Texas native Steve Torrence will enter eliminations as the No. 1 qualifier in Top Fuel at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Royal Purple Raceway.
Del Worsham (Funny Car) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) also will lead their categories into eliminations as No. 1 qualifiers at the sixth of 24 events on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit.
Torrence’s 3.786 second pass at 321.81 mph led the category, and he claimed his fourth No. 1 qualifying effort of his career with the pass. The Kilgore, Texas, native is looking for his first victory in his home state, and his dragster will open eliminations against Terry McMillen.
“We’ve got a lot of friends and family here,” said Torrence, driver of the Capco Contractors dragster. “We’ve got everyone from Capco Contractors out here supporting us. I consider Houston and Dallas to be home races, so to do that at a home race, there is nothing better than that. That’s what this is about to me.”
Torrence had some anxious moments when Antron Brown’s Matco Tools dragster made a 3.787 pass, coming within one-thousandths of a second of his time. With a stacked Top Fuel field, Torrence was not sure if his time would hold up.
“Antron ran within a thousandth of us, and I knew there were some good cars behind him so I had some doubts that it would stick,” Torrence said. “We were running pretty much the same on the last run before it broke a blower belt. We have a lot of good data to take into tomorrow.”
Brown’s run secured a first-round matchup with Clay Millican. Defending Top Fuel world champion Shawn Langdon will face Troy Buff, and current points leader Doug Kalitta matches up with Bob Vandergriff Jr.
In Funny Car, Worsham’s 4.051 run at 314.68 on Friday secured the Kalitta Motorsports driver his first No. 1 qualifier of the season and 14th of his career. With three wins in Houston (two in Funny Car and one in Top Fuel), Worsham was confident that his top run would hold on the second day of qualifying.
“I thought the run would be good enough to hold up when we ran it last night,” said Worsham. “I wasn’t so sure when we woke up to see all those dark clouds. The car ran great yesterday. I had some trouble today. In Q3, a fuel line came off behind the barrel valve and pumped fuel onto the headers, but the fire went out as soon as I got off the throttle. At least we got it out of the way before Sunday.”
The qualifying effort gave Worsham seven No. 1 qualifiers in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. The driver of the DHL Toyota Camry will face a tough first round against No. 16 qualifier Courtney Force.
“I only raced Top Fuel for one year and have the same amount of No. 1s in both classes; it never has been a real strong point in my career. It seems like I’ve probably won the majority of races in my Funny Car career from the bottom half of the field. I’m not going to say you expect an easy race when you qualify No. 1, but you definitely don’t expect to race someone with the last name of Force.”
Jack Beckman is looking to turn his season around, and his 4.051 run at 314.68 secured him the No. 2 qualifying position for tomorrow’s eliminations. The Infinite Hero Dodge Charger will race Terry Haddock in round one.
Robert Hight, who has raced to four consecutive final rounds and is the current Funny Car points leader, faces Bob Tasca III on Sunday in eliminations.
Johnson secured his first No. 1 qualifying effort of the season with his 6.555 pass at 211.63 on Friday that held up following the final two qualifying sessions. With humidity higher on Saturday, Johnson was confident that he would get to start No. 1.
“We thought it would,” said Johnson. “You know, the humidity is so much worse today. It really affects these Pro Stock cars. We worked on race-day conditions today. The first run today was probably what we’ll stick with for tomorrow. The last run was a little hot.”
Johnson’s Magneti Marelli Dodge Dart and Erica Enders-Stevens’ Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro were the class of the Pro Stock qualifying field. The battle between Johnson and Houston native Enders-Stevens will be a big focal point in Sunday’s eliminations.
“Our Magneti Marelli Dodge Dart and Erica’s car, we both made good runs today, and we’re pretty nip and tuck,” Johnson said. “We’re No. 1 and 2, and hopefully we can make it to the final. Right now, we both separated ourselves a little bit from the field, which is pretty unknown. The top 10 cars that last few races have been just tied together.”
The 2012 Pro Stock world champion is gunning for his first career win in Houston and his third of the season, following victories in Phoenix and Gainesville. Johnson will race Greg Stanfield in round one of eliminations.
Enders-Stevens ran a 6.562 at 211.36 to secure the No. 2 seed. The current Pro Stock points leader will face Matt Hartford in the first round.
Eliminations for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals will begin on Sunday at 11 a.m. at Royal Purple Raceway.
Jim Laurita Jr. raced to the qualifying lead but fell in the first round of eliminations in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the event.
Laurita raced his Switzer Dynamics ‘68 Mustang to a top performance of 5.847 seconds at 247.38 mph in Friday’s qualifying, and the run held up during Saturday’s final qualifying session to secure the No. 1 qualifying position. He faced Don Walsh in the first round of eliminations. Walsh didn’t secure his qualifying spot until his last attempt on Saturday, making a 5.998 pass at 247.52 in his Walsh/Precision Turbo/Galot 68’ Camaro.
A winning run for Walsh of 5.941 at 250.51 brings the Wixom, Mich., native to the second round of eliminations for the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series race in Houston, presented by J&A Service at this event. Walsh will face No. 8 qualifier Steve Matusek in the second round.
Defending NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series world champion Rickie Smith qualified second with a 5.881 pass at 244.69. Smith’s 5.868 at 247.88 beat Steven Whiteley’s 6.046 at 242.93 to advance to the next round. He will face No. 10 qualifier Danny Rowe.
Other second-round matchups include No. 4 qualifier Ron Muenks against No. 5 qualifier Mike Janis and No. 3 qualifier Kevin Fiscus against No. 11 qualifier Mike Castellana.
Pro Mod Series eliminations continue on Sunday.
Friday: Crampton, Worsham, Johnson lead fields after opening day at Royal Purple Raceway