Riding a wave of four-straight wins, Steve Torrence continued his recent hot streak by driving his Capco Contractors dragster to a 3.760 to lead the Top Fuel field after day one at the Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties, the tenth of 24 events on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series calendar. Torrence was able to edge his father, Billy, who settled into the No. 2 spot with a 3.675 while rookie Austin Prock finished the day as the provisional No. 3 qualifier with a 3.783 in his Montana Brands dragster. With two qualifying runs remining to set the field, there are already 11 Top Fuel dragsters in the three-second zone.
J.R. Todd’s DHL Toyota was the quickest of the Funny Cars with a 3.924 elapsed time at 318.99 mph. Todd has been a No. 1 qualifier ten times in his career but not during the 2019 season. His best starting position of the season was No. 2 in Atlanta. Todd’s closest pursuers include Tim Wilkerson, who ran 3.931 in his Levi, Ray & Shoup Mustang and John Force, who backed up an earlier 4.000 with a 3.938 for the third spot in the quick field. The top eight drivers in Funny Car have already run in the threes.
There was plenty of other on-track action in Topeka on Friday including qualifying in the E3 Pro Mod Series, Mickey Thompson Top Fuel Harley, and SAM Tech.edu Factory Stock Showdown. Former series champ Khalid alBalooshi set a blistering pace in Pro Mod with a 5.735 in his turbocharged Bahrain1 Camaro. Bob Malloy leads the Top Fuel Harley field after a 6.343 and Chris Holbrook is the provisional low qualifier in Factory Stock after an 8.024 in his Cobra Jet Mustang.
TOP FUEL LOW QUALIFIER STEVE TORRENCE: “It was really pretty impressive to run the way we did after seeing what the other cars were doing. After Billy [dad] ran that 3.765 I had to chuckle when I saw Hogie [crew chief Richard Hogan] go into the box and start turning knobs. It’s important to qualify No. 1 at this race since we’ve got 14 cars and you’ll get a bye run if you can get past the first round and that’s huge.
We’ve got a lot of momentum going at the last few races and we want to keep the ball rolling. Qualifying well is big on Sunday because it gives you a lot of confidence knowing that the car is doing exactly what Richard and Bobby [Lagana] tell it to do. It puts a little more swagger into your step. It was also big to go out there in Q1 and run a 3.80 when the next quickest car ran 3.86. I don’t want to get over-confident, but we just need to keep on working on consistency.”
FUNNY CAR LOW QUALFIER J.R. TODD: “It was a good run. We came back afterwards and Todd [Smith] and John O [Oberhofer] said it ran better than what they expected it to. That was a good rebound after Q1 when we were pretty conservative and just spun the tires about half track. Nice bounce back for the yellow fellows.
The track is always good here and the Kalittas, their track record is really good. Tomorrow we’ll go to work on our race-day set-up and hopefully that .92 will hold up. Either way, that should keep us in the top five which is usually where you want to be going into Sunday.”