Photo of Steve Torrence courtesy NHRA

NHRA: Torrence, C. Force, Enders early No. 1 qualifiers at Topeka

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NHRA Media Release

TOPEKA, Kan. – The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continued Friday as Courtney Force powered to the Funny Car qualifying lead at the 30th annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties at Heartland Motorsports Park.

Steve Torrence (Top Fuel) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) are also provisional qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the eighth of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

In Funny Car: Force is atop the category with a run of 3.911-seconds at 321.73 mph in her Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro SS recorded during her second qualifying pass of the day. The current Funny Car points leader is chasing the top position in Topeka as she aims for her fifth No. 1 qualifier of the 2018 campaign and third consecutive.

“We had a decent run in the first qualifying round but I knew we had more with this crew tuning my car and we were able to get that top spot back,” Force said. “It’s definitely a big deal to be running consistently, but there are still plenty of runs tomorrow where we will have to hold onto that number one position.”

Jonnie Lindberg is currently qualified second after a 3.962 at 316.23 run in his Head Racing Ford Mustang Funny Car, while Cruz Pedregon slotted into third.

In Top Fuel: Torrence is the current No. 1 qualifier with a run of 3.770 at 325.92 in his Capco Contractors dragster during the final qualifying pass of the day and his father Billy qualified second after his 3.796 at 320.97 run in his dragster.

“To go up there and put the Capco cars on top at the end of the day was really as good of a finish to a Friday as I could have imagined,” Torrence said. “Any day you can put your whole team in the top of the qualifying board makes you really proud and it’s just a great way to cap off the day.”

In Pro Stock: Enders currently holds the top spot after driving to a 6.625 at 207.59 pass in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro during the second round of qualifying. The two-time world champion is chasing the first No. 1 qualifying position of the season and first since 2015.

“The more time I have with this car the more comfortable I get, and I’m really just thrilled to have a car that is competitive that you are able to drive to the winner’s circle on Sunday,” Enders said. “I can hear the confidence back in my crew chief’s voice which gives me a ton of confidence every time I hit the track.”

Vincent Nobile sits at second with a run of 6.629 at 208.01 in his Mountain View Tire Chevy Camaro, as defending event winner Tanner Gray rounds out the top three.

Qualifying continues at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.

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FRIDAY’S RESULTS

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 3.770 seconds, 325.92 mph; 2. Billy Torrence, 3.796, 320.97; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.798, 321.81; 4. Terry McMillen, 3.809, 320.89; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.836, 324.51; 6. Antron Brown, 3.840, 319.45; 7. Leah Pritchett, 3.840, 286.07; 8. Brittany Force, 3.852, 277.03; 9. Scott Palmer, 3.855, 321.50; 10. Richie Crampton, 3.875, 318.32; 11. Bill Litton, 3.915, 305.08; 12. Mike Salinas, 3.929, 260.56; 13. Kebin Kinsley, 4.019, 271.52; 14. Terry Haddock, 4.098, 256.94; 15. Terry Totten, 4.227, 246.35; 16. Clay Millican, 4.470, 176.03. Not Qualified: 17. Audrey Worm, 4.983, 147.09.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.911, 321.73; 2. Jonnie Lindberg, Ford Mustang, 3.962, 316.23; 3. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 3.983, 314.68; 4. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.996, 320.89; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.008, 313.00; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.028, 315.78; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.048, 311.56; 8. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.052, 314.31; 9. John Force, Camaro, 4.053, 314.97; 10. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.058, 313.80; 11. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.086, 304.53; 12. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Stratus, 4.088, 309.70; 13. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.095, 305.70; 14. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.163, 259.96; 15. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.247, 248.16; 16. Todd Simpson, Charger, 4.617, 196.47. Not Qualified: 17. Jim Campbell, 4.659, 191.32; 18. Shane Westerfield, 5.357, 140.58.

PRO STOCK: 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.625, 207.59; 2. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.629, 208.01; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.640, 207.30; 4. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.641, 206.42; 5. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.642, 207.30; 6. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.645, 207.88; 7. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.649, 207.37; 8. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.653, 207.85; 9. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.656, 206.39; 10. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.663, 206.26; 11. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.671, 206.54; 12. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.671, 206.54; 13. Richard Freeman, Camaro, 6.714, 205.98; 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.717, 205.16; 15. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 7.033, 172.17; 16. Will Hatcher, Dart, 9.684, 97.85.

After thrilling ‘Evel Live,’ Travis Pastrana back in action this weekend

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It’s been 2 ½ months since Travis Pastrana channeled his inner Evel Knievel in “Evel Live” in Las Vegas on July 8.

The legendary motorcycle stunt rider and rallycross driver successfully replicated three of Knievel’s most infamous career motorcycle jumps, capped off by jumping – some would call it flying – over the fountain at Caesar’s Palace.

All without a scratch or any type of malfunction.

“It was awesome,” Pastrana told NBC Sports’ MotorSportsTalk in an exclusive interview. “Obviously, to do something live, a live stunt which hasn’t been done, is cool.

“And just the nostalgia, to live a day in Evel Knievel’s boots, literally, was awesome. To have the whole Knievel family out there, his three kids, and my mom and dad all out there, it was just a real awesome day.

“And to have the chance to jump the Caeser’s (Palace) fountain, probably the most infamous and iconic stunt location in the world. All that added up to be a really, really great event and I think it came off really well.”

MORE: Travis Pastrana successfully completes all three of Evel Knievel’s most famous jumps

MORE: Travis Pastrana’s goal to replicate 3 of Evel Knievel’s most famous jumps: ‘Try not to die’

LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 08: Travis Pastrana peforms during HISTORY’s Live Event “Evel Live” on July 8, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for HISTORY)

Pastrana spoke at length about the logistics of setting up the three jumps in two different venues, getting from Point A in one part of Las Vegas to Point B (Caesar’s), and dealing with potential weather concerns.

“That’s the greatest part about Nitro Circus (Pastrana’s company) is having an amazing team so that when an idea like this comes up, we can make it turn into fruition and a possibility,” Pastrana said. “The idea came up less than a year before it was pulled off.

“I couldn’t have been more proud of my team and all the guys there. When we called Caesar’s, we thought for sure they were going to say no. Then they said yes.

“Then we talked to the Knievel family and they said, ‘this is going to be great. Go ahead.’ It was like, be careful for what you ask for because it just happened. And then we had a bike just like Evel’s, although a more modern day (version).”

While Pastrana and his team pulled off everything seamlessly, there was a lot of worry and concern, especially on Pastrana’s part, since he was the focal point of the stunt, which was televised live.

“I didn’t sleep at all the night before,” he said. “And then everything just worked out. It’s what you hope for, for sure. But with every race, every event, everything, there’s always something like a $5 part break in a half-million dollar vehicle. Something always goes wrong.

“The fact that everything went as well as it could – I mean, they were calling for 80 percent chance of rain with wind gusts up to 60 mph (on the day of the event).

“And the storm kind of went 20 miles south, it didn’t get that windy, and you have to think to yourself, ‘Man, that was a live event, and representing Evel Knievel, the stunt man of Vegas, you’ve gotta go for it.’”

Pastrana vowed to perform the stunts rain or shine. But if it had rained, he had his doubts that he’d be able to pull it off.

“Successfully, probably not,” the 34-year-old Pastrana said with a laugh. “That was the thing, what I had said coming up to it.

“When Evel got to Wembley Stadium (to do his infamous 13-bus jump in 1975), he said, ‘Look, the busses are bigger than they are in the U.S., I miscalculated the distance, this bike is not going to go as fast as I thought it would go. I’m not going to make it, but I told you guys I was going to put on a show, and I’m going to deliver.’

“That’s why I wanted to be the guy on this particular stunt. I can’t tell someone else when there are bad conditions or the bike is overheating or something else is going wrong to go, but with Nitro Circus and our history, and his family there, it just has to go, no matter what happens. We were just real fortunate and lucky that it all worked out.”

Pastrana jumped the fountain at Caesars Palace to wrap up a night of replicating three of Evel Knievels most infamous career jumps. Photo: Getty Images.

While he certainly enjoyed doing them, the Annapolis, Maryland native said it’s unlikely he’ll have any more Evel-like jumps in his career.

“This was a perfect storm,” he said. “Everything was just lined up on this one. For me, that was not my last hurrah, if you will, but as far as doing a big stunt, I did my biggest stunt I’ve ever done last year with the double back-flip 360 and kind of realized, you know what, I’ve been lucky long enough, let me just focus on my family.

“But then this came up, and I was like, ‘Put me in, coach.’”

Pastrana returns to the track this Saturday and Sunday for the third annual Nitro World Games at the Utah Motorsports Campus (formerly known as Miller Motorsports Park) near Salt Lake City.

Saturday will feature Nitro Rallycross (NRX) Qualifiers and Heat Races, including some of the biggest names in the sport including Pastrana and rival Ken Block having some “unfinished business,” as well as Scott Speed, Tanner Foust, Patrik Sandell, Steve Arpin, Mattias Ekstrom, Chris Atkinson and Timmy Hansen.

Pastrana and Ken Block have some ‘unfinished business’ in this weekend’s Nitro World Games near Salt Lake City. Photo: Nitro Circus.

On Sunday, the action includes the FMX Best Trick Finals, NRX Semi-Finals and Finals and FMX Quarterpipe Finals.

Among FMX Quarterpipe competitors are Colby Raha, Jarryd McNeil, Axell Hodges, Elijah Aldoff, Corey Creed and Kohl Denney.

And among riders and drivers taking part in the Best Trick Finals are defending champ Harry Bink, along with Pat Bowden, Christian Meyer, Josh Sheehan, William Van den Putte, Blake Williams, and Davi Johnson.

“Having the opportunity to kind of reinvent the sport for the American audience and for the drivers – I mean, we have Talladega-sized berms – right and left turns, dirt and pavement, huge jumps, there’s a triple-crossover,” Pastrana said. “World Games is basically the bigger of international sports. We take the most exciting sports, the biggest air, the least technical … and try to make it even bigger.

“I couldn’t be more excited. I think it’s going to be real exciting for the drivers, lots of options. It’s not a track that’s just built for a one-off event, it’s going to be a permanent place here so people can come out here and practice and keep getting better like European tracks do. So it should be good.”

Pastrana said Nitro Circus does over 70 live shows around the world per year, but he’s also excited about preparing for a lengthy residency in Las Vegas beginning next March.

Given all the things he’s accomplished over his career, Pastrana was asked if there’s anything remaining on his bucket list that he still hopes to do.

“I love racing, I love competing and I feel like I’ve competed in almost everything all over the world,” he said. “But the Daytona 500 is something … and I’ve never done a drag race. So those two would be pretty cool, wouldn’t they?”

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