Top Fuel’s Steve Torrence put together a pair of impressive runs on Saturday, rolling to the victory in the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout specialty race at Lucas Oil Raceway as part of this weekend’s prestigious 68th annual Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals.
Justin Ashley (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also the current No. 1 qualifiers at the 16th of 22 races during the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and the final event of the regular season.
In the final round of the specialty event with a total purse of $130,000, Torrence, the four-time defending world champion, went 3.692s at 329.02mph in his Capco Contractors dragster to slip past points leader Brittany Force, who had a run of 3.704s at 330.31mph. Torrence beat Justin Ashley in the semifinals, while Force advanced to the final with a victory against Mike Salinas. It continues the strong momentum for Torrence, who won in Brainerd and was stellar on the starting line on Saturday to collect the $80,000 prize.
“First, tons of respect for Brittany Force and that team because they’ve been bad to the bone, but them Capco boys have been bad to the bone for five years,” said Torrence, whose run also has him qualified second. “We didn’t forget what we were doing, but you’ve got to persevere and stay with the boys who brought you there. I’ll tell you what, we’re standing proud. We don’t look stupid now because we’re walking away with the cash. I’m only as good as the car that they give me, but when you’re confident in it, you’re confident in yourself.”
Ashley bounced back from his semifinal loss to Torrence by holding onto his provisional No. 1 spot in Top Fuel, doing so in impressive fashion with a spectacular run of 3.671s at 335.32mph in his Phillips Connect dragster, breaking the track speed record in the process. It keeps Ashley on track for his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and the young standout was thrilled to make an incredible run to stay at the top of a Top Fuel field that is already among the quickest in history.
“Obviously, we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to and win the shootout, but we really went up there with a plan and we executed on it,” Ashley said. “To go out there tonight and run 335mph — that’s the type of run where you’re really excited to see the time slip. I mean, 335mph at Indy, where there’s so much history and strategy — it means so much to us. It’s really an amazing feeling.”
Salinas is currently third with a run of 3.701s at 331.36mph, while Force’s run in the final puts her fourth.
Hight’s run of 3.870s at 331.94mph in his Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS held up from Friday, as the Funny Car points leader also made a pair of strong runs on Friday. It puts him on track for his fourth No. 1 qualifier this season and 75th in his career, while his other highlight was calling out Bob Tasca III for his first-round matchup in the Pep Boys NHRA Funny Car All-Star Callout.
Hight had the first pick and selected Tasca, who has won three of the past four races. The Pep Boys NHRA Funny Car All-Star Callout will take place on Sunday and the rest of the first-round matchups include Ron Capps taking on defending Indy winner Tim Wilkerson, Matt Hagan facing off with Alexis DeJoria and Cruz Pedregon racing John Force.
“We had three runs in a row that this Auto Club Chevy made respectable runs and that’s what you have to do to win races, whether it’s a specialty race or on race day Monday,” Hight said. “As far as our selection, there’s no guarantees after first round you’re going to get lane choice. We thought originally it was going to be hotter, a little bit tougher conditions and that would have played into our hand. When the conditions changed, we didn’t change our minds. Why not get out there and have some fun? That’s what this is all about, creating excitement for the fans so why not have the two best cars in the country running against each other. It’s going to be an exciting day.”
Tasca’s 3.878s at 331.53mph from Friday has him second, while Force’s 3.881s at 333.25mph held up for the third spot.
Pro Stock’s Anderson made a strong move on Saturday, vaulting to the top in his HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro with a pass of 6.567s at 208.10mph. It puts the defending world champ on track for his third No. 1 spot this season and 121st in his career, but the 100th career win is what is really on Anderson’s mind. He’s currently at 99 and getting his 100th victory at the world’s biggest drag race would mean a great deal to Anderson, who has six career wins at the Big Go.
“I wasn’t necessarily expecting that, but wishing and hoping we could do it,” Anderson said. “We knew going in that this would be the pole run, without a doubt. It’s not very often you hear a driver say they made a perfect run, but that was pretty close. I hit all the shift points and the car went straight down the lane. We all know I’m trying to get my 100th win and I couldn’t think of a better scenario than to win it here. I love this race more than anything. It’s bigger, better, and it’s so hard to win.”
Anderson’s KB Racing teammate Dallas Glenn is currently second after going 6.578s at 207.72mph, while points leader Erica Enders got bumped to third with her 6.582s at 208.97mph.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Sampey jumped past her teammate on Saturday, taking the No. 1 spot from Eddie Krawiec with her pass of 6.796s at 199.88mph on her Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. Sampey is after her fourth No. 1 spot of the season and also her first victory at Indy since 2002. That’s the big goal for the weekend for Sampey, who made the best two passes of the day on Saturday in the class.
“Last night, my teammate Eddie was No. 1, and I came out here and took it from him,” Sampey said. “We knew last night there was more left in my bike and there is still more left. I don’t think I did the best job of riding it. This is Indy and I know it’s the biggest race but to be honest, I’m greedy. I want to win them all.”
Matt Smith jumped up to second with a 6.800s at 201.16mph, while Krawiec’s 6.826s at 198.79mph has him third.
Qualifying continues at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday at the prestigious Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park. The Pep Boys NHRA Funny Car All-Star Callout will also take place on Sunday.