NHRA: Mysterious Al-Anabi Racing pullout gets some clarity

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The mystery of last month’s sudden pullout from NHRA competition by Al-Anabi Racing grew a bit more clear Friday during the first day of the season-opening Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.

Jim Peltz of the Los Angeles Times reports that Sheik Khalid Al Thani of Qatar, a Persian Gulf country that had pumped more than $50 million into the two-car Top Fuel team over the last six years, told team owner Alan Johnson he is both “apologetic” and “disappointed” at the sudden ending of the team’s sponsorship.

“We were funded not by Sheik Khalid but by Qatar and they have their issues; let’s leave it at that,” Johnson said, according to Peltz. “(Khalid) wasn’t funding us out of his pocket, he was funding us out of money that he got from the state of Qatar.

“So when Qatar cut him off he was forced to cut us off and he wasn’t really pleased about that.”

MORE: NHRA shocker: Qatar Racing Club suspends sponsorship, Al-Anabi plans TBD

Al-Anabi was one of the most successful Top Fuel teams in the NHRA, having won 42 races over the last six years, including season championships with three different drivers: Larry Dixon, Del Worsham and Shawn Langdon.

Khalid alBalooshi was also a key driver on the team.

Team owner Alan Johnson has attempted to pick up the pieces of Al-Anabi’s abrupt departure. Johnson is campaigning just one Top Fuel dragster at this weekend’s Winternationals with Langdon behind the wheel.

MORE: NHRA: Alan Johnson Racing moves forward without Al-Anabi

The team is also entered in the next race in Phoenix in two weeks, but after that the future is uncertain. Johnson is scrambling to attract new sponsorship to keep the team’s doors open and the dragster racing.

Johnson discounted speculation that the global drop in oil prices may have led to Al-Anabi’s pullout. When asked if Al Thani had suggested that, Johnson said simply, “Not to me, no.”

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Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.