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 categories at the seventh race of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
Pedregon, who last won in 2018, held off Tasca in the final round in his 11,000-horsepower 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 not why I drag race, but this will keep me drag racing,” Pedregon said. “It’s a good team and I felt like I was kind of holding my team back a little, but I dug deep. 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.
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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 11,000-horsepower 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.
“These wins really mean a lot,” Torrence said. “I had to get out and apologize to Brittany because I did not mean to go up there and double-bulb (her). I’ve been known to do some creative stuff on the tree, but I wasn’t trying to do that today. 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.
In a must-see matchup of longtime rivals, Erica Enders used a .005 reaction time to beat Greg Anderson in the Pro Stock final in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. That allo wed 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.”
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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.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith set the track E.T. record in the final round on his Denso Auto Parts/Stockseth/Matt Smith Racing EBR, going 6.782 at 200.56 to beat Steve Johnson. Smith picked up his second win this season and 28th in his impressive career, as the defending world champ built on his points lead. To reach the final round, Smith took out Jianna Salinas, Ryan Oehler and Eddie Krawiec, dialing up his best round of the weekend — and the quickest in Pro Stock Motorcycle history at Norwalk — to deny Johnson of his second straight victory.
Johnson moved to second in points by advancing to his third final in 2021 and 25th in his career. He had round wins over Jim Underdahl, Angie Smith and Joey Gladstone.
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 famed Western Swing.