Torrence Tops NHRA Qualifying In His Home State

Steve Torrence continues to hold the lead in the NHRA Top Fuel rankings. (NHRA photo)

BAYTOWN, Texas – Looking for a Texas sweep, Top Fuel point leader Steve Torrence made the quickest run in both qualifying sessions on Saturday, powering to the No. 1 spot at the 33rd annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park.

Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Alex Laughlin (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also No. 1 qualifiers at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil, the 10th of 11 races in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

A week after winning in Dallas, Torrence stayed red-hot, going 3.672-seconds at 327.98 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster.

It’s the second straight No. 1 qualifier for Torrence, giving him the Texas sweep in that category, and also his third top spot this year and 27th overall. Tony Schumacher was the only other driver to reach the 3.60s on Saturday, qualifying second with a 3.685 at 330.07.

Billy Torrence, who met his son in the Dallas final round last weekend, was third thanks to a 3.701 at 327.74.

Doug Kalitta, who is second in points, qualified fifth with a 3.764 at 269.78.

“Today was a huge success and the car ran really well,” said Torrence, who is seeking his third straight Top Fuel world championship. “It gives us a lot of confidence going into tomorrow and that puts a little pressure on the competition. We’ll go out and do the best we can, and we just need to maintain that consistency. We’ve slowly become one of the teams that runs really quick when the conditions are good.

“We haven’t been that guy in years past, and we’ve slowly but surely gotten to the point where we’re confident to go out there and run really hard because you’re trying to get every point possible.”

In the middle of a tight points race with his Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Jack Beckman jumped to the No. 1 spot during the final qualifying session with an impressive and timely run of 3.884 at 328.14 in his 11,000-horsepower Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

It is his first No. 1 qualifier of the season and 28th in his career, as it bumped teammate and points leader Matt Hagan to second. Beckman will race another teammate, Ron Capps, to open eliminations as DSR seeks its 13th straight victory in the Funny Car ranks.

Hagan, who entered the weekend with a slim four-point lead over Beckman, ran 3.907 at 327.74 to claim the second position, while J.R. Todd qualified third after running 3.923 at 328.62.

Alex Laughlin picked up his first Pro Stock No. 1 qualifier of the season and the third in his career, rolling to the top spot in his TexPlex Park/Havoline Chevrolet Camaro thanks to a standout run of 6.506 at 210.73.

The Texan is looking for his second win of the season and first career victory at Houston Raceway Park, and Laughlin will race Fernando Cuadra to kick off eliminations.

Greg Anderson qualified second with a run of 6.517 at 212.23, and points leader and defending world champ Erica Enders took the third spot with a run of 6.517 at 211.36.

Her closest competitor in the title race, Jason Line, will start eliminations from seventh after his pass of 6.532 at 211.79.

Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Matt Smith continued to roll in qualifying on his Denso/Stockseth/MSR EBR, picking up his fourth straight No. 1 qualifier with a run of 6.729 at 199.88, as the class raced in Houston for the first time since 2013.

Smith’s run set both ends of the track record and handed the points leader his fifth top spot in 2020 and 43rd in his career.

He’ll take on Marc Ingwersen to open eliminations, giving Smith, a three-time world champion, plenty of momentum for race day after a tough first-round loss last weekend when his bike wouldn’t start.

Angelle Sampey qualified second with a 6.789 at 198.88 and Eddie Krawiec took third after going 6.799 at 197.48.

In the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, points leader and defending world champion Stevie “Fast” Jackson will take the No. 1 spot into race day after going 5.659 at 253.52 in his supercharged Bahrain 1 Racing Camaro.

Jackson will take on Laughlin, who is racing in both Pro Stock and Pro Mod this weekend, to open eliminations.

Brandon Snider, who won last weekend in Dallas by beating Jackson in the final round for his first career NHRA Pro Mod win, took the second position with a 5.660 at 252.00.

Snider had qualified No. 1 at the previous two races and trailed Jackson by just 18 points heading to Houston. Justin Bond took the third spot thanks to his 5.692 at 248.20.