Tempers Flare as Kalitta Claims Final Wally in NHRA Top Fuel at Pomona
The cool down area at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona CA was needed for more than cooling off the 11,000 horsepower super-charged power plants after Sunday's opening rounds at the Auto Club NHRA finals. Top Fuel points leader Steve Torrence leaped ahead of the field on Saturday by earning his fifth Number One qualifier of the year and the 24th of his career. Torrence's outstanding run at 3.686 ET for a 329.99 mph stamped his ticket for the finals of the NHRA Countdown to the Championship at Pomona. Second in the points for 2019, Brittany Force trailed Torrence by just 22 points going into Sunday's finals, where the past champions could have a head-to-head matchup in second round eliminations.
Naturally, emotions run high when you are in the hunt for a second straight championship. As Steve Torrence staged the CAPCO Contractors Top Fuel Dragster at the Tree on Sunday, he took exception to Cameron Ferre's lack of staging etiquette. Staging beams help the drivers line up the front tires of their cars within about six inches of each other, so each driver has a little room to move their tires a little forward or behind the start line without effecting the beams. Since you have almost no rollout, your mph will be slower than your opponent's will but your ET should be quicker. The Cons of using a deep staging technique is that your front wheels are closer to the line making it easier to Red Light a start.
Over the last 42 years in the NHRA Top Fuel division, the Number One qualifier has only gone on to win the event five times. Ignoring any odds that were not in his favor, the defending champion made an opening pass at 3.734 ET at 327.82 mph compared to Ferre's 4.040 ET at 294.82 mph. Although most drivers prefer to lay back a little at the start to get a bit of a running start on the tree, Deep Staging can catch your opponent off guard and a lesser foe can sometimes upset the day for one of the sport's premier racing teams. The race winner took exception to Ferre's lack of respect and approached the younger driver to explain his feelings. Conversations were civil until Torrence poked Ferre in the face as he turned to walk away. The two were quickly separated and the races continued.
Torrence went on to eliminate Brittany Force before falling to the Number 13 qualifier Richie Crampton in the semifinal run. Crampton claimed a holeshot victory with a .068 reaction time for a 327.51 mph pass to Torrence's 324.59 mph run. Although Doug Kalitta held an edge in head-to-head wins over his teammate, Crampton lead Kalitta 2-1 in NHRA final round matchups. Kalitta saved his quickest pass of the weekend and posted a .037 RT for a 3.716 ET at 332.67 mph to win his third Wally of 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Series and the 47th Top Fuel Wally of his career. Although Torrence apologized to the NHRA, to racing fans and his fellow competitors including Cameron Ferre's racing team, racing fans booed the Texan for the remainder of the weekend in protest over his unexpected Road Rage.