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The latest update as of September 13, 2019

Mopar Express Lane Nationals

NHRA Reading Nats (Maple Grove Raceway - Reading, PA)

It certainly was a lost weekend for many of the championship contenders, with every one of the points leaders going into the Reading event dropping out of first place on Sunday afternoon. While it was just the first race of the six event "Countdown" for the pro drivers (and riders), the Top Alcohol championship chase is winding down to the wire for most of the top contenders. Let's start with Top Fuel and work our way down to the alky racers.


At the conclusion of the U.S. Nationals, Steve Torrence was sitting on top of the (NHRA) world, with a gigantic points lead, but that scenario underwent a major reset as the Countdown to the Championship began. His 558 point lead over #2 Doug Kalitta shrank to just 20 points going into the Reading event, then it evaporated entirely following a first round loss to Clay Millican. A slight holeshot by Millican and an almost identical e.t. resulted in a margin of just seven thousandths of a second at the 1000-ft finish line.

Many sports use the cliche of "a game of inches" but in drag racing it's literally a game of milliseconds; margins so small that they're almost invisible to the naked eye. But that's the way it goes and Torrence has been on the winning side of so mahy of those equations over the past two years. Adding to his pain was father Billy Torrence (aka: The Blocker) hazing the tires in the first round and losing ground in the chase to the tune of a 148 point deficit going into the next event at St. Louis.

Taking full advantage of Torrence's loss was Doug Kalitta who fought his way to the final, before dropping a close decision to Kalitta Motorsports teammate Richie Crampton. When the mosh pit on the Maple Grove starting line finally dissipated, Kalitta had a 33 point lead over the new #2 Brittany Force and Crampton had vaulted from #9 to #5, sitting just 54 points in arrears of Kalitta.

Force, by the way, had herself quite a weekend, with a new national e.t. record at 3.623 - the quickest run in Top Fuel history - the low qualifier (obviously) and nine bonus points for the quickest e.t. in three of the four qualifying sessions. Her dream race was cut short by a fuel leak as she prepared to stage in the semi-final against Crampton. A very tough way to bow out when she had a very real shot at coming out of the race with the points lead. As it stands she's less than two rounds behind Kalitta with momentum definitely on her side.

Other movers in the standings - in a downward direction - were "giant-killer" Clay Millican who dropped three spots from #6 to #9 and now sits 88 points behind Kalitta. Antron Brown, Mike Salinas, and Leah Pritchett all dropped one notch, while rookie of the year (by a BIG margin) Austin Prock gained one position, but oddly enough, fell to 86 points from the top after coming into Reading just 80 markers behind.


The biggest news - points-wise - during qualifying was the 15-point penalty assessed to John Force for his third centerline infraction of the season, and that dropped him from #2 to #3 on the first day of qualifying. The second (night-time) session on Friday produced some wild runs, including J.R. Todd crossing the line too and rookie Mike McIntire Jr. reaching for the sky on the launch when a crewman forgot to lock down the wheelie bar.

That second session produced a couple of spectacularly good runs, with Bob Tasca III posting his career best speed at 335.32 mph, while Ron Capps absolutely blitzed the boards with an awesome 3.837 - 339.28 pass. It was the second fastest speed in Funny Car history, and a career best e.t. and speed for Capps. Both numbers ultimately held up as best of the weekend for the floppers.

Eliminations on Sunday opened with a major upset as John Smith (one of Paul Smith's sons) took out one of the hitters as Tasca went into instant tire smoke on the launch and Smith got down the track and turned on the winlight with a 4-second run.