Four-time Top Fuel world champion Steve Torrence made the only run in the 3.70s on Friday at Heartland Motorsports Park, driving to the provisional No. 1 spot at the Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor.
Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) are also the provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the 13th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season. It is also the final NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series national event at Heartland Motorsports Park.
Torrence put together a run of 3.764-seconds at 326.24 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors/Toyota dragster to close out the opening round of qualifying in a thrilling side-by-side run with points leader Justin Ashley. If it holds, Torrence, who is currently second in points, would pick up his first No. 1 qualifier this season and 35th in his career as he also gets closer and closer to getting into championship form. Torrence won in Seattle and ran well in Sonoma, and will look to build on that this weekend in Topeka.
“This is a huge confidence booster, just for getting the momentum going early in the weekend and getting us set up to go into tomorrow for the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge,” Torrence said. “We needed to have a good qualifying run tonight to set us up to go into that race tomorrow with a competitive car and try to compete for those three points.
“That’s going to be huge going into the Countdown, where we’re able to kind of cut that lead down or see if we can cut it to nothing between now and then with Justin Ashley being so far ahead of us. These guys, we’ve been working hard. Everybody is putting in a whole lot of blood sweat, and tears in this thing.”
Clay Millican, who has a pair of wins this season, is currently second with his 3.813 at 316.15 and Ashley’s run of 3.818 at 322.88 puts him third. Ashley currently has five victories this season.
After a Western Swing that didn’t go according to plan, Funny Car’s Robert Hight appeared to bounce back on Friday, powering to the provisional No. 1 position with a run of 3.948 at 321.19 in his 11,000-horsepower Cornwell Tools/AAA Chevrolet Camaro SS. If that holds, the multi-time world champ would earn his third No. 1 qualifier this season and 80th in his career. Hight enjoyed a strong start to the season, winning in both Phoenix and Charlotte, but hasn’t been past the semifinals since. That makes Topeka a big weekend as Hight and his team look to get back in championship form.
“This was definitely much needed,” Hight said. “We kind of went off of last year when we ran (3.93) here in similar conditions. We’ve been struggling, and the car hasn’t been cooperating with every adjustment (crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) makes. He’s really set on this new clutch combination, but he believes that he’s the one that’s been making the mistakes. He beats himself up pretty bad and it was just awesome to hear the excitement in his voice when he told me what it ran. We needed that run big time.
“It’s going to be pretty hot out there, and it’s really setting yourself up for raceday. It’s not going to do us any good to make a good run here tonight and go out there tomorrow and smoke the tires or drop cylinders. We really need to make good, quality runs so we’re set up for Sunday and get to where we can race this thing a little better.”
Defending and back-to-back world champ Ron Capps is currently second following his run of 3.950 at 314.17 and defending event winner Bob Tasca III is third thanks to a pass of 3.967 at 316.60.
Greg Anderson hopes Friday is the start of his Pro Stock turnaround in 2023, as the five-time world champ went to the No. 1 spot with a run of 6.677 at 205.38 in his HendricksCars.com Chevrolet Camaro. Currently seventh in points, the season hasn’t gone as planned thus far for Anderson, who is still seeking his first appearance in the final round. But he took a good step during what he hopes is a big weekend in Topeka with his run on Friday, also putting him on track for his 122nd career No. 1 qualifier.
“We made a lot of changes – we had three weeks at home and did a lot of work, but you just never know what you have until you get to the racetrack,” Anderson said. “But this year, I’ve been kind of let down when I get to the racetrack, but this was a good night. It’s a great feeling I haven’t had for a while, and I think we can even do better. It was good to see that when we pull the run up on the computer, it’s got a little bit of room. Hopefully we can improve.
“(It was) completely different conditions than we’ve seen all year, but maybe that’s what my racecar needed. It went right up to the top, and I’m not going to complain one little bit. It’s still going to be hot tomorrow but slightly cooler conditions to see if we can improve on that.”
Reigning world champ Erica Enders is in the second spot after her run of 6.686 at 204.63, as Anderson and Enders were the only two drivers in the 6.60s. Troy Coughlin Jr., the defending event winner in Topeka, is third with a 6.704 at 205.16. Coughlin is also the most recent winner in the category after his Denver triumph.
Qualifying continues at 2:15 p.m. CT on Saturday at the Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park.