Norwalk NHRA Car Coverage

Cruz Pedregon earned his first Funny Car victory in more than three years on Sunday, beating points leader Bob Tasca III in the final round to power to the win at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park.

Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won in their respective drag racing categories at the seventh race of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

This article is about car classes only. Exhaustive Pro Stock Motorcycle will be posted later.

Funny Car

Pedregon, who last won in 2018, held off Tasca in the final round in his Snap-on Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, earning the holeshot win on a run of 3.958-seconds at 324.75 mph. It is the 37th career victory for the two-time world champ, who was understandably emotional in his winner’s circle celebration.

“It’s a good team and I felt like I was kind of holding my team back a little, but I dug deep,” Pedregon said. “You work your way into winning again and these guys taught me to be in that winning mode. It feels good to be back at it. This win means I’m as good as the car, and I know we have a good car, so I think I can be there for the car as well.”

Pedregon reached the final round, his first since the race he won in 2018 and 77th overall, thanks to round wins over Tim Wilkerson, Robert Hight and Alexis DeJoria. Tasca went to his third final round in 2021 and 19th in his career after victories against Blake Alexander, John Force and No. 1 qualifier Ron Capps. Tasca remained in the points lead, while Pedregon moved to seventh.

John Force

FUNNY CAR results

ROUND ONE — John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.946, 327.43 def. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, 4.105, 308.57; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.948, 325.14 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Charger, 4.205, 252.76; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.948, 324.83 def. Bobby Bode, Ford Mustang, 4.021, 308.50; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.949, 324.05 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 5.024, 159.38; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.006, 323.74 def. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 4.373, 263.92; Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.973, 320.66 def. Paul Lee, Charger, 4.053, 292.14; Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.973, 326.48 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.783, 167.78; J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.968, 323.74 def. Mike McIntire, Camry, 6.231, 109.61;

QUARTERFINALS — Capps, 4.015, 322.04 def. Todd, 9.087, 86.85; Tasca III, 3.920, 331.53 def. Force, 4.002, 327.66; Pedregon, 3.959, 326.24 def. Hight, 3.986, 321.50; DeJoria, 3.952, 317.27 def. Hagan, 4.086, 260.16;

SEMIFINALS — Pedregon, 3.947, 324.44 def. DeJoria, 3.941, 320.89; Tasca III, 3.924, 330.39 def. Capps, 4.013, 324.98;

FINAL — Pedregon, 3.958, 324.75 def. Tasca III, 3.913, 332.02.

Funny Car points

  1. Bob Tasca III, 590; 2. John Force, 537; 3. J.R. Todd, 502; 4. Robert Hight, 485; 5. Ron Capps, 453; 6. Matt Hagan, 434; 7. Cruz Pedregon, 417; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 399; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 397; 10. Terry Haddock, 252.

Top Fuel

Steve Torrence

Top Fuel points leader Steve Torrence built on his impressive lead in the class by racing to his third win in Norwalk in the past four events at the facility, beating Brittany Force in a close side-by-side race. Torrence was first off the starting line, allowing his run of 3.736 at 313.88 to hold up over Force’s quicker 3.730 at 326.24. It gave Torrence his fourth win this year and 44th in his career in his Capco Contractors dragster. He advanced to the final round by knocking off Shawn Langdon, Leah Pruett and Austin Prock, slipping past Force to grab his third win in the past four races this year.

“I had to get out and apologize to Brittany because I did not mean to go up there and double-bulb (her),” Torrence said. “I’ve been known to do some creative stuff on the tree, but I wasn’t trying to do that today.

“These wins really mean a lot. You just have to stay focused and be ready. Those Capco boys, they’ve done a great job and I’m so proud and honored to be in the position I’m in. To be part of this, it’s humbling. This car is unreal right now, and (crew chiefs) Bobby Lagana and Richard Hogan, those guys are awesome.”

Force powered to her second final this year and 25th overall by getting past Mike Bucher, Justin Ashley and Antron Brown. She also set the track E.T. record with an impressive run of 3.696 at 326.09 in her semifinal win.

“Very frustrating to get beat in the final the way we did,” said Brittany. “A holeshot loss is not easy, but I’m going to use that to step up at the next one in Denver.

“Incredible job to my Flav-R-Pac, Monster Energy team. Consistent runs down the track all weekend long and a track-record 3.969 in the semis. Today’s laps weren’t easy, with tough competitors and changing track conditions we really had to work for it. Runner-up finish isn’t bad and we will be ready for the next one.”

78 year-old Luigi Novelli had a medical event of some sort after his foam block chocking Q2 run. Rumors vary and official information is unavailable. I was told that Novelli was revived in the race car, stabilized, and transported by helicopter to the hospital, where he remained through the weekend.

TOP FUEL results

ROUND ONE — Antron Brown, 3.767, 328.14 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.855, 312.35; Austin Prock, 4.694, 153.81 def. Krista Baldwin, Broke; Brittany Force, 3.794, 325.53 def. Mike Bucher, 4.134, 287.23; Billy Torrence, 3.789, 325.22 def. Joe Morrison, 5.687, 123.36; Mike Salinas, 4.835, 152.78 def. Kyle Wurtzel, 4.862, 150.95; Steve Torrence, 3.915, 305.98 def. Shawn Langdon, 9.536, 77.66; Justin Ashley, 3.778, 322.19 def. Josh Hart, 3.818, 290.44; Leah Pruett, 3.800, 321.58 def. Doug Foley, 4.642, 162.76;

QUARTERFINALS — Prock, 3.766, 325.69 def. Salinas, 3.808, 319.14; Brown, 3.783, 323.97 def. B. Torrence, 3.793, 323.74; Force, 3.735, 326.71 def. Ashley, 4.959, 154.71; S. Torrence, 3.781, 325.45 def. Pruett, 3.772, 326.95;

SEMIFINALS — S. Torrence, 3.739, 321.88 def. Prock, 3.956, 243.81; Force, 3.696, 326.08 def. Brown, 3.765, 326.32;

FINAL — S. Torrence, 3.736, 313.88 def. Force, 3.730, 326.24.

Top Fuel points

  1. Steve Torrence, 733; 2. Antron Brown, 518; 3. Billy Torrence, 448; 4. Brittany Force, 442; 5. Shawn Langdon, 385; 6. Justin Ashley, 337; 7. Doug Kalitta, 332; 8. Leah Pruett, 320; 9. Mike Salinas, 318; 10. Josh Hart, 310.

Pro Stock Car

Erica Enders

In a must-see matchup of longtime rivals, Erica Enders used a .005 reaction time to beat Greg Anderson in the Pro Stock Car final in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. That allowed her run of 6.606 at 205.44 to hold up against Anderson’s quicker 6.594 at 206.20, denying Anderson the chance to tie Warren Johnson for the most wins in Pro Stock history (97). It gave back-to-back world champ Enders her second win this season and 31st in her career and a thoroughly satisfying victory in a race featuring a pair of four-time world champions.

“This is huge mojo. My team, they always step up to the plate,” Enders said. “After the semifinals, we knew we had to tune it up and we came back and made a bunch of changes. I’m just thrilled and I’m really proud of this team. I couldn’t be more excited and I couldn’t be more proud.”

Enders reached the final round, the 57th in her career, by knocking off Cristian Cuadra, Bruno Massel and Kyle Koretsky.

Anderson, who qualified No. 1 for the sixth time in seven races, beat Fernando Cuadra, Val Smeland and Matt Hartford en route to his fourth final this year and 162nd in his career. He maintained the points lead, while Enders moved up to second.

“I’m so proud of the team and the job everybody does,” said Anderson. “I’m even proud of the way I drove today; I did not drive bad. She (Erica Enders) got a killer light in the final. She’s a great driver and she came up with what she needed. There’s nothing you can do. Just a great drag race. I’ll move on to the next race and I still feel like I’ve got a great chance to tie that record and who knows set that record. My future still looks bright.”

PRO STOCK CAR results

ROUND ONE — Val Smeland, Chevy Camaro, 6.692, 207.27 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 12.610, 69.98; Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.647, 206.20 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 15.200, 57.01; Bruno Massel, Camaro, 6.663, 206.70 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.656, 205.22; Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.649, 205.88 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.647, 206.80; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.647, 206.26 def. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.672, 205.35; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.629, 207.27 def. Fernando Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 11.469, 77.15; Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, 6.729, 205.22 def. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 12.272, 71.51; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.674, 206.95 def. Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, 6.713, 205.88;

QUARTERFINALS — Enders, 6.647, 207.34 def. Massel, 6.693, 207.15; Koretsky, 6.653, 206.76 def. Cuadra Jr., 7.176, 150.15; Hartford, 6.647, 206.29 def. Glenn, 6.668, 205.94; Anderson, 6.640, 206.99 def. Smeland, 6.687, 207.40;

SEMIFINALS — Enders, 6.643, 206.57 def. Koretsky, 6.660, 206.23; Anderson, 6.627, 205.79 def. Hartford, 6.653, 206.20;

FINAL — Enders, 6.606, 205.44 def. Anderson, 6.594, 206.20.

Pro Stock Car points

  1. Greg Anderson, 648; 2. Erica Enders, 506; 3. Aaron Stanfield, 479; 4. Matt Hartford, 450; 5. Mason McGaha, 433; 6. Deric Kramer, 423; 7. Dallas Glenn, 399; 8. Kyle Koretsky, 384; 9. Troy Coughlin Jr., 356; 10. Chris McGaha, 273.

Pro Mod

Jose Gonzalez (photo courtesy of NHRA)

After qualifying in the top spot to start the day at the 14th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series driver Jose Gonzalez took home the win at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park.

The Norwalk event marked the fourth race of the 2021 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service season, and with today’s victory, Gonzalez currently sits second in the points standings.

His journey to the winner’s circle began when he defeated Alex Laughlin in the opening round. He then took down Mike Castellana in the quarterfinals and later Doug Winters in the semifinal round. It was his 5.723-second pass at 250.09 mph over points leader Brandon Snider.

Snider, the No. 7 seed, defeated Justin Jones, Lyle Barnett and Jerico Balduf en route to his first final round of the season.

PRO MODIFIED results

ROUND ONE — Jerico Balduf, Chevy Chevelle, 5.880, 244.92 def. Mike Salinas, Chevy Camaro, 5.909, 245.58; Doug Winters, Chevelle, 5.906, 245.76 def. Jeffery Barker, Toyota Camry, 6.057, 219.76; Jose Gonzalez, Camaro, 5.795, 248.48 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 5.931, 239.78; Jim Whiteley, Camaro, 5.858, 244.87 def. Steve Jackson, Camaro, 5.846, 247.79; Lyle Barnett, Camaro, 5.936, 243.50 def. Khalid alBalooshi, Camaro, 6.628, 154.07; Brandon Snider, Chevy Corvette, 5.829, 248.52 def. Justin Jones, Corvette, Foul – Red Light; Justin Bond, Camaro, 5.836, 247.88 def. Eric Latino, Camaro, 5.913, 242.45; Mike Castellana, Camaro, 5.871, 245.23 def. JR Gray, Camaro, 6.712, 199.43;

QUARTERFINALS — Winters, 5.923, 243.02 def. Whiteley, Foul – Red Light; Snider, 5.819, 247.97 def. Barnett, 6.248, 166.66; Gonzalez, 5.800, 246.89 def. Castellana, 5.847, 246.35; Balduf, 5.862, 244.25 def. Bond, 5.812, 248.66;

SEMIFINALS — Snider, 5.794, 248.25 def. Balduf, 5.833, 246.21; Gonzalez, 5.752, 248.93 def. Winters, 5.922, 223.14;

FINAL — Gonzalez, 5.723, 250.09 def. Snider, 5.777, 248.84.

Factory Stock Showdown

Chuck Watson (photo by Richard Shute)

Four years ago Chuck Watson’s father won the NHRA Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Norwalk Nationals and today the driver from Grosse Ile, Michigan, raced to his first Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown final and won his first race less than three months after his father passed away. Watson, the No. 2 qualifier, took out Arthur Kohn, Stephen Bell, Scott Libersher and finally Bill Skillman to secure the win. The victory moved the racer from tenth in the point standings to sixth.

“This is my first Factory Stock Showdown win and my first final round,” said an emotional Watson in the winner’s circle of Summit Motorsports Park. “This was very emotional for me and my team. My father won this event four years ago and he passed away this March. To win my first Factory Stock Showdown at this track four years later, this is a very emotional moment.”

The competition was tough for all the racers and Watson felt the pressure throughout the day. In addition to over two dozen competitors, rainstorms blew through and forced multiple race delays which extended racing action well into the night.

“This was a tough field. There were 27 race cars entered and everybody is very competitive,” sad Watson. “We had a lot of weather issues and we weathered the storm for the win. We chomped our way to the top and I couldn’t be more excited.”

The semifinal round pitted Watson’s Chevrolet COPO Camaro against Scott Libersher’s Ford Cobra jet, while eventual finalist and fellow Ford racer Bill Skillman took on No. 1 qualifier and Camaro racer David Barton. Both Blue Ovals prevailed on Sunday in Norwalk, Ohio.

“It was pretty cool to get two Fords in the final and I think we did them proud. They should be happy with our results,” said Watson.

Watson had to dig deep in a number of rounds to reach this career milestone, but he credited his team for giving him a great race car.

“I fought the tree a little bit,” admitted Watson. “I was doing Ok but there were a couple of times I had bad lights. Thank God for my engine builder and tuner Kim Mapes. He gave me an awesome machine to get the job done.”

With the win Watson now becomes the driver to beat for the $1,000 Factory Stock Showdown bounty. In the semifinal round Skillman claimed an additional $1,000 when he defeated David Barton, the most recent winner. Watson was eager to assume the added focus from his fellow competitors.

“We will see what happens when it comes to the bounty. I say bring it,” challenged Watson.

Factory Stock Showdown — Chuck Watson, Ford Mustang, 7.761, 177.63 def. Bill Skillman, Mustang, 7.803, 177.09.

Top Alcohol Dragster — Matthew Cummings, 5.206, 279.21 def. Karen Stalba, 5.240, 279.67.

Top Alcohol Funny Car — DJ Cox Jr., Chevy Camaro, 9.750, 105.46 def. Bob McCosh, Camaro, Foul – Red Light.

Competition Eliminator — Bruno Massel, Chevy Cobalt, 7.311, 169.70 def. Ronnie Bohn, Dragster, 7.796, 165.07.

Super Stock — Anthony Bertozzi, Pontiac Grand Am, 9.550, 104.07 def. Ricky Decker, Chevy Camaro, Foul – Red Light.

Stock Eliminator — Joe Santangelo, Chevy Camaro, 10.526, 118.43 def. Don Belles, Camaro, Foul – Red Light.

Super Comp — John Labbous Jr., Dragster, 8.836, 181.47 def. Alison Prose, Dragster, Foul – Red Light.

Super Gas — Jeremy Mason, Chevy Nova, 9.979, 137.98 def. Jason Kenny, Chevy Corvette, Foul – Red Light.

Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers — Alan Kenny, Dragster, 6.285, 205.69 def. Anthony Bertozzi, Dragster, 7.266, 167.91.

Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers — Curt Fredrich, Chevy Camaro, 6.751, 206.42 def. Mike Badia, Cutlass, Foul – Red Light.

The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action July 16-18 with the Dodge//SRT Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Bandimere Speedway in Denver. It is the first race of the NHRA’s Western Swing.

story by NHRA and various PR sources, photos by Tim Hailey except where noted

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