Billy Torrence and Tommy Johnson Jr Win at Maple Grove
During the regular season for the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series, racers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle earn points to secure a position within the Countdown to the Championship. The most direct way into the Countdown is to earn enough points during the regular season to secure a spot within the top 10 in points at the conclusion of the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis before the Countdown to the Championship begins.
In the nitro classes for Top Fuel and Funny Car, teams that compete in all 16 NHRA Camping World Championship events starting at the Gatornationals and concluding at the Big Go must have a minimum of two qualifying sessions at each event (with some NHRA exceptions) to earn a spot in the runoffs. The Top Fuel and Funny Car competitors who qualify for the Countdown to the Championship have their points adjusted after the U.S. Nationals with first and second place separated by 20 points and the remainder of the field by 10 place each.
Tommy Johnson Jr Tops Field in Opening Round of the Countdown
On Sunday at Maple Grove Raceway, Tommy Johnson Jr beat 72-year-old John Force at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil. Johnson Jr’s 22nd career Funny Car win came after a major disappointment a week earlier at the Dodge//SRT U.S. Nationals when driver who was released by Don Schumacher Racing at the end of the 2020 season was unable to make a qualifying run at The Big Go due to rain. Johnson Jr had been recruited by DSR as a substitute driver at Indy due to Matt Hagan testing positive for COVID-19.
The 53-year-old Funny Car driver, who lives minutes away Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, admitted he was nervous when he stagged on Friday to make a qualifying run in the DSR Dodge Hellcat before a fifteen dollar wheelie bar pin ended his day sitting at the Pro Tree. Maybe it was the rainy day of reflection on Saturday at Indy that calmed his nerves, but Johnson Jr. arrived at Maple Grove ready to win with a 3.926-second elapsed time at 330.23 mph in the Finals to defeat the legendary John Force, who posted a 3.946 ET at 328.54 mph. The NHRA had already said that regular-season driver Matt Hagan would be awarded the points that Johnson Jr earned.
Torrence Discontent After Winning Mopar Express Lane Nationals
Those who closely follow the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series know that Billy Torrence, father of Steve Torrence the four-time NHRA World Champion in Top Fuel, does not run all of the scheduled events on the NHRA circuit. As founder and CEO of Capco Contractors, Inc., the Kilgore Texas-native has deep roots in the National Hot Rod Association have raced in the sportsman division for years with an occasional drive nowadays in Super Comp behind the wheel of his “Capco Junior” entry. Nonetheless, when the elder Torrence races Top Fuel, he is very competitive.
As someone who can and does win his fair share of Nitro Nationals, the Top Fuel driver and team owner is not a fan of the Countdown to the Championship having deemed it as the “Loser Appreciation Bracket”. However, in fairness to drag racing’s sanctioning body, the Countdown does eliminate Champions being crowned before the end of the season (something NASCAR has also done) to prevent late-season drop off in attendance in the pits and the stands. At the first Countdown race in Maple Grove, Torrence would eliminate Number One qualifier Brittany Force enroute to a Finals win over Justin Ashley… maybe just to make his point.
DeWalt NHRA Carolina Nationals
The Countdown to the Championship continues with round two at the DeWalt NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by Pennzoil on September 17-19 at zMAX Dragway at Concord, NC.