Matt Leads Assault on Houston Track Records

story by Tim Hailey and NHRA, photos by Craig Hopkins

Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Matt Smith continued to roll in qualifying on his Denso/Stockseth/MSR EBR, picking up his fourth straight No. 1 qualifier with a run of 6.729 at 199.88. The class raced in Houston for the first time since 2013, this time in the 33rd annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park.

Smith’s run set both ends of the track record and handed his fifth top spot in 2020 and 43rd in his career at the 10th of 11 races during the 2020 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

Ryan Oehler ended up fourth and will race Kelly Clontz

The assault on the Houston track record started in E1, led by Indy 1 winner Ryan Oehler. His 6.808 at 197.08 mph was a full .049 ahead of Jerry Savoie, number 2 for the round.

White Alligator Racing boss Jerry Savoie qualified 6th and will race Steve Johnson

Smith is scheduled to take on Marc Ingwersen to open eliminations, but Ingwersen broke a crank on the 2-step in Q1. He broke the beams on Hector Arana’s bike in Q2 to collect qualifying money and isn’t planning on racing. That should come as a relief to Matthew, whose bike wouldn’t start for first round last weekend in Dallas.

Angelle Sampey qualified second with a 6.789 at 198.88 and Eddie Krawiec took third after going 6.799 at 197.48.

“Johnny Balls” Hall will face former teammate Scotty Pollacheck at the center of the ladder

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Matt Smith, EBR, 6.729, 199.88 vs. 16. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, broke; 2. Angelle Sampey, Harley-Davidson, 6.789, 198.88 vs. 15. David Barron, EBR, 15.035, 48.32; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.799, 197.48 vs. 14. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.655, 189.52; 4. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.808, 197.08 vs. 13. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.967, 191.43; 5. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.811, 197.65 vs. 12. Chris Bostick, Suzuki, 6.958, 192.22; 6. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.836, 193.71 vs. 11. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.935, 190.46; 7. Angie Smith, EBR, 6.842, 199.17 vs. 10. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.919, 195.82; 8. John Hall, Suzuki, 6.875, 193.05 vs. 9. Scotty Pollacheck, EBR, 6.900, 197.36.

In the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, points leader and defending world champion Stevie “Fast” Jackson will take the No. 1 spot into race day after going 5.659 at 253.52 in his supercharged Bahrain 1 Racing Camaro. Jackson will take on Alex Laughlin, who is racing in both Pro Stock and Pro Mod this weekend, to open eliminations.

Brandon Snider, who won last weekend in Dallas by beating Jackson in the final round for his first career NHRA Pro Mod win, took the second position with a 5.660 at 252.00. Snider had qualified No. 1 at the previous two races and trailed Jackson by just 18 points heading to Houston. Justin Bond took the third spot thanks to his 5.692 at 248.20.

Pro Modified — 1. Steve Jackson, Chevy Camaro, 5.659, 253.52 vs. 16. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.144, 217.84; 2. Brandon Snider, Chevy Corvette, 5.660, 252.00 vs. 15. Justin Jones, Corvette, 5.956, 207.02; 3. Justin Bond, Camaro, 5.692, 248.20 vs. 14. Doug Winters, Chevy Chevelle, 5.846, 245.81; 4. Khalid alBalooshi, Camaro, 5.693, 253.66 vs. 13. Paul Daigrepont, Camaro, 5.841, 245.40; 5. Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.710, 251.95 vs. 12. Mike Janis, Camaro, 5.777, 247.79; 6. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 5.728, 252.05 vs. 11. Kris Thorne, Camaro, 5.776, 258.52; 7. Jim Whiteley, Corvette, 5.735, 247.25 vs. 10. Jeff Jones, Corvette, 5.764, 227.61; 8. Brandon Pesz, Camaro, 5.736, 249.12 vs. 9. Chad Green, Corvette, 5.739, 249.72.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Clint Satterfield, 6.223, 199.17.

A week after winning in Dallas, Steve Torrence stayed red-hot, going 3.672-seconds at 327.98 mph in his Capco Contractors dragster. It’s the second straight No. 1 qualifier for Torrence, giving him the Texas sweep in that category, and also his third top spot this year and 27th overall.

Tony Schumacher was the only other driver to reach the 3.60s on Saturday, qualifying second with a 3.685 at 330.07. Billy Torrence, who met his son in the Dallas final round last weekend, was third thanks to a 3.701 at 327.74. Doug Kalitta, who is second in points, qualified fifth with a 3.764 at 269.78.

“Today was a huge success and the car ran really well,” said Torrence, who is seeking his third straight Top Fuel world championship. “It gives us a lot of confidence going into tomorrow and that puts a little pressure on the competition. We’ll go out and do the best we can, and we just need to maintain that consistency. We’ve slowly become one of the teams that runs really quick when the conditions are good. We haven’t been that guy in years past, and we’ve slowly but surely gotten to the point where we’re confident to go out there and run really hard because you’re trying to get every point possible.”

Top Fuel — 1. Steve Torrence, 3.672 seconds, 327.98 mph vs. Bye; 2. Tony Schumacher, 3.685, 330.07 vs. 15. Cameron Ferre, 10.492, 70.27; 3. Billy Torrence, 3.701, 327.74 vs. 14. Joe Morrison, 7.028, 89.62; 4. Antron Brown, 3.741, 326.87 vs. 13. Scott Palmer, 6.440, 99.46; 5. Doug Kalitta, 3.764, 269.78 vs. 12. Kebin Kinsley, 5.235, 132.11; 6. Leah Pruett, 3.767, 324.20 vs. 11. Lee Callaway, 4.131, 224.88; 7. Clay Millican, 3.802, 276.58 vs. 10. Doug Foley, 3.913, 301.87; 8. Shawn Langdon, 3.812, 269.67 vs. 9. Justin Ashley, 3.881, 256.99.

In the middle of a tight points race with his Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Jack Beckman jumped to the No. 1 spot during the final qualifying session with an impressive and timely run of 3.884 at 328.14 in his 11,000-horsepower Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. It is his first No. 1 qualifier of the season and 28th in his career, as it bumped teammate and points leader Matt Hagan to second. Beckman will race another teammate, Ron Capps, to open eliminations as DSR seeks its 13th straight victory in the Funny Car ranks.

Hagan, who entered the weekend with a slim four-point lead over Beckman, ran 3.907 at 327.74 to claim the second position, while J.R. Todd qualified third after running 3.923 at 328.62.

Funny Car — 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.884, 328.14 vs. 16. Ron Capps, Charger, 5.295, 136.44; 2. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.907, 327.74 vs. 15. Dave Richards, Ford Mustang, 5.269, 169.85; 3. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.923, 328.62 vs. 14. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 5.021, 150.48; 4. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.928, 325.22 vs. 13. Paul Lee, Charger, 4.492, 190.59; 5. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.958, 308.21 vs. 12. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.291, 225.71; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.973, 317.94 vs. 11. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.120, 309.70; 7. Bobby Bode III, Mustang, 4.024, 259.51 vs. 10. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 4.077, 302.62; 8. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.041, 298.47 vs. 9. Chad Green, Mustang, 4.062, 294.88. Did Not Qualify: 17. Todd Simpson, 7.606, 85.74.

Laughlin picked up his first Pro Stock Car No. 1 qualifier of the season and the third in his career, rolling to the top spot in his TexPlex Park/Havoline Chevrolet Camaro thanks to a standout run of 6.506 at 210.73. The Texan is looking for his second win of the season and first career victory at Houston Raceway Park, and Laughlin will race Fernando Cuadra to kick off eliminations.

Greg Anderson qualified second with a run of 6.517 at 212.23, and points leader and defending world champ Erica Enders took the third spot with a run of 6.517 at 211.36. Her closest competitor in the title race, Jason Line, will start eliminations from seventh after his pass of 6.532 at 211.79.

Pro Stock Car — 1. Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.506, 210.73 vs. 16. Fernando Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 6.605, 208.20; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.517, 212.23 vs. 15. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.593, 209.04; 3. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.517, 211.36 vs. 14. Bruno Massel, Camaro, 6.578, 209.72; 4. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.520, 211.30 vs. 13. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.558, 210.50; 5. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.527, 210.70 vs. 12. Troy Coughlin Jr., Mustang, 6.546, 209.56; 6. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.528, 210.14 vs. 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.546, 209.82; 7. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.532, 211.79 vs. 10. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.541, 210.57; 8. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.540, 211.23 vs. 9. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.540, 210.34.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Val Smeland, 6.638, 209.07; 18. Alan Prusiensky, 6.664, 196.30; 19. Cristian Cuadra, 24.214, 29.40.

Eliminations for the Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil begin at 10 a.m. CT on Sunday. Live television coverage of eliminations starts at 2 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1 (FS1).

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