Bob Tasca III and Steve Torrence win Brainerd Nationals

By Briar Starr, Staff Writer

With only two races to go before the NHRA Countdown (NHRA‘s equivalent of the playoffs) start, some drivers were looking to lock up a Countdown spot in the Top 10. Most drivers are comfortably locked in the Countdown such as Robert Hight, Matt Hagan, Ron Capps, John Force, and Bob Tasca III including Brittany Force, Mike Salinas, Justin Ashley, and Steve Torrence are also locked into ‘playoffs’ as well. 

Even though Tasca III and Torrence are locked into the Countdown, you want to heat up at the right time and when you’re not, you want to be patient and bide your time. While Tasca III has been on a tear in the last few races by winning at Sonoma and Topeka and looked to continue his winning streak leaving the Brainerd Nationals. The same can be said for Torrence who has had a tough year by not winning, however, has seen three runner-up finishes throughout the season. 

Nevertheless, Tasca III ended up furthering his winning streak by winning in Funny Car, and Torrence returned to victory lane for the first time since the Pomona Finals back in November, the site of is fourth consecutive Top Fuel championship. 

  1. Tasca Domination Continues – Heading into Brainerd, Tasca III has been the talking storm as of late in the Funny Car world with wins at Sonoma and Topeka including two runner-up finishes in 2022, which so far has made it the best season of his Funny car career. Previously before 2022, Tasca III has only scored two wins in a year that occurred in 2009 and 2019 and now bested that with a third win Sunday in Brainerd. Tasca III, the Rhode Islander, had another fast Ford Mustang after qualifying third with a 3.862 and 333.74 mph. Previously, his run was looking solid with a potential No. 1 spot before Robert Hight knocked him off in Q3, and eventually, Tony Stewart’s Matt Hagan qualified No. 1 with a speed of 3.843 and 331.36 mph. Hagan earned himself a bye while Tasca III faced Dale Creasy Jr in the first round. The first round race was a tight one with Creasy Jr as Creasy Jr kept with Tasca III all the way down the track. Tasca, however, won over Creasy Jr powering from a 3.891 to Creasy Jr’s 3.967. Close race to say the least. Creasy Jr’s team was celebrating at the staging lanes, as it was one of their best runs of the weekends. In the quarterfinals, Tasca III matched up with Chad Green is 2-0 against his opponent. It was a near-close call for Green, who almost didn’t get to make a run but was able to anyway. Tasca III won with an ET of 3.945 to Green’s 4.089 and never trailed for the win, to advance him into a semi-final round with Robert Hight. For Hight though, going into the semis wasn’t an easy one. He faced J.R. Todd in the quarterfinals and both vehicles were side-by-side down the track, but Todd blew up at half-track. While Hight went on to win his round, he had some traction problems and had oil down the track. Hight will be charged with 10 points as that was his second of the season. Moving on in the finals, Tasca III had to face Ron Capps after Capps won over John Force, Bobby Bode, and Alexis DeJoria. Capps had a slight advantage by winning one race over Tasca in a final round. Capps got off the line first with a .052 reaction to Tasca’s .092, but Tasca came back by 330 feet mark and overpowered Capps for his third win of the 2022 season. The margin of victory was 0.0221 seconds between Tasca and Capps for the finals. 

    “I’ve said this many times but what we’ve done lately has been amazing,” Tasca said. “We’ve not backed into any win and performed at a high level throughout. This is incredible execution by the team, and I mean every single person. This team has performed flawlessly. The package we have is unlike anything I’ve ever had in my driving career. (My team) always has an answer and when that happens, as a driver you just have to go out and do your job.

    “All weekend, I was fighting the car down the track. It was spinning and moving around. If you let it get out of the groove, it will spin the tires. Keeping it in the center of the groove is critical, especially today. I’m so proud of what we’ve done. We have a lot of unfinished business ahead of us and we’re all chasing the same trophy at the end of the year.”

    Capps earned his second runner-up of the season and his first since Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals 

    “This whole weekend here at Brainerd was a lot of adversity,” said Capps, a six-time Brainerd event champ, following his runner-up finish. “We always talk about Brainerd being integral in a championship run because we’re into the playoffs and the Countdown (to the Championship) in just a couple of races.

    The thing about Brainerd is that it has such a great track surface and when conditions are great, you can throw anything at it as we saw in qualifying, and when it’s hot out like race day today, you have to be savvy and that’s what Guido (Dean Antonelli) and (John) Medlen and our entire NAPA AutoCare group did all day long. We almost won and that would have been fantastic. 

    “This was a great, feel-good weekend for our team. You have to be Countdown-ready at Brainerd and I don’t care where you are in the points, you need to be ready for the playoffs. We needed this. We’re going to Indy and I’ve never won that race. We have a great Toyota race car and a lot of confidence. For me as a driver, to get to drive this NAPA GR Supra, I can’t wait to get there to I.R.P.”

  2. Steve Torrence Back in Victory Lane – The 2022 NHRA season has not been an easy one for Steve Torrence and his CAPCO team, but the Texas native knew it would only be a matter of time before they returned to victory lane. In fact, it has been exactly one year since Torrence and the Top Fuel dragster team last scored a victory. Ever since then, the Top Fuel class increased their competition with the return of Tony Schumacher driving for the now Maynard-Family Racing team and Tony Stewart Racing fielding Leah Pruett. Sort of left out of the mix was Torrence and his CAPCO team who came off a fourth consecutive Top Fuel title. He began the season strong but found a rough patch during the middle of the season losing out in the quarterfinals at Norwalk, first round at Denver, and quarterfinals at Sonoma, and Seattle. However, it appeared as though the tides began turning just a tad beginning last weekend at Topeka when he made a final round appearance with Antron Brown. Unfortunately, Torrence came up short again and set his sights on the Brainerd Nationals. On Sunday, Torrence qualified fourth following the four rounds of qualifying. He set an ET of 3.694 which earned him a first-round opponent against Team Scrappers Mike Salinas. Torrence eliminated Salinas in round one with a 3.755 to Salinas’s 5.286. Salinas smoked the tires, causing him to lose the race. From there, Torrence had a Topeka final round rematch with Brown in the quarterfinals, but this time, Torrence was successful after Brown smoked the tires as well. For the quarterfinals, Torrence met a familiar foe and Top Fuel championship points leader Brittany Force. It was a wild wide for Force in the other lane, as she began peddling the car and nearly went into the other lane. Despite doing so, Torrence smashed the gas and was clearly ahead of her at the finish line. Both cars didn’t have their best run as Torrence also peddled his dragster too. Still, the Texas native went on to claim the victory and headed to the finals to meet Tony Schumacher. In the finals, it featured a clash of champions. Schumacher, the eight-time Top Fuel champion was seeking his first win in a few years while Torrence, the four-time champion also sought his first win of the season. The track temperature was 125 degrees and provided a great race between the two champions. Even though Schumacher was quicker was on the tree with a reaction time of .059 to Torrence’s .082, Torrence got the better of the Maynard-Family Racing driver and scored his first win of the season and the 52nd Wally of his Top Fuel career. 

    “We knew that if we kept putting ourselves in a position that eventually we’d get another one of these little gold men to take back home to Kilgore,” Torrence said, referring to the NHRA winner’s trophy. “It’s amazing. You get used to winning and then you have a year like this one and it puts everything in perspective.

    “It’s not easy to win out here,” he said. “It’s hard, but there’s nobody I’d rather be fighting the battle with than these Capco boys. They stuck with it and now it looks like maybe we’re peaking at just the right time. I can’t wait to get into the Countdown and see if we can hurt some feelings. It’s gonna be fun.”

    Schumacher saw the 70th runner-up of his career and earned wins over Doug Kalitta, Josh Hart, and Justin Ashley to make a final-round appearance. 

    “By the time we got to the final round I thought, man, if we can get down this track, we’re going to win it,” Schumacher explained while debriefing after eliminations had wrapped. “I swore at half-track, I thought we had it won. We were so far out and it started spinning the tires and I still thought, no way two of us are going down this race track; it’s too hot, too slippery. But, at the end of the day, we got some good points this weekend, and had a good run; we’re happy. I’m proud of my guys, they work so damn hard, it’s simply insane what they had to go through today.

    “We’ve got momentum, we’ve got a good car. We were going to stay and test tomorrow, but instead, we’re going to go back, go through our parts and get everything ready because the sole thing on our mind right now is winning Indy.”

  3. Rickie Smith Nabs Pro Mod Win – Rickie Smith, the father of Matt Smith (current Pro Stock Motorcycle rider) is an illustrious Pro Mod driver who has been racing for over 40 plus years. This season, Smith the King, a North Carolina native has not scored a victory at all in 2022 and looked for his first this weekend. He qualified in the fourth position with a respective time of 5.757 seconds. Smith would square off with Khalid alBalooshi in the first round. Smith moved his way on to the finals with victories over Mike Castellana in E2 and Steve Jackson in E3. Over in the finals, Smith faced Doug Winters. Winters had a brief advantage when the Christmas tree, however, Smith fought back and won for the first time this season and picked up the 17th of his career. The win was an emotional one for Smith, as the King, North Carolina is set to retire from Pro Mod racing competition.

    “Points are way far out of my mind,” Smith said. “I wanted to win a race before I retire again this year. We’ve done it. Unless I win another one, this may be the last time you see me win an NHRA race. It’s just been awesome to stay out here this late in my career. Thank you NHRA and thank you D-Wagon for putting up the money. God bless everybody and I love all of you.”

Official NHRA Camping World Series Results 

Top Fuel 

  1. Steve Torrence 
  2. Tony Schumacher 
  3. Justin Ashley 
  4. Brittany Force 
  5. Shawn Langdon 
  6. Billy Torrence 
  7. Antron Brown 
  8. Josh Hart 
  9. Clay Millican 
  10. Krista Baldwin 
  11. Leah Pruett
  12. Austin Prock 
  13. Mike Salinas 
  14. Doug Kalitta 
  15. Scott Farley 

Funny Car

  1. Bob Tasca III
  2. Ron Capps 
  3. Alexis DeJoria 
  4. Robert Hight 
  5. Chad Green 
  6. J.R. Todd 
  7. Matt Hagan 
  8. Bobby Bode
  9. Cruz Pedregon 
  10. Dale Creasy Jr
  11. John Force 
  12. Steven Densham 
  13. Blake Alexander
  14. Jim Campbell 
  15. Tim Wilkerson 

Pro Mod 

  1. Rickie Smith 
  2. Doug Winters 
  3. Steve Jackson 
  4. Mike Castellana 
  5. JR Gray 
  6. Jose Gonzalez 
  7. Lyle Barnett 
  8. Sidnei Frigo 
  9. Justin Bond 
  10. Khalid alBalooshi 
  11. Kris Thorne 
  12. Mike Thielen 

Note – The Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle classes did not compete this weekend. They return at the U.S. Nationals, which will be slated from Aug 31 to Sept 5. 

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