Steve Torrence has put a hammerlock on the Top Fuel class for more than a year and he shows no signs of easing up any time soon. Torrence, the reigning world champ and runaway points leader, will start from the No. 1 spot for the third time this year and 22nd time in his career. Torrence was the Friday leader with a 3.787 at over 330-mph, and he bettered that number during Saturday’s rain-delayed opener with a 3.776, and then sealed the deal with a 3.738 under the lights to officially clinch the pole. With 15 cars in the field, Torrence will pad his lead with a guaranteed bye run to open tomorrow’s eliminations.
“We had run well in the last three sessions so the confidence in the car was there for sure," said Torrence. "We saw Jordan Vandergriff go out and run 3.79 and Leah [Pritchett] ran 3.76 in front of us so we knew the numbers were out there. I've got a lot of faith in [crew chief] Richard Hogan and Lagana boys [Dom and Bobby]. They're aggressive, but they're smart about how they're doing it. That run was good, but the 330 [speed] last night was more impressive.
"Conditions changed drastically tonight and we don't know what they’ll be tomorrow," said Torrence. "We'll just try to do the best we can and see If we can go some rounds .We need to consentrae and focus on consistency. It's huge to make full pulls consistently. When you go down the track nine out of ten times puts pressure on you. I've been on the other end where I didn’t have the best car. That's when the crew chief has to try harder. That's one thing Richard does well; he goes out and races the race track . Yesterday and today he was in a league of his own."
Torrence made a three 3.7-second runs, which in itself is impressive, but only defending event winner Leah Pritchett was the only driver even close in her Dodge 1320 dragster. Pritchett was second-quickest on Friday night with a 3.839 and then made an improvement in Q3 with a 3.816 to pick up a pair of bonus points. She finished with a strong 3.761. Qualifying has been a strong suit for Pritchett lately. Although she did not race in Epping, she was also the No. 2 seed in her two most recent appearances in Bristol and Norwalk.
Related: Top Fuel ladder
The thin mountain air also agrees with Scott Palmer, who is fifth quickest in his Magic Dry dragster with a 3.851 best. Palmer is not only quick, but has also been consistent with a 3.867 on Friday night. His reward for qualifying this is a round one match-up with Cameron Ferre.
The combination of hotter-than-average temperatures on Friday, and Saturday’s rain-shortened qualifying spelled trouble for some of NHRA’s Top Fuel regulars including Mike Salinas and Terry McMillen, who did not make a full run in four attempts. Salinas, a two-time winner this year, is 13-quickest while McMillen is No. 14.