Steve Torrence took the Top Fuel points lead back with his first win since Denver by taking down Doug Kalitta in the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals final. The defending Top Fuel world champion cut an incredible light and had plenty of race car to outrun his biggest threat for the 2019 title.
Torrence, coming off a runner-up performance in St. Louis, cut a .031-second reaction time and ran a 3.772-second lap at 323.19-mph at zMAX Dragway to win the third of six NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoff races. Kalitta ran a 4.090 and left Charlotte in second place by 30 points as the Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series moves to Dallas for the second half of the postseason.
Torrence captured his first victory since the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals in July and his ninth victory of the season. The defending world champion entered the Countdown as the top seed but slipped to third in points after a first-round exit at the playoff-opener in Reading. The Texan has fully recovered his lead thanks to back-to-back final-round appearances at the last two stops on tour.
Kalitta, who left Reading with the Top Fuel points lead, came up short in his fourth final of the season and second in three races. He is now 32-19 in all rounds in 2019 as the Mac Tools / Kalitta Motorsports campaigner chases down his first Top Fuel world championship. He defeated Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett and Brittany Force to reach the final.
Torrence qualified No. 1 for the fourth time in 2019 and ran unopposed in the first round before taking down Clay Millican and rookie runner Justin Ashley to reach his 13th final of the season. He is now 55-12 in all rounds and 323-195 over his career.
Ashley appeared in his first race at the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals and upset championship contender Mike Salinas in the first round and fellow rookie Austin Prock in the second round. Ashley ran a Strutmasters-sponsored dragster tuned by veteran crew chief Aaron Brooks.
The Countdown to the Championship continued at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals in Dallas. Torrence holds a 30-point lead over Kalitta and a 92-point advantage over 2017 world champion Brittany Force. Leah Pritchett is 125 points behind Torrence, while Mike Salinas is 129 points away from the Top Fuel leader.