No matter if the final eliminations are on Sunday or Monday, Steve Torrence finds a way to win a Wally at zMAX Dragway. Entering Monday’s final eliminations for the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals, Torrence had three straight Top Fuel triumphs at the Bellagio of drag strips – and he made it four in a row in spectacular fashion.
Torrence stormed down zMAX Dragway’s pavement in a blistering 3.772 seconds, going 323.19 miles per hour in his final-round defeat of Doug Kalitta. In doing so, Torrence became the first driver to capture four consecutive victories at the crown-jewel facility while taking the points lead away from Kalitta.
“Doug Kalitta is a legend and I have a whole lot of respect for him as a driver,” Torrence said. “Doug is always there, driving consistently. When you go up against a guy like that, coming down to the final round No. 1 and No. 2 in points, it’s easy to look to your left or right and say, ‘That’s Doug Kalitta,’ and a few years ago maybe I’d have choked. But you build confidence in yourself and your team, you trust the Lord and you go do your job. You kind of block out who that guy is. You can’t let whoever’s beside you influence you.
“If you hang up on looking at (winning four in a row), you look at that and think, ‘Man, this is pretty neat,’ you can lose focus. We were able to go 6-and-0 in the Countdown last year, but we have to approach every race like we’ve never won. You can’t let your focus get distracted by your success, because you’re only as good as your last race. At the end of my career we may look back and say, ‘You know, I won a lot at Charlotte,’ but I may never win here again. Who knows? We’ve had a pretty good run here and we enjoy coming here. “
Robert Hight collected his 56th career Funny Car victory, padding his status as the winningest Funny Car driver in zMAX Dragway history with his sixth Charlotte Wally. Hight’s final-round opponent, No. 1 qualifier Jack Beckman, red-lighted his start – giving Hight an easy path to victory that he traveled in just 3.917 seconds at 329.02 miles per hour.
“It doesn’t get any tougher than that,” said Hight, the new championship points leader with three races to go. “The team really pulled together and did a good job. We went down the track every run this weekend. … I wouldn’t rather be in any situation than (the points lead). I want to be (the leader) now and I want to be (the champion) a month from now. I’ve won six races this year. This is the most that I’ve ever won, but I feel like we’re going to have to win eight (to win the championship). We’re up for it. ”
Pro Stock winner Deric Kramer knocked out Kenny Delco, Jeg Coughlin Jr., Aaron Stanfield and Matt Hartford on his way to a well-earned Wally. Kramer’s final-round run of 211.33 miles per hour in 6.541 seconds gave him a trophy and a renewed chance of a title.
“Our motto today was, ‘Don’t screw up, make them beat you,’ and I did just enough,” Kramer said. “When you have a day like today after having a rough few races, it means we can still win and get a shot at the championship.”
Like Hight, Andrew Hines scored his 56th win – but in Pro Stock Motorcycle competition. Hines, the all-time winningest driver at zMAX Dragway used a 6.805-second, 199.37-mph pass to bring home his eighth Charlotte win.
“I don’t know what it is that makes us run so well here,” Hines said. “If I knew, I’d bottle it up in a bottle of Mello Yello and hang on to it. When I started racing here, I struggled – I don’t think I made it past the first round for four years or so – but once we won, it really started to get better. Maybe our bike just likes the track and the air around here. Whatever it is, we’ll take it.”
Tickets to upcoming speedway events are available by visiting online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com/tickets or calling 800-455-FANS (3267).