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Steve Torrence wins rain-delayed NHRA Top Fuel race at Houston Raceway Park

by Mike Haag | Posted on Tuesday, May 25th, 2021

By Mike Haag, Raceday San Antonio

BAYTOWN, Texas – When the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) rolled into town this weekend for the 34th annual Mopar Express Lane SpringNationals at Houston Raceway Park there was one Top Fuel driver who was determined not to allow the prestigious Wally trophy to leave Texas.

Steve Torrence. NHRA photo

After years of near misses and final round losses at Houston Raceway Park, three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence dominated the class this weekend to score his first win here at the quarter-mile dragstrip.

The 38-year old Kilgore, Texas resident, who considers Houston Raceway Park and the Texas Motorplex in Ennis as his home tracks, had to wait until Monday to siege the trophy because eliminations were postponed due to inclement weather on Sunday.

Monday afternoon under a dark and cloudy sky with rain nearby, Torrence pedaled his Capco Contractors dragster to a 4.001-second pass at 260.06 mph to defeat Doug Kalitta, a driver he lost to on a hole shot in the finals at the 2016 SpringNationals.  Kalitta was first off the line but was quickly up in smoke and had to pedal it down the track. He crossed the stripe in 5.706 at 168.26 mph.

“We’ve run well here in the past, but we get to the final round and something always seems to happen,” Torrence said. “We’ve been snake bit. I don’t know if I’ve had win repellant on me or what. The Kalitta boys did an awesome job. This is also the first race I’ve ever won on Monday other than Indy. I just think it’s unbelievable to have the success we’ve had this year and to win in Texas in front of our Capco crew and fans is even more special.”

Steve Torrence. NHRA photo

Torrence reached the final round by defeating Mitch King in the first round with a run clocked at 4.047, 261.07 after losing a cylinder and smoking the tires halfway down the track.  He advanced on a bye in the quarter finals after posting a 3.711 at 327.66 run and then outraced Clay Millican in the semifinals by recording a 3.703, 323.81 pass to Millican’s 3.762, 324.75 run.    Kalitta, who was aiming for his 50th career win, lost to Torrence in the final round for the second time this season.  He reached the finals for the 107th time by defeating Brittany Force in the first round, Antron Brown in the quarterfinals and then outraced his Kalitta Motorsports teammate Shawn Langdon.

“You can’t count out Doug Kalitta ever,” Torrence said after the semifinal round. “The CAPCO boys have done well here. I’ll tell you this racetrack has alluded us for my whole career.”

Torrence, who has won three of the five races this season, now has 43 career Top Fuel victories.  He leads Antron Brown by 148 points in the championship standings and dating back to the 2017 season, he has led the Top Fuel points after 60 of the last 78 tour events.

Robert Hight. NHRA photo

Hight vs. Capps battle

In Funny Car the final round paired Robert Hight against Ron Capps, two heavyweights that faced each other for the 70th time in their career in eliminations and ninth time in the final round.  The epic matchup featured two former champions who have struggled this season with several misfortunes.

Hight ended up taking down Capps in the finals by recording a pass of 3.916 at 327.19 in his 11,000-horsepower AAA Texas Chevrolet Camaro SS. Capps left the line and was forced to shut it off when he went up in smoke around 330 feet. He crossed the line at 4.684, 179.25.

Robert Hight. NHRA photo

“The (Force) car has been the class of the field the last few races and they helped us on Monday after Charlotte,” Hight said.  “That got us back on track, and (crew chief) Jimmy Prock and this Auto Club team just did their job. These races are hard to win and there’s a lot of good cars out here. This place has a special place in my heart — my first win came here — and after sitting out last year you wonder if you’re ever going to get another one of these.”

The victory was Hight’s 52nd in his career, fourth at Houston and second straight for John Force Racing after John Force won last weekend in Charlotte.  Hight reached the finals with round wins over Bob Bode, Cruz Pedregon and points leader Bob Tasca III.  Bode, who is a college student, was not able to return Monday to compete in the rain-delayed event.

Capps reached the finals for the 127th time in his career final round by defeating Paul Lee, defending world champion and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan and Tim Wilkerson. During his march through the elimination rounds, Capps posted a 3.894 at 327.51 against Lee, which gave him the top run in the Funny Car class.

Matt Hartford. NHRA photo

Matt is back

In the Pro Stock final, Matt Hartford notched his first victory of the year in his Total Seal Piston Rings Chevrolet Camaro with a run of 7.660 at 145.11.  Despite shaking the tires midway down the track, he easily defeated Deric Kramer, who had trouble off the line and spun the tires while chasing Hartford.  Kramer crossed the stripe in 18.318, 49.33.

“We’ve had the power to win all year, but not the luck,” Hartford said. “Texas has been great to us and my lights were pretty decent for a change. We’ve got a great team and everyone has gelled together. KB Racing just creates incredible horsepower. Deric and I were in the finals and our cars were quick all day, so hats off to that engine program.”

Matt Hartford. NHRA photo

The victory was Hartford’s fourth in 10 final round appearances.  His road to the finals included wins against Kenny Delco in the first round, defending world champ Erica Enders on a holeshot in the quarterfinals and Aaron Stanfield in the semifinals.

Kramer reached the final round by defeating Bruno Massel, points leader Greg Anderson and then Kyle Koretsky in the semifinals. Kramer’s final round appearance was first of the season and eighth in his career.

The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action June 11-13 with the NHRA New England Nationals presented by Bandero Premium Tequila at New England Dragway.

Matt Hartford, Steve Torrence and Robert Hight. NHRA photo


BAYTOWN, Texas — Final finish order (1-16) at the 34th annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park powered by Pennzoil. The race is the fifth of 22 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series.


  1. Steve Torrence; 2. Doug Kalitta; 3. Clay Millican; 4. Shawn Langdon; 5. Justin Ashley; 6. Billy Torrence; 7. Antron Brown; 8. Arthur Allen; 9. Mike Salinas; 10. Brittany Force; 11. Mitch King; 12. Lee Callaway; 13. Leah Pruett; 14. Josh Hart.


  1. Robert Hight; 2. Ron Capps; 3. Bob Tasca III; 4. Tim Wilkerson; 5. Matt Hagan; 6. Cruz Pedregon; 7. J.R. Todd; 8. Alexis DeJoria; 9. Paul Lee; 10. Chad Green; 11. John Force; 12. Blake Alexander; 13. Terry Haddock; 14. Todd Simpson; 15. Bobby Bode; 16. Jim Campbell.


  1. Matt Hartford; 2. Deric Kramer; 3. Kyle Koretsky; 4. Aaron Stanfield; 5. Greg Anderson; 6. Erica Enders; 7. Dallas Glenn; 8. Mason McGaha; 9. Chris McGaha; 10. Bruno Massel; 11. Rodger Brogdon; 12. Cristian Cuadra; 13. Kenny Delco; 14. Fernando Cuadra Jr.; 15. Val Smeland; 16. Troy Coughlin Jr..

BAYTOWN, Texas — Monday’s final results from the 34th annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park powered by Pennzoil. The race is the fifth of 22 in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel — Steve Torrence, 4.001 seconds, 260.06 mph def. Doug Kalitta, 5.706 seconds, 168.26 mph.

Funny Car — Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.916, 327.19 def. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.684, 179.25.

Pro Stock — Matt Hartford, Chevy Camaro, 7.660, 145.11 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 18.318, 49.33.

Top Alcohol Dragster — Rachel Meyer, 5.150, 279.32 def. Shawn Cowie, 5.632, 270.21.

Top Alcohol Funny Car — Doug Gordon, Chevy Camaro, 5.468, 268.49 def. Nick Januik, Camaro, 5.500, 265.85.

Competition Eliminator — Chase Williams, Dragster, 6.727, 190.22 def. Keith Hall, Chevy Cavalier, 8.544, 160.27.

Factory Stock Showdown — David Barton, Chevy Camaro, 7.797, 173.07 def. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 7.815, 175.25.

Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers — Darian Boesch, Chevy Camaro, 6.320, 216.38 def. David Cuadra, Chevy Cobalt, 7.122, 185.84.

Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers — Ross Laris, Dragster, 6.122, 217.11 def. Will Carrell, Dragster, 6.783, 195.28.

BAYTOWN, Texas — Final round-by-round results from the 34th annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park powered by Pennzoil, the fifth of 22 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:


ROUND ONE — Shawn Langdon, 3.803, 304.94 def. Josh Hart, Broke; Clay Millican, 3.759, 323.50 def. Arthur Allen, 3.870, 301.13; Billy Torrence, 3.694, 329.50 def. Mike Salinas, 4.264, 191.21; Antron Brown, 4.142, 207.98 def. Lee Callaway, 10.054, 90.28; Justin Ashley, 3.770, 317.79 def. Leah Pruett, 12.703, 60.13; Steve Torrence, 4.047, 261.07 def. Mitch King, 6.574, 99.23; Doug Kalitta, 3.765, 281.01 def. Brittany Force, 4.738, 171.69;

QUARTERFINALS — S. Torrence, 3.711, 327.66 was unopposed; Langdon, 3.797, 318.02 def. Ashley, 3.781, 321.50; Kalitta, 3.778, 291.57 def. Brown, 5.889, 116.72; Millican, 3.737, 323.97 def. B. Torrence, 4.317, 185.79;

SEMIFINALS — Kalitta, 3.997, 272.06 def. Langdon, 4.181, 221.09; S. Torrence, 3.703, 323.81 def. Millican, 3.762, 324.75;

FINAL — S. Torrence, 4.001, 260.06 def. Kalitta, 5.706, 168.26.


ROUND ONE — J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.916, 327.43 def. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.971, 323.35; Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.481, 205.41 def. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 5.307, 182.16; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.933, 328.94 def. Bobby Bode, Mustang, Broke – No Show; Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.894, 327.51 def. Paul Lee, Charger, 3.956, 322.88; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 5.268, 138.98 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, Broke – No Show; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.931, 314.53 def. Todd Simpson, Camaro, 25.341, 49.76; Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.971, 318.24 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 6.045, 120.13; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.946, 312.78 def. Chad Green, Mustang, 3.969, 320.28;

QUARTERFINALS — Wilkerson, 3.972, 321.42 def. DeJoria, 4.204, 229.16; Tasca III, 3.923, 327.98 def. Todd, 3.993, 323.43; Capps, 3.929, 325.30 def. Hagan, 3.964, 317.87; Hight, 3.913, 327.43 def. Pedregon, 3.991, 319.14;

SEMIFINALS — Capps, 3.915, 326.24 def. Wilkerson, 3.999, 322.04; Hight, 3.909, 328.78 def. Tasca III, 3.949, 328.14;

FINAL — Hight, 3.916, 327.19 def. Capps, 4.684, 179.25.


ROUND ONE — Aaron Stanfield, Chevy Camaro, 6.572, 209.56 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.568, 208.78; Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.577, 209.72 def. Bruno Massel, Camaro, 6.605, 209.43; Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.593, 205.98 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.568, 208.94 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.635, 207.82; Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.585, 208.10 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.617, 210.11; Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.578, 209.46 def. Cristian Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 6.632, 208.46; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.539, 208.97 def. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, 6.690, 188.70; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.565, 209.49 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, 9.786, 102.49;

QUARTERFINALS — Koretsky, 6.595, 208.55 def. M. McGaha, 12.834, 67.56; Stanfield, 6.577, 209.75 def. Glenn, 6.685, 197.48; Hartford, 6.577, 208.75 def. Enders, 6.573, 209.75; Kramer, 6.563, 209.56 def. Anderson, 6.560, 209.39;

SEMIFINALS — Hartford, 6.568, 208.42 def. Stanfield, 11.994, 73.43; Kramer, 6.576, 209.52 def. Koretsky, 6.576, 209.01;

FINAL — Hartford, 7.660, 145.11 def. Kramer, 18.318, 49.33.

BAYTOWN, Texas — Point standings (top 10) following the 34th annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park powered by Pennzoil, the fifth of 22 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series –

Top Fuel

  1. Steve Torrence, 529; 2. Antron Brown, 389; 3. Shawn Langdon, 321; 4. Brittany Force, 308; 5. Doug Kalitta, 289; 6. Josh Hart, 278; 7. Billy Torrence, 267; 8. Justin Ashley, 245; 9. Clay Millican, 238; 10. Leah Pruett, 215.

Funny Car

  1. Bob Tasca III, 438; 2. J.R. Todd, 396; 3. John Force, 361; 4. (tie) Ron Capps, 331; Robert Hight, 331; 6. Matt Hagan, 314; 7. Tim Wilkerson, 291; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 288; 9. Cruz Pedregon, 271; 10. Blake Alexander, 182.

Pro Stock

  1. Greg Anderson, 439; 2. Deric Kramer, 355; 3. Erica Enders, 328; 4. Mason McGaha, 322; 5. Aaron Stanfield, 319; 6. Matt Hartford, 299; 7. Dallas Glenn, 290; 8. Kyle Koretsky, 280; 9. Troy Coughlin Jr., 268; 10. Chris McGaha, 209.
About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 34 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 17 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike taught high school English and Journalism for 30 years before retiring in May, 2020.