Mile High Matthew: NHRA at Denver

Defending NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle drag racing champ Matt Smith is definitely at the top of his game, winning his third of the year in the challenging mountain conditions at Bandimere Speedway at Denver’s Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil.

“This place is hard to run at, but I love this racetrack and I was successful here in the early part of my career,” said Smith, who made the quickest run in all three qualifying sessions (after Steve Johnson’s Q1 pass was DQed) and three of the four rounds of eliminations this weekend on his CP-Carrillo, Worldwide Bearings equipped “Red Rocket” EBR. “What an awesome facility and I’m so glad to get to come out here.

Smith qualified No. 1 and rolled to his second straight win and 29th in his career, then knocked off Cory “Newly Bald” Reed and Andrew Hines en route to the final round against Eddie Krawiec.

Krawiec’s 86th career final was the first for the rebadged Vance & Hines V-Twin Buell (same body as Smith’s EBR modified to fit the V&H chassis/engine). Eddie drove around Jerry Savoie and his White Alligator Racing Suzuki, beat Steve Johnson on an .060 holeshot, and Matt’s wife Angie Smith—who qualified second.

Smith won the final with a 7.118 at 189.04 to Krawiec’s 7.175, 189.34.

“My bike was fast all weekend and it was just super impressive,” said Matt. “We’ve got a tough field, so it’s always going to be tough, but this bike is on kill right now.”

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE results

ROUND ONE — Cory Reed, Suzuki, 7.208, 183.37 def. Scotty Pollacheck, 7.213, 185.64; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.256, 182.38 def. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, Foul – Red Light; Angie Smith, 7.222, 183.69 def. David Barron, Buell, Foul – Red Light; Eddie Krawiec, Buell, 7.179, 188.96 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 7.220, 182.48; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.150, 185.15 def. Jianna Salinas, Suzuki, 7.419, 175.82; Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 7.161, 186.82 def. Ryan Oehler, Foul – Red Light; Matt Smith, 7.114, 183.74 was unopposed; Andrew Hines, Buell, 7.185, 187.73 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.586, 178.33;

QUARTERFINALS — A. Smith, 7.230, 183.67 def. Stoffer, 23.538, 24.50; Hines, 7.239, 186.12 def. Sampey, 7.224, 186.12; Krawiec, 7.166, 189.73 def. Johnson, 7.127, 186.87; M. Smith, 7.147, 189.26 def. Reed, 7.198, 185.89;

SEMIFINALS — Krawiec, 7.218, 187.91 def. A. Smith, Foul – Red Light; M. Smith, 7.147, 188.62 def. Hines, 7.263, 185.10;

FINAL — M. Smith, 7.118, 189.04 def. Krawiec, 7.175, 189.34.

Pro Stock Motorcycle points

  1. Matt Smith, 626; 2. Steve Johnson, 463; 3. Scotty Pollacheck, 381; 4. Ryan Oehler, 377; 5. Angelle Sampey, 318; 6. Angie Smith, 315; 7. Eddie Krawiec, 300; 8. Joey Gladstone, 288; 9. Karen Stoffer, 278; 10. Cory Reed, 270.
Jose Gonzalez (photo courtesy of NHRA from the Norwalk race)

Jose Gonzalez continued his standout season in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, beating back-to-back world champ Stevie “Fast” Jackson in the final round at Bandimere Speedway.

The race was the fifth event of the 2021 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service season, and Gonzalez picked up his second straight victory and third of the season. It was the first time the NHRA Pro Mod Series raced on Thunder Mountain and Gonzalez was the last man standing.

In the finals, Gonzalez went 5.972-seconds at 236.51 mph in his ProCharger-powered Q80 Camaro to slip past Jackson. It also gave Gonzalez his fifth career win as he extended his points lead in the class.

“This car couldn’t be running better,” Gonzalez said. “This team has got this car on rails and I couldn’t ask for a better car. It’s really tough going against all these great drivers and even qualifying is just a blessing.”

Gonzalez was the only driver to make a five-second run on Sunday, doing so in the final three rounds, capped off by the quickest run of his weekend in the final round.

Jackson picked up round wins against Robert Costa and Jim Whiteley to reach the final round for the third time this season and the 20th time in his career.

PRO MODIFIED results

ROUND ONE — Steve Jackson, Chevy Camaro, 6.103, 232.07 def. Robert Costa, Ford Mustang, 6.932, 149.07; Jose Gonzalez, Camaro, 6.392, 159.63 def. JR Gray, Camaro, Broke – No Show; Justin Bond, Camaro, 6.501, 144.19 was unopposed; Brandon Snider, Chevy Corvette, 6.045, 233.72 def. Doug Winters, Chevy Chevelle, 6.087, 227.57; Jim Whiteley, Camaro, 6.110, 229.63 def. Khalid al Balooshi, Camaro, 6.036, 233.68;

QUARTERFINALS — Jackson, 6.083, 233.03 def. Whiteley, 6.078, 230.84; Gonzalez, 5.974, 235.15 was unopposed; Snider, 6.040, 235.47 def. Bond, Broke;

SEMIFINALS — Jackson, 6.533, 155.90 was unopposed; Gonzalez, 5.988, 235.76 def. Snider, 6.014, 236.09;

FINAL — Gonzalez, 5.972, 236.51 def. Jackson, 6.050, 234.70.

PRO MODIFIED points

  1. Jose Gonzalez; 2. Steve Jackson; 3. Brandon Snider; 4. Jim Whiteley; 5. Justin Bond; 6. Khalid alBalooshi; 7. Doug Winters; 8. Robert Costa; 9. JR Gray.
Matt Hagan (Tim Hailey photo from Norwalk)

Winning in the challenging mile-high conditions at Bandimere Speedway is something that has always eluded defending Funny Car champ Matt Hagan, but the Don Schumacher Racing driver came through on Sunday, going 4.105-seconds at 305.70 mph in his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye to beat Alexis DeJoria in the final round.

The win capped off a fulfilling weekend for Hagan at his sponsor’s race, as he won for the first time in 2021 and 37th in his career. After qualifying No. 1, Hagan beat Chris King and DSR teammate Ron Capps to reach the final. He never trailed against DeJoria’s 4.227 at 297.68, also giving DSR its first Funny Car win of 2021 after the team won every race a year ago.

“This mountain has chewed me up and spit me out several years in a row. I’m just so glad to pull this win out,” said Hagan, who jumped to third in points. “I’ve been trying to get this trophy for so long. It’s an important race and it’s one of those things where we finally got it done. I just cannot say enough about my team. I’m so proud of each one of them and those guys love doing what they do. My heart was beating out of my chest there in the finals.

“It felt like I was running for a championship. When you see all these fans in the stands, it gives me chill bumps. We love Denver and we love the fans that are here. I’m glad we got it done in front of them. Every win that you can get, you’re grateful for and I’m just blessed here today.”

Alexis Dejoria (photo from team report)

DeJoria advanced to her second final round this season after picking up round wins against Jack Wyatt, points leader Bob Tasca III and Tim Wilkerson.

“This is definitely the best race weekend I have ever had at Bandimere Speedway,” said DeJoria. “We qualified No. 2.  We had a pretty consistent car during eliminations and we made it to my team’s first final round since I came back into the sport last year.

“In the final round we dropped cylinders right at the start. My car was down on power. I saw Hagan move ahead and I was on his tail the whole way down. If he slipped up at all we had him. It is just one of those things. We are going to go to Sonoma with our heads held high.”

FUNNY CAR results

ROUND ONE — Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.996, 322.88 def. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, Broke; Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.042, 317.27 def. Jack Wyatt, Charger, 4.363, 240.12; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.045, 317.49 def. Chris King, Foul – Outer Boundary; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.083, 317.12 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.413, 214.52; John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.042, 321.96 def. Robert Hight, Camaro, 9.188, 85.71; Paul Lee, Charger, 4.058, 319.52 def. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.843, 170.82; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.108, 315.78 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, Foul – Centerline;

QUARTERFINALS — Wilkerson, 4.252, 230.45 def. Lee, Foul – Red Light; Capps, 4.039, 312.42 def. Force, 4.376, 226.47; DeJoria, 4.070, 309.91 def. Tasca III, 4.418, 211.63; Hagan, 4.019, 314.09 was unopposed;

SEMIFINALS — DeJoria, 4.034, 313.22 def. Wilkerson, 8.009, 118.91; Hagan, 4.022, 314.53 def. Capps, 4.051, 313.58;

FINAL — Hagan, 4.105, 305.70 def. DeJoria, 4.227, 297.68.

Funny Car points

  1. Bob Tasca III, 643; 2. John Force, 593; 3. Matt Hagan, 558; 4. J.R. Todd, 532; 5. Ron Capps, 529; 6. Robert Hight, 517; 7. Alexis DeJoria, 498; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 477; 9. Cruz Pedregon, 450; 10. Terry Haddock, 274.
Steve Torrence (photo by NHRA)

There was no stopping Top Fuel’s Steve Torrence in Denver—or anywhere, it seems. The three-time defending champ ended Joey Haas’ upset bid by going 3.860 at 320.36 in the final round. Haas made his first career finals appearance and ran 4.142 at 262.08 mph. But Torrence’s consistency ruled the day as he earned his fourth win in the past five races, fifth this season, and 45th in his career.

Torrence, who had round wins against Rob Passey and Mike Salinas, extended his massive points lead on the strength of four runs in the mid-3.80s on Sunday, no easy feat in the rigorous conditions on Thunder Mountain.

“This is one of the most difficult places to race because everything is so much different than everywhere else we go,” Torrence said. “To have the consistency, that’s just a testament to the experience and the way (crew chiefs) Richard Hogan and Bobby Lagana race. They race really smart. To have the success we’ve had, it’s just a blessing. This car goes A to B, and it gives you call the confidence in the world, and it goes back to all the work these guys put in at the shop.

“Hats off to Joey Haas and that team, they did an unbelievable job today.”

Haas reached the finals for the first time thanks to victories against Alex Laughlin, who was making his Top Fuel debut, Leah Pruett, and Clay Millican.

TOP FUEL results

ROUND ONE — Joey Haas, 3.983, 300.73 def. Alex Laughlin, 10.087, 85.96; Leah Pruett, 3.824, 316.45 def. Doug Kalitta, 7.384, 108.12; Brittany Force, 3.805, 327.74 was unopposed; Steve Torrence, 3.855, 322.58 def. Rob Passey, 5.421, 133.67; Mike Salinas, 4.010, 302.14 def. Buddy Hull, 4.358, 222.73; Greg Carrillo, 3.860, 316.23 def. Antron Brown, 4.046, 293.22; Clay Millican, 3.781, 309.34 def. Shawn Langdon, 3.931, 279.38;

QUARTERFINALS — Salinas, 3.866, 322.58 def. Carrillo, 3.907, 310.48; Torrence, 3.876, 321.35 was unopposed; Millican, 3.815, 316.30 def. Force, 3.819, 311.99; Haas, 14.877, 78.09 def. Pruett, Broke;

SEMIFINALS — Torrence, 3.843, 321.42 def. Salinas, 3.854, 320.13; Haas, 7.435, 83.76 def. Millican, 11.340, 81.99;

FINAL — Torrence, 3.860, 320.36 def. Haas, 4.142, 262.08.

Top Fuel points

  1. Steve Torrence, 858; 2. Antron Brown, 551; 3. Brittany Force, 505; 4. Billy Torrence, 448; 5. Shawn Langdon, 408; 6. Mike Salinas, 395; 7. Doug Kalitta, 367; 8. Leah Pruett, 362; 9. Justin Ashley, 337; 10. Clay Millican, 328.
Stephen Bell

Stephen Bell drove his Chevrolet COPO Camaro to the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown winner’s circle from the No. 3 qualifier position. Bell took out Doug Hamp, Leonard Lottig, Arthur Kohn and finally Leah Pruett for the win.

“I am feeling now as good as I have ever felt in my life,” said Bell, after picking up the win. “It was a great day and we worked really hard. [Crew chiefs] Greg and Aaron Stanfield made great tuning decisions all day and I did an OK job driving the car.”

The final round was a race for the ages as Bell and Pruett left the starting line almost simultaneously with Bell getting the slightest of reaction time edges, .051 to .053, and at the finish line it was Bell getting the nose of his Camaro in front of Pruett’s Dodge Drag Pak—8.259 to 8.265 seconds respectively.

“Things just went our way today. It was a magical day,” said Bell. “We have had a really fast car for two or three races and we just needed some racing luck.

With the win Bell jumped from fourteenth place in the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown point standings to fifth place just seven points out of third. He will also have the bounty tag as the series moves to Heartland Park Topeka for the next Factory Stock Showdown event.

In the quarterfinal round it was Arthur Kohn taking out No. 2 qualifier and Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown bounty driver David Barton. With $1,000 on the line Kohn took the win and the bounty with a nearly perfect .015 reaction time and winning elapsed time of 8.370 seconds at 163.69 mph.

With four races in the books for the 2021 Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown, attention will shift to the Midwest for the NHRA Menards Nationals in Topeka, Kansas, August 13-15. The fifth race of the eight-race specialty series will feature an ongoing battle between Chevrolet COPO Camaro, Ford Mustang Cobra Jet and the Dodge Mopar Challenger Drag Pak and a tough field of contenders.

Factory Stock Showdown — Stephen Bell, Chevy Camaro, 8.259, 164.79 def. Leah Pruett, Dodge Challenger, 8.265, 166.48.

Competition Eliminator — Joe Mozeris, Dragster, 7.342, 181.08 def. Jim Greenheck, Chevy Camaro, 7.678, 175.02.

Super Stock — Kayla Mozeris, Dodge Daytona, 10.832, 117.94 def. Scott Burton, Pontiac Firebird, 10.229, 122.69.

Stock Eliminator — Dwayne Scheitlin, Dodge Challenger, 10.920, 120.69 def. Craig Maddox, Challenger, 10.069, 131.10.

Super Comp — Shannon Nicoletti, Dragster, 9.557, 160.23 def. Mitch Mustard, Dragster, 9.579, 162.16.

Super Gas — Darin Dolezal, Roadster, 10.495, 148.90 def. Jeremy Siffring, Chevy Corvette, Foul – Red Light.

Super Street — Tim Schell, Plymouth Duster, 11.461, 124.69 def. Dave Thompson, Chevrolet, Foul – Red Light.

Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers — Jimmy Lewis, Pontiac GXP, 9.475, 98.86 def. Duane Doffing, Sedan, Foul – Red Light.

Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers — Kari Stark, Dragster, 7.391, 181.79 def. Betsy Peek, Dragster, Foul – Red Light.

The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action next weekend with the NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.

story and photos by Tim Hailey, NHRA, and team reports

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