SONOMA, Calif. — Top Fuel driver Steve Torrence powered to a national record time and moved into position to claim his eighth No. 1 qualifying position of the season Friday at the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals.
Del Worsham (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock), and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event near San Francisco, the second of three consecutive weeks of racing known on the circuit as the Western Swing.
Torrence covered the Sonoma Raceway dragstrip in 3.671 seconds at 325.69 mph in his Capco Contractors dragster. The time bettered Brittany Force’s previous national mark by five-thousandths of a second and was also a track record, one of three set during the fast evening of nitro class qualifying.
It will be Torrence’s fourth No. 1 in the last five races if the time holds through Saturday’s two rounds of qualifying (1:10 and 4:15 p.m.).
“You gotta really hit the nail on the head to make a run like that,” Torrence said. “When conditions get tight like this, you can go out there and miss it just a little bit. When it made it through [half track] I did the best I could to keep it in the groove. When I looked up going through the lights and pulled the chutes and saw that sixty-something come on the board, I just started hollering because I knew it was fast. It was the quickest I’ve ever been. I jumped out of the car and I don’t even know what I said down there.”
With nine races left in the season, should Torrence grab his eighth No. 1 tomorrow, Tony Schumacher’s record of 13 in a single season (2006) will be well within reach.
“Seven number ones in one season has surpassed what I had done in the rest of my career,” Torrence said. “We’re still a one car team and we’re standing toe-to-toe with the big dogs and I don’t think they are liking it too much. The way these Capco guys have prepared this car and stuck together as a team and just the unity the way they are working together is second to none. It takes that caliber of a team to produce what they are doing. This is just the fruits of their labor. We are going to try and continue to march forward and not count what we’ve accomplished until the end of the year and we’ll see where we stand then.”
Five-time Sonoma winner Doug Kalitta is second in his Mac Tools dragster with a 3.711 at 325.77 while two-time season winner Shawn Langdon is third with a 3.714 at 325.14 in his Red Fuel dragster. Lucas Oil dragster driver Richie Crampton is fourth, also with a 3.714 at a slower speed of 322.65. Series points leader Antron Brown is seventh in the order, posting a Friday best of 3.754 at 315.86 in his Matco Tools dragster.
Defending Funny Car world champ Worsham sped to a track record time of 3.868 at 327.43 in his DHL Toyota Camry, also the fourth quickest run in NHRA history. Meanwhile, two-time world champ Matt Hagan also took advantage of the cool Bay Area weather conditions in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger and set the track speed record in Funny Car, a 330.15 mph blast at a time of 3.875, good enough for fourth in the order.
“That was a pretty good run,” Worsham said. “We were trying to run our best run as a team and we definitely achieved that. It’s a cool weekend and we are sponsored by Toyota and this is their race. To come out here and qualify No. 1 for them is exciting. For our entire team it was a great run and we are looking forward to Sunday.”
Six Funny Cars bettered the 3.921 ‘jaw-dropping’ national record time that Jack Beckman posted here one year ago and five of the runs were in the 3.8-second zone. Worsham said with warmer temps called for tomorrow he doesn’t expect his time to be challenged, but at the same time he’s learned that every team in the pits have to wait until the final car runs before it’s a lock for anybody.
“The last 12 months, starting at this race a year ago, in Funny Car have been amazing and crazy and have surprised me a million times with quick E.T.s,” Worsham said. “We’ll have to wait and see. You don’t know how late we will be running tomorrow and what kind of delays we might have. But I definitely feel good about our chances of holding on to it.”