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NHRA Drivers Race At Houston For The Last Time
It was an historic weekend at the Houston Raceway Park, the final weekend of racing there, and for the first time in history, an all-female final in Pro Stock. Newcomer Camrie Caruso, shown here, had a great weekend before ultimately losing to four-time champion Erica Enders in the finals. Photo By Mike Burghardt

Since 1988, Houston Raceway Park has been a staple on the NHRA Drag Racing Series schedule. With an elevation of 10 feet above sea level, the fans were often treated to some of the best performances in every class. The 2022 NHRA Spring Nationals represents the last event to be held at this historic track.

In Top Fuel, Steve Torrence laid claim to the #1 qualifying spot for eliminations with a 3.693 at 323.66 mph, just edging out Brittany Force’s 3.695 at 333.58 mph (new track record speed). But Force would get her name in the books, as she marched past Josh Hart, Shawn Langdon and Billy Torrence to advance to her 30th career final round appearance. Justin Ashley, who opened the season with a win at the Winter Nationals, took out Doug Foley and Austin Prock before taking out Steve Torrence in the semifinal round. In the final round, Force reacted quicker than Ashley (0.041 to 0.074) and held on for a very close 3.767 at 321.47 mph to 3.763 at 329.58 mph win. It was Force’s 13th career win and second of the season.

In Funny Car, Matt Hagan, who claimed his first career win in that class at this track nearly 10 years ago, marched past John Force, Ron Capps and J.R. Todd to get to the final round from the #8 qualifying spot. On the other side of the ladder it would be Bobby Bode, who celebrated his 20th birthday on Saturday, getting by Alexis DeJoria, Cruz Pedregon and Chad Green to advance to his first ever final round. Hagan came in with three championships and 40 event wins under his belt and was heavily favored in the final round match up with Bode. Hagan got away first but Bode caught him by half track and was getting ready to pull away, when the supercharger on his car backfired, exploding the body off his car. This allowed Hagan to motor on to his 41st career event win, 3.982 at 326.63 mph to 4.042 at 286.96 mph. It was Hagan’s second win of the season. Bode was uninjured in the explosion, but was disappointed, being so close to his first win on his 20th birthday, only to have it literally blown away.

In Pro Stock, history was made. This would be the first time that woman drivers would face off in the final round in Pro Stock. Erica Enders was the first woman to ever win in the class and the only one to ever win a championship (she has won four) and she is one of the best drivers in the category. And now there is Camrie Caruso. She nudged out Erica Enders for the #1 qualifying spot with a 6.547 at 209.39 mph and took out Fernando Cuadra, Bo Butner, Greg Anderson (0.011 to 0.040 holeshot; 6.607 at 208.84 to 6.578 at 208.62 mph) to advance to her first career final round to square off against Enders. Caruso left first (0.011 to 0.040) but Enders had the better car and got around her to collect the final Pro Stock title at Houston Raceway Park (6.587 at 210.94 mph to 6.624 at 209.39 mph).

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, the final round featured a matchup between rivals, Matt Smith and Steve Johnson. Smith had defeated Kelly Clontz, Chris Bostick, and Karen Stoffer (#1 qualifier) to get to the final round while Johnson marched past Michael Ray, James Underdahl and Eddie Krawiec to face off against Smith. Johnson, who had qualified #2, took out Smith with a 6.72 at 199.91 mph to 6.811 at 200.11 mph to etch his name in the track history books and capture the 10th event win of his career.

Top two in Championship points in each class after five events:

Top Fuel – Brittany Force, Steve Torrence (-32);

Funny Car – Matt Hagan, Robert Hight (-60);

Pro Stock – Erica Enders, Aaron Stanfield (-82);

Pro Stock Motorcycle – Karen Stoffer, Steve Johnson (-22).

T Force
Taking the win in Top Fuel was Brittany Force, defeating #1 qualifier Steve Torrence in the final round at the Houston Raceway Park over the weekend. It was her 30th career final round appearance. Photo By Mike Burghardt