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NHRA Brings Its Thunder To The Gateway Arch
The final round Top Fuel battle between Doug Kalitta and Steve Torrence was over quickly as Torrence’s car lost traction immediately and he could only watch as Kalitta thundered to a 3.690 at 322.58 winning run over the weekend in St. Louis. Photo By Mike Burghardt

The COVID-19 modified three-day racing event in St. Louis featured Lucas Oil Sportsman racer qualifications on Friday and the elimination rounds during Saturday and Sunday. The NHRA Mello Yello racers were scheduled for two qualifying sessions on Saturday and eliminations on Sunday. But, Mother Nature had other ideas.

Saturday featured cold temperatures and intermittent rain showers. The NHRA Safety Safari was finally able to get the track dried and prepared to allow for one qualifying session and that session was only for the nitro categories (Top Fuel and Funny Car). This was because the dew point temperature (49 degrees) was getting too close to allow any cars, let alone motorcycles, to safely go down the race track. Due to this problem, this event was the first time that Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Mod would be placed on their elimination ladders based on season point standing instead of qualifying times.

With only a “one-shot” qualifying deal, the Top Fuel and Funny Car eliminations also had very unique matchups. In addition, Top Fuel also featured the oldest active racer in NHRA. Chris “the Golden Greek” Karamesines is listed as somewhere around 85-plus years old. He still tunes and drives his own 330 mph Top Fuel dragster and has been racing since the ‘50s. He is often credited to be the first driver in the sport to exceed 200 mph. The cold temperatures provided for some great performances as well as some very poor performances.

Sunday brought decent weather, but winds dropped the chill factor down by several degrees. Cross winds caused havoc on many of the categories that did not have a lot of down force available. By the end of the day, only Top Fuel (which features large front and rear wings) and Funny Car (which feature sleek bodies and high down force rear spoilers) would complete the race. The track conditions challenged the teams and crew chiefs to apply the maximum power they could get in order to get the cars to successfully negotiate the racing distance. This brought out great performances but put the cars more on the edge. With the cross winds, this led to a lot of carnage. Leah Pruett had her car literally fold in half as it approached the finish line. She suffered no serious injuries.

In Top Fuel, Doug Kalitta and Steve Torrence are in a battle for the season championship, with Torrence beginning to stretch his lead. Torrence would take out his dad (Billy) Torrence in the semi-final round to face off against Doug Kalitta, who advanced when Schumacher’s engine quit. The final round battle between rival Kalitta and Torrence was over quickly as Torrence’s car lost traction immediately and he could only watch as Kalitta thundered to a 3.690 at 322.58 winning run. Kalitta’s win tightens up the points battle for the season championship with three events remaining.

In Funny Car, Jack Beckman, Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson and Matt Hagan are all battling for the championship. Capps was gone in the first round and Johnson took out Beckman in the semi-final round. This allowed for a final matchup between Matt Hagan and Tommy Johnson. The two left the line almost together, but Hagan’s car lost traction. Johnson then marched to a strong 3.884 at 326.08 mph run for the event win.

Weekend action in Funny Car saw Tommy Johnson take the event victory in St. Louis against Matt Hagan, after Hagan lost traction shortly after the start of the final round. Johnson had a strong 3.884 at 326.08 mph run in the final. Photo By Mike Burghardt