CHANDLER, Ariz. – Two weeks after sitting out the season-opening race of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, reigning Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence returned to his winning ways.
Torrence piloted his CAPCO Contractors dragster to victory in the Top Fuel portion of the 36th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in front of a sold out crowd.
Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) also took home wins in their respective categories.
Torrence picked up his 37th career win and his second at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park after going 3.679 seconds at 321.27 mph in his CAPCO Contractors dragster. Torrence defeated Jim Maroney, Shawn Langdon and dad Billy Torrence to advance to the final round, where he out pedaled Doug Kalitta for the win.
“First round I had a little bit of the jitters,” said Torrence. “We missed Pomona so you came here and this is the first round of the first race of the season for us and I was a little bit nervous to go up there. We’re just going to see how the races go and what the weather throws at us. I think that we’ve always had a good hot weather tune-up. We’re just going to try to develop cool track conditions. We’re easing up to it. We’ll just see how it goes and that’s something that we really need to try to put our thumb on.”
In an all Don Schumacher Racing Funny Car final, Johnson went 3.883 seconds at 326.40 mph to defeat teammate Jack Beckman during the final round of Funny Car competition in his MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. He defeated Paul Lee, Bob Tasca ll and Ron Capps to advance to the finals during Sunday’s event.
“We had a good car,” said Johnson. “The last qualifying run showed us that we have a solid car. Coming up here today, we had a lot of confidence. We went out first round and laid down a solid number. We weren’t low (elapsed time) but we were close. We came out second round and sat low ET so we knew we had a solid car. As a driver, going into each round knowing you have a car that’s going to perform makes your job a little easier. It gives you a little less stress. The guys did a great job. Even in Pomona we a had a good car, just dropped a cylinder second round and event had a little issue with that in qualifying here.”
In Pro Stock, three-time champion Enders grabbed her first win of the season and the 26th of her career with a 6.531-second pass at 210.44 mph in her Melling/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro. Sunday’s win moves Enders into the top-10 for all-time wins in the Pro Stock class. Enders knocked off Fernando Cuadra Jr., Chris McGaha and Jason Line to advance to the final round where she defeated Bo Butner.
“I’d have to say today was excellent,” said Enders. “Coming in here off of Jeg’s (Coughlin) dominating performance in Pomona, we knew that we just had to get my car happy because we share data obviously. There’s no reason why my shouldn’t run the same as Jeg’s Our objective coming in was to just get my car as happy as possible. We tested in Tuscan on Wednesday, so coming in we were definitely optimistic and finally got our act together for that one fun on Saturday. The guys gave me a tremendous race car today. Very consistent, very fast and we just crushed the competition today and it was really fun.”