Torrence, Gray, Johnson and Arana pace steamy first qualifying day at Norwalk

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Eric Mauk

A sweltering Ohio day greeted the NHRA’s finest at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Norwalk Motorsports Park, but the 151-degree track temperatures did nothing to slow down Steve Torrence, Johnny Gray, Allan Johnson and Hector Arana Sr. as they led the first day of qualifying for Sunday’s eliminations.

Torrence snapped off a 3.829-second pass in the penultimate pairing of the evening to swipe the top spot in the Top Fuel category, outracing last weekend’s winner Antron Brown by just .003 seconds to hold the number-one position after two qualifying passes. Torrence sealed the spot during the evening run, but he credited his strong run during the heat of the day as being critical to his success.

“It was crucial during the day to get a good pass so that you would run in the back of the pack tonight,” Torrence said. “I was a little surprised that it held up because there were two good cars behind us (Brown and Shawn Langdon had the final pass of the night), but it shows that this team has their act together. And when you go out and run well on Friday, it gives you a chance to work on things on Saturday, try a couple of things, because Saturday’s conditions will be more like what we are going to see on Sunday.”

Johnny Gray
Johnny Gray

Photo by: NHRA

The evening run saw some big movers as Torrence vaulted Brown, while Khalid alBalooshi came all the way to third ahead of Bristol winner Tony Schumacher. Clay Millican climbed from 13th to fifth and Keith Murt went from 14th to eighth. Spencer Massey claimed the last transfer position offered in today’s qualifying, slotting in ahead of Bob Vandergriff.

Johnny Gray overcame his own concerns brought on by the stifling heat to lead the Funny Car field with a top run of 4.094 seconds with a top speed of 306.33 mph, leading the way over Mike Neff and Cruz Pedregon.

When you go out and run well on Friday, it gives you a chance to work on things on Saturday…because Saturday’s conditions will be more like what we are going to see on Sunday

Steve Torrence

“It’s so hot, you’re sitting there, you are sweating, you have the big gloves on, you can’t wipe your eyes and you start thinking about what mistakes you can make,” Gray admitted. “You don’t want to miss the tree, your hands start to sweat inside the gloves and get slick, and you start thinking about slipping off the wheel.

Hector Arana Sr.
Hector Arana Sr.

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

“But once they fire the engine and lower the body of the car, all that stuff fades away and you do what you always do,” Gray continued. “And tonight we had a really good run. We left (the line) strong and got down the track pretty well.”

The Funny Car field was so much faster in the evening that the 4.238-second time that Jack Beckman posted to lead the first session didn’t even earn him a berth in the field after the second round. Beckman is currently 13th, just .008 seconds behind Blake Alexander and out of the field, as is current points leader Robert Hight and Chicago finalist Alexis DeJoria.

Allan Johnson continued his recent dominance of the Pro Stock qualifying as he paced both sessions and ended the day on top of the ladder with a best time of 6.663 seconds at 207.34 mph. Johnson was more than three-hundredths ahead of Jason Line and current points leader Greg Anderson, and admitted that his recent qualifying prowess has made his team even more confident in their abilities to go fast.

“Now we go up there every time trying to be the quickest car in the round,” Anderson said of his Dodge Avenger. “We know we can be fast and it gives us the confidence to really go for it every time up there. But it is hard for us not to get greedy. We make a run and my crew chief says ‘three hundredths of an improvement? Is that all you’ve got?’, so we’re feeling pretty good.”

Warren Johnson took today’s last transfer spot, nipping Ronnie Humphrey by .003 for the 12th position on the ladder. One week after becoming the first woman ever to win an NHRA Pro Stock national event, Erica Enders snared the sixth spot with two rounds to go.

Hector Arana Sr. overcame some electrical gremlins to post the best time in Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying, getting down the Norwalk strip in 6.962 seconds with a top speed of 188.02 mph. He led an Arana sweep of the top two spots as Hector Jr. ran the only other six-second run of the night at 6.984.

“Last week at Chicago we had some electrical problems at the end of the day that caused the engine to cut out,” Arana allowed. “We changed a number of sensors and thought we had the problem solved, but it happened again today and took a little of our top speed. But we are pleased with the way it went other than that.

Points leader Eddie Krawiec is third after two rounds while Chicago winner Andrew Hines stands in fifth. Chip Ellis scored the last transfer spot of the day ahead of Shawn Gann.

Top Fuel
1) Steve Torrence 3.829/319.98
2) Antron Brown 3.832/321.27
3) Khalid alBalooshi 3.836/316.67
4) Tony Schumacher 3.841/313.88
5) Clay Millican 3.868/313.00
6) Cory McClenathan 3.911/301.87
7) Doug Kalitta 3.925/296.31
8) Keith L. Murt 3.939/289.07
9) Shawn Langdon 3.949/309.56
10) T.J. Zizzo 3.963/296.50
11) Hilary Will 3.968/298.40
12) Spencer Massey 3.984/301.20
13) Bob Vandergriff 4.027/300.20
14) Morgan Lucas 4.075/286.38
15) Pat Dakin 4.079/292.33
16) Ike Maier 4.181/280.25
17) Brandon Bernstein 4.271/203.09
18) David Grubnic 4.414/186.30
19) Terry McMillen 5.157/135.59
20) Brady Kalivoda 7.643/85.43

Funny Car
1) Johnny Gray 4.094/306.33
2) Mike Neff 4.112/309.42
3) Cruz Pedregon 4.123/306.67
4) Ron Capps 4.133/307.02
5) Bob Tasca III 4.139/306.88
6) Courtney Force 4.140/301.81
7) Daniel Wilkerson 4.152/303.16
8) Tim Wilkerson 4.172/300.73
9) John Force 4.196/300.40
10) Jeff Arend 4.198/302.08
11) Todd Lesenko 4.203/295.66
12) Blake Alexander 4.230/290.01
13) Jack Beckman 4.238/293.73
14) Matt Hagan 4.245/288.95
15) Robert Hight 4.337/253.85
16) Tony Pedregon 4.434/206.23
17) Terry Haddock 4.513/225.22
18) Jim Head 4.644/182.65
19) Alexis DeJoria 4.708/181.03
20) Bob Bode 5.769/119.50

Pro Stock
1) Allen Johnson 6.663/207.34
2) Jason Line 6.697/205.94
3) Greg Anderson 6.698/205.82
4) V Gaines 6.702/205.29
5) Vincent Nobile 6.706/206.45
6) Erica Enders 6.708/205.13
7) Ron Krisher 6.711/205.60
8) Kurt Johnson 6.715/205.98
9) JR Carr 6.716/205.19
10) Jeg Coughlin Jr. 6.718/206.07
11) Mike Edwards 6.719/206.26
12) Warren Johnson 6.719/205.94
13) Ronnie Humphrey 6.722/205.85
14) Greg Stanfield 6.734/205.10
15) Shane Gray 6.737/203.89
16) Chris McGaha 6.770/204.79
17) Larry Morgan 6.791/204.45
18) Grace Howell 6.819/202.42
19) Steve Kent 6.829/204.14
20) John Gaydosh 6.983/197.59
21) Rodger Brogdon 14.712/57.50

Pro Stock Motorcycle
1) Hector Arana Sr. 6.962/188.02
2) Hector Arana Jr. 6.984/192.69
3) Eddie Krawiec 7.010/192.08
4) LE Tonglet 7.019/190.32
5) Andrew Hines 7.040/189.79
6) Steve Johnson 7.051/189.10
7) Scotty Pollacheck 7.060/186.67
8) Karen Stoffer 7.082/189.58
9) Mike Berry 7.108/188.94
10) Matt Smith 7.113/188.62
11) Michael Ray 7.117/187.11
12) Chip Ellis 7.119/188.36
13) Shawn Gann 7.119/187.68
14) John Hall 7.129/183.24
15) Jerry Savoie 7.140/184.42
16) Angie Smith 7.162/185.69
17) Matt Guidera 7.171/186.36
18) Wesley Wells 7.217/183.54
19) Michael Phillips 7.845/135.08

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About this article
Series NHRA
Article type Qualifying report
Tags arana, featured, gray, johnson, mauk, nhra, norwalk, top fuel, torrence