Torrence Powers To No. 1 At Mile-High Nationals

Steve Torrence is the top qualifier in Top Fuel at the Dodge NHRA Mile-High Nationals. (Don Holbrook Photo)
Steve Torrence has won eight of the last 10 Top Fuel races. (Don Holbrook Photo)

MORRISON, Colo. – Steve Torrence continued his dominant pace on Saturday, powering to the No. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel during the 40th annual Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Bandimere Speedway.

Robert Hight (Funny Car), Richard Freeman (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also qualified No. 1 in their respective categories at the 14th of 24 races during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Torrence, the defending world champ and current points leader in the class, went 3.738 seconds at 328.78 mph in his Capco Contractors dragster to claim the No. 1 qualifier for the third time this season and 22nd time in his career.

After making the second-quickest run in track history on that run and setting the track speed record on Friday, Torrence will race for his eighth win in the past nine races on Sunday. Defending event winner Leah Pritchett qualified second and Jordan Vandergriff was third.

“We ran well the last three sessions, so the confidence in the car was there for sure,” Torrence said. “I knew the numbers were out there and I’ve got a lot of faith in my team. We just need to go out here and do the best we can on the first race of the three-race Western Swing. To make full pulls consistently, it’s been huge and it’s a big part of our success.”

Funny Car points leader Hight earned his seventh No. 1 qualifier of 2019 and 67th in his career after his pass of 3.976 seconds at 326.16 mph during the final qualifying session in his Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS.

Hight will try for his fifth career win at Bandimere Speedway as John Force Racing qualified No. 1 in Denver for the sixth straight year. Tommy Johnson Jr. will start eliminations in second, while Cruz Pedregon is third.

“We came in here testing some stuff and the two runs (on Friday) we were testing stuff didn’t go well,” Hight said. “You have to throw that out, and I’m glad NHRA and the fans stuck this out so we could make another run. You don’t want to into raceday not getting down the track, so that was big for us. We’ve had a lot of good luck up here.”

Pro Stock’s Freeman raced to his first No. 1 qualifier in the class after going 6.948 seconds at 197.33 mph in his Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. Freeman, the Elite Motorsports team owner, became the 65th different driver to claim a No. 1 spot in the class and will face Joey Grose in the first round of eliminations. Jeg Coughlin Jr. was second and Matt Hartford is third.

“It’s really neat,” Freeman said. “I’ve always got to stand behind the cars and enjoy that, but we’re super excited. It’s great. It’s exciting and I can’t say enough about our program and the guys we have back there, and the other drivers. It’s been awesome. I think we’re going to be good (on Sunday), so hopefully we come out of here with a win.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, defending world champion Smith went to the top spot with his run of 7.132 seconds at 188.31 mph on his Denso/Stockseth/MSR EBR. It is the second No. 1 qualifier of the year for Smith and the 33rd in his career.

Smith will face Jim Underdahl in the opening round of eliminations and is seeking his third Denver win. Jerry Savoie qualified second and Angie Smith is third.

“I didn’t expect to run that fast,” Matt Smith said. “When I saw Angie go (7.20), I thought I could maybe go a .17 or .16. The track tightened up and, man, my combination just stuck. That’s the quickest and fastest I’ve ever been up here and I just can’t say enough about my team. We just have to take it one round at a time and let this bike do its work.”