Return Road: Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals In Atlanta
Steve Torrence’s weekend started at an Arby’s restaurant – where he moonlighted as a drive-thru employee – and ended with an Arby’s sandwich in his hand to make the most out of the event sponsor experience at the NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta.
In between, Torrence showed that the dominant force that has decimated Top Fuel teams for two-plus years is still alive and well.
The Top Fuel points leader now has 21 wins in his last 50 events dating back to 2017, an incomprehensible number that is among the greatest feats in class and NHRA history.
For whatever “drought” that might have been whispered after Torrence went winless in the first five races of 2019 – after sweeping the Countdown to the Championship – that talk is officially dead after back-to-back wins, awakening a driving force inside Torrence that has proven to be nearly unstoppable the last couple years.
“I found motivation,” Torrence said. “It’s not directed at anybody, but I have to have that mindset, that attitude to go out here and be in the right zone. … I’m not Antron (Brown). Antron’s the happiest guy all the time; I’m not. I’m happy when I get out but when I get in I want to kill that guy or girl beside me. I want to chop that Tree off and leave just a little stub smoking and go down there and crush them.
“I’m not here for fun, I’m here to win. You can take that however you want, but it’s not malicious toward anybody.”
The battering he’s put on the entire class might speak otherwise and Torrence was robotically consistent in Atlanta, qualifying second to Brittany Force, who faced off with Torrence in the final round.
It was a matchup of the past two world champions, and this one was all Torrence as he went 3.863 at 320.20 mph to extend his points lead – a broken record at this point – and give him 29 career victories. After six different winners in Top Fuel to open 2019, Torrence is the first repeat winner in the class and this Capco train doesn’t seem to be losing any steam.
“When you have a group of guys that sticks together and that continuity is there, that’s the reason for success,” Torrence said. “As a driver, I need to do my job and give them the best driving ability I possible can because they’re giving me the best race car they possibly can. My guys are second to none and I would put them up against anybody out here. We went down the track every time we needed to and we’ve had a really good car. It’s really cool to have Arby’s out here and be the first guy to ever win the Arby’s Southern Nationals.”
CAN’T MISS NEWS
CAPPS COMES THROUGH IN FUNNY CAR: It seemed like a long time, but in reality it had only been eight races since Ron Capps last won in Funny Car. That speaks to the success of Capps over the years, but there has been something a little off to open 2019.
He had just five round wins in the first six races and barely qualified last weekend in Charlotte after an array of odd issues. But it was a vintage Capps and Rahn Tobler performance in Atlanta, running well in the supposed bad lane, dialing up one consistent performance after another.
He had four straight runs in the 4.00s on a hot and tricky track – or par for the course in Atlanta – and was stellar on the starting line, going .047 in the semifinals against Tommy Johnson Jr. and .064 in the final round against Tim Wilkerson, going 4.068 at 315.34 mph. If history repeats itself, Capps is about to do something big after overcoming some early-season adversity, adding another great storyline to an impressive top half of the Funny Car field.
“Ironically, I drive better when we are struggling a little bit,” Capps said. “The times you are going to win the championships, the moments you’re going to look back on and the fun part of winning and having really good seasons is when you get into the holiday season and you get together for the Christmas party and you talk about the low points and how you got through and what high points really won you the championship or set you up for the championship. In 2016, the DNQ in Vegas, we learned a lot, stayed on Monday, got better and won the championship.”
HINES’ HISTORIC WIN: This was some big-numbers history for Andrew Hines this weekend. He grabbed his 50th career win in Pro Stock Motorcycle last weekend, making it 51 on Sunday with his final-round triumph against Jerry Savoie.
Nobody else has reached that level in class history, but the bigger number this weekend was 100, as in the 100th win for Harley-Davidson in the class. Hines started that streak in 2004 with his first career win and 15 years later, he’s still making incredible history.
These days, he’s doing it on a bike that looks unstoppably consistent. It was parked in the 6.80s all weekend, going 6.865 at 195.05 in the final round, showing 60-foot numbers that could be downright devastating for the rest of the class considering Hines already has three wins in four races in 2019.
“It was a good day and my motorcycle is nothing like I’ve ever had in my career,” said Hines, who now has three wins at Atlanta Dragway. “It’s working really well and doesn’t do much wrong. All in all, it was a fantastic day. To get 100 wins for Harley-Davidson, it’s monumental. It was a very big struggle at first, and there’s been trials and tribulations, but it’s really nice to get the 100th.”
CASTELLANA TURNS IT AROUND: For the 538th example of how hard it is to win in Pro Mod, we give you Mike Castellana, a perennial championship contender who somehow failed to qualify for the first three races of the year. It gets more confounding considering Castellana is still working with famed tuner Frank Manzo. That’s the hard-knock life of NHRA Pro Mod, but it all turned around this weekend for Castellana, who went 5.809 at 248.48 to beat Mike Janis in the semifinals and then 5.825 at 248.29 to beat a red-lighting Jose Gonzalez in the final.
And as crushing as it is to start the season on the note the veteran did, all it takes is one win to totally change everything.
“We feel real confident now,” Castellana said. “We’re making progress with the car and when we make laps, Frank just keeps tweaking on the car. We’ll be ready for Virginia.”
CAN I TAKE YOUR ORDER?
Torrence, Brittany Force, Austin Prock and Angelle Sampey were put to work at Arby’s before racing started in Atlanta. Honestly, this was one of the best things I watched this weekend. This entire idea and execution was great from start to finish.
Welcome to the fastest drive-thru around! It’s the @Arbys #SouthernNats, so we teamed up with @MelloYello and took over the local Commerce restaurant this morning! @ProckRocket_TF | @AngelleSampey | @BrittanyForce | @SteveTorrence pic.twitter.com/B8qBmq5rF7
— #NHRA (@NHRA) May 4, 2019
Change of pace yesterday working the noon shift at @arbys! @angellesampey & I rang in food, @stevetorrence ran the drive thru & @prockrocket_tf did a whole lot of shouting out orders to everyone! Overall, we killed it in the food industry! 👌🏼🔥 pic.twitter.com/bGieTu1jsx
— BrittanyForce (@BrittanyForce) May 4, 2019
BURN BABY BURN: It was a burndown for the ages in Virginia at the PDRA race. Jeff Dobbins and John Pluchino went at it for four minutes and this has to be seen to be believed.
CHAD GREEN’S WEEKEND IN ATLANTA: Quite honestly, the job Chad Green’s team does to put out these videos is pretty remarkable. It’s some of the finest video coverage you’ll see, especially when it comes to NHRA Pro Mod. It was a solid weekend for Green, who qualified second and won a round despite visiting the sand.
THE GODFATHER: It was great to see Charles Carpenter racing this weekend in Pro Nitrous. There’s no denying the fact he has one of the sharpest cars around.
A LEGEND’S BIRTHDAY: John Force celebrated his birthday on Saturday. Our present? This killer highlight video that showcases a little bit of everything from the legendary 16-time world champion.
— #NHRA (@NHRA) May 4, 2019
KILLER GUEST: The one and only Killer Mike was on hand in Atlanta and, judging by everything we saw, he had a blast!
— #NHRA (@NHRA) May 5, 2019
CONGRATS ATLANTA WINNERS!
— Steve Torrence (@SteveTorrence) May 5, 2019
Say hello to my little friend 🏆 pic.twitter.com/MCjVwNXPna
— Ron Capps (@RonCapps28) May 6, 2019
— Andrew Hines (@AndrewHinesPSM) May 5, 2019
NATAAS GRABS ANOTHER WIN: After getting her first Top Alcohol Dragster win, it didn’t take long for Julie Nataas to get her second. In fact, it just took a week, as she won on Monday at National Trail Raceway in Columbus, Ohio.
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOHN!
— J.R. Todd (@JRTodd373) May 4, 2019
ROAST BEEF AND WALLYS
How can you not love this pic?
— #NHRA (@NHRA) May 6, 2019
NEW DI COVER
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This is wild and I barely have words… On the cover of Drag Illustrated AND National Dragster at the same time in the same month? Magazine covers are SO hard to come by and this is just unreal. It truly is a testament to the hardest work we’ve put in. Last year was so rocky for us, we ran horrible, no luck our way at all and I just wanted to give up. We started 2019 with hopes of anything just a little better and it’s been my breakout year. Believe me when I explain that I truly realize how lucky and blessed I am for all of this. I can’t thank those enough that afford me these opportunities. Havoline, Hot Wheels, Fitzgerald USA, Speed Society, Vinyl Images for all the car and trailer wraps, Technet and everyone from Advance Auto Parts, I couldn’t do it without you. THANK YOU!!! #speedsociety #havoline #hotwheels #redbull #tigeboats #fitzgeraldusa #fitzusa #doomswell #fastco #vinylimages @havolineusa @speedsociety @tigeboats @hotwheelsofficial @technetpros @advanceautoparts @redbull @fitzusa
STANLEY WINS IN MEMPHIS!
Big congrats to John Stanley on his huge win in Xtreme Pro Mod at the NMCA race in Memphis.
AND SO DOES TRICIA MUSI!
This weekend was loaded to the brim with racing, which is an awesome thing. From the NHRA Atlanta race – and man, the facts came out in force on Sunday after a rainy first two days – to the PDRA race, NMCA race and the Hot Rod Heritage Series – plus probably plenty more that I missed – there was racing everywhere you turned this weekend.
Again, that’s a great thing and tells me we’re about to have a great summer. Before that, we’ve got Richmond in two weeks and that race delivered a year ago. See you then!