CONCORD, N.C. – Top Fuel championship leader Steve Torrence maximized his Friday at zMAX Dragway by collecting maximum points and racing to the provisional No. 1 qualifying position for the NHRA Carolina Nationals.
Ron Capps (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the fourth of six races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Torrence powered to the top of the charts with a sizzling pass of 3.704 seconds at 331.53 mph in his Capco Contracters dragster.
The Texas native secured six bonus points for the day, posted low ET and top speed, and put himself in position for his fourth No. 1 qualifier of the season and 20th of his career all in one fell swoop.
“I’ve had quite a bit of success here in the past, and I enjoy coming here,” said Torrence of zMAX Dragway. “We’re going to try and carry the momentum that we have right now into race day. Clay (Millican) has outperformed us consistently in qualifying lately, so we need to keep him from getting those little points and rack up as many as we can.
“For the track to be that good after all the weather that came through, I’m really happy with the whole day overall.”
Championship challenger Clay Millican, who failed to make a full pull down the track in the opening round of qualifying, rose to No. 2 in the late session with a pass of 3.718 seconds at 321.73 mph in the Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster. Defending champion Brittany Force landed third on the ladder.
Ron Capps stormed to the provisional No. 1 spot in Funny Car with a near-perfect run of 3.875 seconds at 329.42 mph with his NAPA Night Vision Lamps Dodge Charger R/T.
Capps, who earned his 60th career NHRA victory earlier this season in Seattle, is looking to collect his first pole of the year and his 22nd overall.
“We knew coming in that conditions were going to be great, and they could be just as good in Q4 tomorrow, so we’re not going to sit on this No. 1 spot at all,” said Capps. “I don’t remember the last time we qualified on top, to be honest with you. (Crew chief Rahn) Tobler is known for the hot, tricky, race day conditions … so to see his smile tonight, knowing that he finally feels like he’s found what we need in the cooler weather is a great feeling.”
Independent racer Tim Wilkerson took his Levi, Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang to the No. 2 spot on Friday, missing the pole by a thousandth of a second at 3.876 seconds (323.74 mph).
Title rivals J.R. Todd and Robert Hight were fourth and seventh, respectively, at the end of the first day.
Erica Enders stole the top spot in Pro Stock during the second qualifying session of the day, speeding to the quickest run of the day in the class with a run of 6.518 seconds at 211.69 mph in her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.
Enders is seeking her second No. 1 qualifier of the season and the 20th of her career. She is also still in the mix for her third world title.
“We felt like the performance was there to run a low (6.) 50, and we did our jobs and went to the pole,” said Enders. “It’s definitely nice to go to bed on a Friday night on top, knowing we did our jobs, I cut a good light and hit all my shifts. I’m really excited for the weekend and for our chances on Sunday.”
Enders’ teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. ended the day second overall with his pass of 6.525 seconds from the first qualifying session. Jason Line posted an identical elapsed time in the later round, but Coughlin held the tiebreaker with the top speed of the meet at 212.16 mph.
Pro Stock point leader Tanner Gray was fourth on the ladder after a 6.534 at 211.16 mph.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Eddie Krawiec kept the heat on championship leader L.E. Tonglet by securing three bonus points and claiming the provisional No. 1 qualifier with his Vance & Hines Harley Davidson Street Rod.
Krawiec leapt from 10th to first in the second round of qualifications with a pass of 6.806 seconds at 197.83 mph. He hopes to earn his fourth pole of the year and the 43rd of his career on Saturday.
“We didn’t know what to expect after Q1 because we definitely underestimated the track and gave up our first run as a result,” said Krawiec. “We went back to the pits, made the proper changes and came back and really put the front part of the run together.
“It was a good lap and a good run for the session and the conditions, but rolling into tomorrow and looking at potentially cooler weather, I’m not sure that run will stand as the No. 1 qualifier. That’s what makes this interesting and fun, though.”
Harley riders swept the top three positions on the ladder at the end of day one, as Chip Ellis landed second-quickest with his run of 6.830 at 195.22. Andrew Hines was third after a 6.842 at 196.64, set during the first session on Friday.
Tonglet’s bike veered off-line and hit a timing block during his second qualifying pass. He sits sixth going into Saturday.