ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Energized by speculation that he had raced himself out of title contention after only two playoff races, Steve Torrence responded Friday by sending his Capco Contractors Top Fuel dragster to its quickest run in almost five years, stopping the timers at World Wide Technology Raceway in 3.655 seconds at a finish line speed of 327.43 miles per hour.
Despite a Saturday challenge from Josh Hart (3.667 at 333.33 mph), the Texan’s Friday effort was good enough to send him to the podium as the No. 1 qualifier for Sunday’s 26th NHRA Midwest Nationals, a race in which he is the defending champion and in which he has reached the final round each of the last five years.
After failing to earn a single qualifying bonus point in the first two races of the Countdown,
Torrence was quickest in two of three qualifying sessions at WWTR. He followed his 3.655 effort, which equaled the quickest run of his pro career, with runs of 3.703 and 3.687 seconds.
Trying to become just the fourth driver in pro drag racing history to win as many as five consecutive NHRA series championships, Torrence will start Sunday against fellow Texan Buddy Hull trailing pacesetting Justin Ashley by 94 points.
A 52-time winner on the Camping World tour, Torrence will start from No. 1 for the 34th time in his career, for the third time this year and for the third time in this event. He won the 2018 Midwest Nationals from the No. 1 starting position. The last time he won a race from No. 1 was June 27, 2021 when he went wire-to-wire in the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Norwalk, Ohio.
“We have a 10:30 start tomorrow, so the track will be very good,” Torrence said. “The track actually was better than we anticipated on our last (qualifying) run. I think we could have run better than we did (Friday night), but we missed it a little bit. Some of the other cars were aggressive and we were maybe a little bit lax.
“I’m looking forward to race day. We’ve got good momentum,” he added. “The car
is running well and we will be excited to see what we can do.”
Robert Hight and the AAA Missouri Chevrolet Camaro SS officially earned their fifth No. 1 qualifying spot of the season Saturday at the NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Hight and the AAA Chevy entered the day as the No. 1 qualifiers and held onto the role through both Saturday qualifying sessions. In the first, the AAA team overpowered the track smoking the tires early to shut off for 6.459-seconds at 103.91 mph. In their final qualifying attempt, Hight would go 3.900 at 328.70. The points leaders will start race day with a bye run and on the opposite side of the ladder from teammate John Force.
“Honestly, that last run was anticlimactic. We tried to run better than our 3.85 from last night, but we wore the clutch out of it. I’m a little amazed the 3.85 held, we thought there were a handful of cars out there that could beat it, but we’ll take it. With 15 cars on the property, we get a practice run first round,” Hight said. “Love being here in St. Louis, there’s nothing better than seeing full grandstands. St. Louis really does have the best sports fans in the United States. Tomorrow is a new day and I hope we can put on a great show for them.”
In Pro Stock, Kyle Koretsky got pushed on Saturday in Pro Stock, but he was up for the challenge, improving to a 6.510 at 211.00 in his Lucas Oil Camaro to earn his second No. 1 qualifier during the 2022 campaign. His KB Racing teammate Greg Anderson, the defending world champion, ran an identical 6.510, but Koretsky was slightly faster to take the top spot into eliminations. Koretsky, who is currently fifth in points, will try to pick up his first win of the season and gain some ground on points leader Erica Enders.
“We’re in the Countdown and now’s the time to get your ducks in a row and make every run as clean as possible. I think that’s what we’ve done this weekend and we’ll be good for eliminations tomorrow,” Koretsky said. “This is where it counts and every point counts, and consistency also counts. Our guys are digging deep and we’re chasing them hard. We’re definitely not going to give up.”
Anderson qualified second, going 6.510 at 210.97, while last week’s winner Aaron Stanfield was right behind in third with a 6.511 at 211.33. Enders took fourth with her 6.511 at 210.34.
Finally, in Pro Stock Motorcycle it was Matt Smith who's track-record run of 6.709 at 202.82 from Friday on his Denso Auto Parts Buell held up, giving the defending world champ his fourth top spot this year and the 51st in his career. It was also a career-best run for the five-time world champ, who takes plenty of momentum into eliminations. Smith will look to jump back in the points lead on Sunday after falling in the second round last weekend in Charlotte. Should that happen, it would mean the points lead would change for the sixth straight race in the class.
“I think we have the best bike out here,” Smith said. “All in all, this Denso bike is fast and mean, and if I can do my job on Sunday, we can turn on four win lights tomorrow. That’s our goal, but tomorrow is a big day and hopefully we can do our job.”
Competition at the NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway continues with eliminations at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. Television coverage of the event will be on Sunday with a qualifying show at 12:30 p.m. ET immediately followed by eliminations coverage at 2 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 (FS1).
See the recap by David Kennedy at nhra.com:
2022 NHRA Midwest Nationals Saturday photo gallery:
Photo: RPM / NHRA / Torrence Racing (Mark Rebilas)
Content: John Force Racing PR / Torrence Racing PR / NHRA