Torrence, Wilkerson and Enders Labor to Victory at NHRA U.S. Nationals

NHRA, pro stock, Funny Car, Pro Mod

Photos Courtesy of NHRA Media

At the NHRA’s marquee labor day weekend event three drivers labored to earn some of their most legendary victories of the 2021 season. Beginning with the most dominant driver in the Top Fuel, Steve Torrence collected his eighth win of the season and his third career Dodge//SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals crown after taking down his nemesis Brittany Force in Sunday’s final round. Along with Torrence’s perseverance to dominate the Top Fuel division, Tim Wilkerson would use his own perseverance to claim his first Funny Car victory in five years after coming from behind to claim the title and deny Ron Capps what would have his first U.S. Nationals win. Along with Wilkerson, Pro Stock’s newest queen of speed also had to use a whole lot of determination to take down Kyle Koretsky in the final round of this year’s Dodge//SRT U.S. Nationals.

Top Fuel

NHRA, pro stock, Funny Car, Pro Mod

Kicking off yet another dominant weekend as the top seed in the Countdown, Torrence qualified No. 2, just .004-second behind his nemesis Brittany Force. As the sun rose on Sunday’s final elimination rounds Torrence’s red and black terror seemed unstoppable with a 3.71-second pass in round one to beat good friend Antron Brown (the first time that the two had ever raced in the first round) then beat upset-minded Greg Carrillo with a 3.74-second finish in the semi-finals. Lining up against his biggest obstacle in Sunday’s final, many were betting on Brittany Force and her Monster Energy dragster to take down the driver that few others could. Despite most hedging their bets on the daughter of legend John Force, the final-round drama that most expected would be a bit of a disappointment as Force’s Top Fuel dragster went up in smoke almost immediately while Torrence streaked to a 3.74-second victory, his 48th in Top Fuel and 52nd overall.

“This victory feels so good,” said Torrence. “I was pretty confident that it was going to be a tough final round, so after we were able to take down Brittany so easily it felt so good. It is unbelievable to be able to say that you have won Indy once and I have done it twice in Top Fuel and once in alcohol. I know a lot of people say that this is just another race, but it’s not just another race. It’s all about the history of this place and it’s a milestone of the pinnacle race of our sport.”

Funny Car

NHRA, pro stock, Funny Car, Pro Mod

While one driver dominated yet one more race, another came off a five-year hiatus and nine runners-up to claim his second Dodge//SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals Funny Car crown. Popular Illinois-based driver Tim Wilkerson has had a rough summer with a body-destroying blower explosion in Sonoma and a body-damaging top-end collision with Cruz Pedregon in Topeka, but all of that changed at this weekend’s U.S. Nationals. Much like most of his races this season, Wilkerson would have to come back from a No. 8 qualifying position. As Sunday’s elimination rounds rolled around Wilkerson belted out a pair of 3.92s in the first two rounds to beat Bobby Bode and John Force. Wilkerson, who tunes and drives the car, dialed it up for the semifinals with a 3.88-second pass to beat tire-smoking Pedregon for the right to contest the final. That was another fortunate round for Wilkerson as an oil-pump malfunction blackened all of the bearings and the crankshaft stayed together just long enough to get the win. After making all of the necessary adjustments to take on former world champion Ron Capps, Wilkerson’s Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford was ready to claim the title after his final 3.91-second pass took down Capps’s 3.94-second attempt for Wilkerson’s second U.S. Nationals Funny Car crown.

“I try not to let it mess with me at all,” Wilkerson said of his past misfortunes. “We try to have a 24-hour rule: after 24 hours, it doesn’t matter — win, lose or draw. I just go up there and try to run my car and don’t worry about what’s going on, but I’ve got one Ford Mustang body left — just one — and that one just won the U.S. Nationals, and that’s the car that I crashed at Topeka. We picked that thing up Tuesday, spent all day Tuesday and half the day Wednesday putting it together, and drove here Thursday morning to claim this legendary victory.”

Pro Stock

NHRA, pro stock, Funny Car, Pro Mod

Much like Wilkerson, Erica Enders also had to persevere to pull off her latest legendary victory. Remember that heartbreaking 2019 U.S. Nationals final round where Erica Enders lost an almost certain victory when her Elite Camaro broke in the final round against Alex Laughlin? That’s now a distant memory for Enders who has recovered quite nicely by winning the last two Dodge//SRT U.S. Nationals titles. Coming from a No. 3 qualifying spot, Enders continued to rise during Sunday’s elimination rounds after earning wins against two-time Comp champ Bruno Massel, and Matt Hartford, who has been a thorn in her side lately. Enders also scored a crucial semifinal win against Greg Anderson, who came into Indy as the top seed in the class. As she continued a hot streak, Sunday’s final round may have included a bit of pressure from Kyle Koretsky, but this queen of speed got off the starting line first and drove to a 6.626 to edge Koretsky’s quicker 6.613 for her third victory of the season and one of the most memorable wins of her career.

“This is a dream come true,” said Enders. “In 1994 I came to Indy as a 9-year-old in the first Jr. Dragster Conference Finals. I red-lighted in the final and I was devastated. That is why this win means so very much to me.”

Along with racing to a legendary victory, Enders now heads into the Countdown second in the points standings behind Greg Anderson and is sure to leave everyone waiting for a potential championship as the Camping World NHRA season continues.

This season’s excitement will continue at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals Presented By Pennzoil at Maple Grove Raceway in Mohnton, PA (Sept 9-12, 2021).  Stay tuned to RacingJunk.com for the latest news from the drag strip!

About Ellen Richardson 491 Articles
Ellen Richardson is the author of Behind The Wheel for RacingJunk.com. This automotive sports junkie has a passion for telling an athlete's story while also covering various racing activities. Find out more about her at ellennrichardson.wordpress.com or follow Ellen on Twitter at @ellennrich or Instagram at elnrich33.

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