The first-round matchups for the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout specialty race were made on Friday at Gainesville Raceway, as racing action for the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals was cancelled due to weather.
Top seed Steve Torrence, the four-time defending world champ and driver of the 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster, chose Leah Pruett, who is driving for the first-year Tony Stewart Racing team, to race in the first round of the eight-car specialty event on Saturday that features a total purse of $130,000.
“We gathered up as a crew and I got with my crew chiefs,” Torrence said. “I thought about it, they thought about it, the fans thought about it. LP has been one of our fiercest competitors for years, and we’ve gone at it head-to-head, so to put on a show for all these fans, that’s awesome. We’ll have a good time between us and we’ll put on a good show for you guys, and it’ll be a lot of fun.”
Pruett, who drives the Dodge Power Brokers dragster, is eager for the opportunity.
“When I heard about (the callout), my first emotion was just excitement,” Pruett said. “That’s what this platform is for, and I feel like it’s a sign of respect to Tony Stewart Racing to Neal Strausbaugh, my crew chief. We do have something to prove, and I would love to do it against nobody else but Steve. I couldn’t be more excited about it.”
With the second selection, former world champ Brittany Force, driver of the Monster Energy dragster, picked three-time world champ Antron Brown and his Matco Tools dragster as her first-round opponent.
“There’s no easy guys,” Force said, “so I guess we just take them in order, and A.B. is at the top of the list.”
Said Brown: “When you get to come out here and you get to race these competitors, I like this. This is like as a kid growing up on the basketball court. You get to talk a little smack and have some fun.”
Making the third pick, Mike Salinas, who won the most recent event in Phoenix in his Scrappers Racing dragster, selected Shawn Langdon in the opening round. Langdon is the pilot of the DHL dragster.
“I think Shawn is one of the best leavers in the game, and I always (try) to rise to the occasion,” Salinas said. “I want to go for the best guys. I think Shawn is one of the best drivers out here and that we can take him down. That’s saying something.”
Said Langdon: ““He’s obviously coming off a win in Phoenix and did an exceptional job but, when we go pound for pound, hopefully my reaction time advantage, and if we get into a pedaling scenario, we’re going to try to take advantage of that.”
The first three pairings set Justin Ashley, who won in Pomona in his Phillips Connect dragster and was the 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year, and 49-time event winner Doug Kalitta, who drivers the Mac Tools dragster, as the final first-round matchup.
“I had every situation in my head, and I’m the last one back there, so it’s just me against Dougie. It’s going to be a good show. It’ll be fun for the fans,” Ashley said.
The first round of the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout takes place at 11:45 a.m. ET on Saturday. The semifinals follow at 1:30 p.m. and the final round is slated for 3:15 p.m. The FOX broadcast network will have coverage starting at 2 p.m. ET.
Qualifying for the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday at Gainesville Raceway.