With the NHRA Camping Drag Racing World Series schedule full of gaps in the action, it’s easy to forget that the season began with Top Fuel’s Josh Hart becoming the first racer in 20 years to win in his career debut.
But Joey Haas, an electrician from Middle Tennessee who owns a deluxe barn and 60-acre farm that hosts weddings, nearly pulled off a stunning, Hart-like upset Sunday at Bandimere Speedway near Denver in the Dodge/SRT Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil.
Haas, making just his fourth start in Top Fuel in the Terry Totten-owned and tuned Vita C Dragster, knocked off versatile racer but Top Fuel newcomer Alex Laughlin in the opening round of eliminations. Then he upset title contenders Leah Pruett and Clay Millican to reach his first final round. However, Haas dropped a cylinder at the launch and lost to Steve Torrence in the final.
Torrence, the runaway points leader with his Capco Contractors Dragster, said afterward, “I was proud for that whole team. Lot of respect for ’em. I was pulling for him all day, and I know there were a lot of people hoping he could get past us in the final. That’s a guy with a lot of heart, and I hope I get to race him a lot more. I have complete respect for that whole (Terry) Totten team. It was fun to watch them.”
Still, Torrence didn’t want Hass’ first victory to come against him. Torrence said he had some concerns as they lined up at the Christmas Tree: “Yeah, for certain. They’re doing a great job, but he’s also got that little bit of luck with him. Luck’s harder to beat than anything. But these Capco Boys are just so bad to the bone.
“Those guys were having one of those races where it’s just your day. And after they got past Clay (Millican), I was a little concerned. But [tuner] Richard Hogan and (car chief) Bobby Lagana, my whole team, they just did what they do, and fortunately I was able to do my job, too.”
Haas helped raise funding for his Top Fuel career by selling packets of Alliance Coffee Co. medium-roast blend. The packs have labels with Hass’ picture and the message that the coffee “will get you where you need to go FAST” and that it “not only gives you the fuel for your day but supports a local chasing a dream.”
And that is grounds for offering a new—but not necessarily underdog—to cheer for, as Haas got more than his major-league cup of coffee Sunday.
Steve Torrence Plows Forward
Steve Torrence shared a down-home Texas saying from his native Kilgore after claiming his 45th Top Fuel victory Sunday: “You can’t plow the field looking behind you. You got to look ahead.”
Surely as he joined Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) on the winners podium, Torrence had to be thinking that his cushy 307-points lead in the standings over closest challenger Antron Brown would be reduced to merely 20 following the U.S. Nationals in a month and a half. Thanks to the Countdown to the Championship procedure, by the end of the next five races, he’ll have his nine title-eligible competitors well within striking distance.
But for Sunday, he was just happy to record his fifth victory in the season’s first eight races with a wire-to-wire victory. It was his second straight and third overall victory at Bandimere Speedway, which did not host an event last year because of COVID-19 restrictions.
For Torrence, who has a chance to become just the eighth pro driver to sweep the Western Swing, winning never gets old.
“Winning will cure everything. It might even cure cancer,” Torrence, who actually survived a bout with Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a teenager, said. “You feel so good when you win. It’s just an unbelievable feeling. And to have this success on the mountain is even better.”
DSR Gets First Funny Car Win of the Year
“OK. We’re back, baby! We’re back!” three-time and reigning Funny Car champion Matt Hagan declared Saturday night after securing the No. 1 qualifying position. He said crew chief Dickie Venables “is putting the tune-up up here on the mountain, and the car felt great and ran great. It ran on all eight cylinders, and I can’t ask for anything more than that.”
Oh, but he did: “It’s the Dodge/SRT Mile-High Nationals, we’re running the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye, and it’s time we put this thing in the winners circle after more than a decade of trying.”
And Sunday he got what he asked for.
Hagan led the entire final-round blast against Alexis De Joria for his 37thoverall victory and first at Bandimere Speedway.
It was the first Funny Car trophy this year for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR), which trampled the rest of its competition for 14 consecutive events. Hagan began the streak at Dallas in October 2019, and it ran through Hagan’s victory at the season finale at Las Vegas last November.
But after 517 days, JR Todd broke the DSR dominance, and the DSR Funny Car contingent (albeit with only half of its previous force: two cars instead of four) blanked in 2021’s first seven races.
“This mountain has chewed me up and spit me out several years in a row. I’m just so glad to pull this win out,” Hagan said as he improved to third place in the standings behind leader Bob Tasca III and No. 2 John Force. “I’ve been trying to get this trophy for so long. It’s an important race, and it’s one of those things where we finally got it done. I just cannot say enough about my team. I’m so proud of each one of them, and those guys love doing what they do. My heart was beating out of my chest there in the finals.
“It felt like I was running for a championship. When you see all these fans in the stands, it gives me chill bumps,” Hagan said. “We love Denver, and we love the fans that are here. I’m glad we got it done in front of them. Every win that you can get, you’re grateful for, and I’m just blessed here today.”
Dodge/SRT Mile-High NHRA Nationals
Sunday’s final results from the 41st annual Dodge/SRT Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Bandimere Speedway. The race is the eighth of 20 in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel — Steve Torrence, 3.860 seconds, 320.36 mph def. Joey Haas, 4.142 seconds, 262.08 mph.
Funny Car — Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.105, 305.70 def. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.227, 297.68.
Pro Stock Motorcycle — Matt Smith, EBR, 7.118, 189.04 def. Eddie Krawiec, Buell, 7.175, 189.34.
Pro Modified — Jose Gonzalez, Chevy Camaro, 5.972, 236.51 def. Steve Jackson, Camaro, 6.050, 234.70.
Factory Stock Showdown — Stephen Bell, Chevy Camaro, 8.259, 164.79 def. Leah Pruett, Dodge Challenger, 8.265, 166.48.
Competition Eliminator — Joe Mozeris, Dragster, 7.342, 181.08 def. Jim Greenheck, Chevy Camaro, 7.678, 175.02.
Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers — Jimmy Lewis, Pontiac GXP, 9.475, 98.86 def. Duane Doffing, Sedan, Foul – Red Light.
Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers — Kari Stark, Dragster, 7.391, 181.79 def. Betsy Peek, Dragster, Foul – Red Light.
Super Gas — Darin Dolezal, Roadster, 10.495, 148.90 def. Jeremy Siffring, Chevy Corvette, Foul – Red Light.
Super Stock — Kayla Mozeris, Daytona, 10.832, 117.94 def. Scott Burton, Firebird, 10.229, 122.69.
Super Comp — Shannon Nicoletti, Dragster, 9.557, 160.23 def. Mitch Mustard, Dragster, 9.579, 162.16.
Stock Eliminator — Dwayne Scheitlin, Challenger, 10.920, 120.69 def. Craig Maddox, Challenger, 10.069, 131.10.
Super Street — Tim Schell, Duster, 11.461, 124.69 def. Dave Thompson, Chevrolet, Foul – Red Light.
Final round-by-round results from the 41st annual Dodge/SRT Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Bandimere Speedway, the eighth of 20 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:
ROUND ONE — Joey Haas, 3.983, 300.73 def. Alex Laughlin, 10.087, 85.96; Leah Pruett, 3.824, 316.45 def. Doug Kalitta, 7.384, 108.12; Brittany Force, 3.805, 327.74 was unopposed; Steve Torrence, 3.855, 322.58 def. Rob Passey, 5.421, 133.67; Mike Salinas, 4.010, 302.14 def. Buddy Hull, 4.358, 222.73; Greg Carrillo, 3.860, 316.23 def. Antron Brown, 4.046, 293.22; Clay Millican, 3.781, 309.34 def. Shawn Langdon, 3.931, 279.38;
QUARTERFINALS — Salinas, 3.866, 322.58 def. Carrillo, 3.907, 310.48; Torrence, 3.876, 321.35 was unopposed; Millican, 3.815, 316.30 def. Force, 3.819, 311.99; Haas, 14.877, 78.09 def. Pruett, Broke;
SEMIFINALS — Torrence, 3.843, 321.42 def. Salinas, 3.854, 320.13; Haas, 7.435, 83.76 def. Millican, 11.340, 81.99;
FINAL — Torrence, 3.860, 320.36 def. Haas, 4.142, 262.08.
ROUND ONE — Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.996, 322.88 def. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, Broke; Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.042, 317.27 def. Jack Wyatt, Charger, 4.363, 240.12; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.045, 317.49 def. Chris King, Foul – Outer Boundary; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.083, 317.12 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.413, 214.52; John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.042, 321.96 def. Robert Hight, Camaro, 9.188, 85.71; Paul Lee, Charger, 4.058, 319.52 def. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.843, 170.82; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.108, 315.78 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, Foul – Centerline;
QUARTERFINALS — Wilkerson, 4.252, 230.45 def. Lee, Foul – Red Light; Capps, 4.039, 312.42 def. Force, 4.376, 226.47; DeJoria, 4.070, 309.91 def. Tasca III, 4.418, 211.63; Hagan, 4.019, 314.09 was unopposed;
SEMIFINALS — DeJoria, 4.034, 313.22 def. Wilkerson, 8.009, 118.91; Hagan, 4.022, 314.53 def. Capps, 4.051, 313.58;
FINAL — Hagan, 4.105, 305.70 def. DeJoria, 4.227, 297.68.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
ROUND ONE — Cory Reed, Suzuki, 7.208, 183.37 def. Scotty Pollacheck, 7.213, 185.64; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.256, 182.38 def. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, Foul – Red Light; Angie Smith, 7.222, 183.69 def. David Barron, Buell, Foul – Red Light; Eddie Krawiec, Buell, 7.179, 188.96 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 7.220, 182.48; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.150, 185.15 def. Jianna Salinas, Suzuki, 7.419, 175.82; Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 7.161, 186.82 def. Ryan Oehler, Foul – Red Light; Matt Smith, 7.114, 183.74 was unopposed; Andrew Hines, Buell, 7.185, 187.73 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.586, 178.33;
QUARTERFINALS — A. Smith, 7.230, 183.67 def. Stoffer, 23.538, 24.50; Hines, 7.239, 186.12 def. Sampey, 7.224, 186.12; Krawiec, 7.166, 189.73 def. Johnson, 7.127, 186.87; M. Smith, 7.147, 189.26 def. Reed, 7.198, 185.89;
SEMIFINALS — Krawiec, 7.218, 187.91 def. A. Smith, Foul – Red Light; M. Smith, 7.147, 188.62 def. Hines, 7.263, 185.10;
FINAL — M. Smith, 7.118, 189.04 def. Krawiec, 7.175, 189.34.
ROUND ONE — Steve Jackson, Chevy Camaro, 6.103, 232.07 def. Robert Costa, Ford Mustang, 6.932, 149.07; Jose Gonzalez, Camaro, 6.392, 159.63 def. JR Gray, Camaro, Broke – No Show; Justin Bond, Camaro, 6.501, 144.19 was unopposed; Brandon Snider, Chevy Corvette, 6.045, 233.72 def. Doug Winters, Chevy Chevelle, 6.087, 227.57; Jim Whiteley, Camaro, 6.110, 229.63 def. Khalid alBalooshi, Camaro, 6.036, 233.68;
QUARTERFINALS — Jackson, 6.083, 233.03 def. Whiteley, 6.078, 230.84; Gonzalez, 5.974, 235.15 was unopposed; Snider, 6.040, 235.47 def. Bond, Broke;
SEMIFINALS — Jackson, 6.533, 155.90 was unopposed; Gonzalez, 5.988, 235.76 def. Snider, 6.014, 236.09;
FINAL — Gonzalez, 5.972, 236.51 def. Jackson, 6.050, 234.70.
Updated Points Standings
Point standings (top 10) following the 41st annual Dodge/SRT Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Bandimere Speedway, the eighth of 20 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series –
1. Steve Torrence, 858; 2. Antron Brown, 551; 3. Brittany Force, 505; 4. Billy Torrence, 448; 5. Shawn Langdon, 408; 6. Mike Salinas, 395; 7. Doug Kalitta, 367; 8. Leah Pruett, 362; 9. Justin Ashley, 337; 10. Clay Millican, 328.
1. Bob Tasca III, 643; 2. John Force, 593; 3. Matt Hagan, 558; 4. J.R. Todd, 532; 5. Ron Capps, 529; 6. Robert Hight, 517; 7. Alexis DeJoria, 498; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 477; 9. Cruz Pedregon, 450; 10. Terry Haddock, 274.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Matt Smith, 626; 2. Steve Johnson, 463; 3. Scotty Pollacheck, 381; 4. Ryan Oehler, 377; 5. Angelle Sampey, 318; 6. Angie Smith, 315; 7. Eddie Krawiec, 300; 8. Joey Gladstone, 288; 9. Karen Stoffer, 278; 10. Cory Reed, 270.
1. Jose Gonzalez, 439; 2. Justin Bond, 381; 3. Brandon Snider, 368; 4. Steve Jackson, 350; 5. Khalid alBalooshi, 239; 6. Doug Winters, 198; 7. JR Gray, 196; 8. Jeffery Barker, 192; 9. Mike Castellana, 177; 10. Alex Laughlin, 147.
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