Steve Torrence continued his domination of the Top Fuel class by thundering his way to a thrilling victory in Sunday’s NHRA Camping World Sonoma Nationals at beautiful Sonoma Raceway.
The finals in all four Pro categories were decided by inches as Robert Hight (Funny Car), Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also chalked up victories in their respective classes.
After getting by Cameron Ferre, Doug Kalitta and Antron Brown in the first three rounds of eliminations, Torrence faced off against Leah Pruett in Sunday’s final round. With Leah’s new husband, former NASCAR Cup star Tony Stewart, looking on, Torrence got off the line late with a 0.115 second reaction time, but drove his Capco Contractors dragster down the strip on a blistering 3.757-seconds at 327.98 mph run to edge past Pruett by just .002 — less than two feet — at the finish line.
“I went up there and was a little antsy on the tree and almost red-lighted, but I just got away with it,” admitted Torrence. “I did everything possible to screw that final round up. These Capco boys are unbelievable and I’m just the fortunate guy who is blessed to drive it.”
It was the third straight win, his sixth of the season and 46th of his career for the three-time reigning Top Fuel champion. Torrence’s weekend performance also allowed him to lock down the first of 10 spots in the NHRAs Chase to the Championship playoff competition held during the final seven races of the season.
The win at Sonoma also gives Torrence victories in the first two legs of the grueling three-race Western Swing which kicked off in Denver last weekend and concludes in Pomona this coming weekend. Only five drivers in Top Fuel have successfully completed the sweep over the previous 32 years, the last being Antron Brown in 2009.
Afterward, Torrence stood on the victory stage holding his event trophy in one arm and his new baby girl, Haven Carli Torrence who was born April 21, 2021, in the other arm.
“I’ve always been seen as a tough guy, but now that I have become a total girl dad it has pretty much ruined my reputation as a bad-ass,” he quipped.
Robert Hight (Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS) swept by Steven Densham, J.R. Todd and No. 1 qualifier Ron Capps before laying down a run of 3.971 at 322.50 to defeat defending world champ Matt Hagan in the final round of Nitro Funny Car on Sunday. Hagan was quicker off the starting line, but Hight was able to catch him just before the finish line to get the victory by a slim margin of about 15 inches.
The win was Hight’s third straight in the wine country, his second of the 2021 season and 53rd in his career.
“It’s pretty tough out here in Funny Car, there are so many good competitors and you have to be on your game.” Hight said, “When I first started racing I would come to Sonoma and we would do OK in qualifying, but I couldn’t do anything on race day. Now in the last three, we’ve dominated and it’s been a lot of fun.”
With Funny Car points leaders Bob Tasca III and John Force both losing in the first round on Sunday the Funny Car standings have tightened considerably. Hight, a three-time champion, now trails Tasca by only 40 points and the top seven are all separated by just 99 points.
In a battle of the young guns, Stanfield, age 26, drove his Janac Brothers Chevrolet Camaro to a narrow win in the Pro Stock final round over rookie Dallas Glenn. In what seemed to be the day’s theme, Glenn got off the line a hair quicker, but Stanfield was able to run him down with a pass of 6.557 at 209.56 compared to Glenn’s 6.580 at 207.69 effort.
Earlier in the day Stanfield got past Chris McGaha, Matt Hartford, and No. 1 qualifier and points leader Greg Anderson, who will have to wait at least another week in his quest to tie Warren Johnson for the most career wins in Pro Stock at 97, to post his second win of the season and third of his career.
Karen Stoffer narrowly knocked off Andrew Hines in the finals of Pro Stock Motorcycle with a run of 6.798 at 197.36 versus Hines at 6.800 at 200.98, It was her 10th career win and first since 2019.
Manteca’s Chris Thode was defeated by Paul Nero in the third round of eliminations in the Pro Dragster Sportsman division after Nero exceeded his index time by .017 seconds while Thode went above his by .018 to lose by a heartbreaking .001 margin.
John Richardson would eventually take out Nero in the final round to win the class.The NHRA now heads down south to Auto Club Raceway in Southern California for the conclusion of the Western Swing on July 30-Aug. 1