There was so much on the line in the Top Fuel final round at the Dodge NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil. A battle between the last two world champs and a chance for the points leader to expand his lead heading into the season finale or a chance for the challenger to cut his lead to next to nothing. And, oh yeah, it was a battle for the trophy at the historic 900th Top Fuel event in NHRA history.
Brittany Force, the 2018 champ, won the final in decisive fashion, her David Grubnic-tuned Advance Auto Parts dragster streaking to low e.t. of the meet, a track-record 3.652, to cut Steve Torrence’s lead to just 16 points heading into the Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona. The victory was her 10th in competition, making her just the 27th Top Fuel winner (out of 108 total) to reach double digits in wins, and her first since the Houston event in April.
“This weekend has been incredible for this team, and I’ve always wanted to win here,” said Force. “We set the [national speed record] at 338 mph and we already held the e.t. record so we’ve accomplished a lot, but we’re really after that championship. Coming into today I looked at the ladder and realized that we could have a long run. We knew it would be tough but we got the job done.
“We found our groove really quickly and won in Houston [in April] but we hadn’t won since then, so we’re really turning the corner at the right time.”
It was clear early that the points would be the big story of the day after the top seven drivers in points all won in the first round and the top four made it to the semifinals, ratcheting up the drama and the stakes.
Force had run low e.t. of the first round with a 3.689 in taking down Pat Dakin then remained unbeaten against her rookie teammate Austin Prock, beating him for the fourth time this season, driving around his strong holeshot to win by just .002-second.
Force faced a tall hurdle in the other Torrence car, driven by patriarch Billy, who was hot off of his win in Dallas. As much power as Grubnic has given her under her right foot this weekend, she got it done for the tea with a 3.714 to 3.710 holeshot to reach her 23rd career final and her first since Atlanta in early May, where she lost to Steve Torrence. The win moved her into second place ahead of Doug Kalitta.
Steve Torrence and Kalitta were set to square off in the semifinals, a battle that at the time was a showdown between the No. 1 and No. 2 in points. Kalitta had beaten Torrence in three of the five times they’d raced this season, but this one never even made it to the line as Kalitta’s Mac Tools dragster coughed on the burnout, which set off the safety system that deployed the parachutes. Torrence soloed with a 3.68.
The final was Torrence’s 14th this season and his third in