Texas native Steve Torrence piloted his dragster to the Top Fuel winners circle Sunday afternoon to secure his first career victory at his hometown race, the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, TX.
Robert Hight in Funny Car, Tanner Gray in Pro Stock, and LE Tonglet in Pro Stock Motorcycle were also winners in their respective categories at the third of six playoff events during the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Top Fuel points leader Torrence has swept the first three races during Countdown to the Championship after his pass of 3.786-seconds at 325.92 miles per hour in his dragster defeated Terry McMillen’s 3.826 at 321.04 in the final round. Torrence earned his eighth victory of the season and 24th of his career. With the win, Torrence has a 103-point lead in Top Fuel.
“We were just here to go rounds,” Torrence said. “I don’t have a Top Fuel championship. I have a Top Alcohol championship, and the year that I won that I won at Dallas. We’ve been trying to get it done here since 2010. This is a check off my bucket list to be able to come to Dallas and win. I couldn’t be prouder to pull off a victory in front of everyone that was here this weekend.”
Torrence beat Bill Litton, Blake Alexander, and eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher, to reach the final round. McMillen defeated Mike Salinas, defending world champion Brittany Force, and #1 qualifier Clay Millican.
Hight Wins Second Consecutive Race
This is his fourth career victory at Texas Motorplex, 11th in the Countdown to the Championship, and 45th overall. Hight has a 50-point lead over Todd after the win. Hight returned to action this week after suffering an engine explosion and broken collar bone in St. Louis, MO in the last race.
“This AAA team was just flawless,” Hight said. “We just got better all weekend as we went. I promise you that we will celebrate tonight because we’re going to make up for the last one. That was one of the biggest rounds I’ve ever raced right there. J.R. Todd is #2 in points. He was 30 behind me going into the final, and had I lost I’d be 10 ahead; which isn’t much. Luckily we get to do it again next week.”
Hight took down Jim Campbell, Tim Wilkerson, and Bob Tasca III en route to his 71st career final round. Todd defeated John Hale, Jack Beckman, and top qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr. on his way to his second final round of the Countdown to the Championship.
T. Gray Follows Suit with Second-Straight Pro Stock Win
Pro Stock’s Gray grabbed his second consecutive victory during the Countdown to the Championship with his pass of 6.622 at 207.62 in his Chevy Camaro to take down #1 qualifier, Jeg Coughlin Jr, in the final round. Gray who knocked off Deric Kramer, Greg Anderson, and Matt Hartford to secure his seventh Wally of the season, 12th of his career and continue to extend his point’s lead over the category.
“We’ve been struggling with qualifying it seems like,” Gray said. “Really, for whatever reason, we’ve been able to pull it out on Sunday. Some of it being luck while others it’s just making good runs and beating the other guy in the lane. It’s awesome to have the group of guys that I have around me.”
Coughlin Jr., a five-time world champion, defeated Val Smeland, Drew Skillman, and Vincent Nobile to climb to the #3 spot in the points.
Tonglet Gets Win #4 of 2018 in Pro Stock Motorcycle
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Tonglet earned his fourth victory of 2018 and 20th of his career with his run of 6.892 at 194.80 to team owner Jerry Savoie’s 6.907 at 193.88. Tonglet took the points lead after his second win at the track on his Suzuki. He picked up round wins against Andrew Hines, Angelle Sampey, and defending world champion Eddie Krawiec en route to the finals.
“It was just a lot of fun,” Tonglet said. “It was fun in the pit while we were trying to get the bikes cooled off (after semi-finals). Once we came up to the start line though I didn’t even look at him and he didn’t look at me. It was just all business. We’re leading the points now though and we’re not going to look back.”
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues October 12-14 with the fourth race in the Countdown to the Championship, the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, NC.
NHRA Pro Stock Point Standings
1. Tanner Gray 2,296 2. Vincent Nobile 2,244 3. Drew Skillman 2,222 4. Jeg Couglin Jr. 2,215 5. Greg Anderson 2,206
NHRA Funny Car Point Standings
1. Robert Hight 2,270 2. J.R. Todd 2,240 3. Courtney Force 2,200 4. Tim Wilkerson 2,196 5. Ron Capps 2,182
NHRA Top Fuel Point Standings
1. Steve Torrence 2,346 2. Clay Millican 2,276 3. Tony Schumacher 2,225 4. Leah Pritchett 2,192 5. Antron Brown 2,169
NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Point Standings
1. Eddie Krawiec 2,184 2. Hector Arana Jr. 2,181 3. Matt Smith 2,147 4. LE Tonglet 2,144 5. Andrew Hines 2,137
Drag Race Central and NHRA contributed to this report.