Both the Top Fuel and Funny Car final rounds of the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals had a distinctly team-based feel to them. And in both cases, a defending class champion went down.
Billy Torrence beat his son Steve in an all-Torrence Racing Top Fuel final, while Shawn Langdon took down JR Todd in a Kalitta Motorsports matchup for the Funny Car Wally in Sunday’s elimination rounds from World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. With additional wins for Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle), none of the four classes taking part in the Countdown to the Championship have seen a repeat playoff winner yet.
Billy Torrence’s win, his third of the season, allowed him to jump to eighth in the Top Fuel standings. Meanwhile, Steve Torrence climbed to within two points of Doug Kalitta for the class lead. Kalitta, who took the points lead with a final round appearance in the playoff opener from Maple Grove Raceway, fell to Billy Torrence in the second round.
Langdon’s second career Funny Car victory, and second career NHRA win at Gateway, kept his team in the winner’s circle after Richie Crampton’s Top Fuel triumph two weeks ago. But it was Robert Hight, the top seed coming into the playoffs, who claimed the points lead coming out of the weekend. Hight now leads teammate and team owner John Force by 12 points with just four races remaining.
Enders ended a year-long winless drought against Matt Hartford in the final round, climbing to second in points behind Maple Grove winner Jason Line. Stoffer gave White Alligator Racing its third straight victory, after teammate Jerry Savoie took back-to-back wins at Lucas Oil Raceway and Maple Grove. It was her first win since 2015, and moved her to second in points behind Hines, the top seed of the playoffs and her opponent in the final.
Just four races remain in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship. The next sees the series return to Charlotte and zMAX Dragway for the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals on October 11-13. Steve Torrence, Langdon, and Hines won in the April visit to Charlotte, which ran under the four-wide format; Pro Stock skipped the April round for the first time this year, but Line was last year’s playoff winner.