualifying session, which is what we ended up doing,” Hight said. “I’m actually surprised that others didn’t improve during that session.”
The first round of Pro Stock eliminations will feature a pairing you’d think could only happen in later rounds when former champions Greg Anderson and Jeg Coughlin face off. Enders (6.609 seconds, 207.53 mph), the top qualifier, is having her strongest season since winning back-to-back Pro Stock titles a few years ago.
“It’s been a long road for us since our back-to-back championships, which we capped off in 2015,” Enders said. She added, “It was exciting to get the green hat for my team though, they were really excited about it.” The green hat is symbolic of being the top qualifier in the professional categories.
Smith was the top qualifier in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a pass at 6.852 seconds, 198.47 mph.
“We have a very fast bike and we should be very fast going into the Countdown,” Smith said. “The (teams in) top 10 know that I come here to play.”
With two days of eliminations remaining before the start of the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, the fields are tightening.
The NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship includes the drivers in the top 10 positions in each of the four professional categories after the US Nationals. The drivers in 10th place and those with a realistic chance to reach the top 10 are below, along with their starting positions at Brainerd.
Top Fuel: 10th place now, Scott Palmer (649 points). Still chasing are Mike Salinas (619) and Blake Alexander (522). Palmer and Alexander are not at Brainerd, Salinas qualified fifth.
Funny Car: 10th place now, Bob Tasca III (691). Still chasing are Tim Wilkerson (688), Cruz Pedregon (641), Jonnie Lindberg (598).
Pro Stock: 10th now, Bo Butner (895). Still chasing is Alex Laughlin (681). Butner qualified fourth, Laughlin is third.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 10th now, Angelle Sampey (320). Still chasing, Jimmy Underdahl (312), Steve Johnson (302), Cory Reed (300), Joey Gladstone (284). Sampey qualified 10th, Underdahl starts 16th, Johnson is 12th and Gladstone is seventh. Reed did not make the show.
NOTES: Top Fuel star Leah Pritchett drove a Dodge Challenger Hellcat stock vehicle against a drag race prepped Jaguar in a special event Saturday. NHRA Public address announcer Alan Reinhardt named the odd racing vehicle a Draguar. Pritchett won. … Dale Creasy raced Saturday with an Infinite Hero Funny Car body borrowed from Jack Beckman’s team. Creasy’s car suffered through an engine explosion that destroyed Creasy’s original body Friday.