NHRA Las Vegas: ‘Playoff perfect’ Steve Torrence clinches Top Fuel championship

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Steve Torrence capped off one of the most spectacular seasons in NHRA Top Fuel history – and there’s still one race left to go in the season.

In Sunday’s NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Torrence captured his first career NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel championship, becoming the 30th driver to do so in the history of the class.

But as big as it was for the Texas native to win the championship, how he did it was equally as big of a story. He continued his perfect run in the six-race Countdown to the Championship, remaining undefeated with his fifth consecutive win in as many races in the six-race playoffs (as well as a record 10th overall season win).

Not only is Torrence the only driver in NHRA Top Fuel (or Funny Car) history to win four straight Countdown races, he’s now the first driver in the sport’s annals to win five straight Countdown races. He also now has 26 career Top Fuel national event wins.

Two weeks from now in the season-ending Auto Club Finals (Nov. 8-11) at Pomona, California, and even with the championship already wrapped up, Torrence and his Capco Contractors/Torrence Motorsports team will look to become the first driver and team in NHRA history to win all six playoff races.

Torrence clinched the championship in Sunday’s semifinal round win over Richie Crampton, then went on to defeat Leah Pritchett in the final round to win playoff race No. 5 in 2018.

“This is a lifelong goal right here,” Torrence said. “All the glory goes to God, my mom and dad, because without them none of this would be even be possible.

“Every one of those Capco boys on that race team because they put their heart in it and it is hard to beat people with heart. All the boys back home at Capco, we got it done guys. This is unreal. To all those people who said we couldn’t do it, we are here.”

In Funny Car: J.R. Todd moved into first place in the standings with his fifth win of the season for Kalitta Motorsports.

Todd defeated Matt Hagan in the final round to not only take over the points lead, but now has a 74-point edge heading to Pomona over defending Funny Car champ Robert Hight, who uncharacteristically lost in the first round of eliminations Sunday.

This is the seventh Funny Car win for Todd, the 16th in his career and his second win at The Strip this season.

“It is so awesome to drive a car like that when it is that consistent,” Todd said. “You don’t have to worry about if you are going to have to go out there and pedal it or things like that.

“You can go up there and smack the tree as hard as you can and keep that thing stuck down the groove. It is a lot of fun to drive. We still have some unfinished business in Pomona. Hopefully we can go there and come out of it with two trophies (championship and race win).”

In Pro Stock: Reigning Pro Stock champ Bo Butner roared to the win, just two days after announcing that he will not be returning to the Pro Stock ranks in 2019, but rather will return to his Sportsman racing roots.

Butner defeated two-time Pro Stock champ Erica Enders in Sunday’s final run. It was Butner’s second win of the season and his fifth final round appearance at The Strip in the past four seasons.

“We started off like gangbusters, win in Pomona, ran good at Gainesville and thought we had another repeat deal coming,” Butner said. “We struggled a little bit as every team does.

“I kept saying this weekend this is perfect. This car showed improvement every run. I’m very happy we got to win again, win a couple of rounds, much less win the race. This Pro Stock deal is amazing. Everybody in the top 12 qualifiers can win.”

While Butner’s hopes to win a second straight championship are over, he still has hopes to leave Pro Stock with a win at Pomona.

Also, Tanner Gray reached the semifinals before losing to Enders. Gray closed in on his first career championship. He holds a 140-point lead in the Pro Stock ranks, with a maximum of 191 points available to be earned at Pomona.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle: No. 1 qualifier Hector Arana Jr. won his third race of the season and 14th of his career, defeating defending PSM champ Eddie Krawiec in Sunday’s finals.

“We did a great job qualifying and that sent the tone for today,” Arana said. “It gave me the confidence I needed.

“I had great lights in qualifying and did it again today on race day. Great preparation and everything came back together. We just want to qualify well, win rounds and win races.”

Matt Smith remains No. 1 in the PSM points, but with his runner-up finish, Krawiec is now just four points back, while LE Tonglet is third, 61 points behind Smith.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence; 2. Leah Pritchett; 3. Richie Crampton; 4. Tony Schumacher; 5. Blake Alexander; 6. Clay Millican; 7. Brittany Force; 8. Billy Torrence; 9. Antron Brown; 10. Troy Buff; 11. Terry McMillen; 12. Scott Palmer; 13. Greg Carrillo; 14. Doug Kalitta; 15. Shawn Reed; 16. Mike Salinas.

FUNNY CAR:1. J.R. Todd; 2. Matt Hagan; 3. Jack Beckman; 4. Bob Tasca III; 5. Ron Capps; 6. Courtney Force; 7. Shawn Langdon; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 9. John Force; 10. Cruz Pedregon; 11. Jim Campbell; 12. Robert Hight; 13. Jonnie Lindberg; 14. Tim Wilkerson; 15. Richard Townsend; 16. Jeff Arend.

PRO STOCK: 1. Bo Butner; 2. Erica Enders; 3. Tanner Gray; 4. Matt Hartford; 5. Jason Line; 6. Drew Skillman; 7. Deric Kramer; 8. Jeg Coughlin; 9. Greg Anderson; 10. Alex Laughlin; 11. Chris McGaha; 12. Vincent Nobile; 13. Kenny Delco; 14. Steve Graham; 15. Fernando Cuadra; 16. Alan Prusiensky.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Hector Arana Jr.; 2. Eddie Krawiec; 3. Hector Arana; 4. Andrew Hines; 5. Chip Ellis; 6. Matt Smith; 7. Angelle Sampey; 8. Jerry Savoie; 9. LE Tonglet; 10. Steve Johnson; 11. Scotty Pollacheck; 12. Ron Tornow; 13. Ryan Oehler; 14. Kelly Clontz; 15. Mark Paquette; 16. Angie Smith.

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FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Steve Torrence, 3.751 seconds, 326.32 mph def. Leah Pritchett, 5.317 seconds, 148.85 mph.

FUNNY CAR: J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.921, 318.39 def. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.087, 263.62.

PRO STOCK: Bo Butner, Chevy Camaro, 6.657, 207.43 def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.652, 206.57.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.885, 193.35 def. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.911, 195.05.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Tony Schumacher, 3.818, 315.86 def. Scott Palmer, 3.850, 304.94; Blake Alexander, 3.734, 326.48 def. Antron Brown, 3.793, 314.61; Clay Millican, 3.744, 329.58 def. Greg Carrillo, 3.912, 315.42; Leah Pritchett, 3.735, 327.43 def. Troy Buff, 3.808, 319.67; Brittany Force, 3.738, 330.55 def. Mike Salinas, Broke; Steve Torrence, 3.778, 326.79 def. Shawn Reed, 4.461, 180.02; Richie Crampton, 3.797, 314.02 def. Doug Kalitta, 4.219, 216.06; Billy Torrence, 3.724, 329.58 def. Terry McMillen, 3.812, 325.85; QUARTERFINALS — Schumacher, 3.754, 328.70 def. Millican, 4.025, 242.15; Pritchett, 3.740, 322.42 def. Alexander, 3.968, 276.29; Crampton, 3.766, 321.96 def. Force, 4.232, 242.23; S. Torrence, 3.764, 329.34 def. B. Torrence, 4.417, 185.10; SEMIFINALS — S. Torrence, 3.724, 330.15 def. Crampton, 4.233, 223.54; Pritchett, 3.730, 328.46 def. Schumacher, 6.004, 93.72; FINAL — S. Torrence, 3.751, 326.32 def. Pritchett, 5.317, 148.85.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.969, 317.79 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 5.025, 160.18; Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.938, 326.08 def. Jeff Arend, Chevy Monte Carlo, 7.197, 92.39; J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.935, 321.27 def. Richard Townsend, Camry, 6.782, 98.32; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.935, 326.24 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.035, 300.33; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.954, 325.22 def. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.972, 330.31; Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.919, 326.87 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.975, 308.35; Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.922, 325.85 def. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.643, 186.41; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.908, 326.08 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, Foul – Red Light; QUARTERFINALS — Tasca III, 3.943, 322.11 def. Capps, 3.963, 322.81; Todd, 3.957, 320.36 def. Langdon, 5.134, 145.96; Hagan, 3.919, 326.08 def. Johnson Jr., Foul – Red Light; Beckman, 3.951, 320.51 def. C. Force, 3.969, 320.66; SEMIFINALS — Todd, 3.906, 327.11 def. Beckman, 3.937, 327.90; Hagan, 3.928, 323.89 def. Tasca III, 3.952, 319.29; FINAL — Todd, 3.921, 318.39 def. Hagan, 4.087, 263.62.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.644, 206.45 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.655, 207.37; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.653, 207.56 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.655, 205.16; Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.663, 206.80 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.657, 207.37; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.646, 206.64 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, Foul – Red Light; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.646, 206.48 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.661, 204.94; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.641, 205.51 def. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.723, 205.54; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.640, 206.86 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.693, 205.16; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.635, 206.86 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.714, 204.91; QUARTERFINALS — Gray, 6.654, 206.39 def. Skillman, 6.666, 206.48; Hartford, 6.663, 205.85 def. Kramer, 6.673, 206.23; Butner, 6.652, 207.08 def. Line, 6.655, 206.23; Enders, 6.664, 206.45 def. Coughlin, 6.679, 206.39; SEMIFINALS — Enders, 6.665, 204.32 def. Gray, 6.673, 205.91; Butner, 6.658, 207.66 def. Hartford, 6.682, 206.10; FINAL — Butner, 6.657, 207.43 def. Enders, 6.652, 206.57.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.973, 190.00 def. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.638, 128.24; Matt Smith, 6.923, 195.62 def. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.926, 193.24; Chip Ellis, Harley-Davidson, 6.918, 191.97 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 7.045, 189.84; Hector Arana, 6.905, 194.60 def. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 7.022, 190.89; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.950, 191.92 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.994, 189.95; Hector Arana Jr, 6.924, 193.27 def. Mark Paquette, Buell, 7.236, 152.38; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.901, 194.21 def. Ron Tornow, Buell, 7.003, 188.67; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.943, 192.85 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.966, 190.48; QUARTERFINALS — Arana Jr, 6.942, 193.88 def. M. Smith, Foul – Red Light; Hines, 6.978, 191.29 def. Ellis, Foul – Red Light; Arana, 6.931, 194.74 def. Sampey, 6.960, 191.87; Krawiec, 6.933, 194.97 def. Savoie, 6.978, 192.69; SEMIFINALS — Arana Jr, 6.946, 194.13 def. Hines, 6.995, 190.89; Krawiec, 6.924, 194.83 def. Arana, 6.953, 193.52; FINAL — Arana Jr, 6.885, 193.35 def. Krawiec, 6.911, 195.05.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 2,718; 2. Clay Millican, 2,487; 3. Tony Schumacher, 2,454; 4. Leah Pritchett, 2,394; 5. Brittany Force, 2,302; 6. Antron Brown, 2,291; 7. (tie) Doug Kalitta, 2,259; Mike Salinas, 2,259; 9. Terry McMillen, 2,253; 10. Scott Palmer, 2,182.

FUNNY CAR: 1. J.R. Todd, 2,553; 2. Robert Hight, 2,479; 3. Ron Capps, 2,388; 4. Tim Wilkerson, 2,367; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,362; 6. Courtney Force, 2,324; 7. Matt Hagan, 2,321; 8. Jack Beckman, 2,283; 9. John Force, 2,277; 10. Shawn Langdon, 2,204.

PRO STOCK: 1. Tanner Gray, 2,583; 2. Jeg Coughlin, 2,443; 3. Erica Enders, 2,434; 4. Drew Skillman, 2,413; 5. Vincent Nobile, 2,404; 6. Jason Line, 2,350; 7. Greg Anderson, 2,334; 8. Bo Butner, 2,300; 9. Deric Kramer, 2,220; 10. Chris McGaha, 2,135.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Matt Smith, 2,479; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 2,475; 3. LE Tonglet, 2,418; 4. Hector Arana Jr, 2,415; 5. Jerry Savoie, 2,378; 6. Andrew Hines, 2,366; 7. Angelle Sampey, 2,268; 8. Angie Smith, 2,255; 9. Steve Johnson, 2,242; 10. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,209.

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Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing
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To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.

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“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”

In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.

“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”

Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.

He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.

Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.

The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.

After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.

“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.

“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.

“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.


Racing Responsibly

Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.

The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.

Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.

The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.

“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.

“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.

“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”