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Saturday Notebook: AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex

by Mike Haag | Posted on Saturday, October 17th, 2020

ENNIS – Texas’ Steve Torrence lit up the scoreboard during the second Top Fuel qualifying session when he laid down a blistering pass clocked at 3.662 at 327.51 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster. He narrowly missed the track ET record which is 3.651 seconds and set by Brittany Force in October 2019.

Steve Torrence. NHRA

Torrence, the defending series champion and current points leader, scored his second No. 1 qualifier in 2020 and 26th of his career. The Torrence family will try for its third straight Dallas win, and Steve will face Cameron Ferre in the opening round of eliminations on Sunday.

“You have to go out and make those runs, and make them count,” Torrence said. “You have to be able to run hard when you can and try to get every point possible. We came in here with a two-point lead (over Doug Kalitta), so we just have to keep chipping away at it. We’re trying to capitalize on every opportunity we get. When you have that support from everyone and it’s your home state crowd, I don’t know if it does anything to make us run better, but it definitely gives you that sense of everybody here cheering for you. Now you’ve got to go out there and go four rounds on Sunday, and not make any mistakes.”

Rookie Justin Ashley (6th in points) qualified second after going 3.687 at 323.04 and Tony Schumacher (10th in points) took the third spot with his run of 3.700 at 326.87.

“I just love the Texas Motorplex,” Schumacher said. “This place has been a gift to me. Billy Meyer built a superior track back in the day and it’s still one of the best. The stadium seating, I’ve got 30 friends here, many who have never seen a drag race. The all-concrete surface is amazing. For Okuma, Sandvik and Toyota, we’re all family here in Texas. The car is running great. The crew is starting to gel. This is just outstanding. I have two cowboy hats from the past and it be great to add another.”

  • NHRA Funny Car driver J.R. Todd, who drives the DHL Toyota Camry, is hoping to join an elite list with a victory on Sunday. A win would add Todd’s name to an exclusive list of Top Fuel and Funny Car winners at the historic 35th annual Fall NHRA national event at the Texas Motorplex. Pairing a Funny Car win with his 2008 Top Fuel victory would add Todd’s name to a list that includes Kenny Bernstein, Don Prudhomme, Ed MCulloch, and Mike Dunn. He finished as the runner-up in Top Fuel in 2014 to go along with two No. 1 qualifiers (2007 and 2014) in Top Fuel.

What are they saying?

Top Fuel –

Doug Kalitta: “We are ready for these next three races.  The win in St. Louis was a nice boost but these next three weeks will be where we win or lose the championship. We got off to a hot start at the beginning of the season and now I feel like we are in a position to finish the season just as strong.”

 

 

Shawn Langdon: “We have been running really well.  St. Louis was a race you can throw out the window because conditions were so crazy for everyone. I am glad Doug got the win there and they definitely earned it. It was tough to race him in the first round but I felt whoever won that round was going to win the race.  I like racing at the Texas Motorplex because it is one of the all-concrete tracks on the tour. When the weather is right you can really put up some great numbers. I know this DHL Top Fuel dragster has the capability to run low and I am excited to get to Texas.  I enjoyed my time racing a Funny Car and it was a big challenge.  I think it made me a better driver because I had to learn so many things it really helped me focus better. I love being back in a Top Fuel dragster though. This is where I came up in the pro ranks and I won a world championship in 2013. I want to get back to those winning ways and I think we can do that over these last three races.”

Funny Car –

Tim Wilkerson: “This weekend is a good opportunity to redeem ourselves after the last race. We did terrible in St. Louis, and we sure don’t want a repeat of that. I think we got it out of our system, and we’ve licked our wounds. We’ve got a good thing going with all our guys, they’ve been working real hard, and I know our Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang is a good car capable of great things. We’ve seen it. I think we’ll be back on track in Dallas and see it again.”

 

J.R. Todd: “You look at the guys that have won both Top Fuel and Funny Car at the FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex and those guys are all Hall of Famers and Legends. I remember that Top Fuel win in 2008 and I know how close I came to getting that Funny Car win in 2018. I would love to see four win lights this coming Sunday.  We know we need to perform at these last three races. The top three teams have a pretty big gap but until they tell me the math doesn’t work I am going to do everything I can to get that championship. I have a whole team of DHL crew guys plus Crew Chief Todd Smith and Jon Oberhofer behind me.”

 

Pro Stock –

Greg Anderson: “I’m looking forward to getting to Dallas this weekend to defend the title. That was a really special win, a really fun win, and that’s exactly what I need right now – another one just like that. This racetrack has been great for us in the past. We’ll have two opportunities to get a trophy at Texas Motorpolex, and the KB Racing team would like nothing more than to bring both of them back to the shop for team owner Ken Black and Summit Racing. It was disappointing to have to stop the show and leave St. Louis in the middle of eliminations, but that’s in the past. We’ve reset our frame of mind, our Summit Racing Chevys are ready, and we expect great things from this weekend.”

Jason Line: “It’s a good feeling anytime you’re leading the points, but the truth is that it isn’t by much, and we’ll have to be better than anyone else if we want to keep that lead. If we do what we’re supposed to do and my Summit Racing Chevrolet cooperates, the points will take care of themselves.”

 

 

Bo Butner: “Dallas was my very first national event win, in Super Stock in 1999 over my good friend, Jimmy DeFrank. I’m looking forward to this race and then the next, too, because we go to Houston – and that’s where I got my first Pro Stock win. Texas has had a lot of firsts for us, so I look for it to be good again. We only have a few races left, and we sure want another one or two of those Pro Stock trophies. Our Strutmasters.com/Jim Butner Auto Group Chevy Camaro is so good. It’s coming around, and I’m not giving up.”

 

Jeg Coughlin Jr.: “The result that’s come out of the St. Louis situation is unfortunate.  Erica (Enders), Jason (Line) and our group were neck-in-neck in the points and now it appears we may not end up being a part of it all, depending on what happens here.  We are scheduled to have three more races — in Dallas, Houston and Las Vegas — so there’s still a chance for others to stumble and for us to pull off some wins down the stretch. I certainly don’t see us completely out of the game at this point.  It’s been quite a run since last year’s Dallas race, where we were runner-up.  We’ve been to plenty of finals and had a good share of success. The last few races have been challenging, for sure, but the worm can turn at any time. We’re optimistic it’ll come back to us this weekend.  St. Louis was a bad deal but at this point we can only control what we do. I know I’ll do all I can to get these 1,500 horses down the track as best I can every run.”

Troy Coughlin Jr.: “I enjoy Texas quite a bit so there’s a lot of excitement heading to Dallas and Houston for the next two races.  Texans love drag racing and they love to have a good time so it’s always a blast when you visit the Lone Star State.  The Texas Motorplex is a dream track. Billy Meyer drag raced for many years so he built a place racers love. It’s always been a dream of mine to win a black cowboy hat (the traditional prize) so as long as they have one big enough for my head, I’ll be racing hard for it.  Pro Stock has been the most challenging.  I’m still learning so much but I’m having a blast. Working with Rick Jones, Mike DePalma, Robert Freeman and Eric Luzinski has been a real blessing and I’d love to keep them busy on race day and give them a win before the year is over.”

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 33 years. In addition to covering motorsports for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 16 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike taught high school English and Journalism for 30 years before retiring in May, 2020.