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Defending top-fuel champion Steve Torrence qualifies No. 1 at NHRA Finals

Steve Torrence moves his top-fuel dragster into position for a qualifying run at the Auto Club NHRA Finals.
Steve Torrence moves his top-fuel dragster into position for a qualifying run at the Auto Club NHRA Finals.
(Marc Gewertz / National Dragster 2)

Points leader Steve Torrence jumped to the No. 1 spot in the final top fuel qualifying session Saturday at the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona.

Torrence, the defending series champion, powered to a 3.686-second run at 329.99 mph.

“It’s a little bit disturbing how relaxed I’ve been coming into this weekend,” Torrence said. “I’ve been in this situation before and come here with the lead, and it didn’t pan out the way we wanted it to. We came here last year and were already the champs, but you just have to step back and look at what we’re doing here. It’s the final race of the year and you need to go four rounds.”

Leah Pritchett qualified second in top fuel with a 3.694 at 322.88 and Clay Millican is third after going 3.699 at 328.30. Doug Kalitta, who is 63 points behind Torrence, sits sixth with a 3.717 at 324.28, while Billy Torrence is 89 points back of his son

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Matt Hagan took the top spot in funny car, Jeg Coughlin Jr. in pro stock and Matt Smith in pro stock motorcycle in the last of six races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Hagan had a 3.872 at 333.58 on Friday in a Dodge SRT Hellcat, and Coughlin ran a 6.533 at 210.70 on Friday in a Chevrolet Camaro. Smith had a 6.815 at 197.33 on an EBR, also from Friday.

“We’ve had a great racecar for a while and now it’s really shining,” Hagan said. “I’m feeling really good about things and you can’t ask for too much more. I’m excited and we’re hungry for it. We all live to be in this position to have the opportunity to win world championships, and we’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing to get here.

MMatt Hagan begins a qualifying run in his funny car at the NHRA Finals.
Matt Hagan begins a qualifying run in his funny car at the NHRA Finals.
(Marc Gewertz / National Dragster 2)

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“I feel no pressure right now, but that’s why you race on Sunday. I’m really excited about it and I feel really confident in my guys. They’re going to put a great racecar underneath me, and I’m going to drive my butt off and see what happens.”

Jack Beckman shot up to the second position on his final run, going 3.876 at 332.43. He’ll start Sunday 38 points back of Hight. Tim Wilkerson took the third spot with his 3.876 at 327.43. John Force trails Hight by 76 points going into eliminations.

The elimination rounds begin at 11 a.m. Sunday.


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