The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continued Friday as Steve Torrence drove to the Top Fuel preliminary No. 1 qualifier at the 21st annual JEGS Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.
Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also preliminary No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the ninth of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.
The defending event winner, Torrence, powered to the top spot by setting both ends of the track record with a blistering run of 3.677 seconds at 333.58mph in his Capco Contractors dragster in the last qualifying pass of the night. The current Top Fuel points leader has yet to record a No. 1 qualifier on the season, despite being the only driver in the class with three victories in 2018.
“I was really surprised by that last run, but these conditions allowed for us to make a hero run and get low E.T. for the day,” Torrence said. “Notoriously I have not had great success at Route 66 Raceway, but last year we got the monkey off our backs here and we have a lot of confidence that we can keep making steps in the right direction this weekend.”
The defending Top Fuel world champion Brittany Force slots into second in the class after Friday’s qualifying with a 3.721 at 329.34 in her Advance Auto Parts / Monster Energy dragster.
Hagan jumped atop the Funny Car category with a run of 3.917 at 326.79 in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T recorded during his second qualifying pass on Friday. The two-time world champion is on the hunt for his second No. 1 qualifier of the year and first since the season-opening event in Pomona, where he also earned his lone victory of the season.
“This was a great run for us, and I think we have started to close the gap on some of the cars that we’re chasing in the standings,” Hagan said. “I feel like we have everything dialed in and I’m very confident with the direction we are headed.”
Hagan’s teammate Ron Capps moved into second in initial qualifying after a 3.921 at 325.92 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T during his second pass and Jack Beckman rounded out the top three.
Anderson currently holds the top spot in Pro Stock after driving to a 6.546 at 211.03 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro during the second round of qualifying. The four-time world champion is chasing his fifth No. 1 qualifying spot of the season.
“These Pro Stock cars come alive when the weather is like this, we have a great racetrack and atmosphere and that makes this a fun place to race,” Anderson said. “We are off to a great start this weekend, and I expect it will continue to be good all weekend.”
Tanner Gray jumped to second in preliminary qualifying with a 6.556 at 210.18 in his Gray Motorsports Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro during his second run of the day.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle class was paced by Andrew Hines, who used a 6.862 at 193.90 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson from his first qualifying run to lead the pack. He is aiming for his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and first since Gainesville in March.
“This weather is really strange out here, it’s not our typical conditions in Chicago but we will take it because we have our street rod No. 1,” Hines said. “We’re happy all around and my guys are eager to come out here tomorrow to try and get some quicker times.”
His teammate and the category points leader Eddie Krawiec currently sits second with an identical 6.862 at 193.24 during the second round.
Qualifying continues at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday at Route 66 Raceway.