By DALE BOSOWSKI
Special to the Bulletin
Steve Torrence (Capco Construction Dragster) has dominated the Top Fuel (TF) ranks over the past couple of seasons, but he was upstaged by his father Billy Torrence (Capco Construction Dragster) in the finals of the 32nd Annual NHRA Mello Yello Sonoma Nationals on Sunday.
Steve Torrence, the defending TF champion and 2019 points leader, entered this weekend’s competition with a staggering nine straight finals appearance, winning eight of them, and a record setting 27 wins since the start of 2017, while his father entered the weekend with two career wins in Top Fuel.
In qualifying Billy just got the best of his son by turning in a 3.717 second/325.85 mph run to nip Steve by a miniscule .001 second margin while Clay Millican (Parts Plus Dragster) captured the top spot with a blistering .3.698/330.96 pass during Friday night’s qualifying session.
The pair easily disposed of their respective opponents in the first two rounds of the finals on Sunday to set up their seventh ever head-to-head battle.
“It is always fun to race my dad. I know it will be a top notch competition and even though it is another Capco car we will do our best to take him out,” said Steve Torrence, who was a perfect six wins and no losses in previous matchups with his dad. “Fortunately I have never lost to him so I hope I can keep that going today.”
Their semifinals race went down to wire before Steve blew his engine, giving Billy the win by about a half of a car length.
“It is always gratifying to get a win over anybody, but to get one over Steve, considering how well he is doing, is really something,” said Billy as he was congratulated by his son after the round. “I guess it took another Capco car to finally take him down.”
Billy Torrence’s win in the final over Clay Millican was even closer as he survived a hole shot to win by .006 second, or approximately 18 inches, to notch his third career Top Fuel victory in 40 starts.
“We have been so blessed to be able to come out here and race as a family,” said Billy who sits 12th in TF despite running in only eight of the 15 events held so far this season. “This is very humbling.”
Robert Hight (Auto Club/John Force Racing) captured the 50th win of his Funny Car career in dominating fashion on Sunday.
Hight’s was the number one qualifier after posting a blistering 3.858/334.65 run on Friday which earned him a solo pass in the first round of Sunday’s final eliminations. He then blasted by Blake Alexander in round two, Tommy Johnson Jr. in round three before defeating rival Matt Hagan with an overpowering run and a quicker reaction time in the final to capture his fifth winner’s Wally of the 2019 season.
“I still don’t know how this was possible. I don’t even know how I got one win,” said a tearful Hight, who also won last year at Sonoma. “And to do this at my home track in Sonoma is unbelievable,”
Hagan faced off with the legendary John Force, who is seeking an unprecedented 150th career victory, all in Funny Car, in the semifinals. Unfortunately, Force was unable get the car out of reverse after his burnout, causing him to shut it down at the starting line and giving Hagan a free run into the finals.
Veteran Greg Anderson continued his recent resurgence by taking the Pro Stock win at Sonoma by defeating Alex Laughlin in the finals.. Combined with his victory last weekend at the Mile-High Nationals in Denver, he now has won back-to-back races after not posting a win in over a year.
Anderson was second off the starting line against Laughlin by .006-second, but overpowered him down the stretch despite a close call with the wall down track to flip the switch on his eighth-straight elimination win light.
Anderson beat his K.B. Racing teammate Jason Line, who qualified on the pole for the second time in his career, in the semifinals on a hole shot after getting a free pass in the second round when Jeg Coughlin Jr. was not able to get his car to fire up his engine at the starting line.
A win in Seattle next weekend will give Anderson his second career Western Swing sweep.
Andrew Hines won for the seventh time in 2019 to extend his already formidable 2019 Pro Stock Motorcycle points lead.
He disposed of 2016 Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Jerry Savoie, Scotty Pollacheck and Kelly Clontz to reach the final where he put away Matt Smith by .02-second with a 6.790/198.00 run.
It was a perfect weekend for Hines who also captured the Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle, a $25,000 specialty contest, on Saturday by taking down his teammate, Eddie Krawiec in the final round.
The NHRA will now head to Seattle next weekend August 2-4 for the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Northwest Nationals.