A mile-high weekend at Denver’s Bandimere Speedway led to yet another feature victory for the NHRA’s current winningest driver, Steve Torrence, after he took down Clay Millican in Sunday’s final round. While Torrence earned his eighth Top Fuel title this season, Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson, Jr. broke a long-awaited winless streak after defeating Bob Tasca III in Sunday’s final round. Although it would take Johnson three decades to earn a win at the Dodge NHRA Mile-High Nationals, four-time Mello Yello champion Greg Anderson also put his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro into the winner’s circle for the second year in a row at Bandimere Speedway after taking down a hard-charging Matt Hartford in Sunday’s final round.
It took the current king of Top Fuel five races to earn his first victory of the season, but since breaking this winless streak Torrence has been unstoppable. With more wins than any other Top Fuel driver this season, Torrence has used this stamina to end up back on top this weekend in Denver. After one of the lowest qualifying times, Torrence earned a bye run in the opening round and later scored wins against Richie Crampton to line him up against his nemesis, Brittany Force, in Sunday’s semifinal round.
While Force was once again on top of her game this weekend, Brittany smoked the tires in the semifinals in her special edition Carquest dragster, which sent Torrence into his ninth consecutive final round. His performance in this round gave the Capco driver lane choice over Millican in Sunday’s final round.
Like most final rounds, this matchup was one of the most challenging of Torrence’s weekend. As his times started to fall off, his final pass of 4.044 seconds was just enough to hold off Millican’s 4.126-second effort.
“My hard-working team really knows how to make these wins keep happening,” said Torrence. “Having the opportunity to take down Millican was also a bonus. Clay and I have a long history. I have known him since I raced an Alcohol Dragster, and last year we fought it out for the championship. He is a seasoned driver and I didn’t realize how close he was to taking us down on Sunday. This is why this win means so much.”
Now with 35 wins as a Top Fuel driver, which ties him with NHRA legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits for all of his recent records and achievements, Torrence is staring down the barrel of a potential follow-up championship as the season continues.
While Torrence has skyrocketed to the top of his class, Sunday’s Funny Car winner will have to continue to see the wins add up if he wants to drive to the level of Steve Torrence. From Super Gas, to Top Alcohol Funny Car, to Top Fuel and eventually the Funny Car class, Tommy Johnson Jr. has tried to win the Dodge NHRA Mile-High Nationals presented by Pennzoil for more than three decades. After coming into this weekend’s race as the No. 3 seed in Funny Car, Johnson’s road to Sunday’s road to success included wins over Jeff Diehl, Beckman, and Cruz Pedregon before moving on to the final round against Bob Tasca III.
With a final pass of the weekend of 4.102-seconds, Johnson broke a long-awaited winless streak in his fifth-career final round at Bandimere Speedway.
“It feels so good to finally be back in victory lane,” said Johnson. “We are a much a better team this year than we have been in past seasons and it is so good to see us start to grow and succeed. I have wanted to win here for so long and to know that I have earned a victory at a track where my family has been treated so well over the years is amazing.”
Thanks to this win, Johnson has moved into second in the point standings behind Robert Hight as the series heads to Sonoma Raceway.
Johnson wouldn’t be the only driver to break a winless streak in Denver. Four-time Mello Yello champion Greg Anderson put his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro into the winner’s circle for the first time in a year after facing a tough battle in round one against Fernando Cuadra, who also races under the KB Racing banner, as well as low qualifier Richard Freeman and local Denver favorite Deric Kramer to reach the final round.
After taking down these drivers, Anderson moved onto Sunday’s final round against Matt Hartford. In a typically close Pro Stock final, both drivers left together, and Anderson inched ahead at the finish line to win with a 6.950-second pass, which bettered Hartford’s 6.965-second effort. Breaking this dry spell led to Anderson’s 92 NHRA Pro Stock titles in his career in 154 final rounds, including a perfect 4-0 record in finals at scenic Bandimere Speedway. Anderson also maintains a perfect 10-0 record in elimination rounds against Hartford.
“This win feels so good,” said Anderson. “It has been so long that I have to admit that I have had my doubts. I am also not getting any younger, but I’m proud and we had a great weekend. I love racing up here at the Mile-Hight Nationals and I usually have the best car here. I felt that way last year when I won, and I felt that way again this year.”
Thanks to this win, Anderson has also moved to second in the points battle against Bo Butner heading into the NHRA Sonoma Nationals.
The 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continues at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals July 26-28 at Sonoma Raceway. Stay tuned to RacingJunk.com for all your NHRA coverage!