After a frantic day of qualifying at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Springnationals presented by Pennzoil, Steve Torrence, Jack Beckman, Alex Laughlin, and Matt Smith will head into Sunday’s final eliminations as the top-seeded drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle. The Houston event, the 10th of 11 races in his abbreviated season, will also crown champions in the E3 Pro Mod series, SAM Tech.edu Factory Stock Showdown, and a full roster of Lucas Oil Drag Racing series sportsman classes.
Torrence, attempting to win his third-straight NHRA Top Fuel title, has put himself in a great spot to do just that after carding a 3.672 in his Capco Contractors dragster during Saturday’s qualifying rounds. The native Texan also ran a 3.689 on Saturday afternoon. Torrence has been to the final of the last three events and has wins in Gainesville and last week in Dallas. As the low qualifier, Torrence is guaranteed to add to his points total on Sunday since he’s got a bye run in the opening round due to the shot 15-car field.
Beckman powered to the top spot in Funny Car with a 3.884-second blast that knocked championship rival and teammate Matt Hagan from the top spot. Beckman came into Houston four points behind Hagan in the standings but has a tough draw in round one when he’ll be paired with DSR teammate Ron Capps, who struggled during Saturday’s two runs and landed on the bump spot with his NAPA Dodge. Beckman defeated Hagan a week ago in the Dallas final to close the gap in the standings.
The exceptionally tight Pro Stock field is paced by Texan Laughlin, who drove to a 6.506 in Q1 to take the lead. The entire field is separated by a tenth of a second and the top 12 qualifiers are just four-hundredths apart meaning that Sunday’s final title will likely go to the driver with the quickest clutch foot, rather than the quickest car. Championship leader Erica Enders finished third in qualifying while her main rival, Jason Line is No. 7.
Perhaps the most impressive run of the day on Saturday came from Pro Stock Motorcycle low qualifier Matt Smith who made the second quickest run in the history of the class with a 6.729 on his Denso EBR. The run was not only a personal best for Smith, but also just seven-thousandths slower than Andrew Hines’ longstanding 6.702 national record, which was set using a four-valve engine combination that is no longer accepted. Smith is also the points leader and it attempting to distance himself from teammate Scotty Pollacheck and Hines.
Sunday’s busy schedule also features the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod series and the SAM Tech.edu Factory Stock Showdown. There are at least a half dozen drivers still in the running for the Pro Mod title including current leader Steve Jackson, Dallas winner Brandon Snider, and former champ Mike Janis. By comparison, the SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown is a rout and current leader Aaron Stanfield needs only to win the first round of competition to officially sew up his first title.
You can catch the action all weekend on Fox Sports 1 and NHRA.tv.
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Sunday, October 25, FS1 will televise qualifying coverage from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, October 25, FS1 will televise final eliminations coverage from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. (ET)