Steve Torrence - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
When Steve Torrence won the NHRA Lucas Oil Top Alcohol Dragster national championship in 2005, he began to set his sights on being a winning driver in the Top Fuel category of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Last year Torrence elected to start his own team and the results thus far have been encouraging.
Last weekend at the 32nd annual Summit NHRA Southern Nationals outside Atlanta, Georgia, the gradual gains made by Torrence and his Capco Contractors team over the first six races came to fruition. Racing from the No. 2 spot, the Richard Hogan-tuned rail ultimately outran seven-time champion Tony Schumacher (the No. 1 qualifier) to earn his first professional Wally trophy as the winner of the Top Fuel race.
"This is what I've dreamed of doing forever," Torrence exclaimed. "When I was a little kid in school, I was coming out here (to the races), hanging out with my parents, racing Super Comp and running through the pits seeing all those drivers behind the ropes. I aspired to be back there driving one of those cars, so to have my own family team and come out here and win a race, it's huge!"
To earn this win, Torrence defeated JR Todd with a 3.846 at 320.58, then took out Bob Vandergriff with a 3.848/319.82 and put Brandon Bernstein's dragster back on the trailer with a 3.886/316.97 in the heat of the day. Torrence's consistency on the hot Atlanta track paid off with his final round against Schumacher, where he turned 3.893/320.66 to a tire-smoking 4.913/169.44 on the 1000-foot dragstrip.
Torrence wasn't the only driver at Atlanta who fulfilled his destiny: Ron Capps, who had entered two previous Funny Car finals without taking the win light, did the deed against Robert Hight on Sunday. Currently teamed with Don Schumacher Racing tuners Rahn Tobler and John Collins, Capps pulled off a convincing victory in his Dodge Charger R/T over Hight's Ford Mustang; Hight was hoping to give John Force Racing its seventh consecutive Funny Car victory of the year.
Ron Capps burnout - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
Capps earned his 34th NHRA Funny Car career victory with a 4.166-second pas at 303.91 over Hight's smoking 4.399 at 273.44. "We love those guys," Capps said of Hight and his team. "Tobler and Prock (Jimmy Prock, Hight's tuner) went to dinner here not too long ago - they're good friends and Robert and I are good friends. This is such a great team; I was starting to get a little frustrated (after an early season DNQ) and wondered if maybe I wasn't as good as I used to be… I'm having so much fun right now with Rahn and John Collins tuning the car. I'm the luckiest guy in the world to be driving this car."
Capps defeated Daniel Wilkinson's Ford Mustang in the first round with a 4.148, 305.77 pass and took out teammate and reigning champion Matt Hagan in the second round with a pass of 4.165, 303.57. In the semifinals he defeated Jeff Arend with a 4.164, 304.05 pass as his competitor slowed dramatically, setting up the final round fight against Hight.
In an all-Summit Racing GXP final, Greg Anderson beat teammate Jason Line to earn his third win of the season and 73rd of his career, gaining a 72-point lead over Line in the standings with a hole-shot victory (6.649/208.26 to Line's quicker and faster 6.618/ 209.62). “We’re very happy as a team [about the Summit cars reaching five Pro Stock finals this year],” said Anderson, who beat Greg Stanfield, Steve Kent and Allen Johnson in earlier rounds.
“It’s great to have three Summit cars in the semis. It all goes back to what (team owner) Ken Black does for this team. We just want to dig harder and harder every day because that’s what he is doing, going to rehab and trying to get back to walking, and he’s darn close. When you see that, you don’t want to let the man down. You want to make him proud. And when he gets back to the race track full-time, we want our cars to be running at their best.” Black is recovering from a stroke.
Reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Edie Krawiec earned his second victory of the season with the Harley-Davidson Screamin' Eagle V-Rod against first-time finalist MIchael Ray's Buell. Krawiec beat Michael Phillips' and Karen Stoffer's Suzuki motorcycles and earned the final round appearance by beating Shawn Gann. This victory marks Krawiec's 13th career win, earned despite a 20-pound disadvantage over the past two races.
“We are just trying to get a handle on the motorcycle and working on getting it to leave well, and I think we did that this weekend,” Krawiec said. “It ran awesome and I’ve got a killer motorcycle right now.” He beat the very competitive Ray with a 6.905/195.53 quarter-mile pass to Ray's 7.036/187.94.
The NHRA's Full Throttle Drag Racing Series competition continues with the Dollar General NHRA Summernationals at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kansas the weekend of May 18-20.