Torrence, Wilkerson, Enders, Krawiec earn Wally’s In Sunday’s Dodge//SRT U.S. Nationals, my thoughts

BROWNSBURG, Ind — Sunday was trophy hunting day at Lucas Oil Raceway. This time, these trophy’s mean just a little bit more than most. The shiny new hardware on site this weekend is some of the most coveted in the history of drag racing with the Wally’s awarded on the drag strip just west of Indianapolis, well they’re the ones that bring you to racing lore. 

Careers are made here. Lives are forever altered based off of an Indy win. Win one, you forever join an elite club. Win multiple times, you enter a legendary status of few. The pride that you boast when leaving here a winner do wonders for ones racing career. 

As the words of Al Unser Jr. from his 1992 Indianapolis 500 win, “you just don’t know what Indy means.”

For the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series, Indy means the world too. Indy is a place where legends are made and on Sunday, legends shined. 

Steve Torrence, Tim Wilkerson, Erica Enders and Eddie Krawiec were victorious in their respective pro classes to take Wally’s back home to their joyous teams after thrilling finishes in all four final rounds on a sun drenched day in the circle city. 

Torrence, bested top qualifier Brittany Force en route to his astounding eighth win in 13 races run this season. It was also his second “Big Go” triumph as he defeated Antron Brown, Carillo and his father Billy Torrence in his march to his ninth final round appearance of the season and 5th in the last 7 races overall. 

For Force, she earned the top spot for the eighth time of the season including six straight now. She marched by defending winner Shawn Langdon, 2019 Pro Stock winner, Alex Laughlin as well as  Josh Hart to storm to her fourth final round appearance of the season and 27th of her career. 

Force’s Monster Energy Dragster didn’t fire off the line well and stumbled to the top end while Torrence blazed a trail en route to his 48th career victory. 

This ladder pretty much went chalk with no upsets in the first round, and the only one in general was Billy Torrence over Doug Kalitta in round 2. 

Kalitta, made it out of the first round for the first time since Sonoma, but he’s not made the semis in each of the last eight races now. 

Pruett, has lost in the first or second round in three straight events now, all coming after her Pomona win and prior to that a runner-up in Sonoma. 

In Funny Car, Ron Capps nearly won his first ever US Nationals Wally but came thousandths of a second short to upset minded Tim Wilkerson as he earned his first win in over five years on Sunday. Wilkerson, bested Bobby Bode in round one then upended No. 1 qualifier John Force in the second round. He then topped Cruz Pedregon to earn his first final round appearance all season. He becomes the 8th different winner in that last 10 years. 

Capps beat Schriefer, Robert Hight and Alexis DeJoria to march to the final round for just the third time of the year but 129th time of his career. Wilkerson though was just a little bit better to earn his 21st career win and Capps sealing his 62nd runner-up. 

This was Pedregon’s third straight semi with DeJoria’s fourth in the last seven races as she’s a perfect 3-0 against Bob Tasca III this season to get to her 25th semi of her career. 

In Pro Stocks, we saw a pair of 3-time winners with Erica Enders taking the kid, Kyle Koretsky, to school for her third Big Go Wally including two straight. Enders, consistently won in the better left lane all day, but Koretsky had lane choice for their final round matchup. The four time champion had to be better off the line and she was in earning her 32nd career win. Last year, she was third in the standings entering Indy. She won here the won the title. She was third again entering Friday night. She won on Sunday. Does another title come next? 

For the Bikes, it was Eddie Krawiec vs Angelle Sampey. That’s 91 career wins between them. Krawiec, was just a little bit better for his third Big Go win too. 

Torrence vs. Force – A Countdown Preview?

Steve Torrence entered this weekend 383 points ahead in the Top Fuel standings. With winning on Sunday, that regular season advantage pushed to over 400 points. The thing is, the seven race Countdown is next up and that lead evaporates down to 20. 

It doesn’t matter what he did in the 13 race regular season, nor what he did this weekend, the large advantage would be gone.

The thing is, even saying that, was Sunday a preview of what could be a colossal battle for the championship between the he and Brittany Force? They enter 1-2 in points and combined to win the last four titles with Torrence the last three consecutive and Force in 2017. 

9 of the 13 wins and 11 of the 13 No. 1 qualifiers are from these two. 

Torrence, has now won 5 of the last 7 races on the year and has been second qualifier four of the final times for Force lately. The last driver to beat Force in qualifying was Torrence himself in Norwalk. 

If Force is going to amount a charge though at Torrence, she’s going to have to take advantage of her qualifying pace with her having one win and three final rounds in 13 races. 

John Force Racing In Funny Car Competition Backing Their Ways Into Playoffs

John Force won the 2019 Big Go in thrilling fashion. It was his first US Nationals win in decades, which is what made that victory so emotional for him. After sitting out last season due to the pandemic, John Force Racing was back to defend their crown. 

Unfortunately, both drivers didn’t live to see the semifinals. 

Force, despite being the No. 1 qualifier was bounced in the second round by eventual winner Tim Wilkerson. The legend though did win Topeka three races ago but in general, he’s been defeated in the first or second round in 5 of the last 7 races. 

For his teammate Robert Hight, the three-time Funny Car champion is also backing his way into the Countdown. He lost in Round 2 to Capps for his third second round loss in the last 4 races. His other defeat was in Round 1 at Brainerd. 

Can Force and Hight now turn things around?

Legends Dominate

When we look back on the 2021 Dodge//SRT U.S. Nationals and look at the winners, we’re going to smile in reflection of what we witnessed. Steve Torrence scored his second Wally here on Labor Day weekend but his eighth of the season and 48th of his career. He’s two wins shy of tying Doug Kalitta for fifth most all-time. He’s only five from tying for third. 

Tim Wilkerson earned his 21st career Funny Car win. 

Erica Enders scored her 32nd Pro Stock triumph while Eddie Krawiec took his 49th career trip to the victory circle, seven shy of most ever in Pro Stock Motorcycles. 

Torrence has also won three straight Top Fuel championships. Enders is eyeing her third straight this Fall as she’s won four Pro Stock championships already overall. So has Krawiec who’s also won four Pro Stock Motorcycle titles. Both he and Enders now have three Big Go Wally’s heading back to their resepective trophy cases as well with there being a very good chance that Torrence, Enders and Krawiec being labeled among the best there ever was in NHRA Drag Racing by time their careers are said and done. 

For Top Fuel, it’s Tony Schumacher (8 titles) and Joe Amato (5 titles) that he’s chasing. 

For Pro Stock, it’s Bob Glidden (10 championships), Warren Johnson (6 championships) and Jeg Coughlin (5 championships) that Enders is running down. 

In the Bikes, Dave Schultz and Andrew Hines (6 titles) each is who Krawiec is after now. 

Emotional Runner-ups

Arguably, the days’ runner-ups were as big as a storyline as the winners itself. Yes, you had legendary drivers like Torrence, Enders and Krawiec as well as fan favorite Wilkerson winning, but you also had runner-ups of Brittany Force, Ron Capps, Kyle Koretsky and Angelle Sampey. 

Force, has never won the Big Go but here she was as the top qualifier and in the finals for a chance to join her dad and sister in Indy lore. Force came up just short though. 

For Capps, he’s won 67 races in 579 career starts. None of those 67 race wins came in this prestigious event though. While he won an added Indy race last year, it wasn’t the US Nationals. Capps, got to the finals and had a shot at a US Nationals Wally, but came up short to Wilkerson in heartbreaking fashion for his 62nd career Funny Car runner-up. For a guy with the second most wins ever in Funny Car competition, trailing only the great John Force, it’s astonishing that he’s never won a Wally on Labor Day weekend here. 

In Pro Stocks, it was the youngster Kyle Koretsky coming home second. This was only his 19th career Pro Stock race and here he is as the No. 1 qualifier, the first of his young career, and in the finals for just the third time of his life too. He’s going against a soon to be legend in Erica Enders and she just beat him on the reaction time to earn her 32nd win and his third runner-up. 

Angelle Sampey came home just shy of her 44th career win but had to settle for her 33rd runner-up instead. 

Just look at those second place names on Sunday and the story behind them – Force, Capps, Koretsky, Sampey. 

Lack Of Track Time

Normally, the Big Go at the Lucas Oil Raceway features some of the most on track time as any event of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season. The teams can test here prior, plus they normally get multiple days of action before setting the stage for the Dodge//SRT U.S. Nationals in the end.

On normal non pandemic years, they’d qualify Friday night, have a couple of qualifying runs on both Saturday and again on Sunday, then go to eliminations on Monday.

This year, like last, the action was condensed into one round of qualifying on Friday followed by two more on Saturday then the finals on Sunday. Mother nature though wrecked havoc on the schedule and rained out the day on Saturday, meaning the ladders were set by Friday night’s times.

That also meant that the teams and drivers had just 1 pass down the track this weekend and those were in cooler night conditions two days ago. They’ll chase a Wally during the day on Sunday with temps starting in the low to mid 70s and ending in the low 80s by time we crown a winner.

How much of a role does this play? A lot. 

Other Weekend News

NHRA announced on Friday that the All-Star Shootouts are coming back next season to the Gatornationals as well as here. The All-Star Shootouts will consist of the top eight drivers in both Top Fuel and Funny Car categories.

The top seeds will get to pick their opponents, then the second, third and fourth seeds following suit.

Top Fuel will have their shootout in Gainesville with their 8-car field being set from a combination of season end and qualifying points at the 2022 Lucas Oil NHRA Winernationals as well as the NHRA Arizona Nationals.

Funny Car’s will be here next year.

On top of this, the 2022 US Nationals will see the final eliminations being moved back to Monday (Labor Day) for the first time since 2019.

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