CONCORD, N.C. – Steve Torrence continues to be unbeatable at zMAX Dragway.
For the fourth-straight event and the fifth time in the last six races at the North Carolina facility, Torrence lifted the Top Fuel Wally after a showdown with his NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series championship rival Doug Kalitta in the final round of the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals on Monday.
Torrence was fast and consistent all weekend and that continued in the final round of Top Fuel eliminations, with the Texas blasting to a 3.772-second run at 323.19 mph to beat Kallita, who slowed to a 4.090-second run at 274.27 mph.
The victory catapulted Torrence back into the points lead over Kalitta with three races left in the NHRA season.
“It’s easy to look over to your left or look over to your right and say that’s Doug Kalitta, the guy that has been out here for 25 years,” said the owner and driver of the Capco Contractors Dragster. “A few years ago I probably would have went up there and choked. I would have went up there and let that really affect me and get into my head.
“With the success that we’ve had, you build confidence in yourself, you trust in the team and in the good Lord and go do the best you can. I knew that we had a car that could run with them and if I did my job we could be right there with him on the tree.”
Torrence got a bye in the first round after his scheduled opponent, Lex Joon, chose not to return to the track Monday after eliminations were postponed by rain on Sunday. He then defeated Clay Millican and rookie Justin Ashley to earn his date with Kalitta.
Kalitta defeated Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett and Brittany Force on his way to the finals.
In Funny Car, Robert Hight collected the 51st victory of his lengthy Funny Car career after No. 1 qualifier Jack Beckman left the starting line early in the final round. Hight raced to a 3.917-second pass at 329.02 mph to take home the winner’s trophy.
The victory, Hight’s sixth of the season aboard the Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro and first since a win at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway in July, helped the John Force Racing driver pad his point lead in the class.
“We went down the track every run here this weekend. Hats off, great job to Jimmy Prock, Chris Cunningham and all of the Auto Club guys,” said Hight, who picked up the 500th round win of his career in the final round against Beckman. “This was a good weekend here for us. We got the points lead back last weekend in St. Louis, but to come out here and extend it, that’s what we’ve got to keep doing every race.”
Hight defeated Mike McIntire Jr., Tim Wilkerson and Matt Hagan on his way to the final round. Beckman bested Dale Creasy, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Ron Capps prior to the Funny Car final.
The Pro Stock final featured a pair of underdogs, with Deric Kramer driving his American Ethanol Chevrolet Camaro to his second victory of the season over a game Matt Hartford.
Kramer nipped Hartford thanks to a 6.541-second run at 211.33 mph. Hartford was a close second, falling short with a 6.558-second pass at 211.00 mph.
“I was just able to hold on just long enough and got to 1,320 (feet) first and that was all she wrote,” said Kramer after the fourth Pro Stock victory of his career. “There are 10 or 12 cars that are going to win on any particular weekend and you just have to be perfect every time you go to the starting line or you’re going to go home.”
Kramer made it to the finals thanks to wins over Kenny Delco, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Alan Stanfield. Hartford defeated Fernando Cuadra Jr., Chris McGaha and Erica Enders to earn his place in the finals.
Andrew Hines continued his domination of the Pro Stock Motorcycle division by earning his eighth victory of the season in 13 races for the class. He did it by beating a very game Karen Stoffer, who was fresh off a victory during the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Hines piloted his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to the victory via a hole shot, as he left the line ahead of Stoffer thanks to his .041 reaction time. Stoffer’s White Alligator Racing Suzuki was faster to the finish line with a 6.804-second run, but the advantage off the startling line for Hines gave him the Wally by the slimmest of margins.
“We left the start line pretty fantastic,” said Hines after the 56th victory of his career. “That was probably my best leave of the entire weekend, my best 330 (feet) number. I saw the bubbles go off on the tree and I thought I’ve got a really good chance here. When you see a blink-blink go off on the tree, you know you’ve got a pretty good chunk and the win light should come on pretty easily.”
Hines made his way to the final after wins against Michael Ray, Scotty Pollacheck and Hector Arana Jr. Stoffer scored round wins against Kelly Clontz, Eddie Krawiec and fast qualifier Steve Johnson.