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DI RETURN ROAD: NHRA Carolina Nationals

It’s always more about the stories than the numbers, but when the numbers tell a historic story, it can make for an incredible tale.

That basically summed up last weekend’s NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway, which kicked off the second half of the six-race Countdown to the Championship. It finished as a weekend filled with milestones, firsts and history.

Oh yeah, and Steve Torrence continuing to kick everyone’s butt.

Before that, let’s check out just the amazing run of events in Charlotte:

  • Rick Hord wins his first NHRA Pro Mod event, qualifies No. 1 at the quickest qualifying field in NHRA Pro Mod history and makes the second-quickest run in the history of the class.
  • In all, 14 of the quickest 21 passes in NHRA Pro Mod history took place just last weekend. That’s insane. This class is just on another level than anything out there and there’s no denying that.
  • Jason Line won for the first time this season in Pro Stock. More importantly, he now has a Pro Stock win in 15 consecutive years, making him just a tremendous model of consistency. Oh yeah, it also gave him 50 career wins counting his two Stock victories.
  • Ron Capps earned his 60th Funny Car win, something only John Force can say.

Which brings us to this Torrence guy, who continues to pummel the rest of this tremendously talented Top Fuel field.

With his win Saturday against defending world champion Brittany Force – something he surely enjoyed a little more after how last year ended – Torrence extended his streak to 16 straight round wins and four consecutive victories.

That’s never happened in the history of the Countdown to the Championship in Top Fuel or Funny Car, giving him a 169-point lead over Clay Millican heading to Vegas after going 3.703 at 329.67 mph against Force.

Just how rare is this type of run in general? We know it’s unprecedented in the Countdown, but it’s not exactly commonplace otherwise, either.

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Considering the maximum points achievable in Pomona to end the year is 191 points (since it’s a points and a half race), and Torrence could have this wrapped up early in Vegas. Again, that’s just phenomenal making this redemption/revenge tour pretty enjoyable to watch this year.

Torrence, obviously, has enjoyed every minute of it, but this team has risen to the occasion at every turn and that’s something history will definitely remember.

“It’s been truly unbelievable for us to go out and accomplish what we’ve done,” Torrence said. “We’re in the middle of this thing and it’s truly remarkable. I did my job (Sunday), but it’s a team and it takes the whole village to make this machine work. I couldn’t be more proud of what those guys are doing. They’re pushing me to the front and it’s pretty special to be part of. You don’t win a championship by default. You go up there and do your job when it’s crunch time. This was the biggest race of the season for us and we needed to capitalize, and we did what we needed to do.”


CAPPS NOT CONCEDING AFTER WIN: Ron Capps was kicking himself after back-to-back first-round losses in the Countdown and perhaps it will be the death knell in his season if he can’t track down points leader Robert Hight.

But after bouncing back to win at Charlotte, Capps isn’t relenting just yet. He went 3.890 at a booming 331.20 to beat J.R. Todd in the final round, keeping a glimmer of hope he can win a championship for a second win.

“To throw down those speeds and E.T.s when we needed it, that was very cool,” said Capps, who moved to third in points. “You’ve just got to be up for everything and I was just so glad that we did what we talked about doing. We’ve got a lot of business left and it’s not over. Anything can happen and we’re going to go down fighting. I can’t wait to celebrate and get to the next race. We’re gaining momentum and it really gives me a lot of confidence.”

It will take a home-run finish, but Funny Car has been wild and unpredictable this year, so bring on this final two races. For the record, Hight now leads Todd by a mere 11 points while Capps is 109 points out of first. Tim Wilkerson is 111 points back, which means, unlike in Top Fuel, there’s plenty of drama remaining in this one.

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LINE FINALLY COMES THROUGH: This hasn’t been an enjoyable season for Jason Line. Extend that to the entire KB Racing team and it hasn’t been an enjoyable postseason for the entire team. They’ve watched Tanner Gray run wild on the class and the trio of Bo Butner, Line and Greg Anderson have one win since the season-opener. One win doesn’t totally solve everything, but Line did look strong in Charlotte and was killer on the tree in the final-round matchup against Gray, going 6.531 at 211.89 en route to the win.

It likely won’t change Gray’s charge to a championship – and then departure to NASCAR in the off-season – and it doesn’t take away from the postseason struggles the entire group has had. But at least for a weekend, Line and company got to enjoy something great.

“It’s been a struggle for sure, so I guess the good part of that is when you do finally win you definitely appreciate it,” said Line, who now has a Pro Stock-best four wins at zMAX Dragway. “I was just trying to be calm (against Gray) and cut the best light I was capable of cutting. It was a great run and our team did a great job on my racecar today.”

POINTS CAROUSEL CONTINUES IN PSM: The points shakeup in Pro Stock Motorcycle has been pretty remarkable and Matt Smith now finds himself at the top for a second time this Countdown after his Charlotte win.

This time, he hopes to hang onto it for longer than a race. He went 6.830 at 196.64 to beat Chip Ellis, jumping back over top of LE Tonglet, who vaulted Smith in Dallas after he sputtered out in the first round.

Smith knows exactly why that early-exit happened and now he’s hoping to have everything corrected heading to Vegas. This version of points leader musical chairs has been entertaining and it could certainly continue for two ore races. Smith only leads Tonglet by 41 points and Eddie Krawiec and Jerry Savoie are still within range as well.

“I went up and raced scared in Dallas and didn’t do my job, so I figured I would come here and do my job,” Smith said. “All in all, the bike worked great and I just had to do my job. I said it to begin with that if we can win three races in the Countdown I think we can win this championship. We just can’t have another first-round loss and we have to keep going rounds. We’re going to do everything we can to make this dream come true again.”

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IT ALL COMES TOGETHER FOR HORD: Rick Hord picked up his first career NHRA Pro Mod win at Charlotte, qualifying No. 1 with the second-quickest pass in class history and beating Sidnei Frigo in the final round. Oh yeah, it also came against the quickest qualifying field in NHRA Pro Mod history.

Yes, this class is something else, and it was Hord’s turn to shine this weekend. Read more about Hord and his road to triumph here.


BELLEMEUR TAKES TAFC CROWN: Thanks to his second-round win or D.J. Cox Jr. at zMAX Dragway, Sean Bellemeur clinched the 2018 Top Alcohol Funny Car world championship. Bellemeur went a blistering 5.387 at 272.83 on the clinching run, but he decided that wasn’t enough and went on and won the entire event, beating Phil Burkart in the final round with a 5.403 at 271.13. It was a consistent and impressive weekend for Bellemeur, and it doesn’t get much better than celebrating a win and a championship at the same race.

MEYER SWEEPS CHARLOTTE: I saw this on Twitter and I’m stealing it, but after her second Charlotte win in 2018, Megan Meyer turned zMAX into zMEYER Dragway (hold your applause and laughter, please).

But there’s no denying Meyer has had an incredible season, helped in part by two great performances in Charlotte in Top Alcohol Dragster. The latest came this weekend, where Meyer, who now has three national event wins this season, went a weekend-best 5.200 at 283.01 in her first-round win. It was capped off with a final-round win against Joey Severance and, in the process, Meyer also tied Ashley Force Hood for the most wins by a female in Top Alcohol Dragster history.

“I kept thinking in my head while sitting in the staging lanes that the final round was going to be my last pass of the year at a National event,” Meyer said. “I was trying to relax as best I could and not to get too anxious while watching the Funny Car finals and seeing all the chaos on the starting line. I stuck to my routine and focused on the track and did my job as a driver. We got very lucky that Joey also had problems, I’m not sure why our car lost 7 cylinders at the end but I’m thankful that it happened close to the finish line and we had just enough room to get the win.”

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Make sure you check out the latest episode of DI Live with Wes Buck! He gets into some real talk on this one!

MILLICAN’S FIREBALL: Clay Millican avoided an upset – and any significant damage to the dragster – but there were some extra fireworks in his first-round win on Sunday.

HIGHT’S SHOULDER HARNESS: A cool look at how Robert Hight was able to get back in the car after breaking his collarbone.

EYE OF THE TIGER: Or something like that.

LLEWELLYN’S TRIUMPH: This was as inspiring as it gets. Make sure you watch.

PERFECT TIMING: On the heels of his 50th career win, check out Jason Line’s journey. Awesome piece.



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This duel between Todd and Hight is going to be epic these next two races.

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The numbers the Pro Mod field is putting together are just incredible.

Several NASCAR stars were on hand in Charlotte to get up and close with 10,000-horsepower.

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After his win, Jeremy Ray continued to impress in Charlotte, running some incredible passes in the 5.60s in his blown ’63 Corvette. Read more about it!

Now this is how you celebrate a birthday at the track.

I hope we’re all realizing how special this run by Torrence is right now in Top Fuel. The class has never been more competitive at the top and he’s making mincemeat out of everyone. It’s so remarkable and if he finishes the job in Vegas – which seems likely at this point – it surely goes down as one of the most dominant playoff performances in NHRA history. If he wins Vegas, it’s arguably the best five-race stretch in nitro history. That’s bold, but it’s true. Good luck to all the PDRA competitors this weekend and see you in Vegas!

This story was originally published on October 16, 2018. Drag Illustrated

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Since 2005, DI has informed, inspired and educated drag racers from every walk of the racing life - weekend warrior and street/strip enthusiasts to pro-level doorslammer and Top Fuel racers. From award-winning writing and photography to binge-worthy videos to electric live events, DI meets hundreds of thousands of racers where they live, creating the moments that create conversations.