NHRA’s gruelling annual 3-race “Western Swing” of national events kicked off last weekend at Denver’s fabled Bandimere Raceway…..
Texan Steve Torrence raced to his first Top Fuel victory in over two years at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals event while Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Larry Morgan (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also victorious at the 14th of 24 events of the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Torrence powered his Capco Racing/Torrence Motorsports dragster to the winner’s circle with a 3.925-second performance at 319.37 mph to earn his fifth career victory, first at Denver and first since Bristol 2013. Torrence, who defeated Tony Schumacher’s 3.940 at 305.08 in his U.S. Army dragster, earned the seventh spot in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout at Indianapolis.
“I thought I saw him ahead of me, and I said to myself, ‘No, don’t pull this on me,’ ” said Torrence, who moves to ninth in points. “I saw him out there for a little bit and then he disappeared, and I thanked the good Lord when my win light came on because we needed this win. We needed to get back into the Traxxas showdown. Tony and I are friends, but when you run a DSR car, you have to bring you’re A-game. To beat him on the mountain is unbelievable. It’s been way too long to get into the winner’s circle. It’s not representative of the team we have. I’m getting confidence in myself, and that’s a good thing.”
Schumacher, the current Top Fuel points leader and No. 2 qualifier, raced past Steven Chrisman, Clay Millican and Brittany Force before falling to Torrence in the finals. He holds an 85 point advantage over teammate Antron Brown.
Beckman powered his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to the win for the fourth time this year with a 4.190 at 293.92, beating John Force in the final. Beckman, the 2012 world champ, has 19 career victories, putting him tenth on the all-time wins list in Funny Car. This is his third career win at Bandimere Speedway.
The journey up the mountain often is better than the view once you get to the peak.
This best sums up this NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season for Jack Beckman and Don Schumacher Racing’s Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team with funding from Terry Chandler and crew chief Jimmy Prock with assistants John Medlen and Chris Cunningham.
Consider that the first time the quartet work together was this year’s opener at Pomona, Calif., when the team failed to qualify to race in championship eliminations.
Since then, the climb up has been steady and on Sunday at Bandimere Speedway near Denver for Beckman and the Infinite Hero team won for the fourth time in 14 races and moved to second in the Mello Yello standings.
“We go to Pomona, we DNQ, we leave 18th out of 18 cars in the nation,” Beckman said of Sunday’s triumph near Denver. “Dead last. I was fine with that because I knew we were going to be OK this year. This is the fruits. We won’t win every race but we have a car that can.”
The four wins is the most for Beckman in one season and 10 races remain.
And nothing tops beating the best.
“To go out there and beat the No. 1 qualifier, the winningest driver of all time and do it at the Mopar race at Bandimere … this is just a perfect weekend,” he said.
Team owner Don Schumacher added, “A gratifying win. It was tremendous for Jack to go out there and win this race for Mopar, for DSR and to take that Force car out in the final with John driving it.”
Since the triumvirate has joined Jack at the start of the season, Jack and the Infinite Hero team has an 11-0 record against John Force Racing’s three Funny Car teams and is 2-0 against John Force in championship rounds.
“Jimmy is just absolutely incredible, he’s bold. Here’s the deal, we know what Jimmy is capable of, we know John Medlen’s reputation. I hope that this starts to put Chris Cunningham on the map too because I wish you could see the way they interact up there. Chris is so much more than an assistant. (Chris) and Jimmy are bouncing ideas, and John has his own computer. The harmony there is perfect.”
In Pro Stock Only a Herculean effort would have stopped Allen Johnson’s winning streak at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, and that’s what FireAde Pro Stock driver Larry Morgan delivered Sunday, knocking Johnson off on a holeshot after a thrilling staging duel in the final round.
Morgan and Johnson sat in the pre-stage beam for more than 90 seconds before Johnson finally staged. Morgan was first off the line and held on for his second win of the season, snapping Johnson’s three-race winning streak here.
“I got on the radio about one minute into the stage and I told my guys, ‘I guess Allen just doesn’t want to stage,’ ” Morgan said. “Allen has owned this hill, and he deserves it because he has done one hell of a job up here. You know, we put on a good race in the final, and that guy has no reason to hang his head. He owned this place and I just borrowed it for a week.”
The victory was Morgan’s second of the season, 11th of his career, and second at Bandimere. He pulled off a .014-second reaction time in the final before running a lap of 6.944 seconds at 199.02 mph. Johnson’s light was .035, and he made the quicker pass, 6.930 seconds at 199.23 mph, but the victory belonged to Morgan.
“It was good for the fans,” Morgan said of the staging battle. “And it was a lot of fun for us.”
Morgan tested with a Gray Motorsports Chevrolet here last week, completing several successful passes on the mountain. That speed continued this weekend, when he qualified No. 2 with one of the quickest cars of the weekend.
“We ran good every run,” Morgan said. “It seemed like everything we did fell into place. We couldn’t make a bad run. I was so excited to get back up here I couldn’t stand it because I thought we were really going to do well up here and we did.
“I am just so excited to be out here to win the race, and I’m excited for FireAde, Lucas Oil, Streamlight, my whole team, the Grays. All the guys that work on the team, we all work well together and I get to relax. It’s just something like I have never had before.”
Morgan started the day with a victory over Joey Grose, who red-lit while Morgan made a pass of 6.925 seconds at 199.43 mph.
Morgan then flashed his driving skills in the second round against Jason Line, getting a holeshot victory. Morgan’s pass was 6.918 seconds at 199.37 mph, which was slower than Line’s 6.910-second run at 200.00 mph, but Morgan got the win light thanks to his .017-second lead on the Christmas Tree.
In the semi’s, Morgan faced Pro Stock champion Erica Enders, whom Morgan had beaten in the Chicago semifinal at the most recent race. Enders had a slight edge at the start, .015 to .020, but Morgan ran her down with a pass of 6.914 seconds at 199.32 mph. Her run was 6.914 seconds at 199.26 mph.
Then came the exciting final round, Morgan’s third of the year since switching to Chevrolet and partnering with FireAde and Gray Motorsports.
“I am really pleased to have a good Chevrolet Camaro with great power,” Morgan said. “I raced a Ford for five years and we didn’t have the support we needed. We got the support this year we needed from Johnny (Gray), FireAde, Lucas Oil, and Streamlight. Lucas Oil has helped me for a long time, and I owe a lot to Forrest and Charlotte Lucas and all the people there.
“But I have gotten a lot of support from a lot of different people, and without them I wouldn’t be up here. I am very proud to be up here.”
Krawiec raced to his 28th career victory in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a 7.239 at 185.51 holeshot final round result over Hector Arana Jr. on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. The current Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader earned his first win of the season and third at Bandimere Speedway.
“In the final, I could hear him next to me,” said Krawiec, a three-time world champ. “I will say one thing; I knew I had to be about .020 on the Tree, and I was .025. I usually don’t race that way. I don’t usually have to push that hard, but this year I do. I really didn’t want the final to be that close, but I couldn’t ask for any better. It always makes the driver look good to win on a holeshot.”
Recent Chicago winner Arana Jr. raced his Lucas Oil Buell past Freddie Camarena, Steve Johnson and defending world champ and 2014 event winner Andrew Hines to reach the final. Arana Jr. sits second in points, trailing Krawiec by 36.
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Dan Fletcher picked up his 92nd national event win this weekend at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals held at scenic Bandimere Speedway. Six Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series categories were contested at the event with racers in the hunt for year-end divisional and national championships.
Fletcher, racing out of Churchville, N.Y., secured his 48th win in the Super Stock category when Jim Hawkins left too early at the tree. With the win light on, Fletcher crossed the stripe in his Chevy Camaro at 11.259 seconds at 102.15 mph. Hawkins has one national event win to his name, which happened here back in 1989.
Ryan Montford reached the Stock Eliminator winners circle laying down a 10.028 second, 119.04 mph pass to defeat Scott Burton’s 11.350 second, 98.98 mph run. Burton was looking to repeat his win from 2011 at this event, yet was denied by Montford with his first national event victory.
The Super Comp final would reveal a first time winner when Bill Percival and Justin Ewing squared off in the money round. Ewing got off the line first but it wasn’t enough to take Percival, who ran dead-on his 9.500 second dial granting him the coveted NHRA Wally trophy.
Michael Miller shot his ’27-T Ford off the line with a .005 reaction time, which translated into a holeshot win over Brian Percival. Miller’s 10.539 second, 138.86 mph lap defeated Percival’s 10.518 second, 131.95 mph run for his seventh career national event win, who also won the divisional event contested here last month.
Victoria Johnson and Adam Chioda met up in the Top Dragster final to determine who would come out with their first national event win. Johnson got out of the gate first and reached the finish line stripe at 7.201 seconds, 186.46 mph defeating Chioda’s runner up lap of 7.974 seconds, 161.85 mph.
Top Sportsman title went to Ron Williams as he left the tree with a solid .004 reaction time and never looked back. He drove his Pontiac GTO to a 8.030 second, 168.83 pass to his first NHRA national event win over J.J. Heber, clocking in at 7.007, 192.55 as he broke out.
Posted with files from NHRA Communications, Rob Geiger, Jeff Wolf & Brent Lyons
Photos courtesy of NHRA & Don Holbrook