Steve Torrence picked up his 50th career Top Fuel win and moved a step closer to his fourth straight world championship, rolling to the victory on Sunday at the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Dallas Glenn (Pro Stock) and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won at the 19th of 20 races during the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and the sixth race in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. The race was also the 1,000 race in NHRA history.
Torrence drove his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster to a 10th win in his impressive 2021 season, powering to a run of 3.717-seconds at 329.50 mph in the final round against Mike Salinas, who went 3.737 at 314.24 and was after his second straight victory. To reach the final round, the points leader took out Jim Maroney, Tripp Tatum and Justin Ashley and then posted a wire-to-wire win against Salinas. Torrence was impressive on the starting line in the championship round and it led to another victory in his dominant 2021 campaign, as the Texan will now take a 105-point lead into the final race of the season.
“It’s truly unbelievable,” Torrence said. “It was just a great weekend for us and we just had to do our job. They told me to go and do my job and when they stand behind you like that, it’s truly the definition of a team. We’ll go to Pomona and see if we can get it done. I’ve really tried to focus on doing my job and not letting things get into my head. You hear all the stuff and you know what’s going on, but you have to tune that out. At the end of the day, we’re racing ourselves, so you have to be comfortable in that. Today, I was able to do my job and it’s a huge confidence-booster going into Pomona.”
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Salinas reached his second straight final round and ninth in his career thanks to victories against Doug Kalitta, Billy Torrence and Brittany Force in a thrilling semifinal round. Salinas moved to third in points, while Force stayed in second heading to the finale in Pomona.
Pedregon stayed in the championship hunt in Funny Car, taking out points leader Ron Capps in the final round with a run of 4.257 at 225.03 in his 11,000-horsepower Snap-On Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. Capps ran into trouble almost immediately in the championship round, as Pedregon cruised to his second victory this season and 38th in his career. To reach the final round, Pedregon got by Tony Jurado, Chris Morel and Bob Tasca III, enjoying another memorable moment in his bounce-back season. Pedregon will go to Pomona third overall and 83 points out of first with a shot at his third career world championship in Funny Car.
“I dropped a couple of races due to holeshots and I feel like we had a better race car than what we’ve shown,” Pedregon said. “I drove well today and we were able to answer the bell today. The car was so steady today. We have a good car and this team has been plugging away. The car runs right with everyone and it’s an honor to win the 1,000th NHRA race. I’m just glad to be a part of it. After winning today, we’re back in (the championship hunt). We just had to keep our nose to the grindstone and things worked out for us.”
Capps jumped back into the points lead in eliminations, knocking off Tim Wilkerson, No. 1 qualifier Alexis DeJoria and Robert Hight to reach the finals for the fifth time this season and 131st time in his career. He left Las Vegas with a 58-point lead over Matt Hagan as he seeks his second world title.
In Pro Stock, Glenn was nearly perfect on the starting line again in the final round, holding off defending world champ Erica Enders with a run of 6.660 at 204.60 in his RAD Torque Systems Chevrolet Camaro. It was another stellar moment in Glenn’s impressive rookie season, as he picked up his third victory this season. He reached the final round with victories against Aaron Stanfield, Kenny Delco and Mason McGaha and had to be almost flawless in the championship round against Enders. She posted a remarkable .005 reaction time with her run of 6.684 at 203.74, but Glenn was even better, going .001 on the starting line to pick up the meaningful victory.
“When I got by Aaron, I just relaxed and started clicking them off,” said Glenn, who posted a perfect .000 reaction time in a final round earlier this year. “I missed it a little in the semis against Mason and in the final, I was just trying to do everything I can. I had all the faith in this team and I knew the car was going to be good as long I did my job. I knew I was good on the tree, I hit all my shifts and I was just hoping the win light came on. It feels really good to go up there with a plan and then execute it.”
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Enders reached the final round for the sixth time this year and 61st time in her career thanks to wins against Bo Butner, Matt Hartford and Troy Coughlin Jr. She also made up major ground on points leader Greg Anderson, who fell in the first round on Sunday. With both Anderson and Enders aiming for their fifth world title, Anderson will take a 32-point lead into Pomona, with Glenn 109 points back in third.
Johnson had a huge turnaround this weekend in Las Vegas, staying alive in the championship hunt with a run of 6.869 at 195.11 on his USA Electric Mac Rak Suzuki in his final round against Karen Stoffer, who left too early. After a miserable first-round loss at the most recent race in Bristol, Johnson bounced back in a major way, reaching the final round after defeating Charles Poskey, Angie Smith and Angelle Sampey. He then pulled off the win in the finals, picking up his third victory this season and ninth in the veteran’s career. Johnson also pulled within 20 points of Matt Smith with one race remaining in the 2021 campaign.
“It is very, very special to win this event, but it’s really about the championship,” Johnson said. “It took us 17 years to win our first national event and I’m a sucker for this sport. I really want to bring home a championship. I’d love to be a part of that championship fraternity and to be able to try to do it in our hometown is going to be really, really special.”
Stoffer reached the final round for the second straight race and 26th time in her career thanks to victories against Kelly Clontz, Jerry Savoie and M. Smith. Sampey also remains in championship contention, sitting 30 points behind Smith.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series closes out the 2021 season on Nov. 11-14 with the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.