Steve Torrence piloted his Top Fuel dragster to the No. 1 spot during the final round of qualifying Saturday evening in front of a sold-out crowd at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Chip Ellis (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also the No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the second of six payoff events during the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Top Fuel points leader Torrence picked up his third No. 1 qualifier of the 2018 season and 19th of his career after his final qualifying run of 3.675 seconds at 327.19 mph in his Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster. Seeking back-to-back victories at St. Louis, Torrence will race Bill Litton to open eliminations.
“It was a good qualifying effort on our part,” Torrence said. “Today’s track conditions were the best of the season thus far. We were trying to run harder on Billy’s (Torrence) car but ended up being able to do it with my car taking the No.1 spot. We are feeling confident going into tomorrow.”
Clay Millican finished second in qualifying, courtesy of his 3.692 seconds at 329.83 run in his Great Clips/Parts Plus dragster. Millican will meet Shawn Reed in the first round of eliminations.
Hight claimed his 60th career No. 1 qualifier of his career and third of the 2018 season after his run of 3.844 at 326.16 from the last round of qualifying in his Auto Club Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS. Seeking his second victory at Gateway Motorsports Park, Hight will face Dale Creasy in the first round.
“We were pushing it,” Hight said. “We don’t get to run a lot of big numbers like that since the tracks just haven’t been there. You could see the numbers dropping with every pair that went down. To be honest, the thing that impressed me the most was running a 3.90 in the heat earlier today because that’s what we’re going to be racing with tomorrow.”
Ron Capps remained in the No. 2 spot in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T with his run of 3.873 at 327.19. He’ll race Cruz Pedregon to start eliminations, while points leader J.R. Todd qualified seventh with a 3.928 at 323.66 in his DHL Toyota Camry, setting up a first-round match up with teammate Shawn Langdon.
In Pro Stock, Coughlin Jr. grabbed his 26th career top qualifier and third in 2018 after his run of 6.496 at 211.76 in his JEGS.com/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro during the third round of qualifying. Coughlin Jr., who has three wins this season, will look for his first win at Gateway Motorsports Park since 2002 and matches up with Mark Hogan in the first round of eliminations.
“It was close to ‘Disneyland’ conditions for the Pro Stock cars today,” Coughlin Jr. said. “That .49 in Q3 was quite a shot and heard around the pits for sure. It felt great to run in the forties and to get the No. 1 spot feels great going into tomorrow.”
Erica Enders, two-time world champion, qualified second in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro with her run of 6.508 at 212.53 on Saturday. The two-time winner at the track meets Charlie Wescott in the opening round of eliminations. Points leader, Tanner Gray, is in the No. 7 position after his pass of 6.521 at 212.03.
Ellis raced to the top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle class with his pass of 6.764 at 196.76 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson during the fourth qualifying session. This is his first No. 1 qualifier of the season and will face off with Mark Paquette in the first round of eliminations.
“It is every Pro Stock Motorcycle racer dream to ride one of those Harley’s,” Ellis stated. “It is a real honor for me. I’ve wanted to be on a fast bike and they’ve certainly given me that today. To be able to come out here and do what we’ve done is pretty awesome.”
Teammate Andrew Hines is second on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson after his pass of 6.782 at 197.74 and will race Ryan Oehler in the opening round of eliminations. LE Tonglet is third with his run of 6.812 at 195.76.
Eliminations at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday.