NHRA Virginia winners from left: Torrence, Capps, Hines, Butner.

NHRA Virginia: Butner, S. Torrence, Hines, Capps continue winning ways

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Bo Butner had decided to retire from Pro Stock racing at the end of last season, with plans of going back to his sportsman rank roots. There’d be less pressure, less travel and more enjoyment.

But after a couple of weeks of thinking about it – and being coerced by friends and family – the 2017 Pro Stock champ decided to reconsider and returned to the Pro Stock ranks for 2019.

It’s a decision he likely will forever be grateful for making.

Butner continued his dominance in Pro Stock in 2019, earning his fourth win of the season in Sunday’s finals of the Virginia NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, Va.

Joining Butner in the winner’s circle was Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Butner covered the quarter-mile in 6.599 seconds at 209.01 mph, defeating teammate and four-time Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson (6.607 seconds, 210.18 mph) to capture his 11th career national event victory.

Butner becomes the first driver since Anderson in 2004 that won four of the first five Pro Stock races to start a season.

It’s been an amazing season and a good call to come back,” Butner said in a NHRA media release. “We made a very good run in the final.

Greg and I both made mediocre runs up until that point. The track was great. It’s very smooth and the Franklins did a great job with this place and it would be nice if we came back here a couple of times. It was fun running two cars multiple rounds today. It was a good day and I can’t complain.”

Butner defeated Wally Stroupe, Chris McGaha and Jeg Coughlin Jr. on his way to his 24th career final round.

IN TOP FUEL: Torrence earned his fourth win of the season and 30th of his career with a winning run of 3.881 seconds at 319.82 mph, defeating best friend Antron Brown (3.899 seconds at 309.49 mph).

It was the 10th time the pair have met in a final round. Brown won the first five meetings, while Torrence has won the last five times they’ve met.

Torrence reached the final round after earlier round wins over Todd Paton, Scott Palmer, and father Billy Torrence en route to his 45th career final round.

Hands down and hats off to the whole Capco team,” Steve Torrence said. “Those guys gave me the best race car of the day. We were the guys that went down the track four times in a row.

All I had to do was not run over anything or anybody and they gave me the best car ever. Richard Hogan (co-crew chief) and Bobby Lagana (co-crew chief), they make the right calls when the pressure is on and when the heat is out there. In cowboy terms, I rode the two best horses out there.”

Brown, meanwhile, defeated teammate Leah Pritchett, Brittany Force and Mike Salinas before falling to Torrence in the final round.

IN FUNNY CAR: Capps won his second consecutive race, defeating defending Funny Car world champ J.R. Todd in the final round.

The win is Capps’ 62nd career Funny Car victory (and 63rd overall of his career), along with being the 30th win of his tenure with crew chief Rahn Tobler since 2012.

Capps defeated Jim Campbell, Robert Hight and teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. to reach the final round, earning his first career win at VMP.

Just go up there and not make a mistake was my mindset today,” Capps said. “Tobler told me in the trailer prior to the final round, ‘I don’t know why it smoked the tires all day. Everybody has had problems and we’re just going to put it like we did first round when it went 3.99.’

I rolled it in there and obviously it went a bit slower but that’s what he went up there to do. Vintage Rahn Tobler.”

Todd beat Bob Tasca III, teammate Shawn Langdon and Jonnie Lindberg to reach the finals.

IN PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Hines won from the No. 1 qualifier position, earning his third straight win of the season, fourth overall of 2019 and 52nd of his career.

He covered the quarter-mile in 6.845 seconds at 195.68 mph, defeating teammate Eddie Krawiec in the final round.

Andrew Hines becomes the first PSM rider to win four of the first five events to start a season since brother Matt did so to kick off the 1998 season.

We have developed a very good hot weather tune up for our Street Rods and that’s saying a lot,” Hines said. “We typically tend to not look forward to the middle of the season because that’s where our performance tends to fall off and people make up ground on us.

Today we were able to take what we’ve learned the last couple of weeks between Charlotte, when it got hot, and Atlanta when it was really hot. We don’t ever go up there (the starting line) with the same tune up, ever. It was a little bit of picking on it here and there which has led to us finding the window where we need to be.”

Hines remains atop the PSM point standings, defeating Jiana Salinas, Ryan Oehler and defending world champion Matt Smith to reach the final round. Krawiec took down Kelly Clontz, Karen Stoffer and Hector Arana Jr. en route to his 25th final round against Hines.

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will have the Memorial Day weekend off before returning to action in Joliet, Illinois, May 30th to June 2nd in the Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway. It will be the ninth race of the 24-race season for both Top Fuel and Funny Car, and the sixth race of the season for PSM and Pro Stock.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence; 2. Antron Brown; 3. Billy Torrence; 4. Mike Salinas; 5. Scott Palmer; 6. Clay Millican; 7. Austin Prock; 8. Brittany Force; 9. Richie Crampton; 10. Todd Paton; 11. Cameron Ferre; 12. Dan Mercier; 13. Audrey Worm; 14. Terry McMillen; 15. Leah Pritchett; 16. Doug Kalitta.

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

PRO STOCK: 1. Bo Butner; 2. Greg Anderson; 3. Jeg Coughlin; 4. Alex Laughlin; 5. Chris McGaha; 6. Erica Enders; 7. Jason Line; 8. Fernando Cuadra Jr.; 9. Fernando Cuadra; 10. Rodger Brogdon; 11. Matt Hartford; 12. Val Smeland; 13. Wally Stroupe; 14. Shane Tucker; 15. Kenny Delco; 16. Deric Kramer.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines; 2. Eddie Krawiec; 3. Matt Smith; 4. Hector Arana Jr; 5. Angelle Sampey; 6. Karen Stoffer; 7. Ryan Oehler; 8. Joey Gladstone; 9. Angie Smith; 10. John Hall; 11. Steve Johnson; 12. Hector Arana; 13. Kelly Clontz; 14. Scotty Pollacheck; 15. Jianna Salinas; 16. Cory Reed.

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FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Steve Torrence, 3.881 seconds, 319.82 mph def. Antron Brown, 3.899 seconds, 309.49 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.097, 310.98 def. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, Broke.

PRO STOCK: Bo Butner, Chevy Camaro, 6.599, 209.01 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.607, 210.18.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.845, 195.68 def. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.858, 196.44.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Antron Brown, 3.872, 312.42 def. Leah Pritchett, 5.388, 139.06; Scott Palmer, 3.869, 322.58 def. Doug Kalitta, 5.568, 119.26; Clay Millican, 3.814, 320.97 def. Dan Mercier, 4.525, 183.49; Mike Salinas, 3.813, 319.60 def. Cameron Ferre, 4.466, 215.20; Brittany Force, 4.321, 241.89 def. Audrey Worm, 4.561, 181.54; Steve Torrence, 3.845, 321.73 def. Todd Paton, 3.969, 306.33; Austin Prock, 3.866, 304.94 def. Richie Crampton, 3.901, 313.51; Billy Torrence, 3.983, 282.48 def. Terry McMillen, 4.778, 164.11; QUARTERFINALS — Brown, 4.446, 231.00 def. Force, 4.659, 234.53; B. Torrence, 3.912, 305.49 def. Millican, 4.205, 227.11; Salinas, 3.831, 321.50 def. Prock, 4.294, 228.61; S. Torrence, 3.870, 319.14 def. Palmer, 3.910, 318.69; SEMIFINALS — S. Torrence, 3.853, 316.23 def. B. Torrence, 4.114, 238.26; Brown, 4.846, 160.44 def. Salinas, 11.990, 33.39; FINAL — S. Torrence, 3.881, 319.82 def. Brown, 3.899, 309.49.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.013, 316.97 def. Cruz Pedregon, Dodge Charger, 4.057, 304.74; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.997, 313.58 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 6.497, 99.14; John Force, Camaro, 4.004, 317.64 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 11.009, 80.03; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.027, 316.52 def. Terry Haddock, Ford Mustang, 4.132, 296.24; J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.074, 306.95 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.086, 313.80; Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.039, 310.27 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.054, 307.02; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.649, 251.44 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 5.115, 225.41; Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 4.088, 314.39 def. Blake Alexander, Mustang, Foul – Centerline; QUARTERFINALS — Lindberg, 4.157, 269.94 def. Force, 10.790, 77.43; Capps, 6.173, 251.11 def. Hight, 6.204, 270.75; Johnson Jr., 5.356, 212.03 def. Beckman, 8.238, 102.56; Todd, 4.044, 310.41 def. Langdon, 4.081, 312.35; SEMIFINALS — Capps, 4.212, 301.94 def. Johnson Jr., 10.184, 90.53; Todd, 4.040, 313.88 def. Lindberg, 5.543, 133.55; FINAL — Capps, 4.097, 310.98 def. Todd, Broke.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.626, 207.11 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.619, 207.94; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.612, 205.72 def. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.607, 208.65; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.607, 208.75 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.642, 207.94; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.610, 209.43 def. Shane Tucker, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Fernando Cuadra Jr., Camaro, 6.838, 197.88 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 15.360, 55.41; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.622, 209.72 def. Wally Stroupe, Camaro, 6.781, 203.43; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.615, 209.43 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.733, 205.94; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.630, 207.24 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 9.338, 99.16; QUARTERFINALS — Laughlin, 6.641, 207.59 def. Line, 6.685, 208.20; Coughlin, 6.628, 207.34 def. Cuadra Jr., 6.858, 200.80; Anderson, 6.629, 209.49 def. Enders, 6.668, 206.95; Butner, 6.625, 208.59 def. McGaha, 6.618, 208.84; SEMIFINALS — Anderson, 6.609, 209.52 def. Laughlin, 6.670, 207.40; Butner, 6.602, 208.78 def. Coughlin, 6.629, 207.66; FINAL — Butner, 6.599, 209.01 def. Anderson, 6.607, 210.18.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.927, 195.36 def. Angie Smith, 6.944, 195.68; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.954, 194.27 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.962, 192.03; Joey Gladstone, 7.006, 191.51 def. Hector Arana, 6.979, 194.30; Angelle Sampey, Harley-Davidson, 6.855, 195.56 def. John Hall, Suzuki, 6.956, 193.88; Matt Smith, 6.813, 198.64 def. Scotty Pollacheck, 7.024, 191.65; Hector Arana Jr, 6.909, 197.05 def. Cory Reed, 7.108, 187.78; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.855, 196.82 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 7.021, 191.95; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.853, 196.87 def. Jianna Salinas, Suzuki, 7.065, 188.23; QUARTERFINALS — Arana Jr, 6.884, 194.83 def. Gladstone, Broke; Krawiec, 6.853, 196.44 def. Stoffer, 6.963, 193.46; Hines, 6.871, 195.90 def. Oehler, 6.971, 194.66; M. Smith, 6.836, 198.50 def. Sampey, 6.889, 193.46; SEMIFINALS — Krawiec, 6.863, 196.56 def. Arana Jr, 6.902, 195.39; Hines, 6.837, 196.62 def. M. Smith, 6.856, 196.67; FINAL — Hines, 6.845, 195.68 def. Krawiec, 6.858, 196.44.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 701; 2. Brittany Force, 541; 3. Doug Kalitta, 498; 4. Clay Millican, 489; 5. Leah Pritchett, 469; 6. Antron Brown, 467; 7. Mike Salinas, 466; 8. Richie Crampton, 363; 9. Terry McMillen, 352; 10. Austin Prock, 341.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, 717; 2. J.R. Todd, 556; 3. Ron Capps, 548; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 527; 5. John Force, 524; 6. Matt Hagan, 506; 7. Jack Beckman, 477; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 463; 9. Shawn Langdon, 404; 10. Bob Tasca III, 369.

PRO STOCK: 1. Bo Butner, 545; 2. Alex Laughlin, 358; 3. Jason Line, 328; 4. Matt Hartford, 318; 5. Greg Anderson, 305; 6. Jeg Coughlin, 298; 7. Erica Enders, 297; 8. Rodger Brogdon, 254; 9. Chris McGaha, 241; 10. Deric Kramer, 239.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines, 569; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 468; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 435; 4. Matt Smith, 318; 5. Ryan Oehler, 263; 6. Karen Stoffer, 257; 7. Jerry Savoie, 233; 8. Joey Gladstone, 222; 9. Angelle Sampey, 210; 10. Hector Arana, 203.

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NHRA: Funny Car driver J.R. Todd looks to snap slump, make history at U.S. Nationals

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In addition to being the most gratifying achievement of his NHRA drag racing career, winning the 2018 NHRA Funny Car championship was also the hardest thing J.R. Todd has ever done.

That is, until he tried to defend the title in 2019 – which has now become the hardest thing Todd has done behind the wheel.

After winning a career-best six wins en route to his title last season, Todd has had a rough campaign in the first 17 races of the current season, having earned just one win (Las Vegas) and two runner-up finishes.

In addition, he’s failed to make it out of the first round six times, and was stopped in the quarter-finals eight other times.

And as he prepares for next week’s Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis – the biggest race of the season – the 37-year-old Todd is mired in a difficult slump. Since losing to Ron Capps in the final round at Richmond, Todd has dropped from second to eighth in the Funny Car standings, unable to get past the second round of the nine subsequent events.

That’s why Todd is hoping for a major turnaround at the U.S. Nationals, the final qualifying race for the upcoming six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

J.R. Todd (Photo: NHRA).

A massive 416 points (the equivalent of more than three wins points-wise) out of first place, Todd needs to start a big comeback if he hopes to do well in the playoffs, and the U.S. Nationals is the perfect place for him to do so. Todd comes into this year’s race having won the last two Funny Car crowns at Indy in 2017 and 2018.

If he can make it three in a row, Todd will make NHRA history. To date, only two drivers – Top Fuel greats “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and Tony Schumacher – have won three in a row at Indianapolis. But no Funny Car driver has ever done so, not John Force, Kenny Bernstein, Don Prudhomme or anyone else.

“That’s some pretty elite company right there with Big Daddy and Tony Schumacher,” Todd told NBC Sports. “Really you try not to think about things like that and just focus on the mission at hand – and that’s to win the race.

“When you do that, then you can enjoy all the accolades that come with it. I have the two trophies that I can look at every day – and it’s an awesome reminder of what we’ve done. It was a dream of mine as a kid to go there and race in the U.S. Nationals as a professional someday and to have won it is still kind of a surreal feeling.”

Todd, who lives in nearby Lawrenceburg, Indiana, wants to be the first Funny Car driver to pull off that achievement — and at his home track, to boot.

“It’s the biggest race of the year and the one that everyone wants to win,” Todd said. “To go back there and win there three years in a row would be pretty special.

“For me, it’s the race I grew up going to as a kid. I have a lot of family and friends that go there. I live five minutes from the track, so it means everything to me.”

In a sense, his situation this season is kind of deja vu for Todd. Last season, he won two races earlier in the season (Las Vegas and Houston), then went into a slump much like the one he’s currently in.

But starting with last September’s win at Indianapolis, Todd went on to win four of the final seven races of the season — including three in the playoffs — to motor on to the championship.

What makes Todd’s success at Indy all the more unique is that while he’s a long-time drag racer, he only switched to Funny Car prior to the 2017 season. That means in just two seasons, the former Top Fuel pilot has not only twice won the sport’s biggest race, but also the championship.

The team Todd races for, Kalitta Motorsports, has a history of starting to hit its stride just before the playoffs begin in Funny Car. From 2014 through 2018, the organization has won 13 Funny Car races beginning with the second-to-last regular season race at Brainerd, Minnesota through the six playoff races. That’s 13 of 40 races, roughly 33% of the races that NHRA has won.

In addition to Todd’s two U.S. Nationals wins, Team Kalitta also won the Funny Car event in 2014 with now-retired driver Alexis DeJoria.

I knew coming over to drive the DHL Toyota Camry that we would have some good opportunities to win races,” Todd said. “For whatever reason, it seems like we pick up a lot of momentum at that time of year. We’re hoping we can keep that trend going this year.”

In a sense, the U.S. Nationals – the 18th and final regular season race of the overall 24-race NHRA schedule – are to the NHRA what the Daytona 500 is to NASCAR or the Indianapolis 500 is to IndyCar.

“It sets the tone for the next six races,” Todd said of the playoffs. “The U.S. Nationals are a marathon. It’s the one race where everyone brings out their best stuff because it’s so important.  So much of that preparation then carries over into the Countdown.

“If you ask drivers that haven’t won Indy before, I think they’d trade pretty much any win for that one.”

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