Steve Torrence Leads Top Qualifiers At zMAX

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Steve Torrence locked up the No. 1 position in Top Fuel qualifying Saturday at zMAX Dragway. (HHP/Harold Hinson Photo)
Steve Torrence locked up the No. 1 position in Top Fuel qualifying Saturday at zMAX Dragway. (HHP/Harold Hinson Photo)

CONCORD, N.C. – Steve Torrence will attempt to win his fourth-straight zMAX Dragway Top Fuel Wally on Sunday afternoon from the No. 1 qualifying spot.

Torrence, who is the defending NHRA Carolina Nationals winner and also the two-time and defending winner of the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway, secured his fourth No. 1 qualifier of the year thanks to his strong performance Saturday night.

The Texan’s 3.711-second pass at 325.53 mph from Saturday’s round two allowed him to hold the top spot during the final two rounds of qualifying on Sunday. Leah Pritchett gave Torrence a run for his money, but came up three thousandths of a second short with her pass during the final round of qualifying.

“We did run really well last night. We went 711, the next best car was 74 I believe,” Torrence said. “Proud of that run. Richard Hogan, Bobby Lagana, every one of those Capco boys have done a really great job at supporting me.

“I started this Countdown off a little bit rocky. I drove like I’d never sat in one of these things before,” Torrence said. “When you’ve got confidence in your team and your car, it makes you a better driver.”

The defending NHRA Top Fuel champion will race Lex Joon in the first round of eliminations Sunday. Pritchett will square off with Chris Karamesines while third-place qualifier Brittany Force will battle Smax Smith.

Two competitors – Todd Paton and Cameron Ferre – failed to qualify for the 16-car Top Fuel field.

Beckman held on to the No. 1 spot in Funny Car thanks to his 3.73-second run at a track record speed of 334.07 mph, which came during the second round of qualifying on Saturday night. It’s the second No. 1 qualifier of the year for the 2012 Funny Car champion.

“Just yesterday we were talking and I said the green hat (No. 1 qualifier) means nothing to me and now I’m wearing it,” Beckman said. “I’m damn proud of it right now because now it’s the points that go with it. I don’t care if we qualify No. 1. You get lane choice, you get to pick when you run and you have probably the most favorable matchup on paper.

“I’m fine with being No. 2 for that except for the points,” Beckman continued. “If Pomona is going to come down to a three or four or five point championship, it’s going to be who managed qualifying the best. We got 13 points out of qualifying, that’s pretty good.”

Beckman will battle Dale Creasy in the opening round of Funny Car eliminations on Sunday. Championship leader Robert Hight, the No. 2 qualifier, will face Mike McIntire Jr. while No. 3 qualifier Matt Hagan will face Dave Richards.

Bob Gilbertson and Terry Haddock failed to qualify for the Funny Car field.

Erica Enders held on to the No. 1 spot in the Pro Stock class thanks to her strong run from Saturday night. Her 6.506-second pass at 211.86 mph from the second round of qualifying was enough for the two-time Pro Stock champion to earn her third-straight No. 1 qualifier in her Elite Motorsports Camaro.

Enders is coming off her first victory of the season at World Wide Technology Raceway and is hoping to turn her No. 1 qualifier into another victory.

“If we can continue the run that we’re on from St. Louis last weekend I’d be really thrilled,” said Enders, who will race Cristian Cuadra in round one of eliminations on Sunday. “I have a great hot rod underneath me. If I can just do my driving job, there is no reason why we can’t win.”

Enders’ Elite Motorsports teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. was second and will face Val Smeland in the first round of eliminations, while championship leader Jason Line qualified third and will face Shane Tucker in round one on Sunday.

Wally Stroupe, Jeremy Martorella and Alan Prusiensky failed to qualify for the Pro Stock field. Prusiensky crashed his Dodge Dart Pro Stock entry during round two of qualifying Friday night and did not attempt another pass Saturday.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Steve Johnson surprised onlookers by snatching the No. 1 spot during the third round of qualifying early Saturday afternoon. He didn’t take part in the final round of qualifying later in the day because he had a prior commitment elsewhere, but no one was able to better his speed from round three.

Johnson’s 6.786-second run at 196.70 mph was one thousandth of a second better than the time put down by fellow Suzuki rider Jerry Savoie, which was enough to give Johnson his first No. 1 qualifier since the 2013 season. Johnson will race Andie Rawlings in round one on Sunday.

Savoie will face No. 15 qualifier Jianna Salinas Sunday, with third-place qualifier Andrew Hines set to face Michael Ray.

With bad weather in the forecast Sunday, NHRA and zMAX Dragway officials have moved the start of eliminations up one hour to 11 a.m. EST.