Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) lead their categories into Sunday’s eliminations at the Winternationals.
At the season-opening event of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Torrence powered to his sixth career No. 1 qualifying position and his first ever at Pomona. He clocked a 3.703s at 328.06mph in his Capco Contractors dragster and will open eliminations for the 56th annual Circle K Winternationals against nitro journeyman Steve Faria.
“We weren’t holding anything back,” Torrence said. “The conditions were the best we’ve seen this weekend so we said why not go for it. We’ve got a really good hot rod right now and I just want to do my job and hopefully we can walk away from here tomorrow with one of those little gold men.”
Paying tribute to his consultant, noted nitro tuning expert Alan Johnson, Torrence added: “Bringing Alan into the mix has brought us credibility. It makes the morale and confidence of the team a lot better.
“I am just a hillbilly country kid, out here living a dream and enjoying getting to do what I love to do. We are driving a racecar for a living. You have to just take everything with a grain of salt and enjoy it. Not everybody gets to live their dream as a job.”
Doug Kalitta qualified second in his Mac Tools dragster with a 3.713 at 324.51 and Friday leader Tony Schumacher is third with a 3.722 at 323.66. Defending world champ Antron Brown will start seventh and face teammate and 2013 champ Shawn Langdon, who qualified 10th.
While Gary Densham stole the headlines for the wrong reasons, Jack Beckman experienced a redemption of sorts at Pomona today.
One year ago, Beckman failed to qualify at the Winternationals … and then rallied to post seven wins en route to challenging for the Funny Car world championship.
Today, he continued to prove he has the quickest Funny Car in the pits. In the final qualifying pair he clocked a 3.888-second run at 326.16 mph to take his first No. 1 at the Winternationals and 16th of his career. He will open eliminations against John Hale.
“As a hometown guy it’s tough to come out to the first race of the year because there’s a little extra pressure to do well and some stress if you don’t, but we are beyond that,” Beckman said. “It’s clear that [crew chiefs] Jimmy [Prock], John [Medlen] and Chris [Cunningham] are getting a handle on this car. When you see them getting that close, you know great things are in store for this team.”
Beckman’s teammate Ron Capps took second in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger with a 3.902 at 324.51 and Friday leader Robert Hight qualified third with a 3.913 at 322.04 in his Auto Club Chevy Camaro. Hight has an intriguing matchup as he will face No. 14 qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr., whose Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger was the talk of pre-season testing but has struggled this weekend, posting a best of 4.256 at 225.22.
Anderson earned his 81st career No. 1 qualifying effort in Pro Stock with a performance of 6.585 at 209.62 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro. It is Anderson’s sixth No. 1 at the Winternationals and he will go for his sixth win at this event tomorrow when he faces Matt Hartford in the opening round.
“When you come to the Winternationals you are scared to death about the competition,” Anderson said. “This year with all the changes we were incredibly scared not knowing where everybody was. It’s been a learning curve for everyone and a steep one. To be where we are at right now versus the first time we put an engine on the dyno, we’ve come a long way.
“When we changed the rules, I might’ve shed a tear or two. Right now I am able to forget about it and move on and embrace the challenge and learn to like EFI. I hate to say it, but I am learning to like it.”
Jason Line qualified second with a 6.592 at 210.14 in his Summit Camaro and Friday’s top qualifier, Bo Butner, will start third in his Camaro with a 6.594 at 209.30.
Defending world champ Erica Enders qualified ninth in her Mopar/Elite Motorsports Dodge and will face her teammate in the first round, Jeg Coughlin.
Sunday's first-round pairings for eliminations
Top Fuel -- 1. Steve Torrence, 3.703 seconds, 328.06 mph vs. 16. Steve Faria, 5.135, 123.88; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.713, 324.51 vs. 15. Scott Palmer, 4.089, 251.44; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.722, 325.22 vs. 14. Terry McMillen, 3.844, 313.00; 4. Richie Crampton, 3.727, 323.66 vs. 13. Troy Buff, 3.843, 315.64; 5. Clay Millican, 3.727, 324.36 vs. 12. Leah Pritchett, 3.804, 314.46; 6. Brittany Force, 3.744, 320.66 vs. 11. J.R. Todd, 3.792, 320.28; 7. Antron Brown, 3.754, 322.73 vs. 10. Shawn Langdon, 3.764, 320.97; 8. Dave Connolly, 3.757, 326.40 vs. 9. Morgan Lucas, 3.759, 324.20.
Funny Car -- 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.888, 326.16 vs. 16. John Hale, Charger, 4.329, 263.51; 2. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.902, 324.51 vs. 15. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.285, 278.69; 3. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.913, 322.19 vs. 14. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.256, 225.22; 4. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.942, 324.59 vs. 13. James Campbell, Charger, 4.163, 302.41; 5. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.943, 323.04 vs. 12. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.124, 281.07; 6. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.945, 326.87 vs. 11. Gary Densham, Charger, 4.050, 307.79; 7. Chad Head, Camry, 3.950, 319.29 vs. 10. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.993, 323.35; 8. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.962, 320.28 vs. 9. John Force, Camaro, 3.964, 322.34.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Bob Bode, 4.356, 283.37; 18. Terry Haddock, 4.571, 194.97.
Pro Stock -- 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.585, 209.62 vs. 16. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.746, 206.61; 2. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.592, 210.34 vs. 15. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 6.715, 207.37; 3. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.594, 210.14 vs. 14. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.686, 207.75; 4. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.616, 209.20 vs. 13. Joey Grose, Camaro, 6.674, 207.94; 5. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.623, 208.49 vs. 12. Aaron Strong, Camaro, 6.665, 208.26; 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.632, 209.52 vs. 11. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.660, 208.81; 7. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.634, 208.07 vs. 10. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.653, 208.33; 8. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.645, 208.55 vs. 9. Erica Enders, Dart, 6.651, 208.62.