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Steve Torrence caps perfect weekend with NHRA win at LVMS

Updated April 19, 2021 - 12:57 am

Because of COVID restrictions, the grandstands at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway were less than half-filled for Sunday’s return of the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.

Everyone sitting in them knew who won the Top Fuel final before the driver of the winning car.

Steve Torrence raised both hands with palms upturned as if to say “How did I do?” More time passed before he finally received word from his crew or recognized that the cheers he was hearing through his helmet were for him.

“We had to work hard today, but we got it done,” said the three-time reigning champion from the Texas oil fields after pumping the air and his windscreen with his fist after earning his 41st career victory and fifth in the past six four-lane events. His elapsed time of 3.823 seconds at 321.73 mph bested Doug Kalitta (who faded at the finish), Clay Millican and fellow three-time champion Antron Brown.

It was a weekend of milestones on and off the track for Torrence, who was the only driver to sweep all three rounds Sunday.

He watched Brittany Force steal the fastest qualifying time from him on his birthday Saturday before presenting his mother, Kay, with a present Sunday on her birthday. It also was his first victory since becoming the father of a girl, Haven Charli.

“There is nothing better than being a dad, and happy birthday, Mom — there was a lot of cool stuff that happened today,” Torrence said as his good friend, Brown, greeted him with a congratulatory hug.

It wasn’t Bob Tasco III’s birthday or his mom’s, but it was the Ford Mustang’s 57th. The Rhode Island Funny Car driver also said he brought his dad and his dog to the track for the first time in a while. Combined with his hole-shot victory over defending champion Matt Hagan, Tim Wilkerson and Ron Capps in which all four drivers posted sub four-second runs, that seemed like cool stuff, too.

“I’m so proud and privileged to drive the fastest Mustang on the planet,” Tasca III said after posting his seventh career Funny Car win and first since COVID with a run of 3.938 at 328.46.

Enders tops Pro Stock

Erica Enders defeated Aaron Stanfield, Deric Kramer and Mason McGaha in the final Pro Stock quad for her seventh — and most difficult — Las Vegas victory.

The four-time champion was on the outside looking in on the 16-car lineup until her final qualifying attempt, and was seeded an uncharacteristic 13th on the ladder before reprising the form that has carried her to 30 career wins.

“I really want to give a big thank you to my (crew) because it is frustrating to go out there and shake your butt off,” she said of her two tire-rattling qualifying attempts. “When I came back, I had to ask if I still had all of my teeth.”

But after she turned on the win light with a run of 6.656 at 205.88 on race day, all was forgotten. “They got down to business today, and that’s all the matters,” Enders said.

Ryan Oehler earned the Pro Stock Motorcycle win with a pass of 6.911 at 194.83, topping Cory Reed, Scotty Pollacheck and Steve Johnson.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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