NHRA photo from left: Karen Stoffer, Erica Enders, Shawn Langdon, Billy Torrence

NHRA: Upsets abound in final rounds at Gateway

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The name of the game in Sunday’s eliminations of the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway near St. Louis was upsets.

Shawn Langdon (Funny Car), Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all emerged victorious at the end of the second race of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

In Top Fuel: Billy Torrence earned his third win of the season and fourth of his career, showing his son and defending Top Fuel champ Steve that father sometimes does know best.

Billy Torrence covered the track at 3.835 seconds at 319.67 mph to his son’s effort of 4.374 seconds at 195.93 mph. It marks the second time the father-son duo have met in a final round, and that record is now even at one win apiece for each driver. It also is just the third father-son final round matchup in NHRA history.

Even with the loss, Steve Torrence still closed in on points leader Doug Kalitta, who now holds just a two-point lead over the defending series champ.

To get to race Steve in the final was the goal,” Billy Torrence said. “We watched how we qualified and we did a good job of staying on opposite sides of the ladder. It came out a little better for me in the end this time.

It’s tough to come out here. You’re at the pinnacle of drag racing on this level, but I’ve got to have fun. It’s just a blessing to get to be out here with my family. We’ve raced everything and it’s just really fun. It’s a family sport and we’re right in the middle of it.”

In Funny Car: It was an all-Kalitta Motorsports final round as Langdon defeated teammate and defending Funny Car champion J.R. Todd.

A former NHRA Top Fuel world champ, Langdon became only the second driver in NHRA history to win in both Top Fuel and Funny Car at the suburban St. Louis track. He clocked a time and speed of 4.068 seconds at 310.41 mph over Todd’s effort of 4.276 seconds at 223.32 mph.

It was the second career Funny Car win for Langdon, who switched to Funny Cars from Top Fuel prior to the start of the 2018 season. Including his Top Fuel record, he now has won 16 national event finals.

What an incredible day,” Langdon said. “Going through qualifying, we had a consistent car. We’ve got such a great group of guys and it was a pretty good day. Anytime you can get a win in this class, it builds momentum.

We had to make some big changes coming into St. Louis and the car was flawless for me to drive. I love racing for (team owner) Connie (Kalitta). He just has so much passion. He’s a great motivator and a great leader, and we just follow his vision. We all just work together.”

Even though he didn’t win, Robert Hight took over the Funny Car points lead.

In Pro Stock: Two-time champion Erica Enders moved a step closer to a potential third Pro Stock championship, earning her first win since early in 2018 with an effort of 6.598 seconds at 208.36 mph, defeating Matt Hartford (6.621 seconds at 207.30 mph) in the final round.

Enders came into Sunday’s eliminations as the event’s No. 1 qualifier and left with her 24th career win, her first since Charlotte in spring 2018. She also moved into the No. 2 spot in the standings.

We just had to pick ourselves up and we redeemed ourselves after our poor performance in Reading (the playoff opener two weeks ago at Reading, Pennsylvania),” Enders said. “I’m ready for the remaining four races. I put my money on us.

It’s all come together at the right time. It feels like it’s been eternity since we last won in 2018. We just continue to keep our heads down and working hard, and this definitely means a lot to our entire program. I knew every time we fired that bad boy up, we were going to go out and make a really great pass.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle: Also winning after a lengthy winless drought was Stoffer, who earned her first win in four seasons (since 2015). Stoffer (6.869 seconds at 197.74 mph) upset points leader Andrew Hines (6.871 seconds at 196.59 mph) in the final round for the ninth win of her career.

The big win also vaulted Stoffer into the second spot in the standings behind series leader Hines. It was the first time the two have faced each other in the final round of a national event in nine years.

I really don’t feel the pressure out there because every team is phenomenal,” Stoffer said. “I listened to the team and did what I had been doing. We had Matt (defending PSM champ Matt Smith and this weekend’s No. 1 qualifier), and then Eddie (Krawiec) and then we had Andrew (Hines).

Out of all the heavy hitters, those are it. We just went out and did our job. The Suzuki platform definitely went through some challenges and we’re not one of those high-budget teams, but we have fun. It’s been a long time (since her last win), and I wasn’t even scheduled to race this year, and here we are in the top 10 and winning a race in the Countdown.”

NOTES: With this weekend being the 20th race on the 24-race NHRA national event schedule, there are now four races remaining in the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs. … The wins by Stoffer and Enders marked the first time in NHRA history that females won in both Pro Stock classes at the same race. It also marked the 148th and 149th win for females in NHRA history. … The next race and the midway point of the playoffs occurs in two weeks – from October 11-13 – with the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Billy Torrence; 2. Steve Torrence; 3. Mike Salinas; 4. Leah Pritchett; 5. Doug Kalitta; 6. Austin Prock; 7. Pat Dakin; 8. Terry McMillen; 9. T.J. Zizzo; 10. Clay Millican; 11. Brittany Force; 12. Kyle Wurtzel; 13. Cameron Ferre; 14. Richie Crampton; 15. Antron Brown; 16. Scott Palmer.

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

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

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Karen Stoffer; 2. Andrew Hines; 3. Steve Johnson; 4. Eddie Krawiec; 5. Matt Smith; 6. Angie Smith; 7. Angelle Sampey; 8. Hector Arana Jr; 9. Hector Arana; 10. Kelly Clontz; 11. Jerry Savoie; 12. Michael Ray; 13. Ryan Oehler; 14. Andie Rawlings; 15. Scotty Pollacheck; 16. Jianna Salinas.

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FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Billy Torrence, 3.835 seconds, 319.67 mph def. Steve Torrence, 4.374 seconds, 195.93 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Shawn Langdon, Toyota Camry, 4.068, 310.41 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.276, 223.32.

PRO STOCK: Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.598, 208.36 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.621, 207.30.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.869, 197.74 def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.876, 196.59.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Terry McMillen, 3.781, 323.81 def. Clay Millican, 3.801, 326.08; Pat Dakin, 3.793, 327.27 def. Brittany Force, 3.802, 294.31; Austin Prock, 3.744, 326.00 def. T.J. Zizzo, 3.769, 329.75; Billy Torrence, 3.793, 326.08 def. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.908, 274.22; Mike Salinas, 3.733, 328.70 def. Cameron Ferre, 4.011, 300.66; Steve Torrence, 3.746, 325.77 def. Scott Palmer, Broke; Leah Pritchett, 3.764, 326.87 def. Antron Brown, 6.001, 116.41; Doug Kalitta, 4.285, 248.48 def. Richie Crampton, 5.086, 136.25; QUARTERFINALS — B. Torrence, 3.801, 321.12 def. Kalitta, 3.827, 323.04; S. Torrence, 3.784, 323.58 def. Dakin, 4.656, 164.31; Pritchett, 3.835, 321.88 def. Prock, 3.925, 309.06; Salinas, 3.773, 325.22 def. McMillen, 5.250, 137.39; SEMIFINALS — B. Torrence, 3.769, 322.96 def. Pritchett, 5.290, 132.79; S. Torrence, 3.805, 324.59 def. Salinas, 3.937, 312.13; FINAL — B. Torrence, 3.835, 319.67 def. S. Torrence, 4.374, 195.93.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.921, 331.85 def. Bob Bode, Ford Mustang, 4.013, 320.36; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.920, 328.22 def. Cruz Pedregon, Dodge Charger, 5.588, 129.10; John Force, Camaro, 3.939, 326.08 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 9.152, 77.06; Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.197, 249.39 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.204, 265.06; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.966, 328.86 def. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.997, 319.29; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.915, 325.14 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 5.162, 158.52; Shawn Langdon, Toyota Camry, 3.907, 330.47 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.898, 324.44; J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.954, 327.27 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.944, 326.56; QUARTERFINALS — Todd, 3.986, 326.56 def. Force, 4.870, 169.55; Langdon, 5.875, 253.52 def. Campbell, 6.940, 93.59; Tasca III, 3.947, 321.19 def. Wilkerson, 4.012, 315.56; Hight, 3.988, 323.27 def. Capps, 4.272, 225.52; SEMIFINALS — Todd, 3.979, 325.37 def. Hight, 12.733, 62.18; Langdon, 3.953, 323.50 def. Tasca III, 3.976, 323.04; FINAL — Langdon, 4.068, 310.41 def. Todd, 4.276, 223.32.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Aaron Stanfield, Chevy Camaro, 6.623, 207.30 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.618, 207.53; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.601, 208.23 def. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.637, 207.88; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.617, 207.62 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.615, 208.33; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.633, 208.33 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.584, 208.91; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.601, 207.78 def. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Camaro, 6.637, 208.30; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.592, 209.14 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.590, 207.78 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.640, 207.66; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.603, 207.69 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.646, 207.40; QUARTERFINALS — McGaha, 6.658, 207.59 def. Anderson, 6.672, 209.56; Butner, 6.638, 207.78 def. Coughlin, 6.630, 207.21; Hartford, 6.644, 207.37 def. Line, 9.100, 103.58; Enders, 6.614, 208.14 def. Stanfield, 6.628, 207.34; SEMIFINALS — Hartford, 6.643, 207.50 def. Butner, 6.647, 208.39; Enders, 6.628, 207.82 def. McGaha, 6.621, 208.68; FINAL — Enders, 6.598, 208.36 def. Hartford, 6.621, 207.30.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.911, 195.85 def. Ryan Oehler, 7.037, 193.52; Hector Arana Jr, 6.935, 194.77 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.971, 195.31; Angie Smith, 6.934, 195.03 def. Hector Arana, 6.951, 194.02; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.872, 195.39 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.967, 191.84; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.872, 195.22 def. Michael Ray, 7.018, 190.54; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.854, 195.73 def. Andie Rawlings, Suzuki, 7.121, 185.87; Matt Smith, 6.902, 197.77 def. Jianna Salinas, Suzuki, 11.986, 67.85; Angelle Sampey, Harley-Davidson, 6.907, 194.83 def. Scotty Pollacheck, 9.873, 86.58; QUARTERFINALS — Stoffer, 6.916, 196.30 def. M. Smith, Foul – Red Light; Hines, 6.895, 195.17 def. A. Smith, 6.926, 193.88; Johnson, 6.914, 194.07 def. Sampey, Foul – Red Light; Krawiec, 6.892, 195.59 def. Arana Jr, 7.011, 193.63; SEMIFINALS — Hines, 6.916, 195.42 def. Johnson, 6.892, 193.90; Stoffer, 6.921, 195.59 def. Krawiec, 6.927, 194.38; FINAL — Stoffer, 6.869, 197.74 def. Hines, 6.876, 196.59.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Doug Kalitta, 2,232; 2. Steve Torrence, 2,230; 3. Mike Salinas, 2,191; 4. Brittany Force, 2,184; 5. Leah Pritchett, 2,170; 6. (tie) Antron Brown, 2,159; Richie Crampton, 2,159; 8. Austin Prock, 2,153; 9. Billy Torrence, 2,152; 10. Clay Millican, 2,125.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, 2,235; 2. John Force, 2,222; 3. Jack Beckman, 2,211; 4. Ron Capps, 2,191; 5. J.R. Todd, 2,182; 6. Bob Tasca III, 2,156; 7. Shawn Langdon, 2,155; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,138; 9. Matt Hagan, 2,132; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,109.

PRO STOCK: 1. Jason Line, 2,254; 2. Erica Enders, 2,243; 3. Bo Butner, 2,232; 4. Matt Hartford, 2,197; 5. Alex Laughlin, 2,171; 6. Jeg Coughlin, 2,160; 7. Greg Anderson, 2,147; 8. Deric Kramer, 2,132; 9. Chris McGaha, 2,113; 10. Val Smeland, 2,062.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines, 2,266; 2. Karen Stoffer, 2,232; 3. Eddie Krawiec, 2,215; 4. Matt Smith, 2,205; 5. Jerry Savoie, 2,200; 6. Hector Arana Jr, 2,169; 7. Angelle Sampey, 2,136; 8. Angie Smith, 2,116; 9. Ryan Oehler, 2,075; 10. Hector Arana, 2,064.

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Australia SuperCar Champion gets IndyCar Test at Team Penske

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Scott McLaughlin’s latest reward for winning the 2019 Virgin Australia SuperCar championship is an INDYCAR test at Team Penske.

“Scott has been incredibly successful for DJR Team Penske over the last three seasons and he has become a true champion of our sport,” said team owner Roger Penske, who will become the owner of INDYCAR, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 in early January. “He certainly embraces new challenges and we think this is a great opportunity to utilize the IndyCar Series rookie testing program so Scott can experience what it is like to get behind the wheel of one of our Indy cars.”

McLaughlin, who has scored back-to-back Virgin Australia Supercars Champion for DJR Team Penske (DJRTP), will participate in an INDYCAR Rookie Evaluation test at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla. on Monday, January 13.

“I am always open to new challenges and I’m thankful to Team Penske for providing this opportunity to test an Indy car,” said McLaughlin, who established a new Supercars single season record with 18 victories this past season. “We had an amazing year in 2019 and I’m looking forward to defending our Supercars championship next season. I’m also excited to grow as a driver and being with Team Penske creates cool opportunities to try something new. Although I have spent a few hours in a simulator earlier this year, it’s going to be a blast to see what one really feels like at a place like Sebring.”

McLaughlin joined DJR Team Penske in 2017 as one of the brightest stars in Supercars. He has produced 35 victories and 44 pole positions over the last three seasons while helping DJRTP claim team championships in 2017 and 2019, the driver’s title each of the last two seasons and the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in October, along with co-driver Alex Premat.

McLaughlin will defend his Supercars title for DJRTP in 2020 in the No. 17 Shell V-Power Ford Mustang.  He will build on his already successful racing career by driving a full-sized open-wheel car for the first time.

Team Penske enjoyed another successful IndyCar Series season in 2019. The team earned its record 18th Indianapolis 500 victory as Simon Pagenaud captured the checkered flag in May, while Josef Newgarden won his second series title in three years and the team’s 16th INDYCAR Championship. Team Penske will once again compete with three full-season entries in 2020, featuring series champion drivers Newgarden, Pagenaud and Will Power.

Team Penske is one of the most successful teams in the history of professional sports. Cars owned and prepared by Team Penske have produced more than 540 major race wins, over 620 pole positions and 37 Championships across open-wheel, stock car and sports car racing competition. Over the course of its 53-year history, the team has also earned 18 Indianapolis 500 victories, two Daytona 500 Championships, a Formula 1 win, overall victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring along with a win in Australia’s legendary Bathurst 1000 race. Team Penske currently competes in the IndyCar Series, the NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The team also races in the Virgin Australia SuperCars Championship, in a partnership with Dick Johnson Racing, as DJR Team Penske.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500