Steve Torrence raced to his second Top Fuel victory of the season Sunday at the Toyota NHRA SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
Johnny Gray (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event, which was slightly delayed by a passing afternoon thunderstorm as teams prepared for their final rounds.
Torrence beat Tony Schumacher and Spencer Massey in earlier rounds with quicker reaction times and then used a horsepower advantage to edge Brandon Bernstein at the finish line in the final round. In the final, Torrence’s Capco Contractors dragster finished in 3.800 seconds at 323.66 mph while Bernstein’s MAV TV/Lucas Oil machine trailed with a 3.807 at 321.04.
“It’s really a little surreal coming out and having success in a short time,” Torrence said. “I figured this team to be a competitive team and run with these guys, but I didn’t expect to do as well as we have. It’s really gratifying to be able to go out and do that well. Today, we had some really tough races. Two races, we won by a thou against both of the Schumacher cars. I don’t know but it’s more gratifying when you go out and you really have races that you’ve got to beat the guy beside you rather than them smoking the tires or whatever. I had my best light of the weekend against Brandon that round, and I was pretty pumped up because I knew he’d been on it. I may have cheated the car a little bit. I think it was going to go .79 instead of .80, but I stole from the starting line.”
Massey, who failed to certify his his category-best low E.T. of the event as a national record, maintained his series lead over second place Schumacher with the semifinal effort. Torrence, who also won at Atlanta in May, has surged to fifth in the points standings.
“The car that I’ve got right now is the best Top Fuel car that I’ve ever driven, so I do feel like we have a championship contender car if it stays the way that it’s running,” Torrence said. “We’ll just see. [Contending for the championship] is in the back of my mind, but we’re still going one round, one race at a time because consistency is the key. We’re trying to get some parts built up for the Countdown, and when that time comes, we’ll start looking in that direction. I don’t want to get the cart before the horse. I just want to go out here and keep racing and hopefully get some round-wins.”
In Funny Car, Gray claimed his first victory of the season and second of his career by beating teammate Ron Capps in the final round. Gray pulled away from Capps, who was making his fifth consecutive final round appearance, with a performance of 4.078 at 314.39 in his NTB/Service Central Dodge Charger. Capps’ NAPA Auto Parts Charger, which posted the quickest run in NHRA history on Friday with a blast of 3.964 seconds, lost traction and finished in 5.358 at 160.71. Capps also failed to back-up his category-best performance during eliminations to certify it as a national record.
Gray faced tough competitors all day, as he beat Jim Head, John Force and Robert Hight in the opening rounds.
“There wasn’t anything easy about it,” Gray said. “Nothing is ever easy trying to outrun any of the fuel cars that are out there, but Rob [Wendland, crew chief], Rip [Reynolds, assistant crew chief], and all the guys just gave me a great race car all weekend. I think a .11 was our slowest pass of the weekend. What can you say? That car’s just awesome. It’s fun to drive. It goes good. It goes straight. You know what it’s going to do, so we’re really looking forward to going to the next race.”
With the semifinal finish Hight increased his series lead over Capps, who solidified his second place position with the runner-up effort. Gray, who failed to qualify for the Countdown playoffs last season, made a major move toward making the top 10 this season with this victory, climbing to fourth in the standings.
“We struggled a little bit and we lost it a little bit a few races back, but we made some changes along with the help of Rahn Tobler and Mike Green and just really all the guys over at the DSR brain trust,” Gray said. “They came over and kind of got us back on track and helped the guys kind of get the car lined up, and now she’s just a pooch. You just take her up there, and she goes right down the racetrack.”
Anderson raced to his fourth Pro Stock victory of the season and 74th of his career in a new car, a Chevy Camaro. Anderson defeated teammate Jason Line in the final round with a performance of 6.560 at 212.03 in his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro, while Line’s Summit Racing Pontiac GXP trailed with a 6.588 at 200.98. It was also the 100th win for the KB Racing team, owned by Ken Black.
“We brought [the new Camaro] here with high hopes and surpassed those hopes,” Anderson said. “This is a fantastic weekend. Couple weekends ago I lost in the final to Allen Johnson. I thought I had the better car. I had a better light and we shook the tires. I lost and I told [team owner] Ken Black, that maybe you should be on hand for the 100th win for KB racing. For him to come across the country from Las Vegas, he must have had that feeling. He jetted all the way over here.”
Anderson, who qualified sixth, advanced to the final with early round wins over Ron Krisher, Mike Edwards and Allen Johnson. It was his fifth career win at Raceway Park, which makes him the winningest Pro Stock driver in the track’s history, moving past Bob Glidden and Warren Johnson.
Line pulled ahead of the final round race, but then slowed dramatically as the two cars charged toward the finish line.
“In the final, Jason would have won but he broke a valve spring and that cost him about two-hundredths,” Anderson said. “If this had been a 1,000-foot race he’d have won but this isn’t Top Fuel. We run a quarter-mile and that made the difference. It’s tough for Jason but the bottom line was we couldn’t lose in the final.”
Anderson, who increased his series lead with the victory, was thrilled to win with his new Camaro in its debut.
“It was a gutsy call to bring the Camaro here,” Anderson said. “It was a tough decision but I’m so excited about GM being back in Pro Stock, and the muscle car being back in Pro Stock. We knew that the sooner we got it out here the better off the class would be. Even if it wasn’t 100-percent, we were bringing it.”
Local favorite Krawiec, former Raceway Park general manager, claimed an emotional first Pro Stock Motorcycle victory at the historic track, taking the automatic victory when his final round opponent Hector Arana Sr. fouled at the start on his Lucas Oil Buell. Krawiec claimed his 14th career victory by finishing in 6.921 at 171.45 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.
“During my TV interview I actually started crying,” said Krawiec, an Englishtown, N.J. native who now calls Indianapolis home. “[Team owner] Terry Vance has said many times, that something that never comes out of Eddie’s mouth is ‘I have nothing to say.’ But I was speechless.”
Krawiec, who increased his series lead with the win, defeated Joe DeSantis and former world champs Matt Smith and LE Tonglet in the first three rounds to advance to the final. He knew he would need to be on his game for the final with Arana, who had posted some of the quickest runs of the day.
“I knew I had to hit the tree good and make a nice run to have a chance of winning,” Krawiec said. “I let Craig Treble whip me here in 2009 because I thought I had a better bike and I laid back on the starting line. He picked my pocket and still doesn’t let me forget it. I thought that was my one and only chance to win this race. Thankfully, it wasn’t.”
Danny Rowe raced to his second consecutive victory of the season Sunday in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx portion of the Toyota NHRA SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
Rowe defeated Troy Coughlin in the final round to take the victory. Coughlin fouled at the start in his JEGS.com ’68 Camaro, while Rowe finished in 5.910 at 239.57 in his supercharged Sterling Bridge ’68 Camaro.
In earlier rounds, Rowe defeated Jay Payne, Steve Matusek and top qualifier Mike Castellana. It was Rowe’s third career victory and his second win in a row at the historic New Jersey track.
With the win, Rowe increased his series lead to 30 points over second place Castellana.
After posting the quickest Funny Car run in NHRA history to claim his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season, Ron Capps will now try to extend his streak of final round appearances to five at the Toyota NHRA SuperNationals.
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also will lead their respective categories into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Capps, who has raced to four consecutive finals and one victory since new crew chief Rahn Tobler took over tuning duties for his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger in early April, claimed his 12th career No. 1 qualifying position with the historic performance of 3.964 seconds at 320.89 mph during Friday evening’s qualifying session.
“Every autograph today the fans wanted 3.96 written next to my name, and it’s just pretty neat,” Capps said. “It’s starting to sink in. This track has been around forever. It’s neat to give this track what we did last night with Top Fuel and Funny Car because it’s a legendary track on our circuit.”
Capps will open eliminations at historic Old Bridge Township Raceway Park against journeyman racer Bob Bode, the 16th qualifier. During his impressive final round streak, which included a victory at Atlanta, Capps moved from eighth to second in the points standings. Capps needs to clock a time of 4.004 seconds or quicker in eliminations to certify his historic time as an NHRA national record, which carries a 20-point bonus.
“I don’t think the conditions were there [to back up the record], but I can tell you it wasn’t even in the back of Rahn Tobler’s mind to back it up,” Capps said. “We woke up at the hotel this morning like everybody else did, and it was raining or had been and it was very cool out. It would have run the four-flat on its own in those conditions because the conditions were so good. I can tell you, I had the conversation with Rahn this morning, and he said, ‘We may not want to touch it right now.’ He backed it down a little bit, but I don’t think we could have run four-flat anyway. He didn’t want to try. He just wanted to make sure we made it down the track the last run. It’s not a fun Saturday night if you don’t go down the track the last qualifying run because there’s a lot going on in your head, so that felt good. We were just conservative that last run.”
The quickest Funny Car runs on Saturday were turned in during the final session and posted by Johnny Gray with a 4.045, followed by Capps with a 4.064 and Robert Hight with a 4.066. Tony Pedregon was quickest in the third session with a 4.106.
In Top Fuel, Massey also claimed his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season with a category-quickest performance on Friday. He blasted his FRAM/Prestone dragster down the track in 3.728 at 329.14 to claim his fourth career No. 1 effort. Massey, who has won three times this season in four finals and leads the series standings, will face T.J. Zizzo in the opening round. Massey needs a 3.765 or quicker to turn his 3.728 into an NHRA national record.
“We were pushing for [the record back-up] the last session,” Massey said. “We knew it was going to be such borderline with the cloud cover and then the sun going back and forth, and then halfway through that session, the sun came back out, and we knew it was going to be a close shot at it. It was just that much too much, and it got out there and spun the tires. It’s OK. We didn’t get it. We want to go into race day now and put our race-day tune-up back in the car and just focus on going rounds. I want to focus on winning first round, not focusing on getting the record. It’s one round at a time, and hey, if we get to the final round and the conditions some back to the situation where we have a shot at it, I guarantee you we will be pushing for it in the final, not in first or second round.”
Doug Kalitta, who qualified eighth and will face Antron Brown in the opening round, had the most consistently quick dragster on Saturday, posting times of 3.838 and 3.794 and earned qualifying bonus points in both sessions. Seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher, who is looking to end a 32-race drought from the winner’s circle, was the quickest on Saturday in the U.S. Army dragster with a 3.778, followed by recent first-time winner Steve Torrence, who posted a 3.785.
In Pro Stock, Line raced to his fifth No. 1 of the season and 29th of his career with his Friday run of 6.518 at 212.76 in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP. He will face Ford Mustang driver Grace Howell in the opening round. She is only the sixth female to compete in Pro Stock in NHRA history.
“Last night’s run barely stuck, A.J. [Allen Johnson] matched us, but we got him on speed,” Line said. “I felt like we should have run faster today but we didn’t. We did make strides with [teammate Greg Anderson’s] Camaro which is the most important thing for our team. With a new car like that, you can’t just test at one place. You have to run at several places and learn from it. Hopefully we now have two good cars for tomorrow.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, local favorite Krawiec earned his second No. 1 of the season and 11th of his career with a track record performance of 6.782 at 197.48 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. The Englishtown native and former Raceway Park general manager will face 70-year-old Suzuki rider Joe DeSantis in the opening round of eliminations. It is Krawiec’s second-consecutive No. 1 at this event.
“I have an awesome motorcycle, but there are three other bikes that have the performance to run with us,” said Krawiec, a two-time NHRA world champ. “Hector [Arana] Jr. did not make a clean run and his father [Hector Sr.] is always there. Michael Ray also ran really well with that 6.87. I do have a bike that should win, but if one of them makes a clean run, they can knock you out. This will be a starting line race.”
A pair of past world champions, two-time Funny Car champ Cruz Pedregon and four-time Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin, failed to qualify for eliminations in their respective categories.
Top qualifier Mike Castellana raced to a first-round victory over Kevin McCurdy on Saturday during the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx portion of the Toyota NHRA SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
Native New Yorker Castellana, from Muttontown, powered his Al-Anabi Racing ’69 Camaro to a winning first-round time of 5.890 seconds at 245.23 mph to hold off McCurdy’s ’68 Camaro, which trailed with a 6.117 at 219.54.
Earlier in the day Castellana claimed his third No. 1 qualifying position of the season and fourth of his career with a time of 5.856 at 245.72.
Other first-round winners included Kenny Lang, Rickie Smith, Pete Farber, Mike Janis, Steve Matusek, Danny Rowe and Troy Coughlin. The second and third qualifiers, Donald Martin and Leah Pruett, were upset in the opening round of racing. Chip King and Robert Patrick, who qualified fifth and sixth, also were upset in the first round.
The second round of eliminations for the fourth of 10 races in the Pro Mod Series will continue at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.
In second round pairings, Castellana will continue his quest to earn his second win of the season against Smith, also a winner this season; series points leader Rowe will take on Matusek; Lang will meet Farber; and Coughlin will take on Janis.