Rain early in the week shortened the Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil from three to two days, and more rain on Saturday meant that each qualifier in Top Fuel and most of the Funny Car field was held to a single qualifying round. Now, the Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock teams will head into Sunday’s final elimination rounds with a very limited amount of data to work with.
By its very nature, professional drag racing can be unpredictable, but Sunday’s show from Houston Raceway Park might be one for the ages, with the very real possibility of a few world-class upsets along the way.
Regardless of the possibility for upsets, the best place to start remains at the top, and in Top Fuel, that honor goes to Steve Torrence. The reigning world champ put his Capco Contractors dragster into the top sport for the 29th time in his career following a 3.727, that was enough to hold off Leah Pruett. Torrence has already won this year at the two four-wide races in Las Vegas and Charlotte. Now he’ll look to win for the first time in Houston, an event that he previously was a runner-up in 2016, 2017, and 2020. Torrence will kick off eliminations with a battle against fellow Texan Mitch King.
Pruett’s DSR dragster is flying the bright yellow colors of event sponsor Pennzoil, and she’s locked down her best starting spot of the season with a second-best 3.733. Pruett defeated Torrence in the final of the 2016 Houston race and would love to win a second time as she enters the event ranked No. 9 in the NHRA Camping World standings and could use a boost. Pruett also qualified No. 10 in the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown with her new Drag Pak Dodge Challenger.
Antron Brown, winner of the Atlanta event last month, has continued to shine with his Matco Tools dragster and is the third-quickest qualifier here at 3.749. Brown also has a solid history at Houston Raceway Park with a pair of wins here in 2008 and 2014 to go with four runner-up finishes extending back to his days in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.
The Funny Car class completed their first qualifying session and several cars were able to make a second run before rain ended Saturday’s festivities. At the end of the day, Tasca made the quickest and fastest run of the weekend so far with a 3.908 at over 331-mph in his Motorcraft Quick Lane Ford. Tasca, who has now topped a Funny Car field six times in his career, did not get down the track on his first attempt, so a second run was more than welcomed. The current Funny Car points leader will take on Todd Simpson in Sunday’s opening round.
Alexis DeJoria, Ron Capps, and Robert Hight also secured top-half starting spots with solid three-second performances. DeJoria, who has previously qualified in the top three spots in three of the first four events this season, ran a best of 3.912 in her RoKit/Bandero Tequila Toyota, and Capps is solidly in the field at 3.941.
One driver who is grateful to have a second run is Cruz Pedregon. The two-time Funny Car world champ had his first run disqualified when his Snap-on Toyota hit the wall before the finish line. Pedregon returned to run a very respectable 3.943 to qualify fifth, and he will be paired with Bobby Bode in round one.
Perhaps the most anticipated match of Sunday’s first round will feature championship contenders J.R. Todd and John Force, who are seeded eighth and ninth, respectively. Todd won in Gainesville, and Force is coming off his 152nd career win last weekend in Charlotte.
After two rounds of Pro Stock qualifying, no one was able to run quicker than rookie Dallas Glenn, who held off his KB Racing teammate, Greg Anderson, for the top spot. Both drivers ran 6.549, but Glenn’s 210.01-mph top speed was higher than Anderson’s 208.97 run, so he earned the top spot. Glenn had plenty of reasons to celebrate on Saturday as he also announced that Rad Torque Systems would be the primary sponsor of his Camaro for the balance of the 2021 season.
The KB team swept the top three spots with second-year Pro Kyle Koretsky seeded No. 3 after a 6.552 in his Lucas Oil Products/Nitro Fish Camaro. Koretsky’s opening round battle will be against Rodger Brogdon, who returned to the Pro Stock class this weekend in a Camaro prepared by the Elite Performance team.
World champion and Houston native Erica Enders put her Melling/Elite Camaro into the No. 4 spot, and she will race against Val Smeland in round one.
The rest of Sunday’s action-packed schedule will include final eliminations in Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car, Comp, Top Fuel Harley, Vortech Superchargers Top Sportsman and Top Dragster, as well as the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown.
You can catch the action all weekend on FOX Sports 1 and NHRA.tv.
You can follow NHRA on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to get a closer look at the action.
Sunday, May 23, FS1 will televise qualifying coverage from noon to 1 p.m. (ET)
Sunday, May 23, FS1 will televise final eliminations from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET)