The odds favored Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) at the start of Saturday’s inaugural Traxxas Nitro Shootout bonus race when all three of its Top Fuel Dragster teams qualified for the eight-car all-star field by each being among the first seven event winners this year.
But after DSR’s Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown lost in the opening round, the pressure fell to teammate Spencer Massey, and Massey’s Prestone/FRAM team led by crew chiefs Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler responded by winning the Shootout and getting the provisional pole with track elapsed-time record.
In the Shootout, Massey eliminated David Grubnic and Morgan Lucas to get to the final where his time of 3.780 seconds at 325.61 mph beat Torrence’s 4.840 (155.70). Massey and Torrence, both Texans, split their four previous meetings this year but it is the second time Massey beat Torrence when a race was for the money and trophy.
The team not only earned DSR a first-place Shootout bonus of $100,000 but Massey’s run of 3.762 seconds at 324.51 mph in the second round, which also was part of the third qualifying session, earned the team the provisional pole in the U.S. Nationals heading to Sunday’s last two qualifying runs before the championship eliminations begin at 11 a.m. Monday.
Torrence earned $15,000 for his runner-up effort.
“Just making it into the Traxxas Shootout was huge,” said Massey, who earned the first of eight spots when he won the season-opener in February at Pomona, Calif. “Getting into the Shootout in the first race was great because we got that out of the way.”
Brandon Bernstein got the eighth and final entry by being selected for the field in a lottery-style drawing.
“Winning anything out here in Top Fuel is amazing because all the cars are bad to the bone,” said the 29-year-old from Fort Worth, Texas, who has won four race titles this season and is second in points to teammate Brown.
“We knew we had what it would take to win the Shootout but we had to put it all together to make three runs today. And with the weather we had this morning it was hard to fathom ever getting to race.”
A steady, light rain was persistent for much of Saturday but quit mid-afternoon in time for racing to begin at 4 p.m.
“NHRA did a great job of preparing the track,” Massey said.
Weather also could be an issue Sunday. The Weather.com forecast as of 10 p.m. Saturday called for an 80-percent chance of rain with thunder on Sunday and 30 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms on Monday.
The Funny Car version of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout is scheduled for Sunday.
(Photo courtesy NHRA/National Dragster)
TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUT – TOP FUEL
FIRST ROUND: Steve Torrence (3.834 sec., 295.34 mph) def. Doug Kalitta (3.859, 318.99); Morgan Lucas (3.792, 311.63) def. Tony Schumacher (3.805, 324.67); Spencer Massey (3.815, 323.74) def. David Grubnic (3.958, 294.50); Brandon Bernstein (3.842, 318.92) def. Antron Brown (3.851, 317.42). SEMIFINALS: Torrence (3.888, 259.41) def. Brandon Bernstein (4.792, 156.81); Massey (3.762, 324.51) def. Lucas (4.128, 230.84). FINAL: Massey (3.780, 325.61) def. Torrence (4.840, 155.70)