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All of the pro trophies handed out Sunday at World Wide Technology Raceway at the NHRA Midwest Nationals at Madison, Ill., headed south – one to Virginia and two to Texas. And the two nitro-class winners – Steve Torrence (Top Fuel) and Matt Hagan (Funny Car) – took over their respective points leads. Greg Anderson managed to hang onto his Pro Stock lead, but race winner Erica Enders is closing in on him. Here were the biggest winners and losers from the third of seven Countdown to the Championship races:
Stock Up: Steve Torrence and Josh Hart
Steve Torrence beat Mike Salinas in Sunday’s Top Fuel final round to take back the points lead, one he clearly has believed never should have been vulnerable in the first place. He and his Capco Contractors Dragster team had 411 points on Brittany Force at the close of the regular season, but in the Countdown-spawned “points adjustment” that the Torrence camp has referred to as “pencil parity,” the NHRA handed her back all but 20 points – and she had capitalized on it.
Now the Kilgore, Texas, dominator is doing the same. As he marched toward his 49th victory, he said, “We’ll just see if we can take advantage of the opportunities we get.” And he can thank rookie competitor Josh Hart for helping him. Non-Countdown-contender Hart defeated two of the top three in the standings, nemesis Force and No. 3-ranked Justin Ashley. Then in the semifinal round, Torrence eliminated Hart.
“We’re going to race for it, to upset the championship as much as we can,” Hart said. But he expressed respect for Torrence: “He’s good people, one of the very few real ones out there. Lot of respect for him.”
Torrence, whose milestone next victory will make him fifth outright on the class’ all-time winners list, said he’s trying not to pay attention to the standings. “You can’t get caught up in the points conversation. That’ll drive you a little crazy. The only time the points really matter is at Pomona in November. Right now, we just have to stay focused and do our jobs. If we do that, the points will take care of themselves,” he said. “It’s not just me and Brittany out there. You saw what Mike [Salinas] did this weekend. Antron Brown has kicked my butt more often than I want to remember, and all these kids, Josh Hart and Justin Ashley, they’re trying to make a name for themselves, so they’re always dangerous. They’re going to have something to say about who wins before it’s all over.
“Thankfully, I’ve got the best team in the business,” Torrence said. “The only thing I need to know is that no matter what everyone else is doing around us, these Capco boys always send me to the line with a car that can win.”
Stock Down: Brittany Force
She’s second again in the order, 36 points behind Torrence after a 57-point swing for the weekend in his favor. Her results marred an otherwise stellar performance that saw her set low elapsed time (3.641 seconds on the 1,000-foot course) and top speed (337.66 mph) of the meet, despite watching Salinas end her No. 1 qualifying streak at eight. She fell one short of matching Gary Beck’s early-1980s record. But, as Torrence said, “Races are won on Sunday.”
Stock Up: Matt Hagan
With four more races remaining in the season, Matt Hagan has his work cut out for him if he is to claim back-to-back titles and fourth overall. The lead is opening up slightly – the top six were separated by 72 points before this past weekend, but the gap is 120 as the Camping World Drag Racing Series moves to Dallas for the Oct. 7-10 Texas FallNationals. Hagan, who earned his 39th victory in his second race back from a nasty bout with COVID, said he’s “grateful and humble to be here. There were a couple of times where I thought, ‘Man, I don’t know if I’m going to pull through this.” The New Holland Dodge driver from Christiansburg, Va., said, “It’s such throw-down. I’ve won three championships and runnered-up twice, and you know how to deal with the pressure. But I don’t care who you are, it’s still pressure. And I’m like, ‘Don’t mess this up. My car’s really good right now.’”
Stock Down: Ron Capps
Ron Capps knew right away that 72-year-old John Force had outfoxed him right off the starting line in their quarterfinal match. Force, lurking behind him in third place (where he remains) staged his Camaro deep at the last second. It rattled Capps, who had a .129 reaction time, admittedly awful compared to a perfect .000. And it cost him the points lead that he has earned, lost, regained, and now lost again all within a four-week span. (Capps took the No. 1 Countdown seeding at Indianapolis Sept. 5, fell to third place the following week at Reading, emerged from Charlotte with the lead a week before the St. Louis race.)
“It definitely threw me off. Add me to the list,” Capps said. “We saw what Robert (Hight) did (against Force in the first round), and [he’s] as good as it gets out here as a driver. You know (Force is) going to do it – it’s a possibility. Most of the time I run him, I’m laughing in the car, because he tries to do that on me. I’ve been driving 26 years.
"I don’t think I’ve ever had a light (reaction time) that bad in eliminations, especially with pressure like we have right now. I let my guys down. It hurts bad right now, but we’ve got a great hot rod. That’s the good thing. I’m better than that. We don’t have the luxury of making another lap better, like NASCAR or IndyCar guys, when we have something go wrong. This is it. It happens, and you either do the right thing or you don’t. And you have to live with it. I’ve got two weeks to think about it.”
Stock Up: Erica Enders
In defeating rookie phenom finalist Dallas Glenn, Erica Enders registered her third straight triumph at the suburban St. Louis dragstrip, fourth of the year, and 33rd of her career in the Melling/Elite Camaro. “We just needed Greg to stumble a little bit. And I needed to go to work behind the steering wheel. I’ve been struggling a little bit lately. Dallas was .001 [on the Christmas tree] – these kids are keeping us honest and making us work for it.” Glenn was seeking his third victory, trying to move ahead of Top Fuel’s Josh Hart for rookie-of-the-year honors. The Houston resident has the momentum as she heads to her home state for the fourth of seven Countdown events after slicing Anderson’s lead to 17 points.
Stock Down: Greg Anderson
After tying Warren Johnson for the most victories in Pro Stock history at 97 a week before at Charlotte, Anderson couldn’t keep the mojo going to get No. 98 and outright be second-most-successful after 154-time winner John Force (Funny Car). He lost Sunday on a holeshot (with a quicker E.T. but worse reaction time) to teenager Mason McGaha in the quarterfinals. Anderson’s consolation prize is that he will be inducted Oct. 5 into the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame, joining NASCAR and IndyCar greats, and drag racing’s Ronnie Sox and Buddy Martin.
NHRA Midwest Nationals
Sunday's final results from the 10th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway. The race is the 16th of 20 in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel -- Steve Torrence, 3.736 seconds, 328.78 mph def. Mike Salinas, 3.996 seconds, 226.70 mph.
Funny Car -- Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.933, 333.49 def. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.967, 329.99.
Pro Stock -- Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.572, 207.24 def. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.583, 206.86.
Competition Eliminator -- Joseph Arrowsmith, Pontiac GTO, 7.844, 173.03 def. Brett Speer, '23-T Ford, Foul - Red Light.
Super Stock -- Robert Cruzen, Chevy Cobalt, 9.239, 139.11 def. Ricky Decker, Chevy Camaro, 9.737, 133.01.
Stock Eliminator -- Ryan Montford, Chevy Camaro, 9.889, 109.72 def. Wes Neely, Pontiac Firebird, Foul - Red Light.
Super Comp -- Nick Isenhower, Dragster, 8.933, 181.18 def. Vernon Rowland, Dragster, 8.943, 165.23.
Super Gas -- Jeremy Mason, Chevy Nova, 9.917, 154.26 def. Jason McClure, Chevy Camaro, 9.883, 161.02.
Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers -- Larry Demers, Chevy Cobalt, 6.898, 197.71 def. Curt Fredrich, Chevy Camaro, 6.587, 212.93.
Factory Stock Showdown -- Aaron Stanfield, Chevy Camaro, 7.805, 176.49 def. Leonard Lottig, Camaro, 8.755, 139.16.
Final round-by-round results from the 10th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway, the 16th of 20 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:
ROUND ONE -- Antron Brown, 3.708, 330.39 def. Spencer Massey, 3.845, 273.50; Billy Torrence, 3.748, 320.13 def. Scott Palmer, 3.767, 323.58; Brittany Force, 3.641, 337.66 def. T.J. Zizzo, 4.921, 144.29; Mike Salinas, 3.843, 244.69 def. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.847, 299.93; Leah Pruett, 3.701, 326.16 def. Clay Millican, 3.883, 253.80; Steve Torrence, 3.669, 329.42 def. Shawn Langdon, 3.762, 324.98; Josh Hart, 3.758, 326.95 def. Justin Ashley, 4.091, 216.03; Tripp Tatum, 3.714, 331.36 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.724, 325.30;
QUARTERFINALS -- Salinas, 3.736, 329.10 def. Tatum, Foul - Red Light; Hart, 3.793, 325.69 def. Force, 3.767, 321.27; Pruett, 3.769, 316.01 def. B. Torrence, 6.575, 122.59; S. Torrence, 3.709, 331.36 def. Brown, 4.445, 190.35;
SEMIFINALS -- Salinas, 3.713, 328.06 def. Pruett, 20.077, no speed; S. Torrence, 3.767, 325.61 def. Hart, 3.965, 249.49;
FINAL -- S. Torrence, 3.736, 328.78 def. Salinas, 3.996, 226.70.
ROUND ONE -- Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.927, 330.55 def. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.505, 186.87; Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.953, 298.01 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.028, 289.14; Matt Hagan, Charger, was unopposed; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.854, 333.41 def. Chris King, Camry, 6.016, 123.07; Bobby Bode, Mustang, 4.353, 250.51 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 11.981, 72.48; Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.913, 327.03 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.005, 313.22; John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.970, 316.30 def. Robert Hight, Camaro, 24.203, 58.41; J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.895, 330.39 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.220, 222.22;
QUARTERFINALS -- Pedregon, 4.127, 243.06 def. Alexander, 8.867, 73.85; Tasca III, 3.959, 330.88 def. Bode, 4.431, 195.93; Force, 3.970, 328.70 def. Capps, 3.929, 326.56; Hagan, 3.894, 332.18 def. Todd, 4.571, 182.21;
SEMIFINALS -- Tasca III, 4.306, 216.69 def. Force, 6.826, 93.68; Hagan, 3.922, 328.30 def. Pedregon, 3.954, 323.58;
FINAL -- Hagan, 3.933, 333.49 def. Tasca III, 3.967, 329.99.
ROUND ONE -- Mason McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.566, 209.95 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, Foul - Red Light; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.574, 210.34 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, Foul - Red Light; Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.560, 209.62 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.863, 165.09; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.559, 209.98 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.607, 207.78; Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.547, 210.31 def. Cristian Cuadra, Ford Mustang, Foul - Red Light; Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.586, 209.17 def. Marty Robertson, Mustang, 6.989, 158.87; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.532, 209.52 def. Fernando Cuadra, Mustang, 6.611, 207.78; Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.561, 209.65 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.903, 164.67;
QUARTERFINALS -- C. McGaha, 6.611, 208.46 def. Koretsky, 11.543, 76.46; Enders, 6.578, 208.88 def. Stanfield, 6.590, 208.07; Glenn, 6.580, 209.10 def. Brogdon, 6.627, 208.49; M. McGaha, 6.569, 209.43 def. Anderson, 6.564, 210.01;
SEMIFINALS -- Glenn, 6.609, 208.33 def. C. McGaha, Foul - Red Light; Enders, 6.592, 206.54 def. M. McGaha, 6.637, 208.07;
FINAL -- Enders, 6.572, 207.24 def. Glenn, 6.583, 206.86.
1, Steve Torrence, 2,373; 2. Brittany Force, 2,337; 3. Billy Torrence, 2,247; 4. Mike Salinas,2,239; 5. Justin Ashley, 2,235; 6. Leah Pruett, 2,222; 7. Antron Brown, 2,188; 8. Shawn Langdon, 2,164; 9. Clay Millican, 2,157; 10. Doug Kalitta, 2,096.
1, Matt Hagan, 2,354; 2. Ron Capps, 2,295; 3. John Force, 2,282; 4. Cruz Pedregon, 2,255; 5.J.R. Todd, 2,239; 6. Bob Tasca III, 2,234; 7. (tie) Robert Hight, 2,194; Tim Wilkerson, 2,194; 9. Alexis DeJoria, 2,163; 10. Blake Alexander, 2,120.
1, Greg Anderson, 2,394; 2. Erica Enders, 2,377; 3. Kyle Koretsky, 2,297; 4. Dallas Glenn, 2,278;5. Aaron Stanfield, 2,227; 6. Troy Coughlin Jr., 2,202; 7. Mason McGaha, 2,192; 8. Chris McGaha, 2,183; 9. Matt Hartford, 2,162; 10. Deric Kramer, 2,147.