Steve Torrence had a dream while he was growing up. That dream was to become an NHRA Top Fuel champion. During his life he has battled back from cancer (about 12 years ago), survived a massive heart attack (about two years ago) and a horrible crash last season during the NHRA event in Dallas, Texas. The crash, for the most part, ended his 2018 title hopes. With all this adversity, most people would throw in the towel. But, the word “quit” does not exist in his vocabulary repertoire. The adversity simply made him more determined. Torrence and his Capco Team were a dominating force during the 2018 season, as they took over the points lead at the second race of the season in Phoenix and never looked back. Then the team won five consecutive races (the sixth and final event is in Pomona, Ca) during the Championship Chase, clinching his title dream in Vegas. And to cap it off, he won the event, defeating Leah Pritchett in the final round. Ironically, Pritchett’s husband works on Torrence’s Capco Team dragster.
In Funny Car, Robert Hight and his AAA of Southern California team came into race day with a six-point lead over J.R. Todd and his DHL team. When the event concluded, Todd became the season points leader by 74 points over Hight.
Hight was taken out in the opening round by Todd’s teammate, Shawn Langdon and his Global Electronics Services Toyota team. Once Hight was out, Todd took full advantage, as he defeated Richard Townsend, Shawn Langdon and Jack Beckman to advance to his fourth final round in the first five races in the Chase. He then defeated Matt Hagan in the final round with a 3.921 at 318.39 mph to a tire smoking 4.087 at 263.62 mph, to put a final stamp on his day.
Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle are the only two remaining categories that did not finalize a champion. Tanner Gray will head into the final event with a 140-point lead over his nearest competitor (Jeg Coughlin) and 150-point lead over the third place driver (Erica Enders). Gray was taken out by Erica Enders in the semi-finals, to keep things (if only slightly) open. Bo Butner, the 2017 Champion, took out Erica Enders in the final round to claim the event win (6.57 at 207.43 mph to a quicker 6.62 at 206.57 mph) with a 0.007 to 0.020 second starting line advantage (known as a holeshot win). The final season event is a 150 percent points race, leaving Coughlin a small window to capture the season championship, but only if Gray goes out early. Gray plans on leaving the NHRA circuit to compete on the NASCAR circuit next year in the K&N Series. If he wins the season title, he will be the youngest driver to win a NHRA Professional category championship.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle category has four riders in contention for the season title, separated by 64 points and a fifth rider by 101 points. Hector Arana Jr. made the most of this event by qualifying and then winning the event over second place Eddie Krawiec. Arana and his Lucas Oil Buell left first (0.016 to 0.037) and rode away from Krawiec and his Harley Street Rod to a 6.885 at 193.35 mph to 6.911 at 195.05 mph win.
Oakdale’s Richard Townsend and his Nitroholic team continues to gain performance, as he qualified 15th in a very tough field, with a strong 4.060 at 308.06 mph effort. Unfortunately, he was paired off in the opening round against the eventual winner, J.R Todd. The Nitroholic team will also be competing at the NHRA Finals in Pomona in November.