Steve Torrence went from late to just in time while Bob Tasca III maintained his status as the hottest rider in the Camping World NHRA Drag Racing series after a wild and unpredictable day of final eliminations at the 40th annual Lucas Oil NHRA National Championships at Brainerd Int’l Racecourse. Torrence picked up his first win of the year when he beat eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher in the final while Tasca won or the third time in four races when he stopped Ron Capps in the Funny final Because.
After dominating the past four seasons, Torrence has somehow gone winless in the first 14 events of the 2022 season, but the Capco Contractors team found a way to put their early season struggles behind them and Torrence emerged. with his 52nd professional Wally. Their performance wasn’t exactly a work of art, but that didn’t matter to Torrence who was visibly fed up with answering the inevitable question of when he was going to win again. The four-time world champion beat eight-time champion and recent Seattle winner Tony Schumacher in the final, 3.866 to 3.942. Torrence’s record against Schumacher remains unblemished at 5-0 this season.
“A day like today is the one you are most proud of as a driver,” said Torrence. “When everything is going well, you just have to do your job. When the car doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, it’s different. We weren’t trying to smoke the tires, but these were the cards we were dealt. You remember these days more than when you just stood on the gas and rode it to the finish line. It takes a lot of experience to get out there and pedal and I just don’t have that because my car usually goes from A to B.
“In the final against Tony; he usually comes in quickly, but I decided to go in first and he sat me down there,” Torrence said. “I was a little behind. I was 80 on the Tree Saw and he pulled out a wheel for me and I thought “Not yet”. Then he backed off and I thought things could have gone wrong. I’ve said it before, but having the success we’ve had for the past four years and then not having success is hard. It was really great to get rid of the monkey. In no way would I say that we have returned to our normal standards. It’s the time of year to get your head in the game and focus. The last six are for business and we’re pretty good at taking care of business.
Brainerd fans enjoyed the warm, sunny weather that was present on Sunday, but for some reason it proved disconcerting to even the best nitro crew chiefs in the NHRA. The first round of eliminations produced a glut of competitive elapsed times, including a stunning 3.646 by Top Fuel qualifier Low Brittany Force, but after that, rising track temperatures were caused by a tough luge. Top Fuel races in the 3.6-second and 3.8-second Funny Car passes were largely a thing of the past after the first lap, but that doesn’t mean the race wasn’t entertaining. Far from there.
Team Capco managed to adapt better than most as Torrence opened with a competitive 3.755 in their win over Mike Salinas and then cycled to wins over Antron Brown and Force to reach the final for the 86th time of her career. The Capco dragster was stuck to the track in the final as Schumacher’s Okuma dragster went half-track before a cloud of tire smoke ended its chance for an 87th career victory.
Despite the loss, Schumacher had plenty of positives to take away from Brainerd, especially when looking at the Camping World standings ahead of the upcoming playoffs. Schumacher was outside the Top 10 for much of the season, but his recent surge all but locked his place in the countdown. En route to the No. 156 career finale, Schumacher picked up victories over Doug Kalitta, Josh Hart and Justin Ashley.
Tasca told everyone who heard that his team was a legitimate contender for the Camping World Funny Car title and at this point it’s almost impossible to doubt him. Appearing in the final for the fifth time in six races, Tasca scored a final knockout with a 3.945 to easily cover Capps’ respectable 4.007. Tasca is now 19-3 in the playoffs since the Norwalk round two months ago.
“I’ve said it many times, but what we did [lately] is amazing,” Tasca said. “We didn’t back any wins and played at a high level throughout this [win streak]. It’s incredible execution from the team, and I mean every single person. This team must function perfectly. The package we have is a blast unlike anything I’ve ever had in my racing career. Hot or cold, it doesn’t matter, they always have an answer and when it does, as a driver, you just have to get out there and do your job.
“This track was tough for me,” Tasca said. “All weekend I fought the car on the track. It was turning and moving. If you let it get out of the groove, it will cause the tires to spin. Keeping it in the center of the groove is absolutely essential, especially today. I’m so proud of what we did today. Before the final, I sat in the trailer with Mike and looked at the data and he said, ‘You know, there’s a lot more I can do here. That’s how he is. He’s always thinking about how we can be better. We’ve got a lot of unfinished business ahead of us. We’re all aiming for the same trophy at the end of the year. .
Like everyone else in Funny Car, Tasca’s team was also forced to adapt to rapidly changing track conditions, but team leaders Mike Neff and John Shafer were above the rest of the field with four back-to-back runs in all three, including a 3.891 in their first-round win over Dale Creasy Jr., who kept Team Motorcraft honest with a career-best 3.967. Tasca also had wins over Chad Green and points leader Robert Hight, who hit the tires on his Auto Club Camaro.
Capps, has been relatively quiet since his last victory in Bristol, but the NAPA Toyota team, led by Dean Antonelli and John Medlen, could well peak at the right time with the Dodge Power Brokers US Nationals and the countdown to the playoffs of the Champoinship. at the street corner. Capps only won one round on the Western Swing and won a quarter-final in Topeka, but Brainerd was a different story as he picked up victories over John Force, Bobby Bode and Alexis DeJoria to make his fourth season finale.