Just as all of the cards that fell their way last season began to look like they were turning against them, Steve Torrence and “them Capco boys” look like they’re back into the driver’s seat after qualifying No. 1 with a last-ditch 3.686.
Torrence struggled early in qualifying with a 3.98 best Friday and was just 14th with a Q3-best of 3.764 when he came to the line for his final pass, then quickly raced “them Capco boys” to the No. 1 spot.
“We were trying to run .65-.65 yesterday and the track wasn’t there," he said. "We came out in Q3 and made a layup run [3.764] to make sure we got good data and then see what we could get away with and it went .68. We needed to because we were pretty deep in the field and needed to position ourselves better for tomorrow.
His prime challenger, Brittany Force, who won the most recent event in Las Vegas and got qualifying bonus points early in Pomona when he didn’t to slice into his lead, ended up down in the No. 10 spot meaning that the duo could race one another in round two if they beat their respective opponents, Cameron Ferre and Antron Brown. Torrence looks forward to settling the championship head to head if it comes to that.
“To be the best you have to beat the best, so she has to beat us. ‘Grubby’ [Force crew chief David Grubnic] is great when the conditions come to his wheelhouse but these conditions are going to be in our wheelhouse.”
Doug Kalitta was 15th in the field when he pulled up for his final qualifying attempt but the Mac Tools machine clouted out a 3.717 to jump all the way to sixth. Torrence now leads Force by 22 points, Kalitta by 63, and his father, Billy, by 89.
Clay Millican, who was not qualified entering the day -– in fact, he was last out of 19 cars –- ran 3.719 to race to No. 5, but ultimately fell to No. 7 before he got his last pass, then promptly made his best pass of qualifying, 3.699, to go to No. 3. Mike Salinas, who made four great qualifying runs -- 3.699, 3.703, 3.784, and 3.716 -- sits fourth.
Jordan Vandergriff had co-low e.t. of Q3 with a 3.719 and was as high as fourth but ended up seventh. He’ll get the chance in round one to take on his main competition for rookie of the year, Austin Prock, in round one.
Shawn Reed, who began the final qualifying session on the bump spot with a 3.96 best, jumped the Hughes Oilfield Transportation/Bob Vandergriff Racing dragster to the No. 12 spot with a 3.746 while Coil also improved in Q3, from a 3.776 to a 3.733 to go from the No. 12 spot to No. 10.
Saturday was a much better day for the fuel dragsters. Only nine drivers were qualified below 3.8 seconds on a tricky track Friday, but that number ended up with 15 qualified at 3.775 or better with only Ferre, in the No. 16 spot with a 3.955 on his only run of qualifying in Friday’s opening session.
Veteran Cory McClenathan, competing in the final event of his long Top Fuel career, failed to make the field after posting a best of 4.009 in Q4.