ENNIS, Texas – Defending Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders jumped back into the points lead in impressive fashion on Saturday, beating Jason Line in the final round of the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Pennzoil.
The rain-delayed event was completed during qualifying at the 35th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex.
In other racing, Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Matt Smith beat teammate Scotty Pollacheck in the final round of the previously postponed Midwest Nationals.
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Deric Kramer (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all finished as No. 1 qualifiers of the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, the ninth of 11 races in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
Enders won for the third time in 2020 and 28th time in her career, going 6.572-seconds at 208.49 to beat Line in the high-stakes final round. To reach the championship round, Enders also beat Chris McGaha and Greg Anderson on Saturday in Dallas.
Line, who was in the points lead entering the round, beat Aaron Stanfield and Matt Hartford on Saturday to reach the finals.
“That was really huge,” Enders said. “I feel like we gave up something big in the second round in Gainesville against Jason, but things work out the way they’re supposed to, and you just have to stay the course. This was a huge move for us. When it’s all on the line and our backs are against the wall, my guys perform every time, and I can’t speak highly enough of them.
“To win in my home state, it’s just huge. We got it done today, but tomorrow is a new day. This is a big step in the right direction and by no means is it anywhere close to over, but I’m excited to be in the (points) lead.”
Smith went 6.775 at 200.50 on his Denso/Stockseth/MSR EBR to beat teammate Scotty Pollacheck in the finals, picking up his second win this season and 26th in his career.
Smith also beat Steve Johnson on Saturday of the previously postponed race, going 200 mph on each of his three runs. Pollacheck knocked off Hines in the semifinals to advance to the final round.
“I tried a little something (in the final) and it worked,” Smith said. “It went fast. It was worth it for me to try something, and things worked out. Hopefully we can be fast again tomorrow. All I can do is my job and hopefully we can turn on win lights. We’ve learned a lot of stuff and to have the quality of bikes we have right now, I think we’re the team to beat.”
Top Fuel Texan Steve Torrence put on a show in front of family and friends at his home track, just missing the track ET record with a standout pass of 3.662 at 327.51 in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster.
It gives Torrence, the points leader who has won two straight world championships, his second No. 1 qualifier in 2020 and 26th in his career.
The Torrence family will try for its third straight Dallas win, and Steve will race Cameron Ferre to open eliminations. Rookie Justin Ashley qualified second after going 3.687 at 323.04 and Tony Schumacher took the third spot with his run of 3.700 at 326.87.
“You have to go out and make those runs, and make them count,” Torrence said. “You have to be able to run hard when you can and try to get every point possible. We came in here with a two-point lead (over Doug Kalitta), so we just have to keep chipping away at it. We’re trying to capitalize on every opportunity we get. When you have that support from everyone and it’s your home state crowd, I don’t know if it does anything to make us run better, but it definitely gives you that sense of everybody here cheering for you. Now you’ve got to go out there and go four rounds on Sunday, and not make any mistakes.”
Matt Hagan continued his quest for a third Funny Car world championship, roaring to the top spot in the final qualifying session with a run of 3.860 at 328.54 in his 11,000-horsepower Pennzoil Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.
Hagan, who jumped into the points lead at the most recent event, qualified No. 1 for the second time in three races, the fourth time in 2020 and the 40th overall.
He will meet Todd Simpson in the opening round of eliminations as Don Schumacher Racing seeks its 12th straight win in the class.
DSR’s Tommy Johnson Jr., who beat Hagan in the final round at St. Louis to stay in the title hunt, qualified second with a 3.871 at 315.34, and Tim Wilkerson is a spot behind thanks to his 3.885 at 328.94.
“We’ve got a really great car and it’s been running great all season long,” Hagan said. “Our confidence has just grown with each race. It’s getting so tough and it just shows you how competitive these crew chiefs and these drivers are out here. There’s no opportunity to come in and slack off in one round. You have to learn something every time, but I really love our mojo right now. All our guys are working great together and I’m having fun. (Crew chief) Dickie (Venables) is the man and he’s put a heck of a car under me, and I’m just trying to drive the wheels off.
“To see the fans in the stands, that pumped me up. It’s a great feeling to be back here and see the fans come out.”
In Pro Stock qualifying, Deric Kramer picked up his second No. 1 qualifier in three races and sixth overall after going 6.541 at 210.37 in his American Ethanol Chevrolet Camaro on Saturday.
Kramer earned the top spot in Gainesville and repeated it in Dallas with another impressive late-season showing. The four-time event winner will look for his first Dallas win as he takes on Val Smeland to open eliminations.
Alex Laughlin qualified second at his home track thanks to his 6.544 at 209.10, and Line took the third spot with a run of 6.548 at 210.80.
Matt Smith also qualified No. 1 in Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying, going 6.808 at 200.71. It gives the three-time world champ his third straight No. 1 qualifier, fourth in the past five races and 41st in his career.
He will race Michael Phillips in the opening round of eliminations.
Smith’s wife, Angie, took the second spot with a run of 6.809 at 200.89, breaking the track speed record and earning a spot in the Denso 200-mph club.
Jerry Savoie will open eliminations in the third spot after going 6.828 at 192.85.
In the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, Brandon Snider earned his second straight No. 1 qualifier in his blown Corvette thanks to a run of 5.680 at 251.77, also breaking the track ET record.
Snider, who earned his first career No. 1 qualifier a month ago, will take on Eric Latino in the first round of the Pro Mod race, which is presented by JBS Equipment in Dallas. Snider is seeking his first career win in the class.
Khalid alBalooshi qualified second with a 5.685 at 253.75 and defending world champ Stevie “Fast” Jackson is third after a run of 5.6945 at 248.02.
Points leader Mike Janis will start race day from the 11th spot after going 5.764 at 247.88.